Stay Warm this Winter: Cold Weather Hiking Tips from a Guide

Winter is coming… and while it’s okay to have days when you stay inside and sip tea, it’s also fun to keep going outdoors and connecting with nature. At our last Mappy Hour at The North Face in Brooklyn, we learned about their new Futurelight outerwear (highlight: it’s super breathable) and heard from New York State Guide Brad Winer of Brooklyn Adventure Co. on how to stay active and safe this winter.

5 Tips on Staying Warm This Winter

1. Don’t let your water freeze!

Remember to keep your bottles in insulated sleeves. On very cold days, flip your water bottle upside down in the sleeve. Water freezes from the top down, so if you have flipped your bottle and it does start to freeze, you just flip it upright and the unfrozen water is now on the top. Don’t have an insulated sleeve? Use your extra pair socks (you brought an extra pair of socks, right?!) and then wrap your bottles with the rest of your stuff. Pack your bottle deep in your backpack and close to your back. And remember, you better be 100% sure your water bottles won’t leak!

2. Food – you need A LOT of fuel on winter days!

Keep food accessible and keep it from freezing by stashing it in pockets close to your body. On a winter hike day, plan on eating twice your normal daily caloric intake. Eat (and drink) early and often! Here are a few nutrition tips to help you plan.

3. Dress like an onion

Use multiple layers vs. big and bulky layers. The basic layering system consists of a base layer, mid-layer, external/shell layer and all the things that protect your extremities (gloves, hats, socks, boots, etc.). Synthetic and natural fibers are recommended. Never wear cotton. Stay dry by taking off  and putting on layers as the intensity of your activity changes.

4. Keep your stuff dry!

Use a waterproof stuff sack or trash bag that is roughly the same size as the inside of your backpack. Put all of your extra layers inside it and seal it tight!

5. Electronics do not perform well in winter.

Put your headlamp (and spare batteries) in a pocket close to your body. That way you can be confident it will be working at the end of the day. There are fewer daylight hours in the winter, so you must be prepared to hike in the dark. While a GPS unit is a very useful tool, especially in the winter GPS should never be your primary navigation instrument as it could die in the cold. Know how to use a map and compass. Similarly with your phone – do not rely on it as an emergency communication device (911) – make sure to factor that into your risk assessment.

Parting words from Brad:

“Winter requires a little more planning & preparation, but it is soooo worth it. You will experience things most people can’t even imagine, the BEAUTY and MAJESTY of Nature in the Winter is EPIC and ever-changing and ….the incredible MOMENTS!, Winter is all joy! And then there are the feelings of ACHIEVEMENT, then the warm meal and drinks and the stories shared with your adventure buddies when you are done…..and lastly the satisfaction of knowing you are a badass (in your family’s, friends’, colleagues’ eyes!) for getting out there and just doing it!”.


Ethan shared one of his favorite pieces of winter and shoulder-season gear, called a bothy bag. It’s a shelter you can set up in seconds to warm up in windy, wet, cold weather – just pull over you and a friend/s and sit on the edges – great for breaks and for emergency use. They’re commonly used in the UK and you’ll also see them in Alaska and occasionally in New England. They typically come in bright colors and have ventilation tubes, often have reflective strips and sometimes have a clear window. Ethan’s is the Emergency Storm Shelter 2-3 Man Bothy Bag by LOMO, a great gear maker and shop in Glasgow, Scotland: They also sell a 4P version.
Thank you to:
  • The North Face for hosting us and supporting our Explore More Challenge
  • Brooklyn Adventure Co. & Brad for sharing your knowledge
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. for the delicious beer (including the brand new Skiesta!)
  • Savannah McCauley for this awesome shot of Brad speaking and a full album of images

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