This category contains clothing items you would wear during cold temperatures; whether hiking, sleeping, or otherwise. This category also has the potential to get very long, so I’m listing my personal “Go To” items, as well as popular item within the long distance hiking community. When it comes to your cold weather clothing, the most important thing is to know how to layer them. The three major components of layering cold weather clothing (mainly upper body) is: Base Layer, Down/Fleece Insulating layer, and a shell layer (wind or rain).
The Ghost Whisperer is a thru hiker favorite. It’s simultaneously incredibly warm and light. I used this jacket for my entire PCT thru hike and LOVED it. I don’t see myself switching to anything else for some time to come. In online reviews I’ve seen some people complaining about the durability and stating that “it looks cheaply made.” Well, I wore this jacket almost every single night, taking it off and on, tossing and turning, shoving it back in my pack, etc; it never once malfunctioned or ripped. You really can’t go wrong with this jacket, so long as you’re layering it properly. If you’re using it by itself in subzero temperatures… well then you may be disapointed.
This is probably my favorite piece of warm weather gear. It’s not meant to be waterproof, or even highly water resistant. It’s meant to do nothing more than cut the wind and act as a last defense for keeping heat trapped close to your body/other layers. Although it looks and feels a little like a trash bag at times; it weights next to nothing, and it does its intended job extremely well! When used with the layering method, there is no better wind shirt. When I hike, I will either carry a wind shell, or a rain shell, but usually not both; unless I’m expecting extremely volatile and cold weather. If I’m expecting cooler weather with lots of moisture, then I’ll usually opt for the Rain Shell.
Merino Wool Products are some of the most popular and widely used base layer options out there. They get the job done and they’re relatively light (depending on what thickness you go with). If I’m bringing base layers along, I tend to go with midweight. If you get cold easily, or you plan to be hiking in cold conditions, a merino wool base layer is not a bad choice. Wool insulates even when wet, and although it’s a little heavier than synthetic base layers, wool is definitely warmer.
Everything I said in the paragraph above applies to this one. Some people bring both top and bottom base layers, while some people prefer one or the other. I have excellent circulation in my legs, so I tend to lean towards taking a base layer top before I take a base layer bottom. If I know conditions are going to exceptionally cold, then I bring both.
If your down Jacket or sleeping bag/quilt doesn’t have a built in hood, then you may want to look into this down hoodie. If it’s really cold, I’ll wear it around camp, or even wear it as an extra layer in my sleeping bag/quilt to keep my face and ears warmer. It only weighs slightly over an ounce or two and compacts down to nothing, so it’s not a big deal to bring one along. The main thing is whether you want to shell out the extra money for one.
For its compact size and ridiculously light weight, the Smartwool PHD Beanie packs a great deal of warmth. A great deal of heat is lost through your head; this will drastically reduce that from happening. This is my favorite beanie I’ve ever owned. My favorite feature is the extra padding where the fabric covers your ears.
Most hikers will carry a nice pair of “sleeping socks” to keep your feet warm at night. Most people use a thick pair of wool socks, but since I got turned onto “Possum Down,” I’ll never go back. The hairs used to make these socks are hollow; meaning they are light and possess excellent insulating properties. They are highly water resistant, dry quickly, and are exceptionally warm. You can wear them as “elbow high” gloves too while you’re hiking.
Everything I said above about the socks holds true for these as well. They are extremely light, but very warm for their weight. When I pair them with my rain mitts, its like putting my hands inside a toaster oven.