Skip to main content

Gear List for Winter Backpacking and Hiking

Dan Human shares what he has learned from several thousand miles of backpacking, hiking and paddling.

The conditions change quickly in the mountains, so remember to "be prepared."

The conditions change quickly in the mountains, so remember to "be prepared."

Winter Is a Great Time to Hit the Trail!

With no bugs, no need to carry a bear canister, and empty campsites, it's a wonder why winter backpacking isn't more popular. Of course, there are sub-zero temperatures, icy mountain traverses, and miles of unpacked trails...

How to Transition to Winter Backpacking

The backpacker transitioning from three-season to winter backpacking must adapt their gear and trail techniques. In this article, I'll provide a time-tested gear packing list along with the specific items I usually carry for a three-day winter trip. Remember that the conditions for each trip and each area are different so the packing list always varies.

Bring plenty of fuel for melting snow.

Bring plenty of fuel for melting snow.

A Tried-and-True Gear List for Winter Excursions

Most of my winter backpacking occurs in the Adirondack High Peaks, so this gear list is generally what I carry on a three-day, two-night excursion into the backcountry when I am planning on negotiating steep terrain. This list is also geared toward being a solo hiker, as many of my trips are done as a lone traveler.

A Note on Solo Hiking

If you are smarter than I and travel in a group, you'll be able to split the camp supplies amongst your companions. Though solo hiking has a certain romance to it and I enjoy it very much, you should always hike with a group of people for safety reasons.

The MSR twinpeaks is an outstanding lightweight winter shelter for two people.

The MSR twinpeaks is an outstanding lightweight winter shelter for two people.

Winter Backpacking Checklist

For Carrying

  • Pack - Gregory Baltoro 75
  • Glove Satchel - Marmot rib
  • Crampon Carrying Case - Petzl Fakir
  • Two 3' long 1" straps for carrying snowshoes
  • Summit Bag - OR Drycomp Summit Sack
  • Camera / GPS case - Lowe Pro camera case with binocular chest harness
  • Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack - Sea to Summit event stuff sack
  • Clothing Stuff Sack - Sea to Summit ultra sil dry bag
  • Food bag - Ursack

For Shelter and Sleeping

  • Tent - MSR Twin Sisters
  • Bivy Bag - Marmot Alpinist Bivy
  • Sleeping Bag - Marmot Col Eq -20
  • Sleeping Pad - Thermrest Prolite Plus
  • Emergency blanket - Adventure Medical Kits Heat Sheet - great for ground cloth

For Traveling

  • Poles - Leki Super Makalu
  • Snowshoes - Tubbs Mountaineers 25
  • Crampons - Black Diamond automatics
  • Ice axe - Black Diamond Raven Pro
  • Rope - Edelweiss 8mm 30 meter

Clothing (Worn)

  • Baselayer top - Mountain Hardware wicked light long sleeve
  • Baselayer bottom - Marmot cocona lightweight
  • Boxer briefs - EMS techwick boxers
  • Socks - Smart wool trekking socks
  • Boots - La Sportiva Trango GTX
  • Gaiters - Outdoor Research verglas gaiters
  • Softshell jacket - Arc'teryx Venta
  • Hardshell pants - Marmot dri clime pants
  • Hat - Outdoor Research windstopper hat
  • Neck gaiter - Mountain Hardware neck gaiter
  • Face mask - Mountain Hardware air shield half -flex balaclava
  • Light gloves - seirus all weather gloves
  • Overmitts - North Face Summit Series goretex mitts with removable liners

Clothing (Carried)

  • Goggles / glasses - Bolle glacier glasses
  • Puffy Jacket - Marmot down jacket with Membrain
  • Lightweight oversized hard shell jacket - Marmot Precip jacket
  • Lightweight baselayer top x 2 - EMS techwick / polartec power dry
  • Lightweight baselayer bottom x 2 - Mountain hardware integral
  • Synthetic boxers x 2 - Ex Officio give n' go
  • Fleece pullover - North Face Summit Series 1/4 zip
  • Socks x 2 - Smart Wool trekking socks
  • Vapor Barrier Socks - Integral Designs VB socks
  • Extra balaclava - Outdoor Research ninjaclava
  • lightweight gloves x 2 - Seirus all weather / Mountain Hardware power stretch
  • Midweight waterproof gloves - Mountain Hardware Epic

Gear Carried on Person

  • Neck knife - Esee Izula, whistle on back of sheath
  • GPS - Garmin Map 60 CSX
  • Watch/ compass / altimeter - High Gear Axio
  • Torch lighter - brunton firestorm
  • Camera - Canon A480
  • Princeton Tec mini squeeze light

For Eating

  • Insulated Water Bottle Cozies x 2 - OR insulated Bottle carriers
  • 1-Liter Wide Mouth Water Bottles x 2 - nalgene
  • Water Treatment - Aqua Mira
  • Camp Water Container - Nalgene collapsible 2 qt
  • Cooking Pot - MSR titanium 2 qt with pot grabbers
  • Water Dipper - Sea to Summit collapsible cup
  • Spoon - MSR folding spoon
  • Stove - MSR whisperlite
  • Fuel Bottle - MSR 20 oz., though usually I carry the 30 oz.
  • Food


  • Map of area
  • Compass - Silva Explorer
  • Extra lithium AA batteries for GPS and Camera
  • Headlamp - Petzl Tikka XP
  • First Aid Kit
  • Repair Kit - Duct tape and cable ties
  • Sunscreen - dermaone
  • Lip balm
  • Matches in waterproof case
  • Fire Starters x 2
  • Garbage Bag
  • Wallet with ID
  • Cell phone
  • Paper and pencil
  • MP3 player with audio books - winter nights are long
  • Body glide
  • Toothbrush
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Skyaboveus

Lean-tos can offer solace from the fierce winter weather and give you a place to dry out your gear.

Lean-tos can offer solace from the fierce winter weather and give you a place to dry out your gear.

Further Reading

  • ADK Winter Mountaineering School
    ADK Winter Mountaineering School - a volunteer led program with 50+ years of history serving the winter hiking and climbing enthusiast in the Adirondack mountains of New York State

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Dan Human


Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on March 03, 2012:

Thanks for stopping by Alex. Yes, winter camping takes a serious amount of gear and knowledge to do it safely and effectively.

Alex Powers on February 28, 2012:

Very nice article. Winter camping is fun but it is also something to be taken serious. Good job showing what it takes to do it safely.

Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on February 10, 2012:

Though I don't carry every single thing on every trip, it is a pretty good packing list for reference on winter trips.

Damselfly on February 10, 2012:

Great info Dan! I carry a lot of the same stuff on my winter trips but you certainly added a few items to my pack!!!

Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on January 31, 2012:

I'm always surprised how much heavier my pack is for a good winter hike. Thanks for the comment!

pooilum from Malaysia on January 31, 2012:

Wow.. didn't know there were so many things for a winter hike

Related Articles