When you go winter backpacking, you will need a few things that would not normally come along in a summer backpack. You may also need to upgrade or swap out different versions of things for warmer versions. A summer sleeping bag, for instance, can be supplemented with a sleeping bag liner, but the best option is to have a separate, winter sleeping bag to take along with you in to the outdoors. Similarly, it helps to bring along a winter sleeping pad for added warmth so that you don't find yourself shivering at night.
By preparing in advance for a winter backpacking adventure you will stay both comfortable in the outdoors and safe, should the weather take a turn for the worse.
Winter Backpacking ChecklistHere are a few things to consider taking with you when going winter backpacking. It's by no means complete, but it should give you a good jumping off point to help fill out your backpack with everything that you'll need for cold temperatures.
- Winter Sleeping Bag - You can always take your summer bag and a hefty bag liner, but the safer and lighter option is a winter sleeping bag with a temperature rating suitable for the weather you are expecting.
- Winter Tent - Many three season tents will handle snow and wind without much of a problem, but if you are expecting ugly conditions, or if you are looking for a little peace of mind, then a winter tent is something to consider.
- Winter Sleeping Pad - Though you might not know it, you lose a lot of your heat in to the ground when you sleep, and a winter sleeping pad will have extra insulation to help protect against that.
- Warm Clothing - Warm clothing is a must when winter backpacking. Mont Bell makes a great down inner jacket (women's version), and matching down pants liners (women's version). You should also be taking along gloves and a warm hat, at a minimum, to keep your extremities toasty warm.
- Waterproof Outer Layers - Having waterproof outer layers to compliment your warm inner insulating layers is important. Rab makes a great alpine men's jacket (and a similar women's jacket), while Rab also makes a matching pair of pants (similar women's pants).
- Winter Hiking Boots - Backpacking shoes are great for the warmer months, but in the winter you want a boot that is going to protect your feet from snow, rain and safety concerns that exposing your feet to cold, damp conditions brings on. Also consider a good pair of socks, and gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots.
- Sunglasses - As counter-intuitive as it might seem, sunglasses are a must when heading in to snowy conditions. A bright sunny day trekking across open snow can lead to snow blindness, which is a serious safety concern, especially if you are alone. Sunglasses weigh next to nothing, so bring them along if you're heading in to snow. And for the same reason, consider bringing sunscreen along.
- Snowshoes - If your plan is to go to the snow, then snowshoes will be a good idea. They will help you save energy and will also help prevent snow from ending up in your boots. It also adds a bit of novelty to all the walking, which can be a nice relief.