UK Winter Hiking Equipment Check List - UK Mountains in Winter (2024)

If I’m being completely honest, my favourite hiking time summer, when the days are incredibly long and spending 15 or 16 hours in the mountains can all be done in the daylight.

But I’m not about to down my boots because winter comes along to rain (or snow) on my parade. So a couple of years ago I decided not to let winter weather put me off my hiking adventures in the UK.

I’ve since been hiking all year round in the hills, fells and mountains in the UK. And winter is no exception.

In fact, I’ve actually learned to love winter hiking. There’s something pretty spectacular about snow covered icy mountain tops, particularly on those (not that common, sadly) crisp blue sky days.

So if you’re about to embark upon winter hiking in the UK and you’re wondering what kit you might need to do so, we’ve pulled together a UK winter hiking equipment check list to help!

It Depends… and Some Assumptions

Not helpful to say, I know. But actually the equipment you need will vary wildly depending on where in the UK you’re hiking and what sort of walks you do.

If you’re wandering around Lakes in the South of England then you’re less likely to encounter snow and ice. If you’re hiking mountains in Northern Scotland, on the other hand, then you’re going to need to be prepared for fast changing weather, lots of snow and ice.

For me, I hike like the latter. I’m a big fan of Scotland’s incredible mountains (still dreaming about my Aonach Eagach hike). So my list is based on hiking in areas where you’re likely to encounter snow and incredibly cold temperatures.

In other words, this is a list of hill walking kit for UK winters.

Now, I live too far from Scotland to do all my hiking there. So I also hike the fells of the Lake District (about 90 minutes from me) and the Dark Peak’s moorland hills (close to me) a lot. Those two have a lot less snow as you’d expect. However, particularly with the Lake District, I wouldn’t dream of heading up a hill or mountain there (even if it looks fine at the bottom) in winter without certain pieces of equipment.

Here’s what I consider must haves on my winter hill walking equipment list.

UK Winter Hill and Mountain Hiking Equipment List

There’s more information about each of these later on, but here’s the basic summary.

  • Baselayers (top and bottoms)
  • Fleece or other warm midlayer
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • A hat
  • Goggles (ski type goggles)
  • Thick hiking socks
  • Waterproof boots with rigid soles compatible with crampons
  • Gaiters
  • Appropriate winter gloves
  • Rucksack (generally a bigger one required for winter than other seasons) with a waterproof cover
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Walking poles
  • Drybags for items you need to keep dry
  • A head torch
  • Mobile phone
  • Portable charging bank for a mobile phone and any other devices
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Head torch (and a spare where possible)
  • Emergency survival bag or shelter
  • Whistle
  • Food and drink
  • Spare hat and gloves
  • Neck gaiter
  • Spare layers
  • Small first aid kit

It might seem a pretty extensive list but I manage to get all this on my body and into my 36L Osprey rucksack.

Let’s talk a bit about the detail. I won’t go too much into the layering and what to wear approach but more about the specific equipment I’m generally carrying with me. I won’t go into detail on every single item here… lots of it is self explanatory and things like boots need far more detail than can be offered in a check list. But here’s some thoughts on some of the key winter hiking kit.

Baselayers for Winter Hiking

There are so many baselayer options out there and they range from high end brands costing hundreds down to Decathlon’s own brands that are a few pounds each.

The purpose of winter basekayers is simply to trap a layer of warmer air close to your skin.

People have their own personal preference when it comes to base layers. A few Amazon options are below:

Nooyme Womens Thermal Underwear Set, Womens Thermal Compression Set Anti-Bacterial and Flexible for Winter ,Thermal Underwear Womens Quick Dry, Thermal Base Layer Womens for Workout Skiing Cycling

OEX Women’s Lightweight and Quick Drying Barneo Longsleeve Baselayer Top, Athletic Baselayer Top, Outdoors, Walking, Trekking, Hiking and Camping Clothing, Black, L/XL

MEETYOO Men’s Thermal Underwear Set, Wicking Long Johns Quick Dry Base Layer Sport Compression Suit for Workout Skiing Running Hiking

Mountain Warehouse Merino Mens Long Sleeved Thermal Baselayer Top – Lightweight, Breathable & Quick Wicking Jumper with Half Zip – for Walking & Hiking Dark Green L

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£23.79

£29.65

£27.99

Price not available

Nooyme Womens Thermal Underwear Set, Womens Thermal Compression Set Anti-Bacterial and Flexible for Winter ,Thermal Underwear Womens Quick Dry, Thermal Base Layer Womens for Workout Skiing Cycling

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£23.79

OEX Women’s Lightweight and Quick Drying Barneo Longsleeve Baselayer Top, Athletic Baselayer Top, Outdoors, Walking, Trekking, Hiking and Camping Clothing, Black, L/XL

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£29.65

MEETYOO Men’s Thermal Underwear Set, Wicking Long Johns Quick Dry Base Layer Sport Compression Suit for Workout Skiing Running Hiking

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£27.99

Mountain Warehouse Merino Mens Long Sleeved Thermal Baselayer Top – Lightweight, Breathable & Quick Wicking Jumper with Half Zip – for Walking & Hiking Dark Green L

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Price not available

I’ve bought expensive base layers and cheap ones and settled on a Mountain Warehouse sort od mid priced one as my favourite.

But ultimately, you’ll want top and bottom base layers if you’re venturing out into the UK’s mountains for a winter hike.

Let’s Talk About Layering

Again, everyone has their own personal approach to winter hiking layering. For me, it’s base layers, then a long sleeved hiking t shirt for me, followed by a mid layer fleece and a top layer jacket.

I don’t wear a down jacket. I prefer a layering approach myself, though I’ve got hiking buddies who definitely prefer a down jacket.

I then always have a waterproof jacket with me.

Ski Goggles

Personally, I always carry a pair up snowy hills and mountains. I know it might be something you’d associate more with ski or snowboard equipment than hiking. But when it gets windy, it’s impossible to keep your eyes open without some sort of protection and the snow glare in sunny conditions can be incredibly bright. So rather than sun glasses, I opt for a ski style mask for winter mountain hiking. Again, you can pay hundreds or you can pay a few quid.

I’ve tried 4 now and settled on one that cost me £32.

Here are a few options:

OutdoorMaster Ski Goggles PRO – Frameless, Interchangeable Lens 100% UV400 Protection Snow Goggles for Men & Women ( VLT 10% Grey Lens with Free Protective Case )

RayZor Ski Goggles For Men & Women Snowboard Goggles – Magnetic Lens – OTG Skiing Goggles with UV400 Protection – Anti-Fog and Shatterproof, Anti-Glare Protective Goggles for Men Women Boys & Girls

SPOSUNE Ski Goggles Skiing Goggles Over Glasses with Anti-Fog Spherical Dual Interchangable Lens,100% UV400 Protection Snow Snowboard Goggles for Men Women Youth,Helmet Compatible,Anti Glare,Impact Resistant,Windproof

AUOKAI Ski Goggles, 100% UV Protection OTG Ski Snow Goggles, Anti-Fog Snowboard Goggles Magnetic Detachable Lens for Adult, Men, Women & Youth – Purple & Blue

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OutdoorMaster Ski Goggles PRO – Frameless, Interchangeable Lens 100% UV400 Protection Snow Goggles for Men & Women ( VLT 10% Grey Lens with Free Protective Case )

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RayZor Ski Goggles For Men & Women Snowboard Goggles – Magnetic Lens – OTG Skiing Goggles with UV400 Protection – Anti-Fog and Shatterproof, Anti-Glare Protective Goggles for Men Women Boys & Girls

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SPOSUNE Ski Goggles Skiing Goggles Over Glasses with Anti-Fog Spherical Dual Interchangable Lens,100% UV400 Protection Snow Snowboard Goggles for Men Women Youth,Helmet Compatible,Anti Glare,Impact Resistant,Windproof

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AUOKAI Ski Goggles, 100% UV Protection OTG Ski Snow Goggles, Anti-Fog Snowboard Goggles Magnetic Detachable Lens for Adult, Men, Women & Youth – Purple & Blue

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What my personal choice came down to was comfort of the fit more than anything. Any browse on Amazon will show up ski goggles of various price points but almost all have the UV protection you need. So preference for things like design and comfort (alongside budget) will be what it comes down to.

Portable Charging Banks

I carry two of these with me plus cables:

  • A head torch charging wire
  • A mobile phone wire for my iPhone (plus a spare – I usually carry two)
  • A mobile phone wire that fits Android devices in case a hiking

I carry my charger and my phone in a dry bag too.

I can read a map and I carry a map and compass with me. But I also have a lot of route information on AllTrails. I use my map as a back up and use digital GPS a lot. So having my phone makes route finding easier for me and, the main thing, is necessary in the event something happens and you need help.

So, for me, this is a really important piece of hiking kit all year round, but particularly in winter time when there’s less light and more chance of a problem.

And yes, I know… before phones people managed just fine without. But we don’t have to now, right? And it’s reassuring to know that in the event something happened, providing you can get a phone signal you will be able to get help.

For me, portable charging banks for hiking come down to two things: capacity and size.

I want the maximum power available to me for the smallest amount of space taken up in my bag.

For that reason, I use this one:

I’ve successfully charged my iPhone 8 times with a single one of these power banks!

26,000mAH is a sizeable capacity. But what I also like about this particular charging bank is that it has multiple different input and output ports. Some chargers are USB, some are USBC. But most portable power banks, I find, still have USB only. This has both. So whatever type of phone charger you have, it should work.

There are 30,000mAH chargers out there but they tend to be much chunkier. And for getting a simple phone recharge, this really is ample. It’s not much bigger than iPhone plus type phone and it’s very slim.

I carry two of them with me on hikes, plus wires, and I carry them all in a dry bag.

Dry Bags

Speaking of dry bags! Now, my hiking bag does have a waterproof cover. But we all know these waterproof covers are anything but water tight. And in reality you may still need to be in and out of your bag when it’s absolutely chucking it down. Add to that the risk of wind blowing your cover off and so forth, and the reality is anything in your bag NOT in a dry bag does have the risk of ending up a tad damp.

So I use dry bags for spare layers and also for electrical devices like my phone and my portable charging equipment.

Youdo not have to spend a fortuneon a big brand dry bag. You can get really low cost dry bags now. I bought two really cheap sets of them in different sizes.

Some have handles, some have different straps. But I’ve found that for the sake of something to keep things dry that will ultimately just be shoved inside my bigger rucksack, it simply doesn’t really matter which one to go for!

Unlike things like crampons and boots (where I think investing in a big reputable brand with a specialism is worth it) I feel very basic dry bags are absolutely fine for hiking both in summer and winter.

I bought this set of dry bags for hiking:

This set was low cost and does the job perfectly. Maybe if you’re using dry bags for paddle boarding or kayaking (where you may want different attachments to keep them secure) you’d look at something on the pricier scale. But if you dry bags are just going inside your hiking rucksack, personally I don’t see a need for anything more than a basic one.

If you’re looking for something fancier though, here are some options:

My Favourites

Victoper Waterproof Dry Bag Set 6 Pcs, Large Capacity Ripstop Dry Bag Waterproof in 8L 5L 3.5L 3L 2.5L 1.5L Organizer Storage Bags for Outdoor Hiking Camping Fishing Cycling (Multicolor)

kuou 5Pcs WaterProof Dry Bags, Dry Sack WaterProof Bag Lightweight Snorkeling Drifting Bag Green (1.5L+2.5L+3.5L+4.5L+ 6L)

Lifeventure Ultralight Dry Bag Multi-Pack, Siliconized Rip-Stop Fabric With Fully Taped Seams

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£14.99

£14.29

£33.75

My Favourites

Victoper Waterproof Dry Bag Set 6 Pcs, Large Capacity Ripstop Dry Bag Waterproof in 8L 5L 3.5L 3L 2.5L 1.5L Organizer Storage Bags for Outdoor Hiking Camping Fishing Cycling (Multicolor)

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£14.99

kuou 5Pcs WaterProof Dry Bags, Dry Sack WaterProof Bag Lightweight Snorkeling Drifting Bag Green (1.5L+2.5L+3.5L+4.5L+ 6L)

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£14.29

Lifeventure Ultralight Dry Bag Multi-Pack, Siliconized Rip-Stop Fabric With Fully Taped Seams

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£33.75

But as I said, I’ve never seen the need to spend more than a few quid! I use dry bags inside my rucksack for spare layers I want to keep dry and any electricals.

I also carry my phone in my outer layer pocket inside a small dry bag.

Crampons and Ice Axe

I use Grivel for both my crampons and ice axe.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to crampons and I’ll refer you to this guide for a much more informed write up than I could provide you with here.

The long and short of it though – if you’re heading up the mountains of Scotland in winter, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter snow or ice and it’s always best to have the appropriate equipment. Better to carry crampons you don’t end up using than to find yourself needing them and not having them, right?

Gaiters

Waterproof gaiters! So I tend not to use gaiters in the summer. I don’t much like extra stuff on my legs (fussy, I know). But given how bitterly cold you can very quickly feel if you get wet in the winter, I do wear gaiters for any winter hiking.

I wear these ones:

And I carry a spare pair of Peter Storm ones in my bag.

The main things I’m looking for in a gaiter:

  • Completely waterproof
  • Clip to hold the bottom of the gaiter to my boot laces
  • Adjustable strap that goes underneath the boot
  • Flexible sizing (Sometimes. wear pants that are thicker than others so adjustable drawstring fasteners to tighten as needed are useful)

Those are the main things I need from a gaiter for winter hiking. Again, this isn’t an area where I would personally invest particularly heavily.

Neck Gaiter

Game changer. Didn’t realise how much heat I was losing at the neck until I started wearing a neck gaiter. I wear high necked base layers a lot of the time and I zip up my outer layer in the winter too.

But wearing a neck gaiter made a massive difference. Personally, I prefer a fleece gaiter in the winter. I have several including a really low cost Wed’ze one I picked up from Decathlon.

Here are some other options:

Zollen 4/3/1 Pack Neck Warmer Fleece Windproof Neck Gaiter Snood for Men Women Face Tube Scarf Headwear (C:Black,Grey,Dark Blue,Jungle Green)

COOLOO 2 Pack Neck Warmer, Fleece Windproof Snood Neck Gaiter for Men Women Adjustable Face Cover Scarf for Skiing Running Cycling (Black+Grey)

TAGVO Winter Fleece Neck Warmer Scarf Snoods, Ultra Soft & Elastic Multifunctional Bandana Face Mask Face Cover Balaclavas Neck Tube Neck Gaiter for Running Skiing Cycling Motorbikes Hiking

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£15.99

£13.90

£5.99

Zollen 4/3/1 Pack Neck Warmer Fleece Windproof Neck Gaiter Snood for Men Women Face Tube Scarf Headwear (C:Black,Grey,Dark Blue,Jungle Green)

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£15.99

COOLOO 2 Pack Neck Warmer, Fleece Windproof Snood Neck Gaiter for Men Women Adjustable Face Cover Scarf for Skiing Running Cycling (Black+Grey)

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£13.90

TAGVO Winter Fleece Neck Warmer Scarf Snoods, Ultra Soft & Elastic Multifunctional Bandana Face Mask Face Cover Balaclavas Neck Tube Neck Gaiter for Running Skiing Cycling Motorbikes Hiking

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£5.99

Again, this isn’t something I’ve spent really heavily on.

Head Torch

I carry three head torches in winter (within a dry bag in my hiking bag).

It might seem like overkill, I know. And honestly, I’ve never needed to use the third one (though on two separate occasions now I’ve required a spare one at least).

Let me tell you why I do this.

Hiking (particularly in Scotland) in winter comes with more challenges than the weather. In fact, I think sometimes a greater challenge than the weather can be the limited daylight.

On the shortest day of the year in Fort William (home of Ben Nevis) for example) the run rises at 8:55 and sets again at 15:41. So you get just 6 hours and 45 minutes of full daylight. And yes, some of the time before and after sunset is usable in terms of daylight but the point is that winter hiking will often mean being prepared to hike in darker conditions.

Even if you plan your route to be covered all in daylight, you have to allow for things taking longer than expected or getting lost and so on. In other words, even if you don’t plan to be hiking in the dark, you very much could find yourself doing so easily.

A good, bright head torch is essential and I always carry a cable to be able to recharge mine from my portable charger.

For my own personal convenience, I prefer the USB rechargeable ones as opposed to batteries you change.

However, one of my spares is always one with changeable batteries, which enables me to carry spare batteries.

Here are the three I have:

Victoper Head Torch Rechargeable v10000 2022 Upgraded 22000 Lumen Torches LED Super Bright Headlight 10 LEDs Modes Hands-Free Flashlight for Camping Fishing Cycling Hiking Waterproof, Black

Victoper Rechargeable Headlight with 3 Lights 4 Modes, 6000 Lumen Super Bright LED Lamp, Hands-Free Flashlight Head Torch for Running, Camping, Fishing, Cycling, Hiking, Waterproof

Detake LED Head Torch, Super Bright Lightweight LED Headlamp with 3 Lighting Modes, Battery Powered Waterproof LED Headlight for Camping, Running, Cycling, Fishing, Hiking, Reading, Outoor Sports

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£22.99

£18.94

£6.49

Victoper Head Torch Rechargeable v10000 2022 Upgraded 22000 Lumen Torches LED Super Bright Headlight 10 LEDs Modes Hands-Free Flashlight for Camping Fishing Cycling Hiking Waterproof, Black

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£22.99

Victoper Rechargeable Headlight with 3 Lights 4 Modes, 6000 Lumen Super Bright LED Lamp, Hands-Free Flashlight Head Torch for Running, Camping, Fishing, Cycling, Hiking, Waterproof

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£18.94

Detake LED Head Torch, Super Bright Lightweight LED Headlamp with 3 Lighting Modes, Battery Powered Waterproof LED Headlight for Camping, Running, Cycling, Fishing, Hiking, Reading, Outoor Sports

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£6.49

That’s two rechargeable ones and a battery one.

Other Bits

It’s worth me saying that, subject to space, I also often carry a drone for videography or a GoPro (particularly for ridges) as I like to capture my day!

But that’s subject to space after the above it all in.

For kit like crampons and even boot guides, there’s some great content out there form specialist mountaineering sites I’d encourage you to look up!

UK Winter Hiking Equipment Check List - UK Mountains in Winter (2024)
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