Essential Winter Gear for Northeastern Hikes

Winter hiking

Nothing compares to the crisp, clean air of winter and the magnificent view of a snowy landscape. But any trip into the outdoors, even a day hike, requires careful planning and the right gear. Always check the weather and trail conditions and prepare for the worst conditions; make plans with your group’s abilities in mind (solo winter hiking is not recommended); and plan an alternate route in case of bad weather, injury, illness, or slower than expected travel time.

AMC’s Highland Center and Pinkham Notch Visitor Center carry basic last-minute clothing and gear items, as well as guidebooks and maps.  You can also find a number of items in the 10 Essentials Section of the AMC Online Store.

The following lists are recommendations for what you should carry in winter when going into the backcountry. For more detailed information on trip planning and preparation, as well as tips for safe travel, refer to the AMC Guide to Winter Hiking and Camping.

Packing Lists for Day Trips and Camping Trips (In addition to the gear listed for a day trip)

Traveling Gear

  • Snowshoes or cross-country skis
  • Trekking poles or ski poles
  • Day pack
  • First-aid kit
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Water bottles (2)
  • Headlamp
  • Pocket knife
  • Waterproof matches
  • Fire starter
  • Snow shovel


  • Gorp
  • Jerky
  • Energy bars (2)
  • Bagels
  • Cheese
  • Salami
  • Sesame sticks


  • Balaclava
  • Parka with full hood
  • Fleece pants with full side zippers
  • Second fleece or wool sweater
  • Second pair of liner socks
  • Third pair of wool socks
  • Camp booties

Food and Water

  • Water purification tablets (iodine)
  • Powdered sports drink
  • Hot chocolate
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Dried fruit
  • Second bag of gorp
  • Second bag of sesame sticks
  • Third energy bar
  • Additional bagels
  • Additional cheese
  • Fig Newtons
  • Instant soup
  • Freeze-dried dinner
  • Spices
  • Olive oil
  • Chocolate

Extreme Conditions (including travel in avalanche terrain)

  • Expedition-weight long underwear tops and bottoms
  • Avalanche beacon
  • Avalanche probe
  • Skins for alpine skis
  • Ice ax
  • Crampons
  • Extensive first-aid kit
Head-to-Toe Clothing

  • Liner hat
  • Fleece ski hat
  • Baseball cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Goggles
  • Lightweight long underwear top
  • Midweight long underwear top
  • Pile sweater
  • Pile vest
  • Waterproof/breathable shell
  • Liner gloves
  • Insulating gloves or mittens
  • Shell mittens
  • Lightweight long underwear
  • Waterproof/breathable pants
    or bibs
  • Liner socks
  • Wool socks (wear one and bring
    an extra pair)
  • Gaiters
  • Boots

Individual Traveling and Camping Gear

  • Large internal-frame backpack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pads (one long and one short)
  • Personal bowl
  • Personal spoon (or spork)
  • Personal insulated mug
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Personal items (e.g. corrective eyewear, feminine products, etc.)
  • Ziploc bags (2 or 3)

Group Traveling and Camping Gear

  • Tent
  • Snow stakes
  • Stove
  • Stove platform
  • Fuel
  • Lighter
  • Cooking pot
  • Large spoon
  • P-cord
  • Garbage bag

Gear list excerpted from the AMC Guide to Winter Hiking and Camping


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