Dressing for the Outdoors in Winter

Happy New Year folks! One of our resolutions here at The Conservation Foundation is to connect to the outdoors around us more. Join us full steam ahead this winter season! The winter doesn’t have to be spent hibernating indoors – it’s the perfect time to go out and enjoy nature. This time of year we are gifted natural lighting, stillness, animals, beauty, memories, and a safe opportunity to bond with loved ones in person. Before you head out to the winter wonderland in your backyard or at your local forest preserve, remember to bundle up.

Follow our guide for tips on how to dress properly for the outdoors in the winter!


An essential to staying warm in the winter months is to layer up! Start with long underwear, a long sleeved shirt, and warm socks (you can’t go wrong with two pairs). To avoid bunching under your layers, try to wear tighter-fitting clothes as your base layer. Another tip for your base layer is to go with athletic fabrics that can wick away any sweat. And avoid cotton! Cotton can get wet and may take awhile to dry out. To avoid remaining damp and cold, opt for more breathable, quick drying fabrics like wool or synthetic fibers.[1] Next, you’ll want to put on your hiking clothes, – this will be your insulating layer that retains your body heat. Remember to keep movability in mind. Try hiking pants or jeans, a sweater or sweatshirt, and a vest!

Warm Coat

Hiking in the winter is not the time to ditch the warm coat. Make sure to grab your warmest coat that will cut the wind and fit over your layers! This will be your shell or outer layer. There are many types of coats out there, but the most important thing to keep in mind is your warmth. If you don’t have access to a winter coat, add extra layers under your warmest jacket. For more information on different types of coats, check out this article by REI here.

Hats, Gloves, and Scarves

Another key to keep in mind when dressing for the winter is cover exposed skin. This is where hats, gloves, and scarves come in. Don’t underestimate the power these essential items have! Up to 50% of your body heat can be lost through your head, so choose your favorite warm hat that covers your ears and retain your heat[2]. If you don’t have a hat that covers your ears, grab a headband to wear under a hat. Don’t forget a scarf or neck gaiter to cover up exposed skin when you’re out hiking. Cold wind on the back of your neck doesn’t always make for a fun outdoor experience. Don’t forget your mittens or gloves either, they are far more effective than putting your bare hands in your pockets. If you plan on having a snowball fight or creating a snowman, try to wear a heavier glove made to keep your hands dry!

Proper Footwear

Keep your toes warm and your feet comfortable while you’re out hiking with proper footwear. Ideally, you’ll want to wear snow boots or hiking boots. They’re sturdy and will insulate your feet all while staying comfortable throughout your walk. If you don’t have either of these, grab a warm pair of boots that can get wet and make sure to have warm socks on. Avoid wearing tennis shoes—you’re toes will not be thanking you by the end. Though they are comfortable and breathable, their flexible design isn’t quite warm enough for winter hikes.


Nature can be an escape for many of us, but we need to remember safety precautions. Don’t forget your mask when you leave to go hiking—you never know when you’ll pass by others. Not only will a mask aid in keeping you safe, but it can also keep your nose and face warm in the cold, dry air!

Sunglasses and Sunscreen

For those days when the sun is out as well as when it is overcast, you can never be too careful to protect yourself from the sun. It may sound funny, but even when it is cloudy, sunrays can reflect off the snow and cause sunburn and bright conditions. Protect your skin and your eyes while you’re out enjoying the wonderous outdoors in winter too!

Written by Juliet Mathey, Mains Intern at The Conservation Foundation


Head on over to The Rookery, our online store, to find some warm winter gear that also proclaims your support for The Conservation Foundation and local nature!  Click here to shop.


Our friends over at Recreate Responsibly have provided us with some final thoughts before stepping out the door into the crisp winter air.







[1] https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/cold-weather-hiking.html

[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/cold-out-why-you-need-to-wear-a-hat

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