Packing Guide for Winter Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest

Hiking in the Pacific Northwest in Winter - USA Travel

This last year I had the chance to do a lot of day hikes around the Pacific Northwest. I found myself chasing waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, exploring mountainous landscapes at Mt. Rainier National Park, and even adventuring around the epic scenery to be found on Vancouver Island. Although a lot of these hikes were during spring and summer, the great majority of the hikes I did in Oregon were in the midst of winter.

I used the beautiful nature that was anywhere from 1-3 hours outside of Portland to get rid of any lingering winter blues. The Pacific Northwest is notorious for gloomy, rainy, and wet weather. It does snow occasionally too. Basically, if you’re hiking during the winter, you should be prepared for any kind of weather. The weather can also change multiple times throughout the course of a day.

There were days that I was hiking in brisk but sunny weather, and other days where I was soaked to the bone and slipping in mud up steep trails. It was all part of the adventure and getting out in the Pacific Northwest during the colder months.

Surprisingly enough, my winter hikes ended up being some of my all-time favorites of my time in the region. It was my escape from the humdrum weather and the shortest days I’ve experienced in my life. When the sun sets before 4pm each day, it’s hard to not feel a little dejected. The best medicine for a melancholy attitude, however, is getting out and being active outside. At least in my opinion!

I also found that the trails were a lot less crowded in winter in popular hiking areas like the Columbia River Gorge, because people have this idea that they should stay inside and warm during the winter. Crazy, right? However, in many areas of the Pacific Northwest, the weather is not that extreme. This packing guide is namely for those areas, when you just want to get away for the day and get out in nature. What this guide is not for are the hikes that involve climbing snowy mountains and overnight treks.

This is what you need for your own quintessential day hike in the Pacific Northwest.

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Get your own FREE packing checklist for hiking in the Pacific Northwest, so you're not left out in the cold this winter.

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Packing Guide for Winter Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest | USA Travel 1. Thermal Undershirt / 2. Light Flannel / 3. Cozy Sweater / 4. Vest / 5. Beanie / 6. Waterproof Mittens / 7. Raincoat / 8. Fleece Lined Leggings / 9. Duck Boots or Winter Hiking Boots / 10. Wool Socks / 11. Dry-Bag / 12. Sunscreen & Sunglasses / 13. Camera and Phone / 14. Life Proof Case / 15. Water Bottle / 16. Snacks / 17. Insect Repellent

Other Miscellaneous Items

Some added extras if you’re hiking by yourself, going on an all-day hike, or just want to be on the safe side. 

Map – not all hiking spots will have cell service, and there’s always the chance that your phone will stop working in cold weather. Better to be safe than sorry, and it’s always a smart practice to carry a map with you of the area when you’re getting out in nature.

Compass – similar to the reasons of carrying a map with you, a compass is a good idea as well. Just make sure that it’s calibrated and that you know how to use it ahead of time!

First Aid Kit – Another smart thing to always carry with you when you’re hiking in the wilderness, even for day hikes. You never know where you might slip or if you may not a quick medical fix before you can get back to civilization.

Extra Water and Food – Depending on how long you’re hiking for, make sure to have more than enough food and water with you, and even a little extra sometimes in case you get lost.

Flashlight/Headlamp – As mentioned above, the sun sets very early in the winter in the Pacific Northwest. You may not time your hike correctly, get lost, and simply lose track of the time and realize it’s starting to get dark. There’s nothing worse than being far from the trailhead and not having light to lead you back to where you need to go.

Personal Locator Device – Also known as a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) or SEND (Satellite Emergency Notification Device). This is for the extreme circumstances, but it’s not a bad idea to think about carrying a personal locator device that allows you to send out an SOS via satellite if you’re seriously loss, hurt, or need help.

FREE Checklist!

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Get your own FREE packing checklist for hiking in the Pacific Northwest, so you're not left out in the cold this winter.

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Tell me – do you enjoy hiking in the winter? Where’s your favorite place to hike in the world? Have you been hiking in the Pacific Northwest before? 

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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