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Tempted to hit the trails, but it’s only 30 degrees outside? Don’t worry, you can still go hiking. You just need a bit of preparation.
When hiking in 30-degree weather, you should wear at least 3 layers. Ideally, you should wear a warm base layer that works well for wicking away moisture, a fleece insulating layer, and an outer layer suited to whatever weather you’ll be hiking in. When in doubt about your layers, it’s better to have too many layers than not enough when it comes to cold weather.
Clothes are one of the most important tools you’ll need to ensure your hike goes smoothly. On top of that, you’ll want to make sure you have the right gear and knowledge. After all, hiking at 30 degrees can be much more dangerous than hiking in the 50-70 degree range.
Read on and you’ll have the opportunity to learn just what you’ll need to hike comfortably and safely at 30 degrees.
How To Hike Or Walk In 30-Degree Weather
Although it might require a bit more preparation, hiking in colder temperatures can be both exciting and peaceful. You are more likely to have the trails to yourself! It’s also a great way to stay in shape all year.
Just keep in mind that hiking in the cold may not be fore you. Casual hikers may be shocked by the idea of hiking when it’s below freezing outside, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Hikers often have very different opinions about what temperature is too cold for hiking. If you’re wondering whether or not 30 degrees is too cold for you, take a look at our article about what temperature is too cold for hiking here.
However, if you do happen to be someone who is interested in taking on the challenge of hiking at 30 degrees, you’re in the right place. Below, we’ll get started by covering some of the most important tools you’ll need for hiking in 30-degree weather.
Wearing The Right Balance of Clothing
So, 30 degrees is cold.
Unlike hiking at warmer temperatures, bundling up is an absolute necessity when you’re hiking at 30 degrees. That said, the clothing you need will depend on a few different variables. Naturally, 30 degrees in dry weather is going to be a different experience than 30 degrees in the snow. On top of that, a short, nonstop hike might require a little less clothing than a longer hike where you’ll be taking breaks from time to time.
Most people are aware that when you exercise your body tends to get a bit warmer. Because of that, you might need to practice a bit in order to gauge just how many layers of clothing you’ll need for a 30-degree hike. If you’re new to hiking at such low temperatures, make sure to wear more clothing than you think you’ll need. It can also be useful to stick to shorter hikes where you can easily get back to your home or car to warm up. If you’re driving to your hiking location, it can also be wise to have extra clothing in your car just in case you need to add more layers or change your outfit entirely.
Some examples of some essentials of what to wear in 30-degree weather:
- Beanie or other warm hat
- Scarf or jacket that zips up around the neck
- Thin to medium thickness gloves
- A thermal base layer top
- An insulating mid-layer (this is where the warmth is held in)
- A wind-breaking jacket outer-layer (or a rain / light snow jacket if it’s going to rain or snow at all)
- Thermal base-layer bottom
- Sweat pants, insulated running pants, or snow pants depending on if there’s snow that you might wade through
- Medium thickness wool socks
- Trail running shoes or hiking shoes (can you hike in running shoes? I talk more in-depth to that question in my post, here)
TL;DR: If you’re going to be jogging or hiking without stopping, you can get by with less layers, unless you are going into deep wilderness. For example, if you’re hiking for a couple miles on a well known trail in your town, then you might not need the outer-layer or the gloves (depending on the weather). If you’re hiking and then camping or doing any kind of sitting around, you need to bundle up more and bring everything on this list.
Make sure to read the layering section below where we get more specific on how to put all that together.
In addition to your clothing, there are some other items you’ll want to make sure you have while hiking at 30 degrees as well. Remember, more preparation is needed when you’re spending a lot of time outside at such cold temperatures. Otherwise, you may end up uncomfortable at the very least.
Some items you may want to bring with you on a 30-degree hike include:
- Hand Warmers. You can keep hand warmers in your pockets, your gloves, and even your shoes. You can even put some under your hat if you like! These little guys are fantastic for adding some warmth to your extremities – which is very important for helping to fight off frostbite. And yes, frostbite can happen at 30 degrees, especially if it’s windy.
- Snacks. Your body is likely to burn calories at a higher rate while you’re hiking in the cold. This is because it’s working to keep you warm as well as get you through the hike. Bring along plenty of snacks and eat them whenever you feel the need to.
- A Flashlight or Headlamp. The sun sets much more quickly in the colder months, and it can be easy to lose track of time when you’re enjoying nature. Having an extra light source can allow you to get back to safety no matter what time it is.
- Sunscreen. Even in cold weather, the sun can still have a big effect on your skin. Use plenty of sunscreen to protect any exposed skin. You must not skip this step if there’s snow on the ground. Snow reflects light and you’d be amazed at how well you can burn in the winter.
- Emergency Supplies. You never know when you might need a first aid kit, emergency blankets, shelter, or tools to make a fire. Always keep these things in your pack. With any luck, you won’t end up having to use them. If you’re near your car, then keeping these in the car will work great. (What if, for example, your car doesn’t start?)
- Water. Staying hydrated is important no matter what the temperature is.
- A Navigational Tool. Whether it’s a compass, GPS, or smartphone, bring something along that you can use to either find your way or guide someone else to you. It could make all the difference if you happen to get lost.
Special Knowledge And Safety Tips
Survival skills are a plus to hiking in any season, but they can become more necessary when you’re hiking at 30-degrees. Things like knowing how to make a fire even with snow all around, how to navigate in the snow, and how to create a shelter using whatever is around you can all be incredibly beneficial if you accidentally get lost during your hike.
Starting a fire from nothing is extremely difficult, even for seasoned survivalists. Many people like to carry some sort of fire-starting helper. You can peruse some examples of extremely effective ways to start a fire here on Amazon
Building a shelter using snow is an activity that can be both beneficial and fun. It’s an activity you can enjoy with the family that can also be truly lifesaving if you or another family member finds themselves lost. To learn more about building snow shelters, take a look at our article on ways to make winter camping fun here.
How Many Layers Are Necessary For Hiking In 30-Degree Weather?
The general consensus is that 3 layers are a good place to start when you’re planning on hiking at 30 degrees. Typically, these layers will consist of a base layer, a layer meant to provide insulation and an outer layer to protect you against the elements. Keep in mind that this is just the starting point. Everyone reacts to cold weather a little bit differently. In some cases, you may need more layers while in others 3 layers will work out perfectly well. When in doubt, always make sure to include more layers than you think you’ll need. It’s better to have more access to warm/protective clothing than less.
An extremely easy way to find out if you have enough clothing on is to bundle up and just stand outside for 10-15 minute without doing anything. If you are comfortable and not too cold or sweltering, then you are at least dressed well enough to stay warm for hiking.
Let’s take a brief look at each of the layers to give you a better idea about how they can help while you’re out in the cold.
Base layers aid in keeping you warm and dry, whether the wetness involved is rain, snow, or your own sweat. Consequently, they are absolutely key for colder temperatures. When you’re spending time at or below freezing, one of the best base layer choices includes polyester and Merino wool. Both of these options are great for regulating your temperature and keeping your skin dry.
Remember, wet skin will chill you more than anything else. Staying DRY is more important than any special material. Even if you have the merinoest of wools, or the polyesterest of polyesters, if you soak your clothes you’ll be freezing.
Your base layers should cover your body. Long-sleeve everything.
If you want to learn if a base layer even matters, I wrote in-depth on that subject, here.
The insulating layer can really consist of two layers at this temperature, depending on how your body reacts to the cold. Many people will opt for a t-shirt and a fleece jacket or hoodie. If you really want to stay warm, you may even choose both.
One thing that is worth keeping in mind when you’re choosing insulating layers is when it’s okay to choose cotton. Generally, cotton isn’t considered a great option if you’re at risk of getting wet or sweating a lot. Because of that, it may not be the best choice for hiking, even if you’re hiking in cold temperatures. That being said, if you have a waterproof outer shell, you’ll probably be just fine.
Hiking in 30 degree weather has some similarities to camping in 30-degree weather but there are some extra complexities. If you’re interested, I talk about what you need to know for camping in 30-degree weather, here.
Often, outer layers remain the same in just about any kind of difficult weather. Really, they depend on what you want to protect yourself against the most. That’s really going to be dictated by where you’re hiking. At 30 degrees, there could be rain, snow, sleet, wind, or just plain cold. Keeping whatever weather you may be dealing with from reaching your inner clothing layers is the best way to stay warm and comfortable.
To be clear, some outer layers have built-in insulation, like snow jackets. There are heavy or light snow jackets but they all are more substantial than other types of jackets. If you are going to be sitting around a lot in the cold for long periods of time, a medium-insulated snow jacket can be extremely nice.
That being said, a rain jacket with no insulation can work very well if you have sufficient layers underneath. For example, I even used my rain jacket while hiking in 10-degree weather if you want to learn more about that, check out my post, here.
If the weather’s fair, than even a windbreaker jacket can work really well.
Is It Good To Hike In Cold Weather?
There’s nothing inherently bad about hiking in cold weather. In fact, it can be a great way to enjoy the scenery of the great outdoors in every season. Nature always has something beautiful to offer, and it’s worth getting out to see it. Additionally, you won’t have to worry as much about trying to get your stamina back up when spring rolls around again. You’ll already be in shape and ready to go take on the trails.
That said, you will need to prepare for hiking in cold weather more than a spring or summer hike. Protection from the elements is important not just for staying comfortable, but for staying safe. Before you can enjoy the scenery, you’ll need to be prepared to protect yourself from frostbite, hypothermia, and plain discomfort. If you’re willing to pick up the knowledge needed and gather the right gear for hiking at 30 degrees, then you can truly have a great time. Those extra survival skills are sure to benefit you all year long.