Best cold weather gear for winter walks
Brrr-illiant cold weather gear to stay warm in the countryside this winter
There's no reason for chilly temperatures to stop you getting out and about in the great outdoors - as long as you have the right cold weather gear.
In order to regulate your body temperature you'll need clever insulating clothing, like breathable base layers, thermal socks and down outerwear. Layering is your best friend here, giving you the chance to trap warm air between items of clothing and quickly adapt by shedding the outer layers if you start to overheat.
Add the classic hat, scarf and gloves - preferably made with durable, natural fibres for ultimate warmth - and you're good to go.
Our favourite cold weather gear for winter walks
If you often find yourself feeling the chill, it's worth stocking up on some high-quality cold weather gear, whether it's a new set of thermals or a premium down jacket. We've listed our very favourite items below, across a range of price points.
Keep scrolling to find insulating heroes for winter walks and Christmas activities.
Essens Mimic Hood jacket
This extremely cosy jacket makes itself even more appealing with its sustainability credentials. Its QuadFusion filling is made from recycled polyester – instead of going into landfill, throwaway plastic is repurposed as synthetic insulation. Yet you wouldn’t guess: it feels like a soft down jacket, and weighs only 410g.
It also looks great, with a quilted construction. I liked its big pockets, which fit an OS map, and are great for warming chilly hands. The hood keeps heads toasty and dry.
The jacket’s breathability is impressive, keeping you warm without overheating or trapping moisture, while it also stays warm when wet – much more so than a down jacket.
Care wise, it is machine-washable and easy to maintain.
VERDICT: Cosy and eco-friendly. Maria Hodson
Bodyfitzone Winter Zone long sleeve half zip base layer
- Buy for men from IceBreaker (£120.00)
- Buy for women from IceBreaker (£120.00)
Slim-fitting, breathable and, most importantly, warm, this base layer is a great garment for strenuous days in the mountains (and Britain’s deepest chills). It’s made largely of merino wool – that’s where the warmth comes from – along with a few grams of Lycra for stretch.
There's merino mesh for ventilation, while a front zip allows you to cool down quickly if the base layer’s heat retention is proving a little too efficient.
It’s a durable bit of cold weather gear too, with merino and polyester waffle jersey built around the elbows and forearms for added resistance if your roughing it. Available in a range of different sizes and colours for men and women.
VERDICT: At £100, it’s a pricey addition to your outdoor gear wardrobe – but, if you’re serious about staying warm on cold, active days, Icebreaker’s Winter Zone base layer is worth the cost. Daniel Graham
Montane Phoenix jacket
Even on the coldest days, the Phoenix will keep your upper body wonderfully snug. It’s surprisingly lightweight (438g) for such a warm padded jacket, thanks to a new synthetic filling, ThermoPlume, from PrimaLoft. This apparently reproduces the structure of down – and feels remarkably like down to the touch. I found that it insulates well even when damp – unlike down.
The Pertex Quantum Eco outer fabric repels water without being fully waterproof, so the Phoenix can be worn as a shower-resistant standalone, or as a layer under a rain jacket. The hood and sleeves are stretchy to help prevent heat loss and the chin guard is useful for protecting your face against the elements.
Pockets are a good size and the outer pockets are positioned so that they can be accessed without undoing bag straps. There is one internal zipped pocket which is handy for stashing a mobile phone or car keys (but too small for an OS map).
Verdict: Not the cheapest piece of cold weather gear, but will keep you warm on the hills in winter. Carys Matthews
Rab Alpha Flux jacket
This close-fitting and flexible jacket is highly breathable and lightly insulated – good for an active lifestyle, all year around.
The jacket’s comfort and practicality owes itself to the Polartec Alpha Direct, a highly breathable and compressible synthetic filling, designed for changeable conditions.
All this makes it a great outer layer for active days in the mountains when the weather’s not too wet. On cold, damp winter days, the Alpha Flux – fast-drying and insulating – serves as a splendid mid-layer.
The jacket has two zipped hand pockets – good for storing a GPS device, OS map or cold fingers – and thumb loops to keep your wrists warm. With a hood, internal storm flap and chin guard, you will be protected against the elements, while RAB’s Thermic-lux stretch fleece, built into strategic areas of the garment, not only improves manoeuvrability but also reduces weight to a lightweight 330g.
VERDICT: Ideal layer for active walkers, all year round. Daniel Graham
Falke TK1 Wool Women Trekking Socks
With 70% merino wool, these socks are warm and comfortable on winter hikes. Feet stay warm and dry with effective moisture wicking, while toes and soles feel well protected thanks to the extra cushioning. MH
Heat Holders Microfleece Base Layer Long Sleeved Top
- Buy for men from Heat Holders (£19.99)
- Buy for women from Heat Holders (£19.99)
This base layer offers very good value for money. OK, it’s not going to win any style prizes, but it’s functional: soft, warm and light, and the collar zips up to keep your neck warm.
The fit is quite snug, but you may be able to wear with a close-fitting T-shirt beneath.
VERDICT: An excellent money-saving option. Joe Pontin
Lost Coast Fingerless Mitt
These cosy mittens convert to fingerless gloves, in which the mitten flap is – ingeniously - easily secured with a built-in magnet. The tough suede palm lining protects from wear. JP
Paramo Grid Technic Hoodie
Warm base layers are great when it’s freezing, but the moment you warm up they can be suffocatingly hot. This big selling point of this one is its adaptability as your temperature yo-yo’s on the hills.
The polyester fabric comprises tiny insulating squares, woven into a grid of thinner, more breathable fabric. When it’s cold, you wear a windproof layer on top and the warm air gets trapped in the grid, insulating very effectively. If you overheat, you can remove a layer and let that heat escape swiftly, through the thin parts of the grid; or lower the zip a little.
The cut is close-fitting – I found the medium a little tight under the arm, something not helped by the fact that the fabric is less stretchy than many other base-layer fabrics. So try for size before you buy. On the other hand, the fabric is soft – and without that slight prickling sensation that many merino wool base layers give.
The hood is also close-fitting, and zips up to make, essentially, a balaclava that is very cosy on the hills (but maybe not such a great look on the high street?). When not in use, you might find the hood is a tad bulky around the collar when you zip up your rainjacket; if so, you might be better off with the hoodless version.
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VERDICT: An excellent, highly adaptable base layer, but make sure you try for size. JP
Extremities Donegal Beanie
A chunky-knit hat with faux fur bobble, and super-cosy fleece lining. JP
This unisex bobble hat is available in blue and 'wine', and both have a textured, Aran-style knit for a traditional look. It's a must for wintery expeditions, but you may also want to throw it in your bag for hill walks and other blustery treks throughout the year.
Find more beanie hats and flat caps for cold weather in our guides.
Thermonet Buff scarf
Buff’s tubular scarfs are designed to be a multi-use – doubling up as a bandana, sweatband or headscarf, making this simple item of kit surprisingly useful in both hot and cold weather. What make the Thermonet Buff one step better than the Original Buff is the new material which provides an extra layer of warmth from the cold without feeling too chunky.
Perfect for active people, the material wicks away sweat effectively while still being breathable and is great for keeping your face or ears warm on winter bike rides. Pictured in In ‘Soft Hills Turquoise’ pattern. JP
Superior Milatex Jacket
A hard-wearing, stylish coat that covers you down to your mid-thigh. The synthetic insulation is very warm, but not uncomfortably so, thanks to the breathable outer fabric (polyamide). It was waterproof enough to keep me dry when caught in a shower.
There is of tons of storage space, thanks to a pair of large hip pockets and a breast pocket. A pair of small hand-warmer pockets on the chest also fit a phone. It’s probably too toasty for hikers, but ideal if you like spending long hours outdoors in cold weather, ambling, birdwatching or other low-energy activities.
I found it a little snug for a size 10. Laura Phillips
Stanley Master Mug
Packable, compact (523ml, or just under a pint), keeps drinks hot for up to 12 hours. JP
Alpkit Qark Head Torch
- Buy now from Qark (£29.99)
Cold is one challenge in winter – light the other. Winter walks on dark country lanes can be hazardous, so the bright red rear light at the back of this rechargeable head torch from Derbyshire-based Alpkit is a big bonus. The headlamp is powerful too, pumping out 300 lumens of light, cast narrow like a spotlight.
There’s an optional hands-free operation – allowing you to turn the light on and off by swiping your hand over a sensor. (The torch automatically provides you with different brightness setting depending on the ambient light.)
On the con side, the front lamp has no red light function, for night-walking; the buttons are small and fiddly and require firm treatment – not easy when you are wearing gloves – and runners may find the rear light, with its integral battery pack, a little bulky.
But the relatively low price is a plus point for a head torch this powerful and versatile. JP
Hanwag Anvik GTX boots
The Anvik (and the women’s version, the Aotea) are designed to be tough enough for winter use in the hills – while looking stylish enough to wear around the village.
Ascending through steep, waterlogged ground, the Anvik felt reassuringly supportive and comfortable, especially around the ankle. This is thanks to what the German maker Hanwag calls ‘perforated bend application’ at the back of the upper, which allows the Nubuck leather to flex backwards as your ankle moves.
This part of my test also gave the boots a dunking in thick mud. The water-repellent uppers and a waterproof GoreTex lining performed well, keeping my feet dry and comfortable. The outer sole shed water and mud well, too, thanks to the wide grooves of the V-Rough outsole, made by tyre manufacturer Michelin. The high ankle support proved useful for deeper water and splashes.
A descent through a valley over rocks wet with running water was a great place to test one of the key features of this boot: Hanwag claim to grip well on slippery surfaces, including snow. The flexible tread gave fantastic grip and I felt confident descending over what might otherwise have been treacherous rocks.
VERDICT: An impressive boot for winter and autumn walks: the quality, comfort and durability stood up to challenges over a variety of different surfaces. Tim Bates
Find more high-quality footwear for winter walks in our guides to the very best walking boots and vegan walking boots.
- Best waterproof winter jackets
- Best down jackets for winter walks
- Best fleeces, tested and reviewed
- Best waterproof trousers
Maria Hodson is production editor at BBC Countryfile Magazine, alongside Margaret Bartlett. Since moving to Bristol in 2014, Maria has made every effort to escape into nature and loves all things wild and watery, from surfing and swimming to paddle-boarding and kayaking. Her adventure highlight in recent years was sea kayaking around remote St Kilda, off the coast north-west Scotland, in 2016. Most weekends, however, are spent exploring the great outdoors with her small child and doing accessible walks. Favourite family adventures are bird-watching at Slimbridge Wetland Centre and exploring the Forest of Dean, as well as an annual pilgrimage to see the starling murmuration on the Somerset Levels.
Danny is the outdoors editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine, responsible for commissioning, editing and writing articles that offer ideas and inspiration for exploring the UK countryside.
Laura is the Deputy art editor at BBC Countryfile magazine. She runs the Instagram page and co-picks our favourite Photo of the Day across our social media channels. In her spare time she enjoys nature walks in her local area, as well as being ukulele playing, roller skating and silversmithing.
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