How cold is too cold to go hiking

How Cold is Too Cold to go Hiking? Tips For Beginners.

While the chilly winter weather may tempt some to curl up at home and stay warm, it may inspire others to explore. Snow and ice can create dangerous weather, but the scenery can be breathtaking. If you go hiking when it’s too cold, you risk hypothermia, frostbite, and other serious health problems.

How cold is too cold when hiking in the winter?

The amount of cold that makes hiking unsafe depends on your experience level and the state of your gear. Without cold-weather gear, most people will not feel comfortable in temperatures below 40°F (4.44°C).

Hiking in conditions below 40 degrees can be risky due to the lower temperatures and potential for rain, deep snow, and other precipitation. Frostbite or hypothermia can occur if you don’t have the correct information. 

However, you can hike even in below-freezing temperatures safely and comfortably if you have the right equipment and preparation.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and risks of hiking in cold weather.

Is it good to hike in cold weather?

Hiking in the winter can be just as healthy as hiking in the spring and summer if you’re prepared for the conditions. However, in cold weather, hiking is risky.

What Temperature Is Too Cold for Hiking?
cold-weather hiking

You should be aware of certain weather conditions that could make your hike hazardous in addition to the cold. Trails can become dangerous when there is a lot of wind chills and snow, especially when mountains or steep climbs are involved. The best option is to avoid cold weather hiking.

Also Read: How to Attach Trekking Poles to Your Backpack: 5 Simple Ways

Cold-weather hiking tips for beginners

If you’re new to hiking, the colder months can be a great time to start. The weather is typically more forgiving than the summer, and the scenery can be breathtaking. Plus, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of conquering a trail when the snow is fresh, and the air is crisp.

Of course, cold-weather hiking comes with its own set of challenges. From appropriately dressing to carrying the right hiking gear, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.

can it be too cold for snow
man hiking on snow

Let’s explore some tips on getting started with cold-weather hiking, so you can confidently hit the trails.

  • Start slowly when you are new to cold-weather hiking. Start with shorter trails because you will need more time to move quickly in the summer. 
  • Start early in the day to take advantage of the short winter days. You need to be able to complete the trail before dusk.
  • Put on more layers of clothing, and bring extra socks. Ensure your gear is waterproof because you need to stay dry. 
  • Wear more layers of clothing to stay warm as the cold weather intensifies. Additionally, cover your exposed skin as much as you can to reduce the risk of developing frostbite.
  • Always research the weather and any dangers before starting a hike. If the weather is risky, reschedule. 
  • Hike with a guide or another hiker with more experience until you are comfortable negotiating trails in the winter.
  • Bring more food and water than you would for a hike in the summer. As your body works harder to maintain your body temperature in colder climates, you’ll burn more calories and dehydrate. 

NB: A water bottle in insulation is essential to prevent freezing!

How to train for hiking in the winter

If you love hiking, you may wonder how to maintain your activity level during winter. After all, cold weather and snow can make hiking quite tricky. But with some preparation, you can train for hiking in the winter and enjoy your favorite activity all year long.

How Cold Is Too Cold to Hike?
hiking in winter

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Get the right gear: You’ll need to invest in some quality cold-weather gear if you want to hike in the winter. Make sure you have a good pair of boots, a warm coat, and plenty of layers to keep you comfortable.

Start slow: Try to avoid tackling a challenging hike right off the bat. Build up to it by starting with shorter, more accessible hikes. Once you get used to the cold weather, you can increase the length and difficulty of your hikes.

Be prepared for emergencies: Make sure you’re prepared by bringing a first-aid kit and plenty of food and water. In an emergency, it’s also a good idea to let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

Related: How to Pack Your Backpack for Hiking: 6 Expert Tips

Dangers of hiking in the cold

Most people don’t think twice about hiking when the weather is cold. After all, it’s just walking. But this can be pretty dangerous if you need to prepare. Hypothermia, frostbite, and other weather-related injuries are all real risks when hiking in cold weather.


Frostbite is a condition that occurs when the skin and tissues are exposed to cold temperatures. It most often affects the extremities, such as the nose, ears, fingers, and toes. Frostbite can also occur in highly windy conditions.

Symptoms of frostbite include numbness, tingling, and red or pale skin. In severe cases, frostbite can lead to tissue damage and even amputation.

So how can you prevent frostbite when hiking in cold weather? 

  • Dress in layers. Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing in layers. This will help you regulate your body temperature and prevent sweat from building up.
  • Protect your extremities. Be sure to wear gloves, a hat, and a scarf to protect your hands, feet, and face from the cold, as they are especially susceptible to frostbite.
  • Take breaks. Take a break and find a warm resting spot when your body temperature drops. Drink something warm and eat a snack to help raise your body temperature.
  • Pace yourself. Don’t overexert yourself when hiking in extremely cold weather. Take your time and keep a moderate pace to prevent your body from becoming too exhausted.

As your nose is susceptible to frostbite, keeping your face covered is crucial. Scarves and neck gaiters are all excellent choices for keeping your face warm while hiking.


Hypothermia is a medical condition that can occur when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, slurred speech, and drowsiness. If left untreated, hypothermia can lead to death.

Hikes in cold weather can put you at risk for hypothermia, especially if you’re not adequately prepared. 

So how can you prevent hypothermia when hiking in cold weather? 

  • Dress in layers and be sure to keep your head and hands covered. 
  • Ensure you have a source of warmth, such as a fire or a hot drink. 
  • Keep moving to help circulate your blood and keep your body warm. 

If you start to experience symptoms of hypothermia, seek medical help immediately.

Also Read: How To Waterproof A Backpack for Hiking (The Complete Guide)

What to wear hiking in cold weather

How cold is too cold to go hiking?
hiking gear

When hiking in cold weather, it is essential to dress in layers to regulate your body temperature. You should start with a base layer of wool or synthetic material that will wick away sweat. An insulation layer of down or synthetic material will help to keep you warm, and a waterproof outer layer will protect you from the elements.

Wearing the right shoes is also essential when hiking in cold weather. Make sure to wear boots that are well-insulated and have good traction. Wool socks will keep your feet warm and dry, and you may also want to consider wearing toe covers or boot liners for extra warmth.

Tips for staying warm in extreme cold weather

Bundling up isn’t enough to keep warm in the cold. To help control your body’s temperature, take warm liquids. In addition to water, think about carrying a thermos of hot tea or broth.

Water consumption is essential for maintaining hydration because hypothermia strikes more quickly with dehydration. As your body works more challenging to maintain a constant body temperature in the cold, you’ll also burn more calories. You should bring a lot of energizing snacks with you to stay fueled.

Staying dry is essential, as wet clothing will cause your body temperature to drop more quickly. One of the benefits of wearing layers is that you remove them if you begin to sweat profusely.

Finding a steady pace you can keep up the entire hike is also helpful when hiking in the cold. Moving around helps in blood flow, raising your body temperature.

Final Thoughts

As with hiking in cold weather, the key to staying comfortable and enjoying yourself is to be prepared and aware of your body’s limitations. You should check the forecast, dress appropriately, and stay warm on the trail. You can hike in any weather as long as you follow these instructions.

Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking: Tips For a Successful Adventure

How long does it take to get frostbite in 15 degree weather?

Frostbite is possible within 15 minutes at 15 degrees below zero with even a light breeze.

What is considered extreme cold?

Any temperature below (32 degrees F) is considered to be extremely cold. Your body has to work harder to maintain an average body temperature during extreme conditions, which could result in illness or death, especially in vulnerable populations.

How cold does 15 degrees feel?

Even though fifteen degrees may seem chilly, it’s a pretty pleasant temperature that’s neither too hot nor too cold. Nevertheless, it can be challenging to prepare for this uncertain forecast. If you wear a too-thick knit, you might feel flushed; however, breezy, light fabrics, like linen, might feel uncomfortably cool.

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