How To Prepare For A Winter Trek In Snow

The Himalayas in winter don’t seem very welcoming. Trekkers are naturally worried about how to prepare for the fierce cold they’re bound to face. But it’s not that hard says Arjun Majumdar, who talks about how to tackle the snowy conditions.

First, stop thinking that extreme cold is unbearable. Even a harsh winter is not difficult to beat if you are prepared. Your preparation for a winter trek starts with your warm clothes. For temperatures that go down to -15°C or lower, the rule of thumb is to be in six layers. With every subsequent increase in temperature by 10 degrees (say from -15°C to -5°C), you can strip off one layer. But never strip off to less than 3 layers.

What are the layers that you need?

An example of a typical six layer clothing for -15°C would be:
1 thermal inner
2 T-shirts
2 full sweaters
1 hollow-fill jacket

But you can make your own variations of this. For example, I wear one sweater with a fleece jacket and then add a hollow-fill jacket over it. It keeps me warm for any situation. For your legs, one thermal inner, with two synthetic track/trek pants is usually more than enough to tackle the worst. Keep an extra track pant in hand for an additional layer. But the parts that need more protection are your fingers, toes, ears and nose. You need to see that they stay warm and dry at all times.

Here are the accessories you need: 

1 woollen cap
1 pair of water proof gloves
2-3 pairs of woollen socks
1 scarf (that can cover the neck and some bit of the face)
1 pair of sun-glasses to protect your eyes from harsh sunlight reflecting on snow

A scarf is something a lot of people ignore, but it is a lifesaver. A scarf can protect your neck, your nose or work as an extra glove. This multi-utility gear is a must for a winter trek.

Keep in mind. During the day when the sun is out and you are trekking, it actually gets very warm with the layers of clothes you have on. So be prepared to peel off layers depending on the heat. At times you’ll sweat — so it makes sense to wear quick dry synthetic T-shirts rather than cotton as your first layers (which retains water longer).

The next important equipment to keep in mind is your shoe. You need a shoe that protects you from all elements and gives you grip on snow. Watch this video for a guideline on how to buy your shoe.

Next, get your body ready for a winter trek. A fit body overcomes cold much easier than an unfit one. It is easy to get fit. Start with small intense brisk walks and move them up to slow jogs. Increase the length of your jogging time until you can jog for 20-25 minutes at a stretch. Try to get to a distance of 4 km. This usually takes about 20 days. Do not get to your trek base camp without a physical preparation for the trek.

Questions trekkers ask me often:


1. Do we need gaiters?

Gaiters are synthetic wrap-around garments worn over the shoe and lower pant leg. When walking on snow that comes up to your knee, they are very useful. They do not allow snow to enter your shoes and thus prevent frost bites. On most snow trails in India, gaiters are not required. However, in winter, gaiters are useful accessories to carry.

2. Do we need trekking poles?

Trekking poles reduce stress and fatigue by over 40%. They act as extra legs by sharing your body weight, thus lifting some weight off your own legs. A trekker without a trekking pole is half equipped for a trek.

For any more questions about winter trekking, use the comments box below to ask them, and our team will get in touch.

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15 thoughts on “How To Prepare For A Winter Trek In Snow

  1. Please tell me what accessories are needed for himachal pradesh trancking in august? Every accessories included layers.

  2. Hi,

    I will be attempting my first winter trek with my 9 year old daughter. I was wondering how many layers we should carry. I will be doing the Nag Tibba trek at the end of December. The climate in Mussoorie climate will be around 15 in the day and 4 by night. Will it be the same on the trek? What about the Wind chill factor. Could you please guide me on this…

    1. It is going to be much colder than at Mussoorie on the Nag Tibba trek. Especially at the end of December, it would have started snowing and at the Nag Tibba base camp, the temperature can drop to -5 degrees. You need at least five warm layers each. You’ll need a woollen cap, a good pair of gloves, woollen socks too for the night! Since you’re going with your daughter, be doubly careful!

  3. Hi,

    Seasons greetings!
    Planning to do a Nag Tibba Treak end of Month January next year.
    Its a group of 5 which includes women too.
    What kind of clothing would you suggest please. I am quite new to this, in fact being my first winter trek.

    I have noted from your earlier points that all the gear can be procured from NCR Decathlon which i think will include Tents.
    Have great holidays agead

    1. Hi Sagar,
      Happy holidays to you too 🙂
      In January, you will require at least 3 warm layers at Nag Tibba. You can take a look at this link for more details.
      You will get most of the equipment that you require at Decathlon. If you are going on the trek with an organisation such as Indiahikes, you will not need to carry tents and sleeping bags. You will require these if you are planning to trek solo.

  4. Hi,
    I am planning for Kedarkanth Trek during Mid Mar 2018 in a group of 5 others, Please suggest useful accessories for women & best places to buy in Bangalore.

  5. Hello and Welcome,
    i have booked kedarkanth trek with YHAI ON Jan 2019,do they provide snow gears?
    3 layers will be sufficient and how minimum the mercury dips?can we burn wood in case of emergency?

    1. Hi Hetesh, you’ll have to find out from them if they provide you with microspikes. Last time I saw, they didn’t. And three layers will not be sufficient in January at all. You will need at least 5 minimum layers. You cannot burn wood on the trail, such emergencies rarely occur on easier treks like Kedarkantha, especially because it’s a well-established fairly crowded trail.

    1. Hi Aniket

      Yes, you will need waterproof or water-resistant shoes for the Kedarkantha trek.
      Since the Quechua Nh100 are not waterresistant or waterproof, they will not be sufficient for the Kedarkantha trek!