Hiking in cold weather? Wear this.
It may only be October 8th, but it is winter in Berlin. It’s raining, single digit degrees, and I’m postponing bringing out the recycling because I’m too lazy to put a coat on. YAY! But since we’ve only got until May to enjoy winter, we might as well embrace it while it lasts!
I get asked quite a lot whether I hike through Berlin’s winter. The quick answer is: I sure do! And let me tell you, Berlin winters are no joke. It gets dark super early, the city feels incredibly dark (don’t ask me why there’s much less street lighting than in other cities I’ve lived), it’s windy, it’s wet and of course it’s FRIGGIN COLD. I’ve learned hilarious names for cold snaps such as “Russische Peitsche” or “russian whip”, and man does it feel accurate. It’s been so cold that my hand hurt from holding a phone to my ear for 10 minutes outside – and I’d like to note that I was in fact wearing a glove. I think it was around -6 then. You get the idea. Brr!
In the autumn and winter months here we spend so much time indoors to escape the cold that it’s actually really liberating to go out for a big walk. Stale heating air, smokey bars and the stuffy U-Bahn, not to mention sweating under your puffer jacket, hat and scarf the second you walk inside a shop, are as much part of Berlin winter as Christmas markets and frozen toes inside your boots. And the perfect remedy? Wrapping up warm and going outside!
As long as you’re wearing the right clothes for the temperature and ideally shorten your hike and/or bring along something warm to eat or drink if it’s REALLY cold, hiking in winter is glorious. So to get you started, here are my layering tips for chillier day hikes.
You’re looking for aluminium foil on the bottom and something warming facing your foot to keep the heat up and cold down.
Merino wool leggings and rain trousers
This is my go-to combo to keep my pins toasty.
Base layer top
Go for a long-sleeve merino wool shirt to keep you warm and, most importantly, dry.
Now I like to add a thin fleece between my base layer and my insulating coat, which could be too much for some, especially when you start working up a sweat. But I’d personally rather be too warm and take this layer off than not. The key here though is a thin f
This is where the real warm-keeping happens. I recommend lightweight down or synthetic coats for optimum warmth, which you’ll be able to find at any outdoor retailer. The thing about these kinds of coats though is they can be crazy pricey, but will last you many hiking winters to come. If you’d like to go for something you can get easier access to, go for a big wool sweater or thick fleece.
Your shell is what protects your mid-layer from wind and rain, and will also help keep the warmth in. On a bright and sunny but cold day I’d probably leave mine in my pack and be happier walking in my puffer because I start to feel a little Michelin Man here, which is adorable but not really comfortable. BUT being warm is always more comfortable than not.
Fleece-lined beanie hats have changed my Berlin life. I got a great one at the North Face last year, which I lost, and replaced with a no-name one I found in a gift shop. That extra layer on my forehead works miracles against cold sting.
I’ve been struggling for years to find gloves that really work for me. I don’t like big puffy skiing ones and most thin ones don’t seem worth the faff… I will keep reporting. But wear gloves! And tell me which ones you like!
To scarf or not to scarf
Wearing a scarf while hiking is pretty annoying. It gets in the way, it gets rained on, my hair gets all tied up. I’m not a fan. Also my midlayers both zip up the neck so I’ve found there’s actually no need for me to wear a scarf at all! Between my midlayers, beanie and hood there’s only a small part of throat exposed to the elements. However! I bought a merino wool neck warmer by Buff this summer for the South West Coast Path and really love it! It packs down to nothing, doesn’t get in the way, and it’s multi-use, which I love.
Et voila! With these little layering tricks in your pocket you’ll be good to go on crisp, fresh chilly hikes all winter long.