Winter hiking season is nearly upon us in Switzerland, and while we’re in the twilight zone between summer trails being inaccessible (due to snow) and winter trails not being ready yet (due to insufficient snow), I thought I would use this time to share my current choice of winter hiking clothing & gear with you.
As you may know, I’m always trying to go for the most ecological (yet feasible) option and avoid plastics and synthetics wherever possible, which is why I’m extra excited about some of the items on this list: The merino wool functional wear.
- Winter hiking in this case refers to hiking on marked hiking or snow shoe routes in Switzerland, at temperatures of usually around -10°C to +5°C (14°F to 41°F), and a hiker who usually feels hotter than most people around him.
- Note that all of these items are used, and some have been in use for well over a year. So if they don’t look brand new, that’s because they aren’t.
- Many items may not-, or no longer be available (in your location). Their example may be representative of similar available items though and serve as inspiration.
So without further ado:
Roman’s 2021/22 Choice of Winter Hiking Clothes & Gear – Eco Wherever possible and Feasible
This is the piece I’m most excited about. A 100% organic merino wool hoodie that feels soft and smooth enough to make you wonder if it’s really sheep’s wool you’re wearing.
Wool fulfills all the promises polyester functional clothing makes (and usually fails to keep), and then some:
- Wool insulates extremely well for its weight.
- Wool is temperature regulating and well ventilated, meaning it doesn’t feel too hot and stuffy when it’s not all that cold.
- Wool wicks moisture extremely well, keeping you nice and dry (if ventilated (without jacket/backpack)).
- Wool keeps you warm even when it’s wet, for those times when the wicking action isn’t enough.
- Wool neutralizes or prevents smells for a long time. At some point it becomes “saturated” and will have to be washed, but there’s a good chance all it smells like after one or two hikes is… wool.
- Wool is naturally antibacterial (which is how it neutralizes smells.)
It’s fair to say I love this material and its modern applications by brands like Hessnatur, making natural functional clothing. I use the hoodie as a base layer for hiking and skiing and couldn’t be happier with it.
This exact model appears to no longer be available, but a very similar, newer model is at Hessnatur.de (Germany)
I use this vest as a second layer, for extra warmth when necessary, but mostly to protect the wool hoodie from my backpack. It’s a mix of organic cotton and organic wool, and the shoulders are reinforced (with cotton) and waxed – Ideal for my purposes. This model unfortunately appears to no longer be available. There are other vests of wool or “nature shell” though. (Germany)
3/4 Thermo Underwear
Once again made from 100% wool and ending where my socks start, these thermal underpants do away with the need for special winter or hiking pants, which are usually made with synthetic materials. The exact model seems to not exist anymore, but many similar products can be found on Amazon:
Cargo Pants: Espirit
I bought these recently to replace my beloved, but irreparably broken old cargo pants. It took me quite a while to find 100% organic cotton cargos. I still haven’t found any suitable ones, but these with their bit of elasthane are close enough. Almost all are simply polyester and/or completely nonfunctional.
So far, I’m happy with my choice. They were really cheap, seem sturdy, and the material is thick enough for winter, while the cut is tight enough for sweat to evaporate off of them like a second skin in summer, but still wide enough for them to fit over boots.
My only major gripe is the kind, number and placement of pocket buttons:
- Why pressure buttons? They’re much less secure than regular ones.
- Why only one per pocket?
- If only one, why is it not in the middle?
But these are not important enough issues for me to renew my search for better pants so I will be wearing them until they break. In the meantime, I think they’re a solid choice and would recommend them. They’re also still available at Amazon (Affiliate Link*).
Shell jacket: Klättermusen Jolner
I’ve had this one for about a year, replacing the Fjällräven Keb Eco Shell jacket I had before and was completely unhappy with (it was like a $300 plastic rain jacket).
Unfortunately I haven’t found a really ecological option that also works and fits me. I tried a Hessnatur nature shell one made of cotton, but the cut was simply way too wide. So a synthetic option that was at least made relatively ecologically consciously in terms of how environmentally damaging the used chemicals were was about the best I could do in absence of a better option.
If somebody has one, I’d be glad to hear about it but of course I won’t replace a perfectly good jacket just to buy a different one. the damage of producing and buying it has already been done. Replacing it with a more ecological option would be a net negative until it needs to be replaced anyway.
As for the Jacket itself, it’s really not bad. Much better than the Fjellräven one before. The material feels relatively soft and flexible, it’s ventilated well and still windproof, relatively light, and completely waterproof. The passive avalanche locator patch in the arm is a nice touch, but doesn’t replace an active beacon because the signal is so much weaker.
My biggest gripes are:
- the comically tiny [plastic squeezy thingies to fix the string position when adjusting the hood for example – someone please tell me what these are called] which seem impossible to operate with gloves on
- The system for tightening the cuffs, both because of the reason above, and because using Velcro like everyone else would have been so much more practical. These elastic string loops loosen up over time, requiring you to redo them periodically.
- Those loops themselves, both on the cuffs and on the hood. Why did they have to be loops instead of an open string (or Velcro on the cuffs) like on every other jacket? It’s a safety risk, especially considering the jacket is also intended for alpine ski tours. You could catch them on something or someone and either have an accident, or make an accident worse.
In case someone still wants one despite the gripes, because they have – like me – come to the conclusion that there is not really a better option for the time being, Here it is on Amazon. (Affiliate Link*)
Gloves: Outdoor Research Flurry
A mix of polyester and wool, these gloves also come with touch screen enabling elements on the index finger and thumb, as well as some extra grip from rubber strips. They’re warm enough to suffice for my purposes and thin enough for me to be able to operate my phone and camera, even if just barely.
I made another compromise on the material because while pure wool gloves certainly exist, the ones I looked at hardly seemed sturdy enough for hiking and frequent washing. I may rethink this in the future and just try a pair of pure wool gloves.
Meanwhile, these can also be found on Amazon (Affiliate Link*)
Hiking Sticks: Effekt Manufaktur
Made in Germany, these carbon fiber telescope hiking sticks may not be as ecological as I’d like, but I haven’t seen wooden telescope sticks so far, and since I don’t need them the whole way, I like to be able to stow them away. This is also an item that I should theoretically only have to buy once, so the damage is limited. On the plus side, they’re not made in China, so that’s gotta count for something.
As for the sticks themselves, they’re very light and seem well enough made. The cork grips are a nice touch. They’re not the sturdiest sticks ever, but that’s a trade off you make when going for light and variable length. I like them. See them on Amazon (*Affiliate Link)
Hiking Boots: Hanwag Tatra II Wide
Last but not least: My trusty hiking boots of around two years. I’ve already written a detailed review on roman-reviews (in German – English Google Translate version here), but the gist of it is:
- Extremely high quality
- Made in Europe
- Smart design
- Durable, ecological materials
- Very comfortable
- Repair service
- Various special fits (Wide, Bunion, Regular)
I’ve never loved any hiking shoes as much as these, and I’ll whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone. Especially to people who like Meindl but have been disappointed by their quality issues in recent years.
They’re somewhat available on Amazon (some models / sizes) (Affiliate Link*) but even if they’re hard to find in your location I would really recommend putting in the effort and trying them out. In the US, they should be available from the manufacturer’s site and store.
I hope you found this post interesting and maybe found some inspiration for your future hiking wardrobe. Please leave a comment if you know of better options for the currently not so eco items on my list, or of course just in general if you have something to add. Have a nice day 🙂
*Affiliate Links placed on this site mean that if you click one of them and end up buying a product, roman-reviews will receive a commission on that sale at no extra cost to you.