Gear on test: Winter walking gear

Good walking gear gets you out of the door, while the best keeps you there. Versatility is key when choosing top kit for winter walks, say Jen and Sim Benson

Two warmly dressed people climbing rocks 

Buyers' tips

Versatility is key when it comes to choosing the best kit for enjoyable winter walking. Many of the items we’ve selected work well all year round – as a lightweight outer layer on cool summer evenings or as a cosy mid or base layer on cold or wet winter days. When choosing new kit, it’s well worth considering how it will work within a wider system of layering to maximise each item’s usefulness.

The cosiest kit often features natural fabrics such as merino wool and duck and/or goose down. These materials bring excellent temperature regulation, breathability and natural antimicrobial properties. Where they sometimes don’t fare so well, however, is in wet conditions. Synthetic alternatives may absorb less water, dry more quickly, and retain their loft – the ability to trap warm air – better than down or wool in very wet weather. 

Women's pick graphic

Finisterre Harris Zip Smock Jacket 

£125 finisterre.com (opens in new window)

There’s not much that’s cosy about synthetic windproof jackets, but this 100% organic cotton version from Cornish brand Finisterre certainly is. Ideal for cool, dry days out on the coast path, it’s comfortable, tough and protective, looks great and biodegrades at the end of its life, unlike its plastic counterparts. There’s a big kangaroo pocket in the front, adjustable waist and collar, quarter zip, and a big hood for extra protection.

 

Fjällräven Keb Wool Padded Jacket

£280 fjallraven.com (opens in new window)

A top choice for versatility, this comfy packable, insulated jacket works equally well on its own or as a warm layer under a shell when the weather’s really bad. The padding is a blend of breathable, temperature-regulating Swedish wool and PLA – a biobased plastic. The main fabric is 100% recycled polyester, with a soft inner and a durable, water-resistant outer. Features include four good-sized zipped pockets and a cosy, adjustable hood.

Alpkit Kelpie Fleece

£34.99 alpkit.com (opens in new window)

You get great quality for your money with this classic microfleece. The fit and feel are excellent and, after many wears and several washes, there’s no sign of it pilling, shedding or losing shape. Lightweight but incredibly soft and surprisingly warm, it’s a great choice for everyday wear, as an insulating mid-layer or to stash in a pack. The fit is on the small side so you may wish to size up.

 

Findra Barra Waffle Merino Gilet

£125 findraclothing.com (opens in new window)

Scottish brand Findra’s mission is to make clothing that looks, fits and performs brilliantly, and this unisex gilet fits that brief. UK-made from a double layer of seamless 3D-knitted responsibly sourced merino wool, the outer is waffle knit, while the inner is flat and itch-free. The result is light and breathable, while retaining body heat well. The longer length, snug collar and handwarmer pockets all add to the cosy feel.

Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Pattern ¼ Zip

£109.99 smartwool.co.uk (opens in new window)

This brilliantly versatile heavier-weight top is made from 100% responsibly sourced merino wool for a near-perfect balance of warmth and breathability. Wear it as a cosy base under an insulated jacket in really cold weather, or as a standalone all year-round. Available in several colourways, carefully considered details such as shoulder panels, flatlock seams and 
a durable, semi-locking zip will keep it looking and feeling great for years.

Icebreaker Merino Crush Pants 

£125 icebreaker.com (opens in new window)

These relaxed yet smart tracksuit trousers double as a base layer under walking trousers or waterproofs in the cold or wet. Made from a blend of 88% responsibly sourced merino wool with nylon for faster drying and durability and elastane for stretch, they’re perfect for walking, yoga, camping or relaxing. Features include two handwarmer pockets and a drawcord waistband.

Lorpen T3 Midweight Hiker socks

£22 lorpen.co.uk (opens in new window)

With Primaloft insulation, merino wool for softness and breathability, and nylon for durability, these are great for everyday walking in cooler weather. The medium-thickness padding is comfy and protective without being bulky, while the length sits nicely under a standard walking boot. Panels of varying knit add support and extra breathability where needed. Designed and manufactured in Spain.

 

Sherpa Machuva Hat

£25 sherpaadventuregear.co.uk (opens in new window)

A classic winter beanie, the Machuva combines a stretchy, breathable, cable-knit top with a warm, ribbed 
cuff to keep it firmly but comfortably in place. Made in Nepal using responsibly sourced merino and alpaca wool with nylon for shape retention, 
it’s warm and functional for winter walking yet smart and subtle enough for everyday wear. Every item of kit bought from Sherpa provides a day at school for a Nepalese child.

 

Men's pick graphic

Mountain Equipment Eclipse Pant 

£60 mountain-equipment.co.uk (opens in new window)

These lightweight, slim-fitting micro-grid fleece leggings are ideal under walking trousers or waterproofs. They’re cosy but breathable, quick-drying and sweat-wicking, while Polygiene microbe-reducing treatment keeps them fresh. They also perform well solo for cold, high-energy activities like hillclimbing or running, or for wearing in a tent or bothy. Made to Fair Wear standards using stretchy bluesign-approved polyester fabric. 

 

Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather Mid Socks

£40 sealskinz.com (opens in new window)

These UK-made calf-length socks sandwich a waterproof membrane between a tough nylon outer and a warm merino wool and acrylic inner, with elastane for stretch. The result: a warm, durable waterproof sock made using a seamless construction to prevent rubbing, plus zoned padding for extra comfort. They’re slightly bulkier than most walking socks, so make sure your boots are able to accommodate this comfortably.

Patagonia Capilene Cool Merino Shirt  

£65 eu.patagonia.com (opens in new window)

With its smart looks, natural wool warmth and excellent freedom of movement, thanks to set-in sleeves, this tee is a great all-rounder. The fabric is 65% RWS (Responsible Wool Standard) certified merino mixed with recycled polyester to increase durability and cut drying time. It’s naturally odour resistant with good temperature regulation, adding warmth as a base layer in cold weather or as a comfy, breathable standalone tee when it’s warm. Fair Trade Certified sewn.

Jack Wolfskin Gecko Fleece Jumper

£45 jack-wolfskin.co.uk (opens in new window)

This classic microfleece with a quarter zip is a great all-rounder, for use as a light yet cosy outer, an insulating mid layer, or even as a second base layer in extreme cold. The cut is relaxed and there are plenty of colour choices. Made from bluesign-certified Polartec 100-weight recycled polyester, it wicks sweat and dries fast. 

Buff Lightweight Merino

£20.54 buff.com (opens in new window)

Made in Spain from 100% responsibly sourced soft merino wool, this unisex neckwear is comfortable and multi-functional for year-round use. Snuggled around the neck, it’s a good draught excluder, or pull it up over nose and mouth for extra protection. Wear it in a variety of ways – as a lightweight hat, a breathable liner under a waterproof hood, or as a sweat-wicking headband. Merino is warm, breathable, naturally antimicrobial and itch-free. 

Rab Microlight Down Vest

£130 rab.equipment (opens in new window)

Rab has reworked its classic down gilet with an improved athletic cut and body-mapped baffles to keep insulation exactly where it’s needed. Offering superb warmth for its weight, it’s practical and versatile, adding a comfortable layer of insulation on its own or under a shell. The 700-fill-power recycled down has a water-resistant finish that keeps you warm in damp conditions, while the outer is a tough yet lightweight Pertex Quantum recycled nylon.  

 

Salewa Fanes Shearling Wool Fleece Jacket 

£180 salewa.com (opens in new window)

A modern take on traditional Alpine wool kit, this Italian-made deep-pile fleece combines 300-weight responsibly sourced merino wool with polyester for durability and rapid drying. It’s warm and cosy, yet surprisingly lightweight and breathable. Stretch side panels allow easy movement, while added features include a tailored elasticated hood with integrated high collar and zipped handwarmer pockets.

Montane Icarus Stretch Jacket

£125 montane.com (opens in new window)

This jacket performs well as an outer jacket or warm mid layer. The main fabric, Pertex Quantum Eco, is a weather-resistant nylon with recycled content, while stretch panels allow unrestricted arm movement. There’s body-mapped insulation on the body and arms, with lighter recycled PrimaLoft Silver in the shoulders and hood.  

Kids picks

 

 

Isbjorn Frost Jacket  

£90 isbjornofsweden.com (opens in new window)

This responsibly made jacket has a tough, durable nylon outer that’s windproof, water-resistant and free from PFCs. Insulated with synthetic PrimaLoft Black Eco, the warmth-to-weight ratio is impressive, it stays warm when wet, and is easier to wash than down.

Keela Boulder 3-in-1 Jacket

£74.95 keelaoutdoors.com (opens in new window)

Combining waterproof jacket and zip-in polyester fleece, this versatile, good-value system will keep budding walkers warm, dry and happy all year round. The jacket has a long, protective cut, zipped pockets and adjustable hood with wired peak.

Craghoppers Reagan Half Zip fleece 

£35 craghoppers.com (opens in new window)

This deep-pile recycled polyester fleece is great for keeping young explorers warm. It’s breathable, ideal as a top layer all year round or under a waterproof or warm jacket in the wet or cold. Our mini testers loved the bright colours and patterns.

 

Our experts 

 

Sim Benson is an outdoor author and photographer with an environmental science background. He is a kit expert with over 15 years working, testing and reviewing in the outdoor industry. 

Jen Benson is an outdoor adventure photographer and writer with an MSc in sport & exercise medicine. Jen is happiest when she is outdoors, and is passionate about exploring Britain’s wild places on foot.

Please note Prices shown are RRPs but shop around to get the best price or wait for the sales and shop out of season. Don’t forget Ramblers members get a 15% discount at Cotswold Outdoors. Goods purchased from retailers outside the UK may incur extra costs due to import duties. Be sure to check the specific delivery/import costs before ordering. 

Part of Walk's 10 page winter walking special