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Top Winter Walking Gear

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Updated March 13, 2014

Your first step in winter is safety. Your second step is staying both warm and dry. In days of yore winter meant wool and down. Today, it means warm and wicking fleece to manage both heat and sweat. Layer yourself top to bottom, inside to out with wicking and breathable fabrics.

1. Smartwool Hike Light Socks

Smartwool Adrenaline Socks
Courtesy of Pricegrabber
Smartwool takes most of the itch out of wool. This light hiker sock is perfect for winter walking. It wicks moisture away and dries fast. The arch base gives you increased support and comfort. Medium density sole padding gives you some extra foot cushioning.
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2. Polar Buff

Buff
Wendy Bumgardner ©
A Buff is a seamless tube of fabric that can be worn as a hat, a neck gaiter, a ski mask or balaclava. You may have seen contestants on Survivor using their Buffs in many different ways. A polar Buff has a band of microfleece at one end for extra warmth. It makes a great balaclava to cover the head, neck and chin. You can layer it under another hat. The Buff packs up very small. It is easy to carry one in your pocket, purse or pack to use when you really need it, and stow it once you have warmed up.
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3. Polar Fleece Cap with Ear Flaps

L.L. Bean Wind Challenger Fleece Baseball Cap
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When the temperature falls below 40F, I like to switch to a microfleece hat. It has to have ear coverings, as my ears get very cold. The L.L. Bean Wind Challenger Baseball Cap provides good coverage for the ears without looking like a hunting cap. I like having a bill to keep the sun and rain out of my eyes while walking. The microfleece insulates and the Windbloc stops the wind from penetrating, yet it is breathable so moisture is wicked away from your head. This hat also has a water-repellent coating. I like that it has a ponytail hole at the back. You can find similar models from REI, Lands End and other vendors.
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4. Manzella Windstopper Silkweight Gloves

Manzella Silkweight Windstopper Gloves
Photo courtesy of Pricegrabber
Gloves or mittens are essential, preferably windstopper models to keep the cold air out. These windproof gloves are also breathable. As your hands warm up, moisture and sweat are wicked away so you won't turn cold and clammy.
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5. Quarter Zip Microfleece Top

L.L. Bean Comfort Fleece Quarter Zip
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Polyester microfleece is cozy and soft, yet wicks away moisture and insulates on the cold walking days. When the temperatures dive below 40F, I wear a microfleece pullover under my waterproof jacket as my insulating layer. The pullover does double duty at home, as I love to slip into a microfleece pullover after a winter walk.
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6. REI Woodland Fleece Vest

REI-woodland-fleece-vest.jpg
Courtesy of REI
For the really brutal days, you need an insulation layer between your shirt and your jacket. This vest insulates, yet is thin enough not to add bulk. The fleece provides warmth and has a water-repellent coating. Moisture can escape so you won't get clammy.
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7. Baselayer Top

Columbia Baselayer Top
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Your base layer for cold walking must have high wicking capabilities and provide some insulation. One such choice is the REI Lightweight Crew Shirt (Buy Direct). I like that version because it has handwarming sleeves.
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8. Baselayer Bottoms

SmartWool Lightweight Bottoms
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When it gets really cold, your legs will also want insulation. Wear these wicking long johns under your walking pants. The REI Lightweight Long Underwear Bottoms (Buy Direct) fit snugly for ease of layering under your walking pants. But others may want the extra warmth of Smartwool versions (Compare Prices).
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9. Stabilicers

Stabilicers Sports
Wendy Bumgardner ©
Slip-on cleats for your shoes or boots. I keep a pair of these in my car throughout the winter for those times I have to trek on icy or snowy sidewalks. They slip on over your shoes or boots and slip off once you are safely inside.

10. Yaktrax Pro

Yaktrax Pro
Wendy Bumgardner © 2012
Chains for your shoes. Keep these handy for trekking on icy or snowy sidewalks. They slip on over your shoes or boots and slip off once you are safely inside. Yaktrax uses coils rather than cleats or spikes. The Yaktrax Pro has a velcro strap across the top of the shoe for extra security.

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