Cold Weather Rucking Tips

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Rucking this winter?

Be sure to stay warm.

But, do it in a smart way.

Here’s our tips for cold weather rucking.

These top tips were gleaned from the experience of many ruckers.

Here’s the gear we’re going to look at:

Best materials for cold weather rucking

First of all, let’s review the best materials to use in the cold weather.

Best Fabrics for Cold Weather Ruck March

In general, wool is a superior material for cold weather as compared to cotton. It is also better than most synthetic materials that are not purposed designed for cold weather.

Wool from a sheep is an amazing insulator.

Nature made sure of that – the crimped nature of the individual wool fibers ensures that they form millions of tiny air pockets.

These tiny pockets trap air, helping to provide a thermal barrier.

And, wool outperforms cotton even more when it is wet.

Cotton is NOT recommended for hiking in cold conditions.

Why? Because when cotton gets wet it completely loses its insulating abilities. It also does not wick away perspiration.

Base layer fabrics should be wicking (which transports moisture away from your skin via capillary action) and tight fitting.

Wicking fabrics don’t work as intended when worn too loose, they must be close to the skin for best results.

So, in short – look for synthetic materials made specifically for cold weather and Merino wool. Stay away from cotton.

Dress in Layers

We don’t even have to say this – but just like your mother told you – dress in layers.

Why? For flexibility for one.

Your going to start out pretty cold – but the weather may change.

You’re in the ruck march for the long haul – and the wind may pick up or die down, or the sun may come out – or maybe not.

And have a layer that’s ready for precipitation too – if that’s a possibility.

Secondly, your body is going to be working hard – much harder than an equivalent walk.

So, you will heat up naturally.

When you can strategically shed a layer or two – you’ll be prepared to stay comfortable.

Overheating on a ruck march is a very real possibility.

And then you are soaking wet with sweat – and then maybe you are cold again.

Remember, this is the reason we are NOT wearing cotton.

Layers, Layers, Layers.

Hat or Beanie

It’s common knowledge you can lose a lot of heat through your head.

So wear a hat. Whether you rock a winter beanie, or a baseball cap or tactical cap is up to you and your preference.

Not a fan of hats? Have one just in case anyways.

Condor Watch Cap (Foliage Green)
  • Synthetic Microfleece
  • One Size Fits Most
  • Foliage Green is worn with ACU uniforms

Wearing a helmet? Look for a thin beanie to wear underneath.

This particular model is thinner than other models – but may not be enough unless it is under something else.

Gear incorporating Polartec is always a solid choice otherwise.

Military Black Tactical Beanie 100 Fleece Watchman Cap Warm Beanie Multi-Season Military Army
  • MATERIAL: This military Tactical Winter Watch Cap is made from 100% Fleece; lightweight, flexible fabric. The fleece makes this watch cap even lighter than conventional wool caps.
  • DESIGN: This Tactical Winter Watch Cap is designed by following military specifications to give you the feeling of the real army tactical fleece winter cap. A classic fashion design for professionals. Designed to be Ideal for wearing under hardhats, helmets, and all other types of headgear!
  • SPECIALITY: Good quality knit fabric, good capability of tenderness and air permeability. One size fit most. Our watch caps keep you warm and dry while keeping your headgear clean. The hat will stay warm & dry even when it gets wet. This fleece Winter Watch Cap keeps the heat in while wicking away moisture for maximum warmth.
  • DURABILITY: Made for the military. Sure to last through rigorous army use. Excellent tensile and tear strengths, for both women and men; can be worn in cold winter temperatures to keep your head warm. This Military Tactical Winter Watch Cap is durable enough to handle harsh army training as well as to cope with the cold winter days.
  • USAGE: Designed for Cold winter weather. Perfect Tactical Winter Watch Cap for Exercise, Driving, Traveling, Jungle Adventure, Biking, Running, Walking, Shooting, Fishing, Camping, Hunting, Skiing, Fancy Dress, Paintball, Cycling, Adventure Travel, Trekking, Army Physical & Tactical Training, etc.

Lastly, Arcteryx makes a number of stylish and functional beanies.

Arc'teryx Bird Head Toque (Merbau/Aurora)
  • BIRD HEAD TOQUE - Super Fine 50/50 Merino Wool acrylic blend with a soft, thermal fleece underbanding, and six dart construction.
  • BIRD HEAD TOQUE - Super Fine 50/50 Merino Wool acrylic blend with a soft, thermal fleece underbanding, and six dart construction.
  • ARC'ESSENTIALS - Versatile high performance designs for diverse activities and conditions.
  • NATURAL FIBRE - Textiles made from natural fibres provide inherent benefits and next-to-skin comfort.
  • SYNTHETIC FIBRE - Engineered materials that offer enhanced properties or performance.

Neck Gaiter

JIUSY Soft Fleece Neck Gaiter Warmer Face Mask Cover for Cold Weather Gear Winter Outdoor Sports Snowboard Skiing Cycling Motorcycle Hunting Fishing Suitable Men Women AA-C-01 Gray

What’s a Neck Gaiter?

A neck gaiter, also sometimes called a “buff”, is something you wear around your neck to keep warm.

Like a scarf, but more versatile.

Why? Because you can pull it up and cover your mouth and/or much of your face if needed.

So, it’s really a combination scarf and face mask.

The heat that can escape betwen your jacket collar and beanie is significant – so keep it covered up – it will make a big difference.

Look for a something nice and long. This will give you plenty of material stuffed down in the collar when pulled up over the nose and face – and will be more versatile.

Neck gaiters are usually meant for the cold, so fleece is a popular material.

WTACTFUL Soft Fleece Neck Gaiter Neck Warmer Face Mask Balaclava Cover for Cold Weather Windproof Gear Winter Outdoor Sports Snowboard Skiing Cycling Motorcycle Hunting Fishing Men Women Gray
  • PREMIUM THERMAL AND WINDPROOF FABRIC: Made of high quality soft fabric, excellent keep warm effect, Breathable, moisture wicking, anti-static, anti-pilling, more comfortable and windproof. With it, no worry about the cold weather.
  • HIGH QUALITY SEWING: This neck warmer scarf is tough and durable as you can see, four needles six lines sewing craft makes it stronger, can be used for years.
  • MULTI-PURPOSE: Comfortable wear them perfect for winter and cold weather, Suitable for winter outdoor sports, such as Skiing, Snowboarding, hiking, fishing, running, hunting, cycling, climbing or many other winter outdoor activities. It will help you to enjoy those activities better.
  • VERSATILE SPORTS ACCESSORIES: Our neck gaiter is longer, thicker and warmer than others on the market. You can use it alone or fold it into a double layer. This scarf can cover your neck completely, making your neck warmer and warmer. It fit most men and women. This winter face mask will keep original shape even you wash many times.
  • ONE SIZE FIT MOST: Length 17.71", width 9.84" size. (Long Stretchy Face Scarf)

Neck Warmer Outdoor Windproof Dust-Free, Walking, Running Neck Gaiter
  • ★ Size: Adult, One Size fits most. Also fits Juniors and Teens
  • ★ The Softest and Warmest neck warmer, 100% Breathable Microfiber Polyester (Keeps you warm while staying thin)
  • ★ Extreme cold weather neck warmer, Lightweight & breathable
  • ★ Wind Resistant Face Mask. Keeps you warm in Winter and reduces humidity in Summer.
  • ★ Windproof and dustproof, comfortable and ideal face mask for runners, riders, cyclists, hiking, fishing, skiing and other outdoor activities.

In regards to keeping your face warm, you could also wear a balaclava. But honestly, that’s going to freak people out in most places.

Balaclava Ski Mask - Winter Face Mask for Men & Women - Cold Weather Gear for Skiing, Snowboarding & Motorcycle Riding Black
  • Winter Ready: Winter has nothing on our Strike balaclava. Ready to brave all the elements from snow and sleet to wind, dust, cold, and UV, our ski mask isn’t letting in any unwanted intruders. So whether you blaze down the slopes like Shaun White, shovel snow or ATV in the desert like Mad Max, our balaclava’s got you covered.
  • Winter Ready: Winter has nothing on our Strike balaclava. Ready to brave all the elements from snow and sleet to wind, dust, cold, and UV, our ski mask isn’t letting in any unwanted intruders. So whether you blaze down the slopes like Shaun White, shovel snow or ATV in the desert like Mad Max, our balaclava’s got you covered.
  • Lightweight Comfort: You’ll be surprised by how warm this lightweight, breathable, and extra-stretchy balaclava is. Designed from a 89% Polyester and 11% Spandex blend that wicks away moisture while retaining heat, you’ll stay comfortable and dry all day.
  • Convertible Face Mask: Wear the Strike balaclava as a full face mask for ultimate protection from the elements, a helmet liner, ninja hood, half ski mask, neck warmer, or pull it up to wear it as a face mask while you take public transportation and go grocery shopping.
  • No Fogging Way: To prevent stuffiness, the Strike features ski ready mesh breathing panels that increase airflow while minimizing condensation on your goggles or glasses.

But, if it’s really cold, that might be your best bet.

By the way, the neck gaiter is super versatile – it can be a head band, neck warmer, hood, balaclava or mask, and a hat.


Similar in function to the neck gaiter is the shemagh.

What’s a shemagh?

Also called a effiyeh, this is a large (typically 42″ square, some 48″ square), versatile combination of scarf, face mask, and head cover.

It’s usually a light-weight versatile material like cotton – as opposed to being made from thick wool like a scarf might.

Shemaghs are popular year round – keep the sun, wind, or cold off your face, neck, and head at any time of the year.

They also have a cool cachet about them and are popular with special forces.

There’s a variety of interesting designs to suit your taste.

“Combat Flip Flops” sells shemaghs made in Afghanistan.

Your purchase helps provide educational benefits to those in conflict and post-conflict territories.

Shemagh from Combat Flip Flops

Thermal Shirt

You should wear a shirt, for sure.

But whether a regular cotton t-shirt or a purpose-built thermal shirt is the right option is all going to depend on the weather.

Under Armor Coldgear is also a solid choice – because it wicks away any sweat.

Under Armour Men's ColdGear Armour Compression Mock Long-Sleeve T-Shirt , Black (001)/Steel , X-Large
  • Dual-layer fabric with an ultra-warm, brushed interior & a smooth, fast-drying exterior
  • 4-way stretch construction moves better in every direction
  • Material wicks sweat & dries really fast
  • Smooth, chafe-free flatlock seam construction
  • Under Armour’s mission is to make all athletes better through passion, design and the relentless pursuit of innovation

Sweater or Sweatshirt

Next layer above the shirt might be a Merino wool sweater – that would be an excellent choice – for all the reasons we outlined above.

MERIWOOL Mens Knit Sweater - Merino Wool Sweater Men Long Sleeve Shirt Charcoal Gray
  • INCLUDES: 1 – Long Sleeve Midweight Crew Sweater. MATERIAL: 19.5 Micron, 80% Merino wool 20% Nylon, SIZE: S to XXL.
  • SUPER SOFT & BREATHABLE: All-natural superfine 18.5-micron Merino wool ensures comfort all day without itching. Merino wool keeps you warm without causing overheating so you can wear it all day when active outdoors. Features Nylon core wrap yarn for extra durability and improved flexibility.
  • MULTIPURPOSE COMFORT & CONVENIENCE: Dries quickly so you can stay comfortable while you're out camping, hiking, hunting, working, playing winter sports, mountaineering, ice fishing, skiing, snowboarding, and more. Features wide crew-neck collar to seal in warmth and block out the cold. Excellent as a top-layer or mid-layer over shirts, thermals, and base-layers.
  • WICKING & ODOR RESISTANCE: Merino wool’s natural wicking and odor-resistant properties keep you dry and comfortable while active in cold weather. Through the process of wicking, Merino wool is the most breathable fabric and absorbs moisture better than any other fibers. Wicking refers to a fabric’s ability to pull moisture away from your body and keep you comfortable.
  • EXCEPTIONAL CUSTOMER CARE: If your MERIWOOL Merino Wool Men's Knit Crewneck Sweater isn’t to your satisfaction, return it within 90 DAYS along with your proof of purchase for a hassle-free refund, exchange, or replacement. Includes a 1-YEAR limited manufacturer’s warranty, which covers manufacturing and material defects. Washer/dryer safe. For best results: hand wash and lay flat to dry.


Again, thinking in the theme of layers – a jacket on top of the shirt.

Polartec jackets are popular.

GEN III Polartec Fleece Jacket Foliage Green Genuine Issue (Medium Regular) …
  • 100% Synthetic Fleece
  • Made in USA
  • Official US Military Cold Weather Fleece
  • 2 inside mesh pockets, 2 outside pockets
  • Bungy draw string at waist area

Fleece is also a great option.


If you are expecting windy conditions – pack a windbreaker.

A windbreaker is usually made of special synthetic material such that it can block wind chill.

They are usually water resistant as well, at least for light precipitation.

We mentioned that windbreakers are usually made with synthetic material – because they can then be made very lightweight.

That allows you to have a layering approach – with the windbreaker being light and packable.

Gore Windstopper (from Gore-Tex) is a typical example of such a material.

GORE WEAR C3 Men's Gore Windstopper Jacket, XL, Black
  • Versatile men's jacket for cool weather conditions
  • Comfort Fit/Bike specific cut
  • GORE WINDSTOPPER Technology: Windproof, water-repellent and extremely breathable
  • Ergonomically shaped stand-up collar, Pre-shaped elbow area, 2 zip pockets in the back and one in the front
  • GORE C3 GORE WINDSTOPPER Classic Jacket, Size: XL, Color: Black, 100259


Sure, you could wear a scarf.

But with infinitely cooler options like the shemagh and neck gaiter – why would you?


Cold hands (and fingers) can make a ruck march miserable.

And if this is a GORUCK event – you might have to carry something – at least part of the time.

Sticking your hands in your pockets isn’t likely going to be an option.

So, pack some gloves.

You can wear something light and less insulated, like mechanix style work gloves, or if you are expecting extreme temperatures go for a real winter glove.

Mechanix has extra insulated gloves for cold conditions – and that may be the best cold weather choice overall.

Again, you may be bear crawling, or doing bag swings, or carrying a log or water jug – who knows.

Having a real work glove with grip, but is also warm, is probably a good idea.

Gloves that still offer some dexterity are a good idea too.

The Hatch NS430 All-Weather Duty/Shooting Glove (Buy on Amazon) is a good choice.

Hatch NS430 Specialist Police Duty Glove - Black, Large
  • One of the longest-selling duty gloves on the market, the NS430 Specialist Police Duty glove provides excellent dexterity, grip, feel and control
  • Synsi-Feel synthetic palm with Extreme-Grip reinforcements
  • Designed to be easy to wipe down & disinfect
  • One of the longest-selling duty gloves on the market
  • NS430 (ITEM# 1010669) Large

Glove liners are another option that can work with gloves you already have – like mechanix.

This will give you extra warmth – and a tough exterior with good grip.

Terramar Adult Thermasilk Glove Liner (Black, Medium)
  • Climasense thermoregulation Technology keeps you comfortable in all conditions

Maybe you just need real winter, insulated gloves.

North Face gloves with Polartec are a winner.

As a bonus, these are touch-screen friendly.

Just don’t let the cadre see you messing with your phone…

TrailHeads Men's Power Stretch Touchscreen Running Gloves - Large
  • 4-WAY STRETCH POLARTEC POWER STRETCH PRO FABRIC - features a smooth, durable outer layer that is wind resistant. Our lightweight gloves have a soft, brushed, moisture wicking, inner layer providing maximum thermal efficiency.
  • TOUCHSCREEN GLOVES- conductive fabric on tips of thumb and forefinger enables use of touchscreen devices. Use our running gloves to adjust your workout playlist or text your running buddy without freezing your fingers.
  • SILICONE PALM GRIPS - The diamond shaped grips enhance dexterity and these black gloves have a terry cloth brow wipe on the back of the hand.
  • NOTE: Designed for aerobic activities such as winter running, these exercise accessories are not ideal when temperatures dip toward single digits.
  • TRAIL-TESTED GUARANTEE – Your complete satisfaction is our goal. If you’re not happy with your purchase, let us know and we’ll provide a replacement or refund with no fine print and no time limit—nothing but our commitment to doing whatever it takes to satisfy our customers.

Mittens or Hand Warmers

If it’s gonna be brutally cold, mittens and hard warmers might be a good idea.

Sometimes even gloves aren’t enough.

And honestly, carrying a heavy ruck for distance is enough work.

Why make yourself more miserable than you need to be?

Mittens with hand warmers in side – a winning combination.

Winter Ski Mittens for Men & Women - Warm Adult Snow Mitts for Cold Weather - Waterproof Gloves Designed for Snowboarding, Skiing, Shoveling & Other Outdoor Sports - with Wrist Leashes
  • Winter Ready: Nothing kills a great ski day like cold fingers, so we built high-quality mittens that fit your active lifestyle. These mitts aren’t meant just for shoveling snow. They’re designed to show Old Man Winter who’s boss. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast who skis or likes to throw snowballs at friends, we've got you covered!
  • Weatherproof: Rain, sleet, or wind, Tough’s weatherproof mittens will keep the elements at bay. The black nylon shell, reinforced synthetic leather palm and TPU membrane act as a waterproof, breathable barrier that prevents moisture from getting in while allowing sweat to escape. Now that's sweet!
  • Warmer Than Gloves: For keeping your hands as warm as possible, you just can’t beat our mitten design. Mittens keep your fingers together, which effectively keeps them warmer than when fingers are separated in gloves. The fleece lining and thermal insulation also keep your hands dry and toasty all winter long.
  • They Stay in Place: Take your mitts on and off the lift without worrying about losing them. These mittens' wrist leashes allow your mittens to safely dangle from your wrists as you text your friends or snap a photo.

Yaktrax 8-Hour Hand Warmers, 10 Pair
  • 10 pair of single-use disposable hand warmers; each pair provides up to 8 hours of steady warmth
  • Safe, natural heat; odorless and environmentally friendly
  • Air activated warmers begin working upon opening
  • Ideal for keeping hands warm when camping, hunting, fishing, skiing, watching sports and outdoor events, and more
  • Dimensions per warmer: 3.5 x 5 x 0.25 inches


Socks are an important part of your rucking gear in ANY temperature.

Let’s recap some best practices.

Many people swear by two pairs of socks.

Not one on your feet, and one in your pack, but rather a light sock as the inner layer , with a thicker, heavier sock over top.

In cold weather this will provide excellent insulation – especially if that outer sock is a wool sock.

But perhaps more importantly this is one of the secrets to avoiding hot spots and blisters on the ruck march.

Now, having said all that – there’s no harm in packing a third pair of socks in your rucksack as a backup pair. After all, they don’t weigh very much.

Injinji 2.0 Men's Run Original Weight Mini Crew Toesocks, White, Small
  • Anatomical 5 toe design
  • Superior fiber construction
  • Arch Support
  • Mesh Top design for ventilation

Time May Tell Mens Merino Wool Hiking Cushion Socks Pack (Brown(2 pairs), US Size 9~13)
  • SELECTED MATERIAL: These merino wool hiking socks made of 80% merino wool blend, all these wool hiking socks are integrally sutured by meticulous process, there are no spare threads inside. soft handle, good elasticity, strong warmth retention and moisture absorption.
  • FASHION DESIGN: Lightgray,darkgray and brown,the looking is fashionable and professional hiking socks,enough for outdoor sports,camping,climbing, trekking, outdoor trail, running, walking, etc. With stylish patterns and vibrant colors perfect for everyday wear and it is cozy enough to wear these wool socks for you in all seasons!
  • TWO SIZE FITS MOST MENS & WOMENS : These merino wool knit hiking crew socks can fit most men&women’s feet. These are very soft and incredibly stretchy. Easy to put on and fall below the base of your calf ,will fit you perfectly.
  • GREAT GIFT CHOICE : Our merino wool hiking socks make the perfect present for hikers, outdoor walkers and keeping your feet dry, warm and comfortable all day,you can choose for yourself,your lover,your family or your friends ,as birthdays, Christmas gift.
  • NOTES: If you have some issues about our wool socks,please contact us anytime we will help you solve your problem as soon as possible, so click the yellow "Add to Cart" button and order now! Time may tell, who care you most!

Cold Weather Boots

Honestly, if you’ve done your socks right you probably don’t need cold weather boots – but again – just how cold are we talking?

Perhaps more importantly – what’s the terrain going to be like?

Ice, snow, slush, water?

Traction may be of the utmost importance.

And assuming there’s not going to be any purposeful immersion – Gore Tex or other waterproof boots are probably a good idea.

Also – if it is gonna be so cold you need winter boots – you may want to go with triple layer socks also. Make sure one layer is wool – for the reasons described earlier.

Columbia Men's Bugaboot Plus III Omni-Heat, Charcoal/Bright Red, 10
  • Techlite lightweight midsole for long lasting comfort, superior cushioning, and high energy return
  • Omni-Grip non-marking traction rubber
  • Combination of leather, nylon, webbing and metal hardware. Techlite shell. Waterproof seam-sealed construction. Omni-Heat reflective lining. 200g insulation. Rated -25F/-32C.
  • Combination of leather, nylon, webbing and metal hardware
  • Waterproof seam-sealed construction

Lip Balm

Best lip balm for cold weather?

There’s many options, but some swear by Tincture of Benzoin.

It also works great if your nostrils get irritated or raw.

Miscellaneous Cold Weather Rucking Tips

Here’s a grab bag of good ideas that didn’t fit anywhere in the rest of the article.

Packing a hydration pack? Remember that the water in the tube can freeze, and quick. Solution? BLOW the water in the tube back into the bladder after you are done drinking.

Extended time in cold weather means runny noses, so pack tissues or a handkerchief. Really, it’s the little things that make the difference.

In Summary

Rucking in cold weather?

Layers, layers, layers.

And don’t forget the extremities – head, neck, hands, and feet.

We hope we provided some good ideas for your upcoming ruck march.

You may also like our article on beginner rucking gear or our cheap rucksack guide.

Last update on 2022-08-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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