Best Way to Layer for a Hike : 3 methods

June 22, 2021, By Stella Schoenberg

Determining how you should layer your clothing is a very important aspect when going for a hike. Recognizing how your body may respond to different climates, the environment, and physical impact, it is essential to dress properly so your ability to enjoy the hike is not jeopardized.

Different Climates

Different Climates
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Taking into consideration the environment and expected climate for your hike is a key component when selecting what to wear. For instance, you may be in an area that is known for having a drastic change in temperature as the hike progresses. This would impact what clothing you decide to bring that would deliver the components to keep you warm while allowing comfort and adequate flexibility. Finding clothing that can ensure this without eating up too much space in transporting could, in turn, weigh you down during your hike and create a more mobile and enjoyable experience.

The Three Layers

The Three Layers

Base layer: The main function is moisture management. This enables stable airflow that regulates the body temperature and wicks sweat from your skin.

Middle layer: This serves as insulation and aids your body to retain heat and protect from cold temperatures.

Outer layer: This acts as the shell which protects your body and shields you from wind and rain.

Base Layer

Base Layer

In deciding the base layer, we want something that would absorb moisture and allow airflow to be consistent. We don’t want something that would suffocate us and create a greenhouse effect, but rather keep us comfortable and dry.

Materials

The fabric options to consider range far and wide, Including natural fibers such as wool and silk, or synthetic, including nylon and polyester. With slight differences between the two, it comes down to personal preference when determining which is meant for you.

The fibers in wool are very fine which ensures comfort and eliminates any scratching against the skin and therefore any chaffing. Additionally, there is odor control which is always a bonus. 

Using synthetic as an alternative to wool similarly enables comfort and dries quicker compared to the slow drying process of wool. Though synthetic does dry relatively quickly,  we don’t get the odor eliminating specialty granted from wool. 

Mid-Layer

Mid-Layer

The purpose of the mid-layer is to maintain insulation to trap body heat and deflect the wind. Depending on the conditions of the hike, choosing between mid-weight v.s. lightweight will be important based on the anticipated conditions for the hike.

Materials

A popular and common fabric for the mid-layer is fleece, as it can be inexpensive but it is also very durable, deflective, and quick drying. The two common kinds of fleece come in as synthetic and down.

Both synthetic and down fleeces perform the same job. The material is similar to that of the outside of a sleeping bag. The only difference is that this has sleeves.

Outer Layer

Outer Layer

The outer layer, also known as the shell layer does exactly what it sounds like- it protects you from outside forces such as the wind and rain. This layer is very important as it keeps the other layers safe and able to perform their proper function.

Materials

More commonly, the materials for the outer layer tend to be membrane and coated nylon. With the ability to defend you from these elements, they do vary when it comes to how quickly sweat vapor escapes.

The best bet for the option of the membrane would be what is known as Gortex. Owning a Gortex coat is waterproof/windproof so there is no doubt that you will stay nice and dry underneath. It is a very good option if you are looking to stay comfortable and active.

Deciding on a coated nylon jacket should be based on the hike you are performing. This option aims more toward shorter to mid hikes: more so passive activities. Although this option will cost you less in comparison to the Gortex, it does do a better job at trapping heat. Therefore, if your hike is long and somewhere warm, this may not be the best option.

Conclusion

Deciding how to layer your clothing can be a difficult task, especially when climates can change drastically over the course of the hike. Comfort is key in any hike: you want to be able to enjoy it! Being out in Nature can be one of the most rewarding experiences, as it allows you to connect with the world in which we live. Remaining aware of the beauty that surrounds you, and not the sweat dripping down your back, is why it is so important to know how to layer your clothing for a hike.

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Written by Stella Schoenberg

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