How to Layer Clothes for Winter Hikes

How to Layer Clothes for Winter HikesWith the proper gear, hiking in the winter can be an invigorating adventure. One of the most important parts of gearing up for a winter hike is the right clothing. Wearing improper gear can turn a winter hike into an cold, uncomfortable, even dangerous experience. Proper layering of clothing--utilizing a base layer, a mid-layer, and an outer layer--is the key to cold weather comfort.


Difficulty: Easy


Things You’ll Need:
  • Long underwear or thermals
  • Fleece or down
  • Waterproof pants and jacket
Step 1
Put on a base layer. The base layer is the layer next to your skin, and its purpose is to wick sweat and moisture away from the skin. "Your base layer is usually some form of long underwear," says Ken Taylor, operations Manager for Hermit's Hut in Redding, California. "A long-sleeve shirt, pants and socks." Since its main purpose is to transfer moisture away from the skin and evaporate it, use a quick-drying material. Polypropeline or merino wool fabrics wick away sweat and feel soft against the skin, and wool provides the added benefit of odor resistance. Make sure that your socks are made of similar wicking material to keep your feet dry.
Step 2
Put on the mid-layer, or insulating layer. "The mid-layer is thicker than the base; it provides insulation by trapping heat to keep you warm," Taylor says. Merino wool or synthetic fleece is generally ideal, as it effectively retains heat (even when it is wet) and it transfers moisture well. Down materials will also work, but it has a tendency to dry slowly.
Step 3
Put on the outer layer, also known as the outer shell, for its weather-blocking abilities. "Your outer layer will be the waterproof jacket and pants to keep external moisture away from your body to keep you dry," Taylor says. Ideally, the shell layer will be made up of a material that is breathable as well as waterproof. Waterproof/breathable materials are able to block out snow and rain, yet allow evaporated moisture (such as sweat) out from the garment.

Tips & Warnings

Taylor cautions against overdressing, as it could cause overheating. "If you're comfortable at the trail head, you're going to end up sweating as you travel, and being wet will lower your core temperature. A little sweat is okay, but once you're wet, you're in trouble," he says.
Its a rule of thumb not to use cotton when layering-"No cotton!" Taylor emphasized, adding that "cotton retains moisture, drying slowly rather than allowing it to evaporate."

Article Written By Billy Brown

Billy Brown is an outdoor sports writer living in Northern California. An avid rock climber and trail runner, he's been writing about outdoor activities, fitness and gear since 2005. He regularly contributes to "The Record Searchlight,", and, as well as other print and online publications. Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Simpson University and is a NASM-certified personal trainer.

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