From hot to cold in a matter of minutes, your hiking conditions can quickly turn from a cruisy stroll in the sun, to a sprint for cover from incoming rain. Dressing appropriately is crucial for your comfort while on the track and at the campsite.
Whether your favourite outdoor activity takes you along the trail, or to the top of the highest peak, you are going to need to dress for the occasion. Hiking and climbing are activities that demand that you wear clothing designed to keep you warm and dry in a range of different environments; after all, the weather can change all too quickly in the outdoors.
Most hikers who trek in Autumn, Spring or Summer adopt a three seasons layering approach, while people who prefer to hike in winter use a different set up entirely. When layering your clothing, there are typically three different categories to consider, base, mid and outer, also known as sleep, hiking and shell layers.
Base or sleep layers are your clothes that you use while asleep or when the temperature drops below freezing. They are designed to trap your body heat and keep you nice and toasty. This layer is meant to stay dry at all times, so you have something comfortable to change into when you reach camp. They also work well as a backup piece of clothing if your mid-layer gets damaged. Thermals, undershirts, beanies and woolen socks are common pieces found in the base layer.
Mid or hiking layers are your day-to-day clothes you wear while hiking. These clothing items are designed to keep you comfortable in most climates and are generally made from either synthetic materials or wool to help wick away sweat. These clothes are durable as they will receive the most abuse and wear of all your layers. The most common pieces of mid layer clothing include; long sleeve shirts, zip-off pants, compression shorts and synthetic material t-shirts.
Outer or shell layers are designed to keep you warm and dry in the roughest conditions. When choosing outer layer garments such as down jackets, gloves and jumpers, it is important to consider how waterproof the product is and where you will be taking it. A woollen jumper would be sufficient for a brisk autumn morning, while a heavy Goretex jacket is recommended for alpine conditions. This layer goes over your mid or hiking layers.
Rain layers are completely waterproof jackets and trousers created to keep you dry in wet conditions. Typically, rain layers are designed to be lightweight and easy to put on over your current layers when the weather quickly changes. Once the rain has passed, this layer can be easily stored for the next occurrence of wet weather. Rain layer clothing features everything from full monsoon suits to waterproof over pants and jackets.
For more information about clothing layer combinations, have a look at our guide to layering clothing for the outdoors.