Layering for Hiking: What to Wear for Every Season of Your 52 Hikes

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Are you the best dressed on the trail? We’re not talking about looking fashionable while hiking – we’re referring to wearing layers so that you can keep hiking in all kinds of weather.

Since the 52 Hike Challenge runs all year long, you’ll be hiking in every season. This means your layering system will vary depending on the time of year. Whenever you step foot outside for a day in the outdoors, you’ll want to ensure you’re wearing a solid system of layers. 

In this blog, we will discuss hiking clothing and how to layer strategically so you always stay comfortable on your 52 hikes. You will get hiking outfit ideas for every season, and you will learn how to layer for optimum protection from the elements.

Get ready to discover:

  • The importance of layering for hiking
  • The main hiking layers to wear on the trail
  • Tips for layering in every season, including winter hiking layers
  • Layering systems for cold weather, warm weather, wet weather and more
  • Hiking clothing recommendations for every layer 

First let’s talk about layering basics, including the importance of layering for hiking and the main hiking layers you should know about.

The Importance of Layering for Hiking

The Importance of Layering for Hiking

With a year-round hiking challenge, you’re going to experience year-round weather. No matter the season, we recommend wearing layers for your hiking adventures. This way, you can shed a layer when the sun comes out and add a layer when you take a break in the shade.

Each layer serves a purpose. When you have an effective layering system in place, you will….

  • Dry off quickly while sweating
  • Stay cool while exerting yourself
  • Warm up when temperatures drop
  • Protect yourself from rain, snow and wind
  • Feel comfortable for the duration of your hike

Since you are likely to encounter varying weather and conditions during a full day of hiking, layers are the most practical way to ensure an enjoyable experience on the trail.

Read more about layering for hiking so you can go the extra mile with ease.

Layering Basics: The 3 Main Hiking Layers

Layering Basics for Your 52 Hike Challenge

Let’s start learning how to layer. There are three main hiking layers. You’re about to learn their purpose and what materials to look for in each one.

1. The Base Layer

Hiking base layers are essential because they are closest to your skin. They include undergarments and long underwear, shirt and shorts or pants. The best base layers for hiking are moisture-wicking so you stay dry even when you start to sweat. Look for materials like merino wool, silk, polyester and nylon. 

Pro tip: As a rule of thumb, avoid cotton as this material does not dry quickly.

2. The Mid Layer

The mid layer is your insulation while hiking. This layer is responsible for retaining your body heat and keeping you warm. Some examples of mid layers and their materials are polyester fleeces, wool-blend tops, down jackets and synthetic insulated jackets.

Did you know? When winter hiking, you can add an additional insulation layer to keep you exceptionally warm.

3. The Outer Layer

This is the layer that makes contact with the elements. As a result, the outer layer protects you from wind, rain and snow. It serves as a shell to repel moisture and keep your other layers dry. Look for breathable shells that are either water resistant or water repellent.

Pro Tip: We always recommend you carry a rain jacket in case of inclement weather, even if the weather is warm and dry when you set out on your hike. 

Keep in Mind…

You don’t necessarily need to wear every layer when you hit the trail, especially in the summertime. But it’s a good idea to pack extra layers in case you get cold during breaks or unexpected changes in weather.

Now that you have a solid idea of what each layer is and how it helps you, let’s get into specific layering systems based on the season.

Layering by Season: What to Wear Hiking in Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall

Hiking Layers for Every Season of Your Hiking Challenge

It’s time to learn how to layer for hiking during every season of your 52 Hike Challenge.  

Winter Hiking Layers

Follow these six simple steps when layering for winter hiking adventures:

  1. First you will start with your undergarments.
  2. Next add your base layers to assist with moisture management and extra warmth.
  3. Add your insulating layers, like pants and long sleeve shirts.
  4. Follow with your mid layers, like a fleece sweater, puffy jacket or vest. 
  5. Complete the system with a shell for warmth and weather protection, such as a rain jacket and rain pants, soft shell, etc. 
  6. Don’t forget gloves/mittens, a beanie, multifunctional headwear, and gaiters if it's snowing!

3-Season Hiking Layers

As you might guess, you need less layers in the more temperate seasons. Use these four steps as a guide for layering in spring, summer and fall:

  1. Always start with your undergarments.
  2. Next gear up with your main layers, like pants/shorts and a moisture wicking shirt.
  3. Add a mid layer, like a fleece sweater or a puffy jacket.
  4. Finally, bring your shell. This includes a windproof and waterproof jacket (rain jacket) and/or pants for warmth and weather protection.

Now that you know how to layer, let’s take a closer look at each specific piece of hiking clothing.

Hiking Clothes: Recommendations for Your Layering System

Hiking Clothing Recommendations - Layering for Hiking

Top Rated Hiking Clothes for Women: Base, Mid & Outer Layers

Base Layers for Women

Mid Layers for Women

Outer Layers for Women

Top Rated Hiking Clothes for Men: Base, Mid & Outer Layers

Base Layers for Men

Mid Layers for Men

Outer Layers for Men

Get More Hiking Tips from Your Trail Buddies at 52 Hike Challenge

Hiking 101 Course with 52 Hike Challenge

Thank you for taking the time to learn about layering for hiking! We’re confident that this new-found knowledge will help you hit the trail no matter the weather.

If you’re seeking even more information about hiking before you seek the trails, we invite you to take our Hiking 101 Course with Karla Amador, Founder of 52 Hike Challenge.

In this 3+ hour educational course, you'll learn:

  • The 10 Essentials You Need To Carry When Hiking
  • Hiking Clothing and Gear You Need To Get Started
  • How to Plan & Find Hikes
  • How to Use the AllTrails App
  • Winter Hiking Considerations
  • Summer Hiking Considerations
  • Hiking Safety Tips
  • Hiking Footwear
  • Leave No Trace Basics

And more!

Click here to view the Hiking 101 curriculum and sign up today!

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