How To Hike With Layers Of Clothing
Hiking, like everything else you do in public, requires you to wear clothes that best fit the situation you’re in whether it be light and airy for the summer or padded and thick for the winter. While most people would agree that winter is the best time to learn how to hike with layers of clothing, summer can also be the season of layered clothing hiking if you know how to do it right. Down below, I will go over the basics of hiking with layers in both the summer and winter seasons using personal experience as well as data from around the web.
Hiking With Layers of Clothing in the Summer
When hiking in the summer, the idea is to stay as cool as possible to prevent overheating which leads to heat exhaustion and dehydration and to do that, a lot of people will rock a pair of shorts and a t-shirt to limit the amount of clothing trapping heat next to their body. With minimal clothing being the go-to for a lot of people in the summer, I’m here to tell you that hiking in the summer with layers of clothing is entirely possible and I would even encourage it if you understand how to do it properly and to prove it, I would point your attention to the Arab nations.
How Do Layers in the Heat Work
Arab nations like Saudi-Arabia experience summers that are hotter than most summers anywhere in the United States with temperatures ranging from 110 degrees all the way up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, yet they still wear layers of clothes and robes without dying of heat. The layers they wear work by insulating the body from the ambient heat coming off the ground and the surrounding air as well as wicking away any sweat that is produced throughout the day.
While it may seem gross to some, having that sweat gets caught in the layers of clothing is actually beneficial because it provides another layer of heat protection and absorption. Sweat takes a good amount of heat to fully evaporate so while that sweat layer trapped in your clothes is pulling heat to evaporate, it, in turn, cools the underlying layers. With that being the basics of why layers are good for keeping you cool during the summer, it’s time to look at what kind of layers you should be packing because not all clothing is made equal.
When looking for layers of clothing to hike in the summer with, be sure you’re buying clothes that encourage wicking of sweat and moisture, clothes that are thin and lightweight, and clothes that are bright or light in color. As stated before, you want the sweat to get trapped in your clothing rather than having it go into the air because that moisture layer creates another obstacle for heat to go through. You also want moisture-wicking clothing because having your skin exposed to anything wet for a long period of time can lead to blisters and chaffing if you’re not careful.
Picking out the Right Color Clothes
In regard to the color of the clothes you wear, I would say try to remember all the way back to your middle school or high school science class when you learned about different colors absorbing different amounts of light. The science is still valid and should still be listened to in that you wouldn’t want to be caught in the Nevada or Utah desert in all black because that would make you heat magnet.
While black or dark clothing may be your favorite to wear out to eat or a movie, it is highly recommended that you pick out light colors like yellow, light blue, white, or even a green as they reflect significantly more heat than darker colors like black, brown, purple, and dark blue.
If you can’t find clothes that are white or you don’t want to hike in all white, which is understandable, try to pick colors that are as close to white as you can get for maximum heat reflection.
So as a round-up of everything I mentioned before, hiking in layers in the summer is not a crazy or moronic idea you just need to know that hiking Red Rock in the summer looking like Ralphie from The Christmas Story is not the kind of layers you need in order to make it.
The three essential points that your clothes need are that it is thin and lightweight, provides moisture-wicking, and is as close to the color white as possible. If you can get an added bonus of getting SPF-rated clothing I would do that as well as it adds another layer of protection from the elements as well as a shirt with a hood on it.
Hiking With Layers of Clothing in the Winter
Hiking in the winter with layers is pretty self-explanatory and there isn’t any real hidden science behind what you need to bring with you to prevent hypothermia. When setting out on a winter adventure, always check and double-check the weather for the time you’ll be out there and bring clothes that are rated for that temperature range.
Typically when hiking in the winter, you want to have about 2 to 4 layers of clothing depending on where you decide to hike. When I hike on Mt. Charleston in late winter, I will wear two layers with an extra layer or two in my bag because it rarely gets below 30 degrees during the day and I don’t hike in the winter during the early morning or late afternoon. My layers include a base layer that provides wicking because while it may be cold outside, the body still produces sweat, and then the second layer is usually something more thermal like a fleece or even a light down jacket.
Colder Weather Means More Layers
If you decide to go somewhere that has colder weather, you definitely want more than two layers to provide the most protection against the cold. For a 4 layer set up, the first layer should be that wicking or even long underwear layer with the second layer including a fleece or light pullover.
Layers 3 and 4 will be the deciding factor of how hot or cold you become in that those are typically your heavy insulation layers with synthetic down being the main third layer and then a protective windbreaker that blocks the bone-chilling breeze and traps any heat trying to leave your body.
As previously stated, hiking with layers of clothing in the winter isn’t a foreign idea for most people and I would assume most hikers understand the basics of layering but just to recap, you typically want to start with a thin first layer ending with a thick or insulating outer layer and that should get you through most winter hikes in the southwest as we usually don’t reach Alaska or New York levels of cold.
The most important piece of advice for hiking with layers in any season is to look up multiple weather forecasts, use your judgment, and know your body. What may work for some people may not work for you so don’t force a style or layer guide that others may follow if you feel like it doesn’t work. I hike mostly year-round in jeans no matter how hot or cold because I have found it works the best for me even though I get looks on the trail sometimes.