Getting the right levels of warmth whilst out walking can be tricky. While you only have a certain amount you can bring on your route, the idea of being caught in bad weather without adequate warmth and protection is not fun nor advisable. That’s why, with the layering system, whether it’s to warm up or cool down, you can work out exactly what you’ll need for your hike.
Our ideal layering clothes approach is the following;
1) Baselayers – for keeping warm and dry
Regulating temperature and wicking away moisture, these are also known as ‘contact layers'. Whether it’s long or short-sleeved, when it comes to choosing a base layer it's all about picking the correct material that will regulate your body temperature, allow your skin to breathe and wick away moisture.
These are some of base layer material options:
A synthetic fibre that holds no water, this material is also used for other purposes, including marine ropes that can float. Recommended for warm weather due to its excellent moisture wicking qualities
A durable lightweight fabric that’s quick drying, and has effective moisture wicking qualities. Recommended for day hiking trips in warm weather.
This material has superb temperature regulation, working to keep the body at room temperature at all times regardless of the conditions. It also has the ability to maintain heat when wet, and has odor-resistant qualities. Recommended for hiking trips to colder climates due to its heat regulating and odor-resistant qualities.
Unless the baselayer comes with ventilation panels, this material’s breathability can be poor.
It does however have excellent durability, is quick drying and has moisture wicking qualities.
Good for hiking trips in warm weather where no other layers are required. Also effective when walking through abrasive terrain such as forests and shrubberies.
Although it has a soft feel and provides comfort in everyday life, this material has poor heat regulating qualities, is incredibly water absorbent and dries slowly.
Best to leave at home when you go hiking. 100% cotton is not advisable for long periods of walking, although if you are in need of soft comfort it provides whilst out walking, there are cotton-polyester options available.
Rarely used (due to cost) but has excellent qualities for hiking. Like merino wool it holds heat, keeps moisture away from the skin and dries very fast. Recommend for hiking in all weather conditions.
2) The layer of insulation – for... well, exactly that
Particularly important when it comes to layering up for winter. When it comes to finding the right mid-layer, the main thing to focus on is how you insulate yourself from the cold. When the chill hits, as it inevitably will, the insulation from your mid-layer will be what stops you from getting the shivers.
It is commonly believed that when out walking or hiking, it is better to have a number of thin layers that you can shed one by one. However, everyone’s body temperature works in different ways.
3) The outer layer
It isn’t always certain to downpour and be windy when out walking, but there’s usually a very strong chance of it happening. Being caught in the great outdoors when the heavens open without essential hiking gear like waterproof layering isn't just unpleasant, it could be potentially dangerous. When we talk about what to take when walking, one of the first things we mean is outer layer protection that will be waterproof, windproof, breathable and make sure it’s hooded. Extra pockets are always advisable too.
Although not an essential, choosing a shell fabric, Gore-Tex material is great to go to when looking for walking equipment for beginners due to it’s excellent rain defense capabilities.
Understanding the mm waterproof rating system
It will give you a much better sense of what type of jacket will suit your walking plans.
- 1,500mm - 5,000mm = waterproof. Suitable for everyday wear, but will also work for walkers and hikers that enjoy a long walk with little chance of being caught in torrential rain.
- 5,000 to 10,000mm = very to highly waterproof. Will work in just about any weather condition, and with the right breathable qualities can also be used in everyday circumstances.
With that in mind, here are some waterproof outer layer options:
- Hardshell: seen by many as the ideal jacket to be worn whilst out walking. Although it is lightweight in feel, it’s durably made, breathable and offers great protection for wind, rain and snow.
- Insulated: ideal for those who feel the chill during the colder seasons. A combination of insulation and water-resistant qualities means this can be used as both an outer layer for cold walks and mid-layer during wet ones.
- 3-in-1: if you’re looking for a jacket that covers all bases, this is an excellent option. With a waterproof layering for when the clouds roll over, a mid layer to keep you warm and a breathable base layer for when the sun comes out, you’ll be ready whatever the weather.
- Raincoat: although lightweight, it will keep you warm, dry, ventilated and often features adjustable parts to stop any water from getting in. Can also be worn with an inner layer to provide further warmth.
- Parka: If you aren’t keen on bringing a coat with you and only need waterproof for the worst case scenario, this is your best option. It’s ideal for a rucksack, but will need to be worn with a warmer mid layer to accompany it.