When it comes to getting out in the mountains, a good hiking layering system is key to staying comfortable and safe on the trail. The system is a way to dress in layers that can be added or removed as the temperature and activity level change. It allows you to adapt your clothing to rapidly changing conditions on the mountain and stay comfortable throughout your hike.

The three main parts of any good hiking layering system are the base layer, the insulation layer, and the outer layer.

Hiking Layering System 1

Base Layer

The base layer is the layer that is in direct contact with your skin and one of the most important parts of a hiking layering system. It should be made of a moisture-wicking material that will keep you dry and comfortable. It should fit snugly against your skin, but not so tight that it restricts movement. Good materials for a base layer include merino wool (better performance but more expensive) and synthetic fabrics like polyester (much cheaper, but need washing more often).

We would recommend against cotton as it absorbs moisture and holds it against the skin, which can quickly turn cold if the weather changes.

Mens Merino Wool T-Shirt – Decathlon

Womens Merino Wool T-Shirt – Decathlon

Image Source: Decathlon ©

Hiking Layering System 2

Insulation Layer

The insulation layer is designed to keep you warm by trapping heat close to your body. This layer should be made of a warm, insulating material like down, synthetic insulation or fleece. You should be able to put this on and take off easily helping adjust to any temperature changes.

Because this layer isn’t in contact with you skin and under your waterproof layer, there is no need for any expensive technical materials here. You can just use what you have, some extra weight will be your only real penalty with maybe with the fast drying times of more expensive garments helping if it gets wet. But using a good outer layer will eliminate this concern.

Mens Hiking Fleece – Decathlon

Womens Hiking Fleece – Decathlon

Image Source: Decathlon ©

Hiking Layering System 3

Outer Layer

The outer layer is the layer that protects you from the elements like wind, rain, and snow.

It should be made of a waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or a hardshell jacket.

As it may be taken on and off, packing down to a small size so that it can fit in your rucksack is always a massive advantage.

Mens Waterproof Jacket – Decathlon

Womens Waterproof Jacket – Decathlon

Image Source: Decathlon ©

When layering for a hike, it is important to remember that you will be generating heat as you walk, so it is better to start off a little chilly and add layers as needed, rather than starting off too warm and getting too hot. It’s also important to consider the weather forecast and the conditions of the trail when deciding what layers to wear. For example doubling up your base layer in the colder months or wearing a short sleeve base layer in the warmer months.

In summary, layering is a key factor in staying comfortable and safe on the trail. The hiking layering system allows you to adapt to changing conditions and keep your body at the right temperature. Remember to start off chilly and add layers as needed and always consider the forecast and trail conditions. If attending any of our Guided Walks please make sure you follow the advice above, which will make your time on the trail much more enjoyable and safe.

Please note: We have no affiliation with Decathlon but feel they provide very reasonable price to performance clothing for the mountains. All image copyright is held by Decathlon ©

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We have a wide selection of different walks and hikes running throughout the whole season. Click the below link to view our full calendar of guided walks we currently have planned.