How to Layer Clothes for Hiking

Someone once said ‘A long hike is like soup for the soul.’ Actually, we made that up because we felt like we needed a quote for this article. So now that that’s out of the way, hiking truly is good for the soul. Walking, rambling, hiking - basically any activity where you can go explore new terrain, get lost in nature, and take a break from the hustle and bustle, constant screens, and the vast amount of information thrown at us daily. 

However, hiking on a gorgeous 24°C day vs a 7°C day are two completely different types of hikes. Add some wind and rain in there and you’ve got a whole different experience. Luckily, Sealskinz has the hiking kit you need to have a great time even if an unexpected weather event pops up during your adventure. 

Hiking basics: keep warm & dry

A good hike is only as good as the clothing you’re wearing. And, as is the case with any outdoor adventure, you have to think about the layering aspect as well as how to stay protected during inclement weather. 

Staying warm and dry is imperative for a good hike and the last thing you want to do is wear clothing that leads to being cold and wet. Numbness, blisters, and frostbite are just a few of the problems that can arise without proper attention paid to what you wear when outside on a hike.

What clothes should I wear for hiking? 

There can be considerable temperature changes when out on a long hike. What may start out as a crisp cool morning could easily turn into a day where sunblock and lightweight clothing are necessary. The best way to avoid being stuck with one type of clothing is to set out on your hike wearing layers. 

Base layers are a great way to protect from a colder start and also happen to be lightweight and easy to throw in your pack if you need to pare down. We happen to love the many benefits of merino wool when it comes to a base layer option. 

A jacket is another layer that can easily be put on and off throughout the hike. Bonus points if it’s lightweight so that you can easily stuff it in your pack without creating a lot of extra weight. A puffy jacket or a rain jacket can easily come in hand depending on what the weather has in store for you.

Definitely don’t forget about footwear. You’ll want a durable hiking boot that provides traction and support knowing that you can come across varying types of terrain. 

Hiking Waterproof Hats

How to layer clothes for hiking

Again, layering is the key when you’re outdoors for any amount of time hiking. But throwing around the word ‘layering’ can be confusing. Here are some simple tips to remember next time you’re setting out for a day of hiking. 

  1. Start with a base layer and make sure they’re made with the right materials. Cotton, for example, is definitely one to avoid because when it gets wet, it traps water leaving you cold, prone to blisters, and generally uncomfortable. Instead, choose merino (our favourite,) nylon, polyester, or a blend. 
  2. Layer on a jacket or second layer in order to allow for temperature changes. This could be a down vest or jacket, a nylon button-down shirt, or even a fleece. Something that’s lightweight, packable, and will make a difference if it’s on or off depending on the weather. Rain gear falls into this step as well if you anticipate wet weather coming your way.
  3. Make sure your footwear is sturdy, has a good sole designed for navigating various terrain, and is made of durable material. You should be able to hike a whole day without having to worry about aching feet or puncturing your footwear. 
  4. Accessorize wisely. Well if you’re reading this blog, you most likely know that Sealskins is a waterproof accessories company so this one we really take to heart. Socks, gloves, and a hat that protect you and keep you warm (or cool) and dry are imperative for a comfortable day of hiking. 

How to layer clothes for winter hiking

Winter hiking comes with its particular challenges, mainly making sure you’re staying warm and dry. So for winter hikes, make sure you add an extra layer in order to have extra protection. 

Additionally, you’ll want to pay even closer attention to having socks, a hat, and gloves that work well in colder weather. 

Choose a warm, waterproof hat for winter to protect you from having wet hair making it almost impossible to dry off. If wind is picking up that day, you can even choose a hat with ear flaps to provide even more protection.

Socks should be made of wool or a wool blend to prevent blisters. Bonus points if they’re waterproof socks

that help protect you from old boots, water getting in from rain or puddles, and just generally giving you the extra protection you need to stay comfortable.

Waterproof gloves with a good amount of dexterity help you to stay dry and protected in cold rainy or snowy weather, yet also able to carry out tasks such as popping a tent, holding hiking poles, or starting a stove.

How to pack clothes in a hiking backpack

Overall, the best approach to packing clothes for a hike is to prepare for the weather and for the unexpected. 

For example, in the warmer months, don’t forget that chilly mornings and evenings are a real possibility. Utilise the layering systems and make sure to wear lightweight clothing that will be comfortable during a hike but not add weight when you add it to your pack. 

Always think about the possibility of getting wet whether from a surprise rain shower, or just from a stream crossing or puddles on the terrain.

For colder months, have base layers on hand in order to stay warm and also warmer insulated pieces such as vests or jackets. The beauty of insulated jackets is that they’re warm yet extremely lightweight so they’re perfect for hiking in the cold.

Sealskinz Winter Hats

Complete the look with Sealskinz gloves & hats

We can’t say enough about investing in waterproof accessories such as a hat, socks, and gloves. They not only eliminate the need for bringing extra accessories, but they also offer the right amount of protection against cold, rain, wind, and blisters. 

Our collection of waterproof accessories are ideal for warm weather, in-between weather, cold weather, and even extreme cold weather. And waterproof isn’t always what you think. We’re talking soft accessories that don’t feel like neoprene or plastic bags on your feet. The perfect way to accessorise for any hiking trip.


Allison Capaldi