Choosing clothing is an important decision for any hiker. Your clothes must be comfortable and protect you from the sun, rain, wind or snow. For day hikes it is not too hard to choose adequate clothing but for multiple day hikes it can be quite a challenge. Most hikers use a layering system as it is versatile, takes up less room in your backpack, and is lighter to carry. It is important to stay comfortable and a number of thin layers will be warmer than two thicker layers.The advantages are quite simple: take off layers as you warm up; add layers as you cool down. Whether or not you actually need them depends on your hiking plans. Layers are broken down into four basic groups, each performing a specific task:.Inner layers will transport perspiration away from the skin. Mid layers are clothing generally worn on a warm day. Insulating layers absorb moisture and keep you warm. Outer layers will protect you from the elements.In cold or wet weather, three layers are ideal – inner, insulating and outer.
THE FOUR BASIC LAYERS: Inner layers Keep you comfortable in summer as they transport perspiration away from your skin (known as wicking). They also keep you warm in cold weather. Inner layers are available in different fabrics and thicknesses to suit most weather conditions. Polypropylene is an excellent wicking material. It is easy to wash and dries quickly. Silk, extremely comfortable and lightweight, is an effective wicking and insulating material but is not as durable as Polypropylene. Cotton is not recommended as it absorbs moisture and takes a long time to dry which can cause discomfort.
Mid layers: Provide basic insulation and protection in warmer weather. Mid layer clothing, consisting of shorts, T-shirts and pants, should be comfortable and lightweight. Polypropylene and silk are excellent choices. Cotton is popular, as it is comfortable and will keep you cool. However, it takes a long time to dry and is an ineffective insulator. Nylon is lightweight and durable. Wool, although a great insulator, can be scratchy or bulky.
Insulation layers: Provide additional warmth. Insulation layers should be warm and lightweight.They should also breathe well to allow perspiration and body heat to escape. Fleece, a popular choice and available in a wide variety of styles and thicknesses, is comfortable, warm, fast drying and lightweight. Many are available with wind stopping liners built in. Wool as mentioned before, insulates well but takes a long time to dry and is bulky.
Outer layers: Will protect you from the wind, rain or snow and should always be in your backpack. They need to be breathable to allow perspiration and body heat to escape. Outer layers come in a variety of designs and features and should be roomy enough to fit over your other layers.
What to look for: Jackets should have a hood. Full-zip jackets and pants are easier to get in and out of, however, there is a higher chance of leaks. Sealed seams are a must for any waterproof layer although not necessary for water-resistant items. Vents enhance breathability. Pockets should be easy to reach, open and close and should be protected against leaks. The more pockets you have, the more essential items you will be able to store, but they do increase the weight of the layer. Different types of fabrics: Water-resistant/breathable fabrics repel wind and light showers and are great for short trips in good weather. However, they will not protect you against extended periods of rain. Waterproof/non-breathable fabrics are completely waterproof. Because of the lack of breathability,many hikers tend to stay away from this type of fabric. PVC is a good example. Waterproof/breathable fabrics are waterproof and somewhat breathable.Although they can heat up and trap perspiration, they are popular with hikers as they are comfortable and effective in a wide range of situations and conditions.Gortex is a good example.
HEADWEAR, GLOVES, SOCKS: A wide-brimmed hat will protect your head and face from the sun. A cap is suitable for summer and rainy days. A jacket hood can be pulled over a cap to increase visibility. Pack along a thermal wool cap and gloves as well. It is important to try and keep your feet cool and dry. Socks should be made of wickable material and snug-fitting with padding around the heels and cushioning around the toes. Wool is a great insulator and over time, retains good cushioning.