What to wear hiking

It is important when choosing suitable clothing and equipment to consider the extra weight, as you wouldn’t want anything that will be needlessly heavy and thus making the walk unnecessarily harder.

As humans we have the ability to adapt to small variations in temperature. In warmer temperatures our bodies will sweat to cool us down but in colder conditions our bodies will shiver to increase our temperature and maintain warmth.

FUN FACT: The optimum working temperature of the human body is 37.4 degrees! And maintaining this optimum temperature is called homeostasis.

The body responds to exercise in a number of ways and it is important to consider:

  • Increase breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increasing body temperature
  • Increased perspiration


You can expect a range of temperatures whilst walking and the solution to this expectation is having a layering system. Simply put this is a system for a person or persons to cope with the variation of weather by adding or removing clothing. Advancements in technology make it possible for a single layer to cope with multiple weather conditions by combining wind proofing and waterproofing. After taking all of the above into consideration, it’s time to talk about an effective layering system.


Base layer a layer to take moisture away from the skin

  • Thermal tops
  • Thermal trousers
  • Socks

The body can maintain its optimum temperature more effectively if it can keep a dry layer of air around the body and allow a person’s sweat to escape. The base layer can make an enormous difference in the effectiveness of everything else carried. It is massively important to be comfortable whilst walking and the base layer should assist this principle. The sweat produced by the body should be taken away and this leads onto the point of what material the base layer should consist of. A cotton T-shirt, for example, soaks up moisture and retains water and is also an inefficient insulator, making it an unsuitable garment for the base layer. In contrast an optimum material for the base layer would be a synthetic material like polyester as it dries rapidly due to its hydrophobic properties.

The reasoning for this is when a person I walking, their natural body heat will evaporate any moisture absorbed by the T-shirt, but when the person becomes stationary the continued leaching of heat can render them dehydrated.

Mid layer the insulating layer

  • Hat
  • Top/jacket
  • Trousers
  • Thin gloves

For many years the material of choice for a mid-layer would have been wool due to its woven structure and rough surface that traps insulating layers of air. However when wool gets wet it becomes heavy forcing the walker to exert more energy. Synthetic materials have again evolved into the material of choice as they don’t share the same drawbacks of wool. Nonetheless wool still preforms reasonably well and can provide a refreshing change from the ever increasing synthetic dominated world.

For mild, wet conditions a close fitting garment with a zip neck is a good choice. For cool, dry and windy conditions a wind-resistant fleece is very effective especially if fitted with additional ventilation zips.



Outer layer the waterproof layer

  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Gaiters
  • Thicker gloves

Apart from the obvious waterproofing function, the primary function of a waterproof shell is to assist in temperature regulation. For windy or dry conditions the popular choice is to wear a tightly woven material such as Pertex or Nylon. Waterproofs offer a very high degree of wind proofing but they also have to accommodate the walker perspiring. Breathable fabrics are readily available from an extensive range of manufacturers. Laminated fabrics give the most effective breathability.

In continuous wind-driven rain it is inevitable that water will eventually enter even the best shell layer and the key is to postpone this for as long as possible. The most vulnerable parts are the neck and cuffs so adjustable hoods and cuffs will help dramatically.