Layering your Clothing for Hiking

clothing layers for HikingWe’ve covered two of the most important items of clothing for walking holidays with our previous Boots and Socks articles here at Mallorca Hiking. Today we’re going to consider the rest of your walking attire and particularly the layering of clothes for comfort and adaptability to temperature and weather conditions.

When hiking you need to consider your clothes according to 4 basic categories. These groups are:

1. inner layer, 2. mid layer, 3. insulation layer, 4. outer layer.


1. Inner Layer (underwear)

As this first layer is worn against your skin it is important for both insulation and perspiration. Choosing material that has a wicking* function will ensure perspiration and sweat are transferred away from your body, keeping you comfortable during your walk. This inner layer/underwear also provides an extra layer of insulation. You will need an inner layer when you break into a sweat and the weather conditions are cool to cold.

Materials to consider for your inner layer are:

-   Cotton is not your best choice for an inner layer, since it absorbs sweat instead of wicking it away. Plus it takes a long time to dry, which will cause discomfort after a while.

-   Silk is very comfortable and light-weight, and it is an effective wicking and insulating material. However it is not very durable, and some silk hiking clothes require special cleaning (which is boring!).

-   Polypropylene is the original wicking material. It will wick moisture away and maintain a dry layer next to your skin. The material is highly elastic and allows unrestricted freedom of movement.

-   MTS 2® (Moisture Transport System) is a step up above polypropylene. It is durable and comfortable like cotton, and wicks sweat away from your skin. MTS 2® is available in a variety of “weights” for different conditions.

-   Capilene® is an ideal first layer for cold weather activities. It is also a comfortable polyester-based wicking fabric. It has a special chemical treatment that spreads sweat throughout the fabric so that it evaporates quickly.

2. Mid Layer

This layer of clothing is essentially everyday clothing, consisting of shorts and a short sleeved shirt, or lightweight long sleeved shirt and trousers. In good weather these can be worn alone.

Materials to consider for this layer are:

-   Cotton is a good choice particularly for warm-weather hiking clothing, which is most often the case in Mallorca. It’s comfortable, lightweight and it keeps you cool. Cotton is best for dry weather uses because in wet conditions it takes a long time to dry, and is an ineffective insulator.

-   Nylon is lightweight, durable and (generally) non-absorbent – you can easily find shorts, trousers and shirts made of nylon. It comes in many styles, and is good for both warm and cold weather. Most modern nylons are soft and comfortable against your skin.

-   Wicking materials – wicking inner layers like MTS 2® and Capilene® can also be worn as mid layers as they help you keep dry and comfortable, and they provide good insulation.

-   Wool hiking clothes are perfect for moderate to cold weather. It’s available in long-sleeve shirts, trousers, sweaters, jackets and more. Important factors to consider with wool regardless of its insulation value, is that when wet it takes a long time to dry – and can be scratchy and bulky.

3. Insulation Layer

For hiking in colder temperatures add a lightweight, breathable insulation layer to supplement warmth from your first two layers.

Consider:

-   Wool – a great natural insulator but  remember the long drying time when wet.

-   Pile/Fleece is a better option than wool since it is fast drying and half as heavy. However, it is a porous material that “breathes” and it will provide only minimum protection from the wind. Newer pile/fleece clothing now have wind and weather-stopping liners built in.

4. Outer Layer

This layer is your protection against external weather conditions. These are items of clothing to resist rain, cold, wind, snow… You should always pack an outer layer with you in case of unexpected weather changes.

Selecting the correct outer layer, requires a good knowledge of the weather for the time of year and region in which you will be hiking.

-   Warm/Light Rain – Choose water resistant/breathable fabrics. These clothes will repel wind and light rain but are not suitable for heavy rain or very cold conditions. They are excellent for short trips in good weather. The extra breathability is good for strenuous activity.

-   Cold Temperatures and/or Heavy Rain – You will need waterproof/non-breathable hiking clothes. A popular type of clothing here is a poncho and waterproof leggings that you take along “just in case” there is an unexpected change in weather.

-   All Weather Conditions - To be prepared for most weather conditions, choose waterproof/breathable hiking clothes. These fabrics are breathable to a degree. They do not provide the breathability of water resistant/breathable fabrics, so sweat may build up during strenuous activity, but this is a good choice if you’re hiking in moderate conditions. Not specialised for one extreme or the other, they will provide comfort in a wide range of weather conditions.

Outer Layer Clothing Designs

This layer comes in many different designs targetting different uses. When purchasing an outer layer, consider all the additional features that are included, which may add extra functionality or added protection. Some features to look for are:

-   Adjustable Openings – You should be able to adjust the waist, cuffs and neck openings to tighten for bad weather and loosen for breathability.

-   Vents improve the breathability of hiking clothes. However, remember that the more vents you have the more you are susceptible to leaks.

-   Hoods – Any outer layer should have a hood to keep your head dry. Look for hoods that can be rolled up and/or folded away when not in use so they can be put out of your way.

-   Storm Flaps cover zippers, pockets and other openings to protect against leaks.

-   Sealed Seams are a must for any waterproof outer layer, but not necessary for water resistant clothes

Again we’ve included some suggestions and recommendations below for your layer choices. Choose wisely and consider investing that little extra for added comfort and durability. Happy Hiking!

*Wicking: Movement of moisture within a fabric by capillary action, usually along the filament surface, to where it can evaporate quickly. Refers to the ability of a fabric to move moisture (sweat) away from the skin to the outer layer of fabric where it can evaporate more easily thus helping to keep the skin dry. Used in activewear and high performance fabrics.