Hiking Layers Defined for the SoCal Hiker

If you've contemplated hiking in the mountain region lately, you have probably heard the phrase "dress in layers". As a girl who was born/raised in Southern California (where it can be sunny and 75 any day of the year), when I first heard this phrase I actually did not understand what they were talking about! Layers?! What's that?

All my winter readers are probably laughing at me, but it's true... us Southern Californians are spoiled rotten when it comes to weather. It doesn't hurt to go over the art of "layering" for your next mountain hike... you never know who may need a refresher course in this!

*Image courtesy of OutdoorGearLab.com

*Image courtesy of OutdoorGearLab.com

Layer 1: The Base Layer

It's important that this layer is warm & moisture-wicking. You don't want your body to sweat, then be stuck with a wet body while hiking (I'm sure that gave you a great visual, didn't it?!). Cotton is not recommended for this layer since it will retain water/moisture. Synthetic, wool, or silk fabric will do the trick.

I personally love Under Armour's line of base layers, but I also listed a few inexpensive options below as well:


Layer 2: The Wind Layer

This layer really depends on preference. I don't use my wind layer much, I tend to just skip to the next layer. Your Layer 3 or 4 can be windproof as well, virtually eliminating the need for this layer. However, if you're hiking at lower elevations or during summertime and don't need that 4 (or even that Layer 3 at times), you can do Layer 1 and this layer only which will protect you from light showers. Columbia makes solid windbreakers for inexpensive prices:

Layer 3: The Insulation Layer

This one, you do NOT want to cut corners on when it comes to quality. This is the layer that is obviously going to truly keep you warm (or "insulate" you) at those higher elevations. You're going to see down/synthetic jackets and rating systems for these (example - my jacket is a Columbia 650 Turbodown, but I could have spent more money and gotten an 800 which would keep me even warmer). The good news is, I'm writing this on the second day of Spring.. which means a lot of these jackets are on sale right now! Choose a brand you can trust and guarantees their items, like Columbia/North Face/Patagonia :


Layer 4: The Hard Shell Layer

This is the layer that is REALLY going to protect you when the weather goes south. Think of a snowboarding jacket - thick, tough on the outside, and that sucker will keep you warm. Waterproof, yet breathable. These are going to be a little on the expensive side, but are necessary at the higher elevations during active snow/rain/whatever may come your way.

Hope I helped out a bit! You're always welcome to post in the closed Facebook group if you want details or recommendations on other options for any of these layers.