Dressing for fall hikes always require some planning. I start by checking the weather forecast, and plan accordingly. Bear in mind however, that the weather can change quickly during fall, especially in the mountains. Regardless of weather forecast, there are some basic principles you can always rely on when packing for your next adventure.
If there is one thing that is going to change during a hike, it’s your body temperature. The best way to keep it stable to maintain comfortable, is to dress on and off, layer after layer. Not only is it practical, but it also maintains warmth better than wearing only one thick layer. Why? Because it’s the air in between the layers that insulates your body temperature.
The first layer, that we call the baselayer, is meant to wick moisture away from your body and/or insulate your body temperature. Whether you prefer wool, synthetic materials or a wool mix, depends on the intensity of your hike and your personal preferences.
Are you wondering what kind of baselayer you should choose to match your personal needs perfectly? Try Kari Traa’s Baselayer Test here!
Personally, I prefer 100% Merino Wool no matter what activity I’m doing. Wool is exceptional when it comes to insulating your body warmth – even when it gets moist! In addition, it’s also highly breathable and naturally odour-resistant, which makes it perfect for hiking in the mountains. Wool is also a 100% natural material that just feels so comfortable to wear.
If I’m heading out on a tough mountain hike where I know I will be sweating a lot on my way up however, I can start with a technical baselayer or a wool mix that is breathable and dries quickly – and then change into a 100% Merino on top to avoid getting cold. So, remember to always bring a change of baselayer, preferably in wool!
The midlayers have one job, to insulate warmth. I rarely use midlayers like fleece or down when I’m outdoors. If the weather is warm, I just wear a wool baselayer. When it’s a bit chilly outside, I’ll wear a wool baselayer and a windproof shell jacket. If it’s really cold, however, I can wear a down vest, but usually I get so warm when I’m out walking, that I prefer to save the midlayers for when I take a break. This way, I avoid making them all sweaty on my way up too. The same way I always carry an extra baselayer, I also always bring a warm midlayer in my backpack – either a thin down jacket or a thick wool sweater, depending on how much weight I’m willing to carry.
Extra tip! Do you want to bring a big down jacket on your next adventure? Buy a dry bag that you can squeeze it into, this way you avoid having it taking up too much space. it’s so cozy to have on chilly evenings, especially if you’re staying the night!
The outer layer is meant to protect you from rain and wind, as well as keeping you warm. What you should choose here depends on the weather report, but my experience is that it can be wise to choose a windbreaker that is water-repellent for all kinds of weather. The benefit of a windbreaker is that it breathes better and often takes up less weight. If it is cold outside, it is important to have a jacket that isn’t too tight – since it is the air in between the layers that insulate your body warmth, you need space between each layer.
It is usually perfect to wear leggings during summer and spring, they give you full flexibility and are so light to carry around. When the fall comes however, I choose a more robust and weather-repellent pant that also protect against branches or bushes that scrape against my legs. Also make sure to have hiking pants that are spacious enough to room a pair of wool leggings underneath when you get cold.
This fall I ended up using Kari Traa’s new leggings Tirill a lot. They have extra protection for the legs and around the bum and provide just enough warmth, while still giving me full freedom of movement. I have also brought the Eva Dun Capri with me in my backpack – they are perfect to sit down in during breaks!
When it comes to socks, I almost always use quite thin wool socks, either in a mixed wool material or something that is more durable. If you’re going running in the woods, I understand if you prefer a lighter, synthetic version. But now we’re talking hiking, and then I would recommend going for wool socks. Wool socks are breathable, odour-resistant and keep you warm – even when they get damp. I rarely change socks when I’m out hiking – unless I step in water and get wet. However, I always change into dry socks when I have reached my destination. Remember therefore to always bring an extra pair of socks! If I’m sleeping outdoors, I usually always bring a pair of sandals too, so that I can let my feet and boots get some fresh air before I continue my trip.
A lot of our body warmth is lost through our heads. That’s why I always bring a nice beanie , preferably in wool, that I can wear when it’s cold in the mountains or when I reach my destination. Remember that even though it can feel like the temperature is mild when you’re heading out, it can be very windy up in the mountains. A beanie weighs little and is very efficient when it comes to keeping your body warmth – just in case.