The Anatomy of Layering

National Park Week means lots of opportunities for adventures. But you and your closet should be prepared—it's all about those layers. Let's dissect them.

When it comes to the matter of dressing for the great outdoors, layering is key. And we don't mean in "the new layering" sense—which regular readers will remember from last week on Sweet. This is all about practicality; this is all about how when you set off for your hike first thing in the morning, it's cold (and you're cold), but three hours in it warms up (as you do). And, throughout it all, you want to be comfortable.

So, you need to be prepared: You want to be wearing layers, so you can peel them off and chop and change them as the day progresses. You need to learn your Gore-tex from your Dri-Fit and get to grips with the anatomy of layering.


Here, we'll show you how.

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The correct type of sock is super important when it comes to hiking—you need something that won't cause a blister and that has good ventilation. Like with all outdoors-specific attire, there is a science to its construction, after all, and that shouldn't be overlooked! Leave your normal socks at home, they'll be no good, and invest in something activity-specific, like these!


Hike Ultra Light Mini Socks, $14, smartwool.com


Think your normal lounging-around weekend T-shirt will do? Think again. This T-shirt features Omni-Freeze® Zero fabric, which offers instant and prolonged cooling when you're hot—which you likely will be a few hours into your hike.


Columbia Silver Ridge Zero T-shirt,$45,rei.com


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Base layers are key: this one, made from "Mountain Merino," is soft next to the skin and will retain its insulating properties when damp. Its longer length is an added benefit—because you don't want to have the burden of the "top yank," a.k.a. having to constantly pull it down or tuck it in. That's just annoying and there's a beautiful park to see!


Rho LTW Zip Neck,$129,arcteryx.com.


A vest—be it a less intense variation of your windbreaker, rendered in wool or down—is a must when it comes to venturing off into the great outdoors. It's all about keeping your core warm, which makes the biggest difference. It's also one of those items that you'll find surprisingly useful in your daily life, too, as an extra layer over a more fashion (read: less practical) jacket, perhaps.


Women's Northwest Cowichan Handknit Wool Vest, $395, filson.com

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Hiking has a habit of becoming a bit of a blustery activity without warning, so make sure you have yourself a shell jacket to protect you from the elements. In a lightweight, laminated, and microporous fabric, this one can easily be packed away, which is ideal when it comes to layering. It'll have its uses on non-hiking expeditions, too—wear it with a simple white T-shirt, Converse, and loose-fit jeans for a downtime look.


Alderwood Shell Jacket by Canada Goose, $475, endclothing.com

Don't underestimate the power of the fleece. It might bring back school trip connotations, but it is, oddly, cool again and it does have a place in your closet; it's especially useful when it comes to a hiking ensemble. This is what will keep you warm while your shell jacket will keep the wind from hitting you hard. That's smart layering.


Better Sweater Full Zip Fleece Hoody by Patagonia, $159, patagonia.com


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Because it would be rude not to fully embrace the spirit of the day, wouldn't it? (Handy for sweat-wicking, too, naturally.)


National Park collection Bandana, $10, pendleton-usa.com


A pair of leggings work as either a base layer or a more agile option to cargo, shell, or rain pants depending on where your hiking travels take you. With quick-drying technology, as well as self-deodorizing and antimicrobial properties, these leggings are thick enough that they can be worn on their own as pants, or beneath the aforementioned styles for more serious expeditions.


Airism Ankle Leggings, $30, uniqlo.com


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When thinking about hiking underwear you're really just thinking about sports underwear. Same premise, different occasion. You want something sleek, comfortable and practical beneath your multiple layers.


Yogini Live Bra, $40, us.puma.com


And, of course, you'll need a pair of walking shoes or boots too; a pair that were actually made for hiking (real walking). Converse and Vans should stay at home. Look for options with Gore-tex, or equivalent fabric technology, as this will mean your feet stay dry even while you stampede through puddles. Wet feet never made for a happy hiker.


Terrex Boots, $200, adidas.com


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