Fall Hiking: Layer Up in the Backcountry Without Overdoing It

Fall Hiking: Layer Up in the Backcountry Without Overdoing It

Fall Hiking: Layer Up in the Backcountry Without Overdoing It


In some areas, fall time can be very unpredictable as far as weather goes. Though it’s not quite winter yet, it tends to feel like that in some backcountry destinations. Generally, hikers know that it’s crucial to bring extra layers on the trail. But, how do you do it without overdoing it? Here are some tips on how to layer up in the backcountry, without looking like you’ve dressed for the wrong season.

Tight on the Bottom, Baggy on Top

The best place to start is by having a mix of tight and baggy shirts. A tight undershirt should be your first layer, one that’s insulated and will keep you warm. Then, on top, choose from baggy layers like a thermal shirt, a flannel, a long sleeve tee, etc. Though, don’t get them too baggy. They should still be the right size for you so you can layer up in the backcountry without any discomfort.

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Three is the Magic Number

If you don’t want to overdo your autumn layers, then remember that three is the magic number. You should have three layers on your torso. One tight one touching your skin, a medium baggy layer, and on top, a light jacket or a heavy sweatshirt.

Your Jacket Should Not Be Your Main Source of Heat

While a jacket is important, don’t depend on a jacket to keep you warm for the duration of your trek. Yes, that may sound like it doesn’t make sense. But, if you depend on a jacket for all your warmth in the fall, your hike is going to be very uncomfortable. If you get hot hiking up a hill, the last thing you’re going to want to do is keep taking your jacket off and putting it back on again. That’s why a light jacket on top of your other layers is wise. If the weather is warm enough, you can just keep the light jacket in your bag.

Wear What’s Comfortable and What Fits

A problem with layering up is that if your layers don’t go together, or if one layer doesn’t fit you well, everything’s going to be messy on you. Your sleeves can get all bunched up in your jacket, and it might not be too comfortable if one layer is longer or has a much higher neckline than the one above it. Try out your layers at home first and see if everything is fitting right. Also, stay away from anything that might itch you on the bottom layer.

layer up, backcountry, fall, hiking, fall hiking, layer up in the backcountryToe Socks Are Key!

It might not be cold enough for very thick socks just yet. Of course, if it is that cold where you are, then by all means wear what you need to. But, if you’re having debates about whether or not the socks you want will be a good choice, then go with toe socks. The first thing to get cold will be your toes anyway, so lock in that circulation with a special pair of hiking toe socks.

Don’t Be Picky with Your Pants

Do you wear three pairs of pants in the winter, or do you just wear one pair? Probably one. Although you’ll definitely be outside a lot more than normal if you’re a hiker, you can still be realistic with your pant choices. We recommend that two is the magic number when it comes to your bottom half. Long johns or leggings under a pair of your regular hiking pants should help you layer up in the backcountry appropriately.


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Make Sure Your Accessories are Versatile

Scarf? Gloves (socks for your hands, duh!)? Hats and headbands? Whatever you choose to keep your outer extremities warm this season, make sure your gear is versatile. For example, it might be a good idea to get gloves where you can open up the fingers if you need to grab something. Fall makes it easy to be flexible with your outerwear.

Do What Feels Right for You

You’ll read a ton of things telling you how to dress for fall hiking. While you should of course read the tips, remember that everyone’s body is different. Some people get cold easily, and others get hot easily. Stay safe with your clothing choices always, but be comfy, too. If you’re not, your hiking experience won’t be as good as it can be.

Layering up in the fall is essential, but it doesn’t need to be painful. Here’s how you layer up in the backcountry without overdoing it.

hanalarock I'm Hana- a freelance travel writer and teacher who currently lives in South Korea. I'm originally from New York, but have spent the last two years traveling and living abroad. My first time hiking in the US was when I traveled around the country as a teenager. Though, my first adult backpacking trip was a year ago, when I hiked from Thailand down to Singapore for a month. I'm looking forward to many more adventures in the future. Visit my site for more information.