Base Layers for Hiking in Cold Weather

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but it is freezing in Phoenix! In fact I think the whole state of Arizona is experiencing colder temperatures than normal this whole week! So, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about basic base layering ideas before you head out onto your hike or backpacking trip.

grayscale photo of man standing on ground

A base layer is the type of clothing you decide to wear underneath your clothes.

Usually, on a typical day hike in Phoenix when the weather is perfect you may decide not to even wear a base layer. Just put on some workout clothes and you’re good to go!!! But – other times when the weather is not so perfect you may want to think more deeply about what clothes you should be wearing. Having a base layer on can mean the difference of an amazing hike vs a hiking nightmare.

woman wearing brown coat

A base layer is essentially, the clothes you are wearing under your clothes. A protective shirt and pants to act as a base, keeping your skin dry.

For this reason, the base layer should be able to wick moisture away from your body. This means…do not wear anything cotton! You don’t want your clothes to become wet from the sweat you’re producing from hiking your heart out. In cold weather, this wet sweat will cause you to become colder and make your clothes stick to you, causing chaffing. Sounds horrible right?

A base layer will keep you dry and protected, making your hike more enjoyable from the weather elements.

man in brown parka jacket walking beside woman in maroon coat

This also is important to wear during the summer as well. Seeing as how our summers are scorching hot a base layer that will keep you dry and also protect you from the sun.

There are different types of base layering clothes, which can be made out of different materials. Check out this article from backpacker, for information on the different types of materials.

From my experience, I have only tried the polyester and synthetic brands. They work well, but the material does keep the body odor in. Even after washing the shirt numerous times, I’ll wear it again on the trail, and once I start sweating I can smell my armpit funk.

I think the more you spend on a base layer the better quality you are going to get. So, if you just want to try it out and are a beginner hiker, then the lower-priced will likely suit your needs. But if you are an avid hiker or planning a backpacking trip, then I would suggest a more valuable brand.

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