Layering Up on Clothes for Backpacking the Grand Canyon

After obtaining the permit to backpack in the Grand Canyon the next step was to figure out how to prepare for this adventure. While my mind raced in a million directions, I had to constantly remind myself to take it one step at a time.

The first step I could take to prepare was to plan out my clothing options. Layering your clothing can be a life saver while out on the trails. If you get too hot, just take off a layer and if you get too cold, add a layer.

From researching the best types of layering options, I discovered that the key is to wear clothing that will keep your skin dry and warm. If a part of your body is wet and cold then you will likely be miserable while hiking due to chaffing and blisters.

silhouette and grayscale photography of man standing under the rain
Do not let this be in while backpacking

Base Layers

So to keep the core of my body dry and warm I first layered up in a base layer. The purpose of the base layer is to wick the sweat away from your body. Similar to those dry wicking work out shirts. In fact, you could wear one of those shirts as a base layer.

There is a variety of base layer material available. There is a synthetic material option, which will likely be the lowest cost option. Clothing of this material, gets the job done, but can start to stink after a while. Other materials such as wool, will cost more money but feels better on the body and won’t start to stink as soon.

I decided to wear a Smart Wool long sleeve base layer shirt with a synthetic material pants for this hike. To me, it was worth spending more on the shirt because I knew I would be wearing that the entire time, versus the pants which I knew I would likely take off while down in the Canyon.

Base Layer shirt and my hiking pants, with a base layer of pants underneath

Mid Layers

The mid layer is more like the normal clothes you will be wearing. You just wear these on top of the base layer. So I had my North Face hiking pants on, which was also water repellant and a Kuhl zip up fleece shirt on. This fleece shirt was more money than what I wanted to spend. But, it felt warmer while still feeling light and comfortable on my body. So I opted to spend more versus then just buying a normal fleece shirt at Target or a similar store.

Outer Shell

The outer shell is the last layering of clothing. Usually, your coat and if necessary snow pants. While I didn’t need an outer shell for my legs, I did need a coat.

I opted to wear an REI backpacking coat. This coat was again, light weight but still kept me warm. It could handle temperatures down to 30 degrees and even had air vents that I could open up while hiking, if I felt too warm. It also was rain proof and had a hood with a visor. I felt these would be important qualities to have in a jacket for this trip, seeing as how I had to prepare for all weather.

S.Kalbib 1

And then I had my wool hiking socks and hiking shoes. I also brought a pair of waterproof gloves, a winter hat and a multipurpose headwear that could cover my neck if too cold or I could use as a headband. (It came in extremely useful.)

This multipurpose headware around my neck, was the best investment ever. Used as a hat, a headband and to protect my neck from the sun.

If you are planning on going to the Grand Canyon in March, I would suggest layering up the same way that I did. Although, this is why it’s important to check the weather before your planned hiked and make sure that you will be comfortable in that. Obviously if you are going in warmer weather you may not need an outer shell but you need to make sure the clothes you are wearing will be comfortable and will keep you dry.

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