I will go for two day hiking on a mountain (intermediate level). The weather will be chilling (3 °C to 5 °C, no snowing,but it may rain). I would like to know what kind of clothing would be better?

I know I should not wear cotton. Can I wear Nylon? Also, can I wear thermals inside? (I am worried if it brush against skin and become uncomfortable). On the top I am planning to wear a down jacket.

  • 6
    Not worthy of a full answer, but if you're wearing a down jacket in the rain, make sure you have a very waterproof jacket on top. Down provides little to no insulation when wet.
    – jhch
    Oct 3, 2019 at 12:59
  • 1
    The down jacket is not a good idea. First, if it gets wet from rain or damp from perspiration, it becomes useless. Second, if you are hiking, it is an aerobic activity that generates a lot of heat and you shouldn't wear too much insulation.
    – Gabriel
    Oct 3, 2019 at 14:12
  • 2
    I should clarify that I actually love my down puffy jacket for hiking--I just leave it in my pack until I take a break/camp, and then throw it on top to stay warm. Correctly and competently used, down is the best. Otherwise, as Gabriel says, not a good idea.
    – jhch
    Oct 3, 2019 at 14:26
  • I am also thinking removing jacket and wearing again,will it not b a hassle when u wear a tight backpack?(this is my first hike in chilling winter.So please don’t mind If its really a basic question).
    – Science123
    Oct 3, 2019 at 14:28
  • 1
    I suggest you full sleeve t-shirt(merino wool) + Fleece + Outer jacket(wind+Rainproof). Thermals are required in night time while you sleep as thermals while hiking will not work as your body will heat up and it will be very hard to remove base layer once you start hiking. Oct 23, 2019 at 9:50

6 Answers 6


The key for cold weather clothing is layers ...some tips (some from experience, some from reading/hearing from others):

  • Use layers, especially on your top body
  • Wear something on your head (you lose a lot of warmth through your head) (moved up by comment of bob)
  • Your body (chest/back) is most important to keep warm
  • Use not thick clothes, but more thin clothes
  • Use thermal underwear (I'm sure it's comfortable enough)
  • If you expect rain, wear on the top something that either repels rain (if the rain is very little or less chance), or better: a jacket that is both breathable and is rain resistant (see also comment of aucuparia below)
  • Use gloves, but preferably not thick ones if you need to use your hands (climbing/rope/whatever)
  • Wear shoes that are water resistant
  • Wear thicker socks (which you can change if needed, if they either get wet or sweaty).
  • I like fleece a lot, it's warm, light and slightly repels water
  • Cotton tends to dry very slowly, and holds sweat
  • Nylon can get sweaty as it does not breath always (although there is sports/outdoor cloth that might be useful)
  • Use top clothes which stop the wind; wind makes you feel really chilly and draws your body warmth faster than when there is no wind (these clothes are called wind blockers or wind stoppers, mostly on your upper body)
  • Comment of Aravona: wear two pairs of socks (optionally one with wool)
  • Comment of Aravona: wool is pretty good for an underlayer as well, or for hats too
  • Comment of JIMMYPlay: wear two pairs of gloves when hiking, one thinner one to act as a wicking layer, another as an insulating/waterproof layer. This allows you to take off the larger pair for short amounts of time when you need to use your hands
  • Comment of Guran: Unless the forecast is for constant rain, fast drying is more important than rainproof
  • 1
    Just to add to this, I often wear two pairs of socks hiking, no matter the weather so if that's your comfort with your hiking boots go for it. Also wool is often a good choice.
    – Aravona
    Oct 3, 2019 at 11:14
  • 1
    I usually like to wear two pairs of gloves when hiking, one thinner one to act as a wicking layer, another as an insulating/waterproof layer. This allows you to take off the larger pair for short amounts of time when you need to use your hands
    – JIMMYPlay
    Oct 3, 2019 at 13:13
  • 1
    @MichelKeijzers Wool is pretty good for an underlayer as well, or for hats too.
    – Aravona
    Oct 4, 2019 at 10:56
  • 1
    I'd add this: Unless the forecast is for constant rain, fast drying is more important than rainproof.
    – Guran
    Oct 7, 2019 at 6:44
  • 2
    Going on a 2-day hike at 3 degrees when rain is possible with only "something that repels a bit of rain" risks hypothermia. 3 degrees and heavy rain is dangerous weather without the right gear. Obviously reliability of weather forecasting varies by area and season, but I wouldn't go out in the UK in the cold without waterproofs.
    – aucuparia
    Oct 7, 2019 at 10:38

My configuration in cold weather is:

  • Head: Wool hat when dry, additionally hood from rain jacket when wet.
  • Upper body: Merino wool base layer (not too thick for me because I tend to be warm), maybe another layer of merino wool if it is very cold, down jacket (mostly worn during breaks, otherwise too warm for me), and a proper water and windproof hard shell worn on top of the down layer. The waterproof jacket has a membrane which is breathable but will also be waterproof with the pressure caused by a backpack. Your local outdoor shop can help.
  • Lower body: Normal outdoor pair of trousers, usually some synthetic fabric. Merino wool underpants. Also here a water and windproof pair of hard shell trousers (with a membrane) on top help me in nastier weather.
  • Feet: One pair of socks and normal leather hiking boots, well impregnated with wax to keep the feet dry.
  • Hands: I do have a pair of water and windproof gloves, but so far I have never used them, my hands usually are warm. My wife however does not want to go without them.

This is good for me, but as mentioned, I tend to be warm. You can of course add extra layers if necessary, and I would strictly adhere to the concept of wearing several layers rather than one or two thick layers. A flexible clothing concept will keep you comfotable in most conditions. And yes, if you have to keep changing clothes to adapt to different situations, it might feel like a hassle, but it is nothing compared to not adapting to the situation. Both being too warm (sweating and wet) and being too cold are an absolute nuisance.

It is most important that you have an idea of your resistance to cold, and this is a matter of experience. You will learn fast what you need when you are outdoors, but I would recommend to rather take some extra warm clothes than to be cold if you can take the extra weight.

As you probably see from the list, I am very fond of merino wool for the first one or two layers in the skin. I like that is does not start to get smelly too soon and that it keeps me warm, also because it transports moisture away from the skin. However, it definitely is expensive and not always from good origin. Synthetic materials definitely are an alternative (my wife likes them, for instance), but I lack of experience there.

As mentioned by others you should be careful with down when wet. If you are not sure that you can guarantee that the down stays dry you can also use synthetics. However, they tend to be heavier than down with comparable insulation.

One general remark about wetness: If you cannot guarantee that you and your clothes under the outer, waterproof shell remain mostly dry, cold weather is not fun. Therefore, I think it is worth to invest in 'proper' gear which both gives you moisture transport through all layers from the inside to the outside and no moisture transport vice versa.


For my few forays into such weather I have worn:

Heavy merino wool socks over silk liner socks.

Merino wool under my pants.

For my upper body I go with layers on the outside rather than anything under my top. I will either wear my puffy vest under a light jacket, or a puffy jacket with a hood. If things get too wet the light jacket gets replaced by my rain jacket. (While in theory I might end up with the rain jacket over the puffy jacket I have yet to want this. The puffy has a DWR finish and I live in a dry climate.)

  • Merino wool is the absolute BEST.
    – M.Mat
    Oct 20, 2019 at 8:01
  • @M.Mat Merino wool is delicate, it's very good as an undergarment but not so good where it will be exposed. Oct 20, 2019 at 8:06
  • Lifetime backpacker with 10k+ miles under my belt. Gotcha. Thanks.
    – M.Mat
    Oct 20, 2019 at 8:13

To add to MichelKejzers' and Alexander's answers

  • At 3 - 5 °C while hiking I often wear only a long-sleeve shirt or T-Shirt + thin fleece pollover, if the sun is shining or there isn't much wind or a bit later in winter you may even find me in T-Shirt only.
  • A lot here depends on acclimatization: now being fall, I'm not yet as acclimatized to cool weather as I'll be in spring, but I've started to make a point of often dressing a bit chilly when outside to help acclimatization.
  • With rain, probably T-Shirt + somewhat warmer rain jacket. Plus hat. -That are conditions where frequently adjusting layers may be needed and is totally sensible. In particular, I'd either start a bit chilly so that I get warm after say 15 min, or adjust layers then.

  • When I expect the whole 2 days to be rain on end, I'd consider oilskin. It's heavy, but really water proof and the one I have is sufficiently large to give me better air exchange than my warmer rain jacket.

  • In these conditions, you may be surprised how much food you want. Being able to eat that much goes a long way against being cold.
    Being slightly cold, and in consequence skipping the small break needed to eat and drink is a prime receipe to maneuvre yourself into hypothermia!

  • I'd take a lot more with me: at least pullover, long sleeve shirt, heavy rain pants, 1 set of complete change for indoors for a 2 day hike staying in a hut over night and possibly in addition for the big break.

  • Depending on how far away from "civilization" the hike is: if it's possible to hike out on short notice, above list is fine. Otherwise you may find me with also a set of thermals, gloves, wooly cap (my head features lots of natural "wool", so I rarely use a woolen cap), rescue foil up to basically camping gear (biwak bag or small tarp, no tent) in order to be able to deal with situations where the hut cannot be reached, or someone has an accident and must be kept out of hypothermia until rescue arrives.
  • If camping, I think rain/sleet just above 0°C is about the most difficult weather (with the exception of an additional storm): it's extremely hard to stay dry or get dry again, and getting wet at close to 0 °C comes with a huge risk of hypothermia.
    In that case, I'd bring in addition to my thermo long johns also a thick fleece that is not used during the day (so stays dry) + gore tex pant. Thermo long john + fleece pant + rain pant would be a viable alternative. Upper body similar: thermo shirt + fleece + jacket if that isn't enough, I may add another T-Shirt in between. For only 2 but rainy days, I may consider the luxury of carrying a cotton towel, so I can dry myself thoroughly when camp is set up. If not, I will go through the far less comfortable procedure to dry myself as well as possible with a small microfiber "towel" and then an additional time to dry at the air. brrr. But better than getting into the dry change and immediately making it moist. I also keep a "holy" pair of dry thick woolen socks in my sleeping bag.

Lots of good info and advice on this thread. I will simply add that regardless of ambient temperature, get yourself a pair of DARN TOUGH SOCKS. I LOVE these socks and they come with a warranty that will knock your socks off. If there is ANY issue with the socks, send them back and they will send a brand new pair, no questions asked. DTS


A related point that I have not noticed come up yet has less to do with the clothes you take (anything not cotton will do you fine) and more to do with what you do with them. No matter what the material, even synthetics that claim to insulate when wet, will make you cold if you are wearing them wet. The synthetic manufacturers are proud to note that their products still have insulating air pockets even when damp. This may be true, however the water in the fabric will still take energy from whatever is close by (you) in order to evaporate. Evaporative cooling is a very powerful force and you need to guard against its effects.

As you hike and work, you will create heat and moisture. As long as you are creating heat, and are comfortable, this is fine. But you have to anticipate the periods of low activity. When stopping for lunch, or camp, you MUST make sure your base layers are dry. No matter how warm you may be, if you know you will be idle soon, take off the bottom layer or two and replace them with dry layers. Then take pains to dry the layers you removed so they will be ready to be used later.

Make it a habit when stopping to pull out dry socks and undershirts, and no matter how cold it seems, strip down and put them next to your skin. You'll be amazed at how fast you warm back up with good dry layers on (and how impossible it is to stay warm with even barely damp layers).

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