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.

  • 4
    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 at 12:59
  • 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 C. Oct 3 at 14:12
  • 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 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 at 14:28
  • It really depends on how fast you are moving and how long you are stopped (dependent on your training, mostly). I am not the average hiker and I can keep going without a break for a very long time at strong pace so I might remove my pack only once or twice during a day. Usually, it is for 10-15 minutes, and in cold weather, this is enough to require an insulating jacket. If you look at this and this picture, you can see the difference between what I'm wearing while moving and on break (I don't have a belly, it's climbing skins in my coat) – Gabriel C. Oct 3 at 18:54

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
  • 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)
  • Wear something on your head (you lose a lot of warmth through your head)
  • 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 at 11:14
  • @Avarona good point ... wool works as long as your shoes are water proof so your socks don't get wet. Also it helps against blisters. – Michel Keijzers Oct 3 at 11:29
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    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 at 13:13
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    @MichelKeijzers Wool is pretty good for an underlayer as well, or for hats too. – Aravona Oct 4 at 10:56
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    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 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.

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