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How to properly layer for Summer Mountain Recreation

Recreating in the mountains has become wildly popular over the last several years. One thing that most people who are new to spending time in the mountains overlook is the importance of wearing the appropriate clothing.

Weather changes quickly at altitude, so if you’re going hiking, climbing, or mountaineering, you’ll definitely want to be prepared for anything!

Even during the summer, the weather can turn quickly. It has been known to snow in June in certain elevations! As a savvy traveler one should do some research into the weather conditions of your destination so that you bring the correct layers which will sustain those conditions. This will also ensure that you travel light and don’t end up taking excess baggage.
So, to be prepared for your next trip to the mountains, be sure to wear plenty of layers. At a minimum, you want to be sure to bring along:

  1. A base layer
  2. A middle layer
  3. An outer layer

 

These three layers will allow you to comfortably and safely go into the mountains with the confidence that you can take any weather you encounter. But are all fabrics and layers equal? Most certainly not! You definitely want to pay attention to the fabrics and quality of the outdoor sportswear you choose to bring!

FABRICS:

Fabric choice matters when you are selecting your layering options. As a basic rule of thumb, never, and I mean never, wear cotton in a mountain environment. Cotton absorbs water and is difficult to dry. While this might sound refreshing (especially after you have spent all morning trekking up a mountain) you can lose a lot of body heat as a result of being wet.
Fabrics that are very popular for mountain environments are:

  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Merino Wool

 

Nylon is more abrasion resistant than Polyester whereas Polyester is more hydrophobic than Nylon and both are stronger than Merino wool but merino wool provides the best temperature regulation and odor resistance hence the use of the particular fabric in specific garments is largely dependent on the desired functionality.
All of these fabrics are hydrophobic, which basically means that they don’t absorb water! When you sweat, the fabric springs into action by allowing the moisture to pass through it and shed off of your body, which keeps your skin dry!

Again, staying dry in a mountain environment is key as the temperatures can fluctuate drastically throughout the day, even during the summer!
So now that we have that out of the way, what do you need to include in your layering kit for summer mountain exploration? Keep it simple and follow the layering system mentioned before! Base, middle, and outer. For some suggestions on a few products to choose from, keep on reading!

 

BASELAYERS

Your base layer is going to be the layer that you wear closest to your body. In non-mountainous environments, you might wear a cotton t-shirt or a tank top as a base layer. But in the mountains, you’ll want to bring something that will be sure to keep you warm when the temps dip but is also breathable to help you shed body heat and sweat during the hot parts of the day.
The Rab Pulse LS Zip Top Baselayer Tee is a great option for a base layer. It’s made out of polyester (which is moister wicking) and long-sleeved to keep your skin protected against the harsh rays of the high alpine sun. It will also help keep you warm in the event that the temperatures get low.
Additionally, it comes with a zipper at the top which allows the wearer to open up the top of the base layer to allow for ventilation, which will help you cool down when you need to!
Another great option for base layers is the Rab Forge Merino LS Baselayer Tee Top. What makes this base layer awesome is the material that it’s made out of: merino wool. Merino wool is legendary for its breathability, comfort, and odor control qualities.

Merino wool is made from collecting it from the Merino sheep. There are many different varieties of sheep, but the Merino has been bred specifically for its wool. Merino wool is the warmest, thinnest, and softest wool produced by sheep making it ideal for making base layers. In addition to that, since Merino wool is collected from sheep, it is a renewable source of material which means that it’s ecofriendly!
Tip: When selecting a baselayer for high intensity activity like running one should consider stronger polyester fabric whereas for a multi-day low intensity activity like hiking or backpacking one can consider merino wool as it offers better temperature regulation and is naturally antimicrobial.

See full range of baselayers

 

MID-LAYERS

After you have picked the right base layer for you, it’s time to focus your energy on finding an appropriate middle layer. Middle layers are great for a few reasons.
1. They can offer additional sun protection.
2. They can offer protection against biting insects.
3. They can provide additional warmth.
The middle layer that you bring with you will vary based on the environment that you are going into.

 

Base/Mid-Layers Ideal for sun and bug protection:

Outdoor shirts offer a unique versatility; they work well as mid-layers in warmer mountain conditions and can double up as a baselayer in nippier conditions.

The Craghoppers Mens NosiLife Adventure II Insect Repellent Long-Sleeved Shirt is an excellent option for those that are venturing into the high alpine, but are worried about the amount of exposure to sun and bugs along the way. This middle layer is great because it’s made with a special moister wicking polyester blend fabric called NosiLife.

NosiLife provides wearers with excellent sun protection, which is very important to have at high altitude as the sun’s rays are harsher in thinner air than they are at sea level. In addition to sun protection, NosiLife fabric is treated with insect repellent, which helps keep disease spreading insects from biting you!
See full range of adventure shirts and outdoor tees

 

Mid-Layers Ideal for extra warmth:

If you’re not concerned about bugs or the heat being an issue for your mountain trek, but you are worried about the changing temperatures, you won’t have far to look for an excellent option for middle layer bliss.
One of the most comfortable and warm middle layers on the market is the Rab Geon Jacket. It’s an activewear sports fleece that comes with a full-length zipper, which allows the wearer to completely control their level of warmth. Feeling cold? Zip it all the way up! Too hot? This jacket opens all the way up to provide thorough ventilation.

The Rab Geon Jacket is made out of polyester fleece, which provides a few benefits. It’s breathable, which helps moisture produced from sweat move away from the body. Also, fleece jackets still keep their wearers warm when they get wet. That is one of the superpowers about fleece! In fact, you could use your Rab Geon as an insulating layer if you ever decided to go on a whitewater rafting or kayaking trip, making this an extremely versatile piece of gear!

Another worthy mention is the Craghoppers range of fleeces. Made from recycled plastics they are designed for Adventure travel and wilderness excursions. Their fleeces will keep you covered in a variety of conditions and temperatures.

See full range of fleeces

While it’s definitely smart to bring along a fleece jacket, sometimes you might be faced with dealing with much cooler weather with little to no chance of rainfall. In that case, you’ll definitely want to bring along the Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket.

The Rab Microlight is excellent to keep in a backpack due to its compressibility. Down-filled jackets compress very tightly, which makes it easy to stuff inside of a backpack. If you feel the temperature drop, you’ll easily be able to reach in your pack and pull out this very warm jacket to continue on your mountain adventure.

The Rab Microlight Alpine can hold up against its nemesis — water. This hoody uses tightly woven "downproof" face fabric with a superb DWR coating. The recycled 700-fill power down has a hydrophobic treatment as well. The hood works efficiently to help keep light rain out of your face. While this jacket isn't waterproof, it is exceptionally water-resistant for a down jacket.
Given the host of features and functionalities of insulated jackets, they can also be worn as outer layers in warmer/mildly wet mountain conditions but the moment rain picks up, you will need your outer layer.

See full range of down jackets

 

OUTER LAYERS

The final piece of your mountain layering system is the outer layer. Outer layers are a must have in alpine environments, because the weather can change in an instant, especially in the afternoons. Thunderstorms regularly visit high mountain peaks during the summer, so it’s important that you bring a waterproof outer layer to stay dry and safe.

WATERPROOF JACKETS:

The Rab Kangri GTX Jacket is perfect for keeping you dry, no matter what the weather. One of the things that makes this jacket so bomb proof is that it is made out of Gore-Tex.
Gore-Tex was developed by a company in the US in 1976 to solve the problem of waterproof outer wear. The problem with most outer layers at that time was that there were none on the market that allowed for moister that was inside of the jacket to leave the jacket. This caused wearers to get drenched in sweat, which is a problem if temperatures go below 50°F as hypothermia can set in quickly then!

Gore-Tex was made to solve that problem. It is waterproof on the outside, but on the inside of the material, it wicks away moisture from the body! This was revolutionary for the outdoor industry and the exact reason why the Rab Kangri GTX Jacket is a must have for any mountain adventurer.
In addition to being made out of the legendary Gore-Tex fabric, the Rab Kangri comes standard with ventilation zippers near the armpits, which will help you control the warmth inside of your jacket as you’re hiking through the rain.
Two great lightweight rain jackets that you can consider for milder conditions are
1. Rab Downpour Eco Jacket
2. Rab Meridian Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket

 

INSULATED WATERPROOF JACKETS:

Through years of innovation and development we are now seeing an emergence of a new category in adventure travel apparel which is the Insulated Waterproof Jackets. Rab Valiance Jacket, Rab Batura Jacket, Craghoppers Bishorn Jacket, Craghoppers Kenton Jacket are a good example of these.

These multi-functional jackets are perfect when moving about in cold hill towns, sitting in the mountain wilderness for long hours to catch the right shot or when going on a backcountry bushcraft trip. Their rugged waterproof outer coupled with down or synthetic insulation delivers all-around protection so you can focus on your objective.

See full range of outdoor jackets

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Layering for summer mountain adventures can seem like an overwhelming task, but when you break it down into those three elements of base, middle, and outer layer, you can properly plan for the environment and conditions you plan on encountering. The best part about layering is that it allows you to be comfortable, no matter what the weather does. And while summer conditions are usually not as harsh as winter conditions, they can change quickly, so make sure you’re prepared for whatever nature throws at you!