Bigger is not better when you’re hiking. A heavy coat leaves you little opportunity to adjust to changes in weather conditions or your level of exertion. For the maximum versatility and comfort, you’ll want to dress in layers.
Base Layer. The key function of this layer is to keep you dry by transporting moisture away from your skin. Be sure to avoid cotton as your base layer because it holds moisture and will leave you clammy once you begin perspiring. Look for shirts made from light merino wool or synthetic fibers.
Insulation Layer. This middle layer is essential for maintaining your body heat. Once again, you want to avoid cotton and instead go for vests, jackets,or shirts made of polyester fleece, which is warm, dries quickly, and comes in different weights. Soft wools that aren’t itchy and goose down also works but the down can lose its insulating qualities if it becomes wet.
Outer Shell. A waterproof or water-resistant shell provides a critical outer defense against the elements, including snow, rain, and wind. Breath-ability is a key factor. You want a shell that’s lightweight and that preserves your body heat while also preventing a build-up of condensation that will keep you wet and create a chill. A shell with zippers and vents is best because it gives you more opportunities to regulate your body temperature.