Layering is a crucial system for any climate you encounter. Whether you’re hunting on a mountainside or trekking out in a snowstorm, keeping your body dry and comfortable is the key to a successful outing. Not taking your environment into consideration could put you at risk for hypothermia, hyperthermia, or worse. Prepping your bag for any type of climate will help ensure your safety. Even if you don’t anticipate poor conditions, a proper layering system will give you that peace of mind you need. From dry and hot to wet and cold climates, here is how to wear your layers to be prepared for anything.

The first thing to remember when putting together any layering system—never use 100% cotton clothing. This is highly absorbent and will cling to your skin if you sweat, which is a big mistake. If you insist on using cotton, make sure it’s a blend with other synthetic materials.

Base Layers

Base layers will be useful in dry or moist environments where temperatures are high. This is typically a short or long-sleeved shirt. Choose a synthetic material like polyester for a thin, moisture-wicking first layer. The purpose of this layer is just that—keeping the sweat away from your body. It’s not meant to keep you warm, so using a base layer will be enough for hot weather. If the environment is moist and insects are of concern, opt for a long-sleeve shirt to protect yourself against bites. In dusty regions, you may also need a dust mask to prevent the inhalation of airborne dirt and debris.

Mid Layers

The mid layer is the next layer, used for climates that need a bit more protection against the cold and wind. These garments can be thicker, like a wool sweater or fleece pullover. The mid layer will contribute to moisture control, pulling your sweat further away from your skin. Pro tip: one way to keep the wind from traveling up your sleeves is thumb holes. Use a mid layer for cooler days and regions that have piercing winds. Should the temperature rise, it can quickly be stripped off to your base layer.

Insulation Layers

For very low temperatures, you’ll also need an insulation layer. This will help keep your body heat in and your internal temperature more stable. This could be a thick, substantial sweater. If you anticipate that temperatures in your area will drop to 0, you’ll need an additional insulation layer. Larger lined jackets with fleece or down would be ideal. If you’re going to have a relatively active day, choose synthetic. Sweat will absorb into down, causing it to weigh down and not keep you as warm. At this point, you’ll have on four layers to combat frigid temperatures.


Even if the weather doesn’t call for rain, pack a shell anyways. This will fit overtop your other layers, preventing moisture and blocking wind from seeping down into your layers.

For Legs

You’ll dress your lower half in three layers depending on your climate. Thermals, like long johns or compression leggings, will act as your base layer. These will help pull the moisture away from your body, so choose these wisely. For your pants, don’t wear jeans. These should be a blend of materials that won’t limit your mobility or easily absorb water. For rain, snow, and wind, pull on a pair of shell pants.


For your hands, you may not need gloves at all. This really only applies to harsh weather conditions; in which case you’ll need thin knit gloves as well as thicker waterproof ones. For your feet, wool socks work best in the extreme cold. You’ll also need to keep a knit cap to preserve heat and protect your head and ears from low temperatures. If you’ll be out in direct sunlight, a thin synthetic cap will help ward sunburn and sweat.

The most important takeaway for layering systems for all climates is that sweat must be kept at bay. Once clothing becomes wet, it makes it tougher to stay either cool or warm and dry. You must be able to peel off and put on layers, so ensure your system allows for mobility.

Todd Askins