When you’re hiking, what do you put on first? Your socks? Shoes? Pants? What about a base layer? Or even a mid layer? Huh? What’s a mid layer? This article will teach you everything you need to know about why you probably need a mid layer in hiking. I’ll go over the different types of mid layers and explain why they’re important. By the end of this post, you’ll be able to choose the right mid layer for your next hike!
What Is a Mid Layer?
A mid layer is a piece of clothing that you wear over your base layer. It provides additional warmth and insulation. Mid layers are typically made from synthetic or wool materials. They can be in the form of a jacket, vest, or pullover.
What’s the Difference Between a Mid Layer and A Base Layer?
So then, what’s a base layer, you ask? A base layer is the layer of clothing that you wear closest to your skin. It’s typically made from moisture-wicking material, like merino wool or synthetic fabric. The purpose of a base layer is to keep you dry and comfortable by wicking away sweat.
Is a Mid Layer Necessary?
Whether or not you need a mid layer depends on the weather conditions and your level of activity. If it’s cold out and you’re planning to be active, you’ll probably want to wear a mid layer. If it’s warm out and you’re not doing much, then you likely won’t need one.
There are three main types of mid layers:
Let’s take a closer look at each type.
Insulating Mid Layers
Insulating mid layers are typically made from down or synthetic fill. They’re designed to trap heat and keep you warm. These types of mid layers are a good choice for cold, dry conditions.
Down is a great insulator. It’s made from the soft, fluffy feathers of birds. Down is lightweight and packable, making it a popular choice for hikers and climbers. The downside of down is that it doesn’t insulate well when wet. So, if you’re hiking in wet or humid conditions, you might want to choose a synthetic fill instead.
Synthetic fill is made from man-made materials, like polyester. It insulates even when wet and dries quickly. Synthetic fill is also cheaper than down. But, it’s not as packable and can be heavier than down.
Some examples of insulating mid layers are:
- Down jacket
- Synthetic insulated jacket
- Down vest
Fleece Mid Layers
Fleece mid layers are made from polyester fabric. They’re soft, cozy, and warm. But, they don’t insulate as well as down or synthetic fill. Fleece is a good choice for cool, dry conditions. It’s also cheaper than down and synthetic fill.
Some examples of fleece mid layers are:
- Fleece jacket
- Fleece vest
- Fleece pullover
Softshell Mid Layers
Softshell mid layers are made from a stretchy, water-resistant fabric. They provide some insulation, but they’re mainly designed to protect you from the elements. Softshells are a good choice for wet and windy conditions.
Some examples of softshell mid layers are:
- Softshell jacket
- Hardshell jacket
Now that you know the different types of mid layers, let’s talk about how to choose the right one for your next hike.
How to Choose the Best Mid Layer
When choosing a mid layer, consider the following:
- Weather conditions: What’s the weather forecast? Will it be cold, hot, wet, or dry?
- Your level of activity: Are you hiking, climbing, or backpacking? Will you be moving quickly or taking frequent breaks?
- What you’re wearing: What’s the rest of your outfit? Do you need a mid layer that will fit under your shell?
Essentially, it’s a pretty simple equation:
If it’s cold and you’re active, you’ll need an insulating mid layer. If it’s cool and you’re not very active, a fleece mid layer will suffice. And if it’s wet and windy, go with a softshell.
Why Are Layers Important in Hiking?
Wearing layers while hiking is important because it allows you to adjust your clothing to changing conditions. For example, if you start out hiking in cool weather, but the temperature gets warmer as you hike, you can take off a layer to stay comfortable. Or, if the weather turns cold and wet, you can put on a waterproof layer to stay dry. It may seem like overkill, but I promise you, it’s worth it.
In general, you’ll want to dress in layers that are easy to take on and off. That way, you can adjust your clothing as needed throughout your hike.
Here’s a quick rundown of what to wear on a hike:
- Base layer: A base layer is the layer of clothing that you wear next to your skin. It should be made from a breathable fabric, like wool or synthetic material. The purpose of a base layer is to keep you dry and comfortable by wicking away sweat.
- Mid layer: A mid layer is an optional layer of clothing that you can wear over your base layer. It’s typically made from an insulating material, like down or fleece. The purpose of a mid layer is to keep you warm.
- Outer layer: An outer layer is the final layer of clothing that you wear. It should be made from a waterproof and windproof material, like Gore-Tex or nylon. The purpose of an outer layer is to protect you from the elements.
Although not needed at times, a mid layer is still a key piece of gear for hikers, as it helps regulate your body temperature and keep you comfortable on the trail. By choosing the right mid layer for your needs, you can make your hike more enjoyable and safe.