How to properly dress for a hikes in fall winter and spring –
The Layering principle – This is a principle of wearing multiple layers that are added or removed to maintain a comfortable body temperature without over-heating. When planning on what to wear for a given hike the first step is to consider the current weather conditions and the forecast for the next 24hrs. The second step is ensure you pick the right types of clothing. Choose fabrics that allow the clothing to retain some of it’s insulating properties even when wet. It should also be able to wick moisture away from the body and be soft and comfortable to wear. There are many different types I will discuss a few common ones.
Base Layer – In colder weather start with a good base layer of thermal underwear that will wick moisture and give good insulation properties.
Polypropylene – Stretchy, wicks moisture, dries quickly and is comfortable to wear. Normally used for thermal underwear for high activity sports.
Mirino Wool Blend - An excellent thermal base layer that contains a blend of wool, polypropylene and spandex.
Wool – The old standard dating back centuries, still a good choice as it retains insulation qualities when wet, and has good insulation for weight qualities. It is also durable. Downside is it takes longer to dry than some of the newer fabrics.
Fleece – Fleece has been around for many years now, it is inexpensive, retains it’s insulation properties when wet, dries quickly and is soft and comfortable.
Outer Layer – Gore-Tex or similar waterproof/breathable/windproof outer shell is a must and should be taken on every hike even in the hot summer. Parka style with a fixed or detachable hood is preferred.
Down Filled vests and parkas - Down offers supurb insulation properties and warmth and is light weight. Down is generally useful when you are not doing any activity such as on a summit or taking a break etc. The downside is down is virutally useless if it gets wet. So it must be kept dry.
How to put it together – The layering system is just that, you use multiple layers that you use to add clothing or remove clothing depending on conditions and how warm or cold you are getting. For example on a cool fall day with an ambient temperature of 8 deg C (46 deg F) with no wind, you may start with a base layer and a fleece top and a toque (Knitted hat) (you lose over 70% of your heat from an uncovered head). After as short as 5min into the hike as you warm up you may remove your toque to keep from over-heating. As you continue you may feel the need to remove the fleece top. When you stop for a break within 5min you may want to add the fleece top and the toque to stay warm as you are no longer producing thermal heat from your activity.
Overheating – I have a few words about this ‘Don't over-heat’, if you overheat, you will begin to perspire, making your clothing damp, as soon as you stop you will begin to chill because now that hot clothing with moisture in it will change to the ambient temperature. So stay comfortable by continually adding and removing layers as needed to stay comfortable.
Avoid cotton it has virtually not insulation qualities when wet, takes a long time to dry and will cling to your body when wet sapping valuable heat from your core. It is also very uncomfortable against the skin when wet.
Food and Water - Ensure you are eating snacks every 1-2 hours (more often in very high exertion activities (high carbohydrate with protein) and plenty of water to give your body the energy it needs to maintain the proper thermogenic heat balance required.
Final note: The above description is a very brief introduction to the layering sytem and SOME of the types of clothing and materials available. There are many other excellent products on the market that meet the general requirements- (maintain insulation qualities when wet, wick moisture away from the skin, and are soft and comfortable