Cold Weather Layers for Fall and Winter, Midweight and Expedition Wool Base Layers

A Simple Clothing System

The System

The main point of my clothing system is to have a few key clothing items that can be used for a variety of environmental and route conditions. Being able to mix and match these key clothing items will allow you to be able to carry only what items you need for the location you’ll be hiking in.

Items 1 & 2: Hiking Shirt

The ideal way to judge these first two items is easy: the conditions and environment that you’ll be hiking in. For example, if there are heavy amounts of brush, high amount of sun exposure or cooler temperatures you’ll want a long sleeve shirt. But for warmer temperatures where sun won’t be an issue (think the Appalachian Trail as an example) then go short sleeve. The main purpose of this layer is to keep you warm during cooler temperatures and cooler during warmer temperatures. The way this layer to do this is to control moisture and wick it away from the body. Speaking of fabrics, there are many types (merino wool, nylon and polyester) that all do well with these features. But there are also other fabrics, such as cotton, that do not (just Google "cotton kills").

Fabric Breakdown

Merino Wool
  • Pros
    • Anti stink, anti microbial
    • Stays semi warm even if it gets wet
    • Wicks moisture away well
  • Cons
    • Durability
    • Pricing (a simple shirt can start around $45; a pair of socks can be $20!)
  • Pros
    • Cheap, does not hold moisture well, can be very comfortable.
  • Cons
    • Stinky! Who wants to reek more than they have to while hiking?! It doesn’t stay as warm as other fabrics.
  • Pros
    • Great for bug protection
    • Durable
  • Cons
    • Can absorb more moisture than other fabrics


Fabric weight can play a key factor into choosing which shirt is the proper one for your next trip. Make sure the selection you make fits your budget, the temperature of the location you’ll be hiking in, the fabric durability and how hot you normally get. When it comes to choosing an item, be sure to notice whether it is lightweight, midweight or expedition weight. As the ranking goes up, the warmer and heavier the material will be. This is a preview of my upcoming book for all hikers. It's going to cover gear and skills. This section covers the first two items in my ideal clothing system.