hiker looking over cold winter backdrop

How Do Hiking Clothes Keep You Warm? (4 Examples)

Hiking clothes are designed to keep you warm during outdoor adventures, especially in colder weather conditions. Whether trekking through snowy mountains or navigating a chilly forest trail, the right hiking clothes can make a big difference when it comes to comfort and even safety!

In this blog post, we will explore how hiking clothes help keep you warm. Allowing you to enjoy your outdoor activities without freezing your butt off.

Let´s dive in…


One of the primary ways hiking clothes keep you warm is through insulation.

Insulating hiking clothes keep you warm by trapping air close to your body. This creates a layer of insulation that helps to keep your body heat.

When you wear insulating clothing, such as fleece, down, or synthetic insulation. The air gets trapped between the fibers or in the small pockets of the insulation. This trapped air acts as a barrier, preventing heat from escaping and keeping you warm.

In Summary:

  • Hiking clothes are designed with insulation in mind.
  • Insulation creates air pockets that trap heat close to your body, keeping you warm in chilly conditions.
  • Examples of insulating materials used in hiking clothes are down jackets, fleece jackets, synthetic insulated jackets, and pants.

hiking guy


Layering is a crucial technique in outdoor clothing. With the correct hiking layers, you can stay warm when you are getting too cold and cool when you are getting too hot.

Hiking clothes are designed to be layered. This means you can wear many layers of clothing to trap warmth effectively. This layering system is also great as you can add or remove layers during the hike, ensuring you are always comfortable.

The layering system typically consists of three main layers

  • The Base Layer – Wicks away moisture from your body, keeping you dry and regulating your body temperature.
  • The Mid layer – Provides insulation and traps heat.
  • The Outer layer – Protects you from the elements.

An example of layering for a hike: 

  • Base-Layer – Thermal Tops And Bottoms: These are typically made of moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetic fabrics. They work by drawing sweat away from your skin. Keeping you dry and regulating your body temperature.
  • Mid-Layer – Fleece jackets: These provide insulation and trap heat to keep you warm in cooler temperatures. They are typically lightweight and breathable, making them great for layering.
  • Mid-Layer: Softshell jackets: These are versatile mid-layers that provide both insulation and protection against wind and rain. They are made of stretchy, breathable materials allowing ease of movement while keeping you warm.
  • Outer Layer – Waterproof and breathable shells: These are outer layers that protect you from rain, snow, and wind. They are typically made of materials with waterproof membranes that allow moisture from sweat to escape. This prevents you from feeling sweaty and cold.
  • Outer Layer – Insulated jackets and pants: These are designed with built-in insulation, usually using materials like down, synthetic fibers, or fleece. They provide warmth without the need for many layers. This makes them great for colder weather or higher altitudes.
  • Accessories: Don’t forget about accessories! Hats, gloves, and neck gaiters can add an extra layer of warmth to your hiking outfit.


Hiking clothes keep you warm by using breathable fabrics.

Breathable fabrics allow moisture, such as sweat, to escape from your body, preventing you from feeling damp and chilled. This is especially important during high-intensity hikes over mountains or on hot days when you’re likely to sweat.

In technical hiking clothes, such as coats and softshells; Breathable fabrics are designed to allow moisture, such as sweat, to escape from the fabric while preventing outside moisture, such as rain or snow, from penetrating. The science behind breathable fabrics involves two key concepts: moisture vapor transmission and fabric construction.

  1. Moisture Vapor Transmission: Breathable fabrics are engineered to have a high moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR). This measures the amount of moisture that can pass through the fabric in the form of water vapor. The MVTR determines how effectively the fabric can transport moisture away from your skin to the outside of the garment. Fabrics with high MVTR allow sweat to evaporate quickly. This keeps you dry and comfortable during physical activities like hiking.
  2. Fabric Construction: Breathable fabrics typically consist of many layers or have special structures that promote moisture vapor transmission. For example, many breathable fabrics have a membrane or coating that is made of microscopic pores. These pores are small enough to prevent liquid water from passing through, but large enough to allow water vapor (i.e., sweat) to escape.

The breathability of fabric can also be influenced by other factors such as temperature, humidity, and air movement. Higher temperatures and humidity levels, along with increased air movement, can enhance the breathability of the fabric by facilitating the evaporation of sweat.

Popular breathable fabrics used in hiking clothes:

  • Merino Wool: Merino wool is a natural, breathable, and moisture-wicking fabric that is known for its excellent temperature-regulating properties. It can keep you warm in cooler temperatures and wick away sweat from your skin, keeping you dry and comfortable.
  • Moisture-Wicking Synthetic Fabrics: Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and polypropylene are often used in hiking clothes for their moisture-wicking properties. These fabrics are designed to quickly draw sweat away from your skin and onto the surface of the fabric, where it can evaporate, keeping you dry and preventing you from feeling sweaty and cold.
  • Breathable Membranes: Many hiking clothes, especially outer layers like waterproof and windproof shells, feature breathable membranes such as Gore-Tex, eVent, and DryVent. These membranes are designed to allow moisture from sweat to escape while preventing outside moisture from entering, keeping you dry and comfortable.
  • Mesh Panels: Mesh panels or vents are often incorporated into hiking clothes, such as jackets, pants, and base layers, to enhance breathability. Mesh panels allow air to circulate and help regulate your body temperature, especially during strenuous activities.
  • Bamboo and Hemp: Bamboo and hemp are natural fibers that are known for their breathability and moisture-wicking properties. They are eco-friendly options for hiking clothes, as they are sustainable and biodegradable.
  • Hybrid Fabrics: Some hiking clothes may feature hybrid fabrics that combine different materials to optimize breathability. For example, a jacket may have a combination of softshell fabric for breathability on the sides and back, and a waterproof membrane on the front to protect against wind and rain.

hiking over snow


Hiking clothes keep you warm by wicking away moisture from your skin.

Moisture-wicking fabrics used in hiking clothes are designed to pull moisture, such as sweat, away from your skin and onto the surface of the fabric, where it can evaporate more easily. The simple science behind moisture-wicking fabrics involves two main principles: capillary action and hydrophobic properties.

  1. Capillary Action: Moisture-wicking fabrics are made of synthetic or natural fibers that have tiny channels or capillaries in the fabric structure. When you sweat, the capillaries in the fabric act like tiny straws, drawing the moisture away from your skin and toward the outer surface of the fabric through capillary action. This helps to spread the moisture out over a larger surface area, which allows it to evaporate more quickly.
  2. Hydrophobic Properties: Moisture-wicking fabrics are designed to be hydrophobic. This means that they repel water. These fabrics are treated with a special finish or have inherent properties that make them resistant to absorbing water. Instead of soaking up sweat like cotton or other traditional fabrics, moisture-wicking fabrics push the moisture to the surface of the fabric, where it can evaporate.

Combining capillary action and hydrophobic properties, moisture-wicking fabrics work together to pull sweat away from your skin and onto the surface of the fabric, where it can evaporate more easily. This helps to keep you dry, comfortable, and less likely to experience chafing or discomfort during your hike.

It’s worth noting that not all moisture-wicking fabrics are the same. The performance can vary depending on the type of fabric, construction, and brand. When choosing hiking clothes with moisture-wicking fabrics, look for reputable brands and high-quality materials to ensure optimal performance and comfort on the trails.


So there you have it! Understanding the science behind hiking clothes and layering can greatly enhance your outdoor adventures.

  • Breathable fabrics like polyester, nylon, merino wool, and blended fabrics help to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable by allowing air and moisture to pass through.
  • Moisture-wicking fabrics keep you dry and warm.
  • Layering, with a base layer, insulating layer, and outer layer, allows you to regulate body temperature and manage heat effectively.

Whether you’re planning a hike in changing weather conditions or gearing up for your next outdoor adventure. Remember to choose high-quality hiking clothes that incorporate breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics. Always layer up to stay comfortable, dry, and protected. Happy hiking!

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Written With Help From: 

Mallard Creek Polymers