Hiking | fall winter hiking dress tips: onion layering system

Prepare for the wilderness in autumn and winter! Don’t worry about the cold weather, and refuse to go out! Dress like an onion is a way to make you warm and comfortable and you can still enjoy hiking in the cold weather.


What is the biggest difference between hiking in cold and hot seasons?
Obviously, the weather and temperature, and they will impact your choices in hiking clothes!

Short-sleeved t-shirt + quick-drying hiking trousers + a waterproof jacket are common for summer.

If you wear the same outfits and stand at the top of the mountain in winter, you will definitely feel cold!  

~Well, if you realize that, it’s time to practice onion layering system.


If you love hiking, you must learn the onion layering system

How to dress yourself to hike comfortably in winter? The onion layering system is the answer! But what exactly is it? It is dress like an onion and layering of clothes one by one.

We divide the onion layering of clothes into 3 categories:

base layer: moisture wicking layer → middle layer: warm layer → outer layer: waterproof layer.

Onion layering system is that hikers put on and put off the clothes layer by layer according to the weather or physical condition. Sounds like peeling onions right!

1. Onion layering system - base layer

For onion layering, the base layer is important to absorb sweat. There are several options for the base layer:
● synthetic t-shirts
● wool
● brushed interior t-shirt

It is this layer that helps you stay dry and wicks moisture away from your skin to the outer layers. How to choose base layer?

Synthetic fibers - also known as man-made fibers, are more suitable for hiking in the trail with more vegetation, where you may get your t-shirt dirty or damaged Synthetic t-shirts are more affordable if you need a change of clothes.  If you attract mosquitoes and don’t want to get tanned, you can wear long sleeves. If you don’t care, choose short sleeved t-shirts + sleeves cover.

Wool - wool has excellent quick dry, deodorant and warmth properties, making it the best choice for several days of hiking.

Brushed interior t-shirt - A warm and affordable choice. Your body will get warmer and warmer when hiking. To avoid overheating, only choose this if there is snow on the mountain and low  temperature condition.

Be careful not to wear too much. When the clothes are wet with sweat, it is easy to catch a cold.

2. Onion layering system - middle layer

Middle layer is very important for people who hike in winter, especially when it rains. ~How to choose the middle-layer? It can be determined according to your hiking frequency, personal feeling and budget.

Hiking | Fall Winter Dress Tips: Onion Layering System

● Budget choice:

Shirts - when you choose a shirt, remember to see if the material contains cotton. It is because cotton or blended cotton shirts are less suitable for long outdoor activities. Although it has a lot of styles and is comfortable to wear, cotton and denim dries slower than other materials. If it is a long day of high-intensity activities, cotton shirts will not dry easily. Once the clothes are soaked with sweat, you might get cold more easily, and suffer from temperature loss or high altitude sickness which expose yourself to danger.

Fleece jackets - fleece jackets are the most common, lightest, and relatively affordable clothes. But don't underestimate their functionality. Decathlon has different fleece from beginner to advanced - from the most comfortable and loose version, to the very technical type that is very fit and warm and suitable for intensive hiking.  Fleece jacket is not only cost-effective, but they can also keep warmth when we get wet, so we often wear fleece jackets when hiking on alpine routes.

Hiking | Fall Winter Dress Tips: Onion Layering System

● Function-oriented:

Soft shell with inner fleece - it is a thin soft shell jacket with a layer of warm fleece, suitable for cold winter. In particular, if you wear a thin long sleeve but still feel cold, while a waterproof raincoat is too hot, then a high-performance and versatile jacket is worth investing. A good soft shell jacket will make you feel more comfortable throughout the trip; if you don’t not hike frequently, a simple fleece jacket would be enough.

Synthetic fiber padded jacket - it still can keep you warm when wet, and is warmer than the wool jacket. Because the synthetic fiber padded jacket is thicker and more warm air can be trapped than fleece jacket. In addition, the synthetic fiber jacket does not collapse like down when damp. Therefore, if the weather forecast says that it may rain, you can wear a synthetic fiber jacket for middle layer. Although a down jacket is very light-weighted, in high moisture condition it will lose its warm retention! This is why Decathlon snow hiking jackets are almost made with synthetic fiber.

Hiking | Fall Winter Dress Tips: Onion Layering System

● Lightweight oriented:

Down Jacket - more suitable for hikers who like lightweight gear. why? Everyone knows that down is lighter, but down gets wet easily in moisture. Once the jacket is wet, it is difficult to restore its dryness and keep warm. Therefore, if it is a multi-day trip and the weather conditions are poor, a down jacket is not recommended.
When choosing a down jacket, don’t think that "buy a big one, you can buy more down, it seems more cost-effective." The choice of any warm layer should be fit and comfortable; a warm layer that is too loose will have a convection effect because of its gaps between the body, evaporating the body's temperature away.

Hiking | Fall Winter Dress Tips: Onion Layering System

3. Onion layering system - outer waterproof jacket

Outer waterproof jacket plays an important role in onion layering system. It can keep you warm and dry. There are some option that you can choose from:
● General hiking waterproof jacket
● Lightweight hiking waterproof jacket
● Ultra lightweight trekking waterproof jacket

There are general waterproof jackets, lightweight waterproof jackets, and ultra-lightweight waterproof jackets for advance level hiking at Decathlon. Of course, the higher-level jackets are relatively lighter!~

洋蔥式穿法 外層防水外套

4. How to wear the bottom?

We have learnt to use the onion layering system for upper body, and then what about the bottom? Here are some practical tips!

Light and fast-drying hiking trousers - they are very flexible and comfortable. There are also a lot of pockets on the trousers for small things, and the main pockets also have zippers or buttons to prevent items from falling out of the pockets.

Tights - many hikers like to wear tight pants and shorts. The tights can reduce muscles’ vibration during exercises, and provide adequate support for muscles and joints, as well as warmth and ventilation. During winter, you can wear the tights below a thin hiking trousers. When you feel too warm after warming up the body, you can take off the thin sport trousers.

Thin water repellent soft shell trousers - thin water repellent soft shell trousers with moderate thickness and soft shell with windproof function. Walking on the ridgeline will not be too cold when you are exposed to the wind. In winter, you can wear tights with soft shell trousers during winter.

Water repellent soft shell trousers with inner fleece - in winter, if you feel cold and don’t like layering, you can consider soft shell trousers with inner fleece. These trousers are designed for snow hiking, suitable for people who like to stay warm.

Warm reminder: avoid wearing jeans when hiking! -  jeans seem tough and fully compatible with outdoor activities. But denim is thicker, and the fabric is not elastic, which makes it easy to fall because the pants are tight when climbing or striding. In addition, the jeans are relatively airtight, and the material is very slow to dry. After sweating, the jeans will become hard and heavy, and will stick to the body. Once the sun goes down, jeans will instantly become cold and increase the risk of temperature loss! Therefore, avoid wearing jeans when hiking.


5. So many warm accessories, how to make sure to keep warm?

The trick to wearing warm is to wrap yourself up!

Hat - be sure to keep your head warm. When you are exposed in cold weather, the warm blood will flow to vital body parts such as the head and the heart; this also increases the heat loss from the head. Therefore, you must prepare a hat when hiking in winter. You can wear a cap when hiking, and wear a scarf if needed. When you stop and rest, you can change into a warm fur cap to prevent sweat soaking the cap.

Socks - can select wool material. Wool has excellent temperature control effect, when the shoes are wet, the wool socks can absorb 30% of their own weight of moisture, and use the moisture in the wool fiber to keep warming through the body temperature.

If you have already wrapped yourself tight and still feel cold, you can also prepare these, such as: hand warmer or Thermos.

Are you ready for the wilderness in autumn and winter? It is time to upgrade the equipment!

Hiking | Fall Winter Dress Tips: Onion Layering System


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