What Are the Layers for Backpacking?

By Michael Ferguson

Backpacking is a great way to explore nature, get some exercise, and spend time with friends. It’s also a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

But before you hit the trail, it’s important to have the right gear. One of the most important pieces of gear for any backpacking trip is the right layers.

When it comes to layers for backpacking, there are three main categories: base layer, insulation layer, and outer layer. The base layer should be lightweight and provide moisture-wicking properties to keep you dry and comfortable.

Common materials used for base layers include merino wool, polyester blends, and synthetic fabrics like polypropylene.

The insulation layer is designed to keep you warm when temperatures drop or when you stop moving for extended periods of time. It should be lightweight but still provide enough warmth for your needs. Common materials used for insulation layers include down, synthetic blends, wool, fleece, and synthetic down alternative fabrics like PrimaLoft®.

The outer layer provides protection from wind and rain while also keeping you visible in low-light conditions. It should be waterproof or water-resistant with taped seams to keep you dry during inclement weather. Common materials used for outer layers include nylon or polyester shells with a waterproof/breathable membrane such as Gore-Tex®.


When it comes to backpacking layering systems, having the right combination of base layer, insulation layer, and outer layer can make all the difference in your comfort level on the trail. Each type of layer serves an important purpose in keeping you warm and dry while also allowing your body to breathe properly during strenuous activities.