Choose An Insulation Layer You Can Be Warm In

Have you ever been out on the trail and get cold because you simply did not pack the right clothes for the hike? I know I have. If this has happen to you then you should know that it was your insulation layer failing you. A good insulation layer can make or break a trip as far as being cold is concerned. With the right information you will be able to chose the best insulation layer for your layered clothing system so that you can be comfortable no matter what the temperature is. Continue reading to get this information. When choosing an insulation layer you should know what types of material you are choosing and how well they keep you warm in different situations.


Wool has the least warmth of the listed insulation materials listed here. It does not compress very well and is relatively expensive. Wool can also absorb a lot of water and get very heavy. When wet it will only retain a small percentage of warmth.


Fleece jacket by North Face that can be used as an insulation layer.

Fleece is much warmer than wool based on weight and does not itch. It also is much more hydrophobic than wool and has a wicking ability much the same as polyester. Fleece retains most of its insulating power when wet. All of this makes it a great choice in cold wet conditions. Being able to find it cheaper than any of the other listed materials here is an advantage also.

Synthetic Down

Synthetic Down insulates much better than wool or fleece but not as well as goose down. The down side is it does not insulate very well when wet but still better than goose down. It can compress down much better than wool or fleece but still not as well as goose down. One major fallback is it also does not have a good life span meaning it will not last as long as the other materials listed here.

Goose Down

This Marmot goose down jacket will keep you much warmer than any fleece jacket as long as its dry.

Goose down is the best material listed here for insulating power. With an estimated 50% higher insulating power over synthetic down it is a great choice for extreme cold. Goose down can compress down more than any of the listed materials here. It also will last much longer than synthetic down. It does however have its drawbacks. You do not want to get it wet because it will lose almost all of its insulating power when wet. It also can be quite expensive.

Things to Consider

If you are hiking then it is rare to be wearing your insulation layer. It is mostly worn when at rest and when at camp. If you find yourself wearing your insulation layer while hiking most of the time then you should probably look into getting a thicker base layer. Your insulation layer should be worn over your base layer and should be worn tight to your body so that it traps a layer of air in between it and your base layer. Having this layer of warm air will help you to stay warmer than having one thicker layer. This is why having multiple layers is so important in the cold. Now that you know how to stay warm in your insulating layer, you should stay much warmer on the trail with less effort. If you know a fellow hiker that could benefit from this article be sure to share this with them so that they too can benefit from it. You may also be interested in the next article in this series, How To Choose A Shell Layer And Stay Dry On The Trail.