Why the experts do NOT take extra clothes on the trail

When packing up to go on the trail whether it be for hiking or backpacking, do you normally take extra changes of clothes? Up until recently I was one of those that took extra changes of clothes. Honestly I had never really thought about it. I just took them. I was reading a book the other day when I noticed that the author mentioned that he never took extra clothes when on the trail. He then went on to explain why and as it turns out you really don’t need them.

 Whats The Secret?

Expert hikers don’t take extra clothes on the trail because they are taking a good layered clothing system. This means that they are taking multiple pieces of clothing that can all be worn at the same time or with just one of the layers. This allows them to handle whatever the environment throws at them and still stay comfortable. Because of the type of clothes the experts are taking they can wash and dry them in a very short period of time.

What Can a Good Layering System do for You?

A good layering system can keep you warm when it is cold. By wearing multiple layers you will stay much warmer due to the pockets of air in between the layers. Having these layers of warm air will will always be warmer than one thicker layer.

A good layering system can keep you cool when it is hot. The clothing you choose should be breathable and have wicking properties. This allows your clothing wick away moisture (sweat) from your body and letting it evaporate. This helps you to stay cool.

A good layering system can keep you dry. The shell layer will be water repellent or waterproof so that you can be protected from the wind and rain if conditions were to turn to that.

What is in a Layering System?

Base Layer – This is the first layer and will be the layer that is touching your skin. Your base layer can be made of polyester, merino wool, or nylon. To find out which of these materials will not have an odor after a long hike, click here.

Insulating Layer – This is the next layer after your base layer. It’s primary purpose is to keep you warm when it is cold. The Insulating layer can be made of wool, fleece, synthetic down, or goose down. To find out which of these is the warmest material, click here.

Shell Layer – This is the last layer in the layered clothing system. It’s primary purpose is to keep you dry and block the wind. You don’t want to be caught in the rain without this layer. Although, to find out why your current rain jacket may be going to fail you, click here.

Expert Tip: Use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap to wash your clothes. You can also use it for washing dishes, shaving, and even brushing your teeth!


Some experts will take an extra change of clothes just to sleep in and only to sleep in if they know their day time clothes are going to get soaked. This allows them to sleep in dry clothes to insure they are warm during the night. They will sleep much better this way and be more prepared for an active day in the morning.

I hope you take this advice and start taking a layered clothing system on your trips. This will save weight and room in your backpack and will keep you comfortable. Be sure to share this with your fellow hikers so that they too can benefit from packing a layered clothing system.

If you are interested in this new clothing system you should check out my next article in this series, The Secret to a Good Base Layer.