Layering Tips for People Who Run Hot

Ideas & Advice / Outdoor Adventure (Unique lifestyle/travel/personal experience)
Layering Tips for People Who Run Hot

If I am just sitting around, hanging out, I’m cold. Even in the summer I like to be covered with a blanket. The moment I start working out that all changes. It can be 20 degrees out but within an hour of heading up a mountain I am down to my baselayer top, my gloves are stashed away, and I’ve taken my wool hat off. In the winter having a good layering system can make or break your day. I definitely struggled with this at first. Luckily, in my case I was usually over prepared with too many pieces. But even this situation became annoying when I had to shove everything in my pack while I’m trying to get my workout in. I didn’t want to get a bigger pack just to carry more clothes that I might not even wear. After doing some research, talking to others, and trying out many products I have come up with a system that works great for me. While everyone is different I’ve got some tips for layering for cold weather hiking and for those of you like me who literally run hot.

Running Hot

Even if you are a hot runner you still may want to cover up some in the colder months. One way to achieve this is to wear knee and arm warmers. If you have your favorite shorts and t-shirt and can’t bear to wear pants then warmers can help you out on those cold starts. As you get going you can just push the arm or knee warmers down. Another trick is to wear a headband or Buff instead of a hat. Your ears will be protected but your head can still let some of the heat out.

For the rest of us that don’t mind wearing baselayers by themselves when working out there are more options. Eastern Mountain Sports Techwick comes in a variety of weights. If you get really hot you will want to stick with T1, which is the lightest weight of Techwick. T2 is the midweight and T3 is the heavy weight. SmartWool also comes in weights from micro, to light, to midweight. It’s okay if you aren’t ready to run around the neighborhood in your tights. There are lightweight pants that make a great option for running. Look for pants that have tapered bottom such as the EMS Excel Pant. Tapered bottoms allow for better movement as you won’t be kicking your own pants.

SmartWool Midweight Baselayers and a Buff for running

Hiking Hot

Hot hikers should start off like their running counterparts with some good baselayers. What you put on top of those baselayers depends on where you are going and for how long. If there is snow around I like to put on some sort of waterproof shell pant over my baselayers. I have found that unless I am going above tree line and expecting the temperature and wind chills to be well below freezing that I’m fine with uninsulated pants. Ski pants can work here as long as they aren’t too heavy and cumbersome. Lately, I’ve found myself preferring full zip pants. This way if my legs are hot on the way up the mountain I can unzip at the top, down to mid thigh and get some air flowing to my legs.

A cold start to the day

When hiking in the mountains in winter I always have a baselayer, midlayer, and shell for my torso. The shell usually only lasts about 30minutes before I need to take it off. Once I’m warmed up, I like to stop and delayer so that I don’t get too sweaty. Often times the midlayer also comes off at this point for me. My choice for a midlayer is usually a lightweight fleece or EMS Power Stretch. This layer is key in providing warmth later on when stopping for a break or being above tree line. In my bag I always have a shell. Sometimes it never comes out but this is mountain weather we’re talking about so you never know. My outer shell has to be a wind barrier. Even if you don’t get above tree line it’s usually much windier on the mountain than it is at the trailhead. Even the slightest wind in the winter can make everything feel so much colder. Finally, on some trips, my down jacket comes along. The down jacket only comes along if it is going to be VERY cold.

Another place you can layer is your hands. It can be 10 degrees and my gloves are off, as long as I am moving. The moment I stop those gloves go right on. Generally in the winter I find myself with two pairs of gloves. I use glove liners most of the time but have an insulated pair with me for breaks. The insulated pair go right over the liners so if it is super cold I can keep going without taking any gloves off. 3 in 1 gloves can also be useful here, as they have a liner and an outer shell for wind protection. If it is going to be uber cold and I know I will need gloves the whole time I have been known to have 3 pairs of gloves with me. I don’t want to lose any digits.

For those days above tree line I have goggles and balaclava with me. These go on at the last minute and only stay on as necessary. My head gets way too hot with these on. I would much rather have sunglasses on for eyes to breathe but still be protected from sun glare.

Just remember, however you are layering, cotton is rotten. Avoid it as much as possible ESPECIALLY during winter pursuits. Cotton does not wick away moisture like  wool or synthetics do and it takes a long time to try which can literally be a deadly combination in winter.

Do you have a favorite piece or go to system for layering? Comment below and let us know.

Heading up a cold, windy winter summit of Mt. Madison

Amy Parulis

A former Strength and Conditioning Specialist and captain of the University of North Carolina track team, Amy now looks for her next mountain to climb or mud run to take part in to keep in shape. Her favorite hike was to the crater rim of Mt. St. Helens where she witnessed a steaming lava dome and she some day hopes to summit Mt. Rainier. In the meantime she can be found helping customers at the Waterford EMS. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @amyparulis


  1. December 14, 2012, 6:23 am

    This information, which you have shared, is really helpful for the hikers and walkers. I would like to say that pay attention to temperature and wind chill because if the wind is strong, it penetrates your clothes and removes the insulating layer of warm air around you. Your movement also creates wind chill because it increases air movement past your body. . Drink fluids before, during and after runs on cold days. You might not feel as thirsty as on a hot day, but your body still loses a lot of fluid.

  2. December 4, 2012, 3:04 pm


    Great article. thanks for confirming I am not a lone freak of humanity. It is rare I see anyone else sweating at 10F because they are wearing normal winter layers while ascending a mountain at a maintainable pace, but I am one of the few who do. Usually I am eagerly anticipating getting to the winds above treeline so I can cool down.

    Sure, I get cold when standing around but even then I need far fewer layers than my partners. Once moving I often wish I had worn shorts or at least left the goretex at home.

    One other tip, if you are going to be mostly below treeline, skip the goretex and go with a soft shell like the ems endo. Breathes well, and is weather resistant enough to keep me dry in snow. I tend to use some form of soft shell water repellant on them every few washes. I find it isn’t as windproof above treeline, but unless you are spending all day up there in extreme cold or high winds, it makes sense to vent better over opting for wind resistance.

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