The shoulder season—what mountain folks call both spring and fall—is a top-notch time to take a hike. Temperatures are moderate, plus there’s foliage in fall and colorful wildflowers blooming in spring.
The only dilemma? What do wear during seasons that are notoriously fickle when it comes to weather. Especially at higher elevations, spring weather might be 60 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny one day, and literally snowing the next.
The key is light, breathable, and packable layers that keep you prepared for everything. Here’s our guide to layering for spring adventures—and keep in mind that a lot of this advice applies to fall hikes, too!
Base Layers for Shoulder Season Adventures
The ultimate spring hiking outfit starts with layers designed with breathability and movement in mind. Here are a few suggestions for different types of spring forecasts:
Early Spring/Cold Weather: Hitting the trails in late-March? Choose movement-friendly pants with a little stretch. Up top, you might want a more winter-oriented baselayer, like a performance fleece.
Sun’s Out, Shorts Out: If it’s brisk (e.g., above 45 degrees Fahrenheit) but sunny and you run hot, choose a long-sleeve performance shirt or even a sun shirt if you’re hiking mid-day and the sun is shining. If it’s a pretty warm spring day, you could even opt for a breathable cotton tee, and a pair of active shorts wouldn’t be out of the question.
April Showers: If there’s a little precipitation in the forecast, choose water-resistant pants to keep you dry and warm.
Spring & Fall Mid Layers
Unless you’re going for a run or have very little space in your pack, there’s no reason you have to “be bold and start cold.”
Enter mid-layers, which add some extra warmth to your kit. Mid-layers can also be very useful if you’re starting early in the morning when temperatures are low, or hiking in and out of the shade.
Here are a few types of mid-layers we love for shoulder season:
A fleece vest is great for adding a little more core warmth
A hybrid or insulated vest will heat up your core even more, for days when you’re starting at dawn or facing temps in the 30s or 40s (Fahrenheit)
- For core warmth plus more coverage for your arms, a hybrid jacket is the answer—great for those who run cold
A light fleece can also be a smart pack if you’re starting early or the sun’s MIA
Outer Layers & Weather Protection for Spring
Spring on the calendar, but still winter outside? Whether it’s a chilly April day, precipitation is in the forecast, or it’s gusty out there, you’ll thank yourself later for bringing along an extra layer.
And if you’ve heard the expression “it’s the wind, stupid,” then you know that big gusts can make it feel a whole lot colder than it is. Spring is straight-up breezy, and March and April tend to be the windiest times of the year. This is partly because warm air begins to rise, which causes cooler air to rush in to fill the gaps. So, yes, spring is unofficially windbreaker season.
If it’s brisk out there, some lightweight insulation is in order. Particularly in spring which tends to be wetter than summer, synthetic insulation—which performs better than down when wet—is a solid choice.
If there’s rain in the forecast, throw a rain jacket in the bottom of your pack. Even if there isn’t a significant chance of rain, it never hurts to keep some water-resistant rainwear in the bottom of your pack on longer hikes in the mountains.
And for that signature spring wind, bring a packable windbreaker—bonus points if it breathes to keep you moving comfortably on the trail.
Sustainable Spring Layers
So you want to go on a spring adventure, but don’t want to hurt the birds and the bees? We hear you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for adventure layers:
- Look for organic fabric blends, which will be free of most pesticides (better for the land and agricultural workers), grown from non-GMO seeds, and uses water more efficiently. All of our tees use organic cotton or an organic cotton blend.
- Seek out recycled fabrics, which require less fossil fuels to develop and have a smaller carbon footprint. Recycled polyester, for example, emits 25-50% fewer carbon emissions than virgin polyester. We use recycled materials in many of our styles, including in our Cielo rainwear and Capa puffies.
Repurposed materials in your layers are another planet-friendly option. This sourcing strategy involves using high-quality materials left over from other companies’ production runs that might have otherwise ended up in the landfill. Our Teca Collection of fleece, light insulated jackets, and windbreakers is all about repurposed materials, making each season’s styles limited-edition.
- If you’re looking for a vest or jacket that’s insulated with down, seek our down that’s certified by a 3rd party as being ethically sourced. We only use Responsible Down Standard certified down, for example.
- Before you shop, look in your closet to see if there are any styles you’re forgetting about that might do the trick. The most sustainable style is the one you already have!
Shop This Guide
Recommended Spring Base Layers
Best Spring Mid-Layers
Top Spring Hike Outer Layers Light Insulation