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Clothing Layers for the Sierra Nevada's

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Clothing Layers

Hiking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is like hiking on another planet, a beautiful planet.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are located in California and start in Tehachapi and head all the way up to pretty much Oregon. On the East side of the mountain range, it's all desert and on the West side of the range you have the Pacific ocean.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are made up of 11 National Forests and within those forests, you have five National Parks / Monuments. There are over 12 million acres of forests, lakes, rivers, streams, canyons, valleys, and mountains. Over a hundred of these mountains are over 13,000 feet in elevation. These high mountains and ridges create a massive wall. This dividing wall creates a unique effect with the cool moist air from the Pacific side and the hot dry air from the deserts of the east, this effect is Micro Climates.


Micro Climates are all throughout the Sierra Nevada Range. On the southwestern side of the Sierra Nevada, you have the massive Redwood and Sequoia trees that require lots of rain. Throughout the middle of the Sierra Mountains, you have miles of rivers and streams. Thousands of lakes, ponds, and marshes. Certain sections of the Sierras have patches of desert that have no signs of life or water. The higher sections of the Sierra Mountains contain over 497 glaciers and 788 small ice bodies.

Within this mountain range, you have thousands of trails crisscrossing through the Sierra Nevada, two of which are world-famous. The John Muir Trail starts in Yosemite Valley and finishes at Mt Whitney. The other is the Pacific Crest Trail which starts at the California/Mexico border and goes to Canada. These two trails see thousands of hikers each year. During these journeys, people do die, and most if not all of these deaths happen in the Sierra Nevada. The weather is extremely unpredictable. You can have days that feel well over 100 degrees to other days below freezing. Keep in mind you lose 3-5 degrees for every 1000 feet of elevation gain. The JMT trail has over 47,000 feet of elevation change. That's a lot of temperature fluctuations and you need to be prepared for it with the proper clothing layers.

Clothing Layers don't just apply to hiking the Sierra Nevada Range, it's a practice used worldwide in all kinds of extremes. Clothing Layers are made up of Three Layers

Base Layer (1-7)

This layer is everything next to your skin. This layer is best with materials that wick the sweat like wool or high-tech poly materials. Avoid Cotton, it traps sweat and can cause you to feel cold in cold conditions. This layer would also be your form of protection from the sun. In the Sierras Nevada, the sun can be intense.

Mid Layer (7-10)

This layer is your Insulation Layer. This layer can be anything from a zip-up fleece, lightweight down, or synthetic jacket.

Outer Layer (9-13)

This is your protective layer. Protection from the wind, rain, snow, and extreme cold. This can be from a rain jacket to a hard-shell jacket with added insulation. This layer is usually not on you as you're doing active hiking, because of the breathability and that it will cause you to sweat more. You would put this layer on when the weather requires or when you stop for a break to retain heat.

  1. Sun Hat - Columbia Bora Bora

  2. Wool T-Shirt - Minus 33 Wool T-Shirt

  3. Running Shorts - Brooks Running Shorts

  4. Wool Socks - Darn Tough Wool Socks (best socks ever)

  5. Lightweight Trail Running Shoes - Topo Ultraventure Shoes

  6. Lightweight Long-sleeved Shirt - Montbell Merino Wool Plus

  7. Lightweight Running Pants - Patagonia Trail Pacer Pants

  8. Sweater with a hood - Patagonia Capilene Hoody or Patagonia R1 Air Hoody

  9. Lightweight Gloves - Arcteryx Revo Glove

  10. Insulated Jacket - Enlightened Torrid Apex Jacket

  11. Shell Gloves - Montbell Shell Gloves

  12. Rain Jacket - Montbell Versalite Jacket

  13. Rain Pants - Montbell Versalite Pants

With all these clothing items I have comfortably survived summer temps, cold fall nights that dipped into teens, and the random thunder or fast moving snow storms the Sierra Nevada Mountains are famous for.

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