Layer like a legend: a guide to autumn layers and how to use them

Hike stylishly and comfortably this fall by cherry-picking the right layers for all conditions.

By Mark Cohen

hike 30.09.2021

The eight kilometre hiking loop around Oeschinensee is one of the most scenic in the Swiss alps. Done counterclockwise, it twists and turns steeply before opening up to massive views of the turquoise lake and several 3,000-metre peaks that surround it. Yup. A real stunner.

As a day hike, it can take four to five hours at a leisurely pace to complete. The days starts with a lift from Kandersteg several hundred metres below. I did it in autumn. The peaks were capped with snow and glacier. The sun was out. But by day’s end, cloud had come in. The temperature shifted. Then it shifted again once we made our way back down to the car.

Such is life during shoulders seasons. You learn to expect the unexpected.

So how do you prep for long days out when changing conditions are the norm? When rain, snow, wind, and sun can all happen in hours? Here, we take a look through some of ODLO’s new autumn collection and general layering guidelines. Ways to create your own personal Nest – so you can tweak and adjust your temp as conditions shift around you.

Layer like a legend: basics
To dress properly for hiking, you need to understand what each layer does. How it works. Why it’s important. With that, it’s then a matter of tiny tweaks depending on the environment, sweat level, activity, and what’s planned for the day.

So what does a base layer actually do? A base layer is a next-to-skin layer of clothing that will either keep you cool or keep you warm during activity. While hiking in the heat, for example, you might want a lightweight synthetic base layer (a piece from our F-dry collection, maybe) or a first layer (a merino Concord tee) to act as a base layer depending on how hot it is and how high you’re going. This is arguably the most important piece of kit you’ll put on for the day; its job is to draw sweat from your skin, help it evaporate, and thus, keep you comfortable.

In cooler conditions, maybe that synthetic base layer gets swapped for a 130 merino weight base layer or tee – something that still draws moisture away from skin but also keeps you slightly warmer. As the weather cools, the weight of your base layer will increase. The opposite is true as things gets warmer.

Second step – insulation or mid layer. Half zip, full zip, hooded, crewneck, synthetic, natural – here’s where things get interesting. Choosing a mid layer is about your personal comfort. Do you run hot? Tend to get cold? The critical part is that it can be taken off or put back on depending on the conditions. Ascending rocky trail, for example, isn’t the right time to be wearing too heavy a mid layer, but descending that same trail most definitely is. A down (N-thermic) or synthetically-insulated (S-thermic) vest can also act as a great mid layer, too, depending on conditions.

Finally we have the outer layer – typically some sort of jacket, either softshell or hardshell. This layer locks it all in. Seals out any inclement weather, but also lets heat and vapour escape. Think of this as a two way piece of fabric that compliments the other layers you have on underneath. Worn together, you have a system ready for anything.

 So, quick summary:

  • Base layer – next-to-skin. Keeps you comfortable.
  • Mid layer – insulates.
  • Outer or third layer – protects.

With that done, let’s take a look at some new items for autumn hiking that might fit your Oeschinensee-like plans over the next few weeks.

What to wear: base layers

Base layers are very specific to activity type, everyday athlete, and conditions. Some people prefer a tight fitting base layer, for example, while others like synthetics only. It’s entirely a matter of personal preference. For hiking, one of my favourite pieces for base layers are the Concord tees. One could argue it’s more of a tee than a base layer, but this is every bit a technical piece well suited to hiking. The 50/50 merino TENCEL™ Lyocell blend is naturally thermoregulating, anti-odour, available in men’s and women’s, and looks pretty cool when hiking’s done, too. Great versatility, style, and natural performance – three reasons why it’s one of our favourites.

If you think short sleeves are out of the question for the day’s adventure, for cool to cold conditions, try our Blackcomb eco long sleeve base layers. They are warm, fit next-to-skin and feature a beautiful woven synthetic fabric that never fades, is performance driven and truly unlike anything else out there. Also offers great versatility for cold running and ski days as well.

ODLO's Roy mid layer

What to wear: mid layers

This season we’ve crafted a massive and versatile range of performance mid layers well-suited to hiking and outdoor days. Colours, styles, performance – there’s a lot of selection. For women, one of the nicest, warmest, and most versatile pieces for autumn walks has to be the Halden cozy mid layer in a full zip. It’s made from a cool-looking recycled deep pile Sherpa fleece, paying homage to 80's snow style, and built for people who gravitate towards timelessness. This is a great choice of mid layer on account of its versatility. Coffee shops, trails – you’re good to go in either scenario.

Another favourite for men would have to be the same item in moss green, or the Blackcomb mid layer half zip. The latter is a warm performance layer with a very cool woven colour-speck on the upper half set against a black backdrop. I’d use either of these layers in cool to cold weather. As standalones or under a jacket, these are exceptional and durable pieces.

Finally the Roy mid layer full zip for women – with its alpine-inspired graphic, beautiful seasonal colour, and super soft fleece – is another perfect example of a hiking-ready mid layer. Something that insulates, is versatile, and something you won’t want to leave the house without.

What to wear: outer layers 

For day hikes, you want a lightweight jacket or vest that packs small and offers lots by way of protection. We have a couple choices here: seasonal favourites include the men’s air cocoon vest, and for women, the Run Easy S-thermic jacket (technically a running jacket but certainly at home hiking too). Otherwise an Aegis 2.5L waterproof hardshell for women in a new seasonal colour is something I’d recommend if the forecast looks wet. The mustard yellow looks exceptionally smart and outdoor ready.

We hope this serves a good autumn layering primer. If you want more details on hiking Oeschinensee, check out this page. Otherwise the products mentioned are available on

Enjoy them. And happy hiking.


Stories that might also interest you