Hillwalkers hiking in the rain

Layering solutions for walking in the rain

By Kenny Stocker>

You are standing at the foot of Goat Fell, gazing up as rain gently begins to patter down against your waterproof jacket. The grey skies and the fresh scent of rain fill you with anticipation. You're no stranger to hillwalking, but rain always introduces a unique challenge: staying dry and comfortable while embracing the elements.

The wind still carries winter chills, so you zip up tight. As you start your ascent, the rain intensifies. Despite your best efforts, moisture has found its way inside your barrier, a reminder of the battle between the elements, your gear and your comfort. The summit cairn waits for you, just 30 minutes away. You sense its presence, even if hidden under its mizzly cloak.

Nice weather for ducks

At some point in our evolutionary history, we decided to prioritise home comforts at the expense of the biological features we need to naturally live and play in synergy with our environment.

Who cannot marvel at the duck's ability to shed water off its back without a second thought? No carrying a pack full of this and that; it lives in its element. "Nice weather for ducks" is something we cheerfully say.

We like to believe we are in our element when leaning 45˚ into the wind and rain, and we are, but we mean it in a different sense.

  • Rain is wet, which makes you feel cold. Unchecked, this will make you hypothermic and ruin your fun.
  • You put on a waterproof layer to keep you dry.
  • Unfortunately, you also have to move; as you do so, your body generates heat and sweat.
  • Your comfort is compromised by the moisture building up inside your waterproof layer.
  • You feel like you cannot win and conclude, slightly less cheerfully "Nice weather for ducks".

To be comfortable in the rain, we need a little help.

Why a waterproof is not enough

Making a waterproof for someone who is not moving is easy, but you are a hillwalker and demand more from your shell.

You know when you move you generate heat, which generates sweat making you feel cold and uncomfortable.

You know when you lift your arms, when you turn your head, when you step over a stile or stoop under a branch your jacket moves, exposing gaps in your armour, allowing rain to trickle down and ruin your day.

Seeking solutions

Back on Goat Fell, determined not to let the rain dampen your spirits, you recall the stoic advice of fellow hillwalkers and the wisdom gleaned from past experiences.

The solution lies in layering your clothing.

Focusing on breathability as much as waterproofing, you adjust your layers, opening vents to allow moisture to escape.

You experiment with different combinations of gear, discovering the effectiveness of waterproof trousers and the indispensable value of a hood that shields your face from the driving rain.

A layering solution for walking in the rain

The tried and tested layering system for walking in the rain consists of three layers designed to work together.

1. Baselayer

This is your next-to-skin layer. Baselayers help move sweat away from your skin faster, improving your comfort by reducing that clammy feeling. In warm conditions, you may wear a base layer directly underneath your waterproof. A base layer may have short or long sleeves.

More about the benefits of merino wool and synthetic baselayers >

2. Midlayer

Worn over your baselayer for warmth and comfort. The ideal mid-layer will be as breathable as possible so it is not a bottleneck in the path of moisture being transported from your skin to the outer surface. Your mid layer becomes an outer layer when the clouds part.

More about choosing a midlayer >

3. Breathable waterproof

Breathable waterproofs stop the rain coming from the outside to the inside while letting moisture move from the inside to the outside.

Note - 'breathable' is a term the outdoor industry has adopted to describe a particular fabric property. A breathable fabric allows moisture vapour to pass through while water droplets cannot. It does not mean it breathes like you and me, or that you could use it as a makeshift aqualung. It is also frequently used to inflate expectations and ultimately disappoint users with over-hyped marketing.

Waterproof jackets and trousers are themselves constructed in layers: The inner layer, membrane and outer layer.

  • The inner layer provides next-to-skin comfort, wicks moisture and protects the membrane from dirt and abrasion.
  • The membrane allows moisture vapour to pass through to the outside and stops rain from passing from the outside to the inside.
  • The outer layer protects the membrane from dirt and abrasion and creates a hydrophobic layer to enhance breathability.

More about choosing a waterproof >

Two blueprints for hillwalking in the rain

Our layering system for walking in the rain places you at its centre. It's why we purposely start with the layer closest to your skin.

The first solution is based on synthetic fibres, the second a modern twist on natural fibres.

With products designed to work seamlessly together, specifically for hillwalking, you can find comfort walking in the rain.

Clothing for hillwalking in the rain

1. A synthetic fibres approach to walking in the rain

Prioritising ultimate performance, ease of care and versatility. For the UK's hills and summits, our performance clothing withstands the rigours of an active outdoor life, whether you're munro bagging, planning a multi-day backpacking trip, or walking around your local woods.


Aztec Short Sleeve top

The Aztec Short Sleeve is an ultra-lightweight merino blend tee designed for outdoor activities, providing superior temperature regulation and comfort across various weather conditions. Its 140gsm core-spun merino fabric is quick-drying, odour-resistant, and itch-free, perfect for layering and sustained performance. Ideal for eco-conscious adventurers, it uses non-mulesing Australian Merino and GRS-certified recycled polyester, ensuring durability without harming the planet. Featuring flatlock seams for added comfort under a rucksack, the Aztec is the go-to for anyone seeking a lightweight, high-quality base layer for walking in.

Mens | Womens

FKT Boxers

FKT Boxers are perfect for extended hikes. They feature a moisture-wicking, fast-drying fabric blend for comfort and support in hot weather. Because they are quick-drying, you can travel light, needing only a few pairs for extended trips. These boxers ensure chafe-free support and can be worn comfortably under your backpacks waist strap.

Mens | Womens


Akita top

The Akita fleece jacket is perfect for hiking up the pace in cooler conditions. Its breathable, fast-drying, and lightweight design offers warmth without slowing you down. A soft inside and wind-resistant outer provides comfort and protection as an outer layer or a sleek mid-layer for slower activities. Akita features include a full-zip for easy cooling, two zipped pockets for essentials, and a design that's comfortable under your rucksack.

Mens | Womens

Arnison walking trousers

The Arnison hiking trousers are designed for comfort with the durability needed to tackle the UK's mountain summits in all weathers. Features like a diamond gusset crotch and articulated knees promote easy movement over challenging terrains. These trousers come with practical storage, including a phone sleeve and an OS Map-sized thigh pocket. Made from tough, wind-resistant fabric treated with PFC-free DWR, they're ready for all weather conditions. Added stretch from spandex and a micro-fleece waistband enhance comfort, making the Arnison ideal for year-round walking adventures.

Mens | Womens


Fortitude waterproof

The Fortitude is our hillwalking-specific waterproof jacket designed for maximum protection. It features a longer cut and a regular fit for layering. Made from 100% recycled material, it's both waterproof and breathable, offering reliable coverage against harsh conditions. This environmentally friendly jacket includes practical features like deep pockets, an OS-map-sized chest pocket, and a fully adjustable hood. Its durable 70D polyester outer fabric is tough and sustainable, ideal for the eco-conscious hillwalker seeking comprehensive weather protection.

Mens | Womens

Cloudburst waterproof trousers

The Cloudburst waterproof trousers offer lightweight, packable 2.5-layer waterproof protection, perfect for handling wet weather on hikes. Crafted from durable, 100% recycled nylon with a PFC-free DWR coating, they're environmentally friendly and designed to shield you from the wind and rain. Features like knee-length side zips ensure easy dressing over walking boots. At the same time, an articulated design promotes movement without excess bulk. An elasticated waistband with drawcords at the waist and cuffs allows for a customisable fit, making these overtrousers a practical choice for hillwalkers wanting to stay dry and comfortable during walks.

Mens | Womens

Footwear and gaiters

Rain or shine, easy trails, or a rocky, steep ascent - you never know what is waiting around the bend. But with the right socks, boots and gaiters, you can take it all in your stride.

Breathable, waterproof walking socks are great for adding a waterproof layer to fabric boots or approach shoes. If you have a decent pair of waterproof walking boots and gaiters you will be more comfortable layering up with regular socks. Coolmax trekking socks® are prized for their moisture-wicking properties and ability to keep hikers feet cool and dry.

Choose boots that are light and supportive. We recommend Vibram® outsoles; they really set the bar high for a reliable grip on wet and slippery rocks. Their tread pattern clears mud efficiently, whilst a pronounced heel delivers good grip whilst descending.

Internally, a PTFE-free, CO2 Neutral Sympatex waterproof, breathable membrane will keep your feet comfortable and dry. This poreless, compact membrane works on both physical and chemical principles to wick sweat away from the foot whilst providing waterproofing against any water ingress.

Over the top of your boots, a pair of gaiters will provide added protection from rain and mud. Our Colca hiking gaiters use a 3-layer breathable waterproof fabric to keep your legs dry without getting too sweaty. The lower sections are made from highly abrasion-resistant ballistic Cordura® to reinforce this high-wear area.

2. A natural fibres approach to walking in the rain

Walking in the rain around a lake

Move naturally with clothing that combines traditional technologies with modern design. We design natural fibre alternatives for all our technical outdoor gear. They're renewable, biodegradable, less dependent on the petroleum industry and can't be beaten for sheer comfort and performance.

Merino Baselayer

Natural fibres have a 'feel' you don't get with artificial alternatives. Merino wool is simply a joy to wear on the hill.

Kepler Merino short sleeve baselayer top

Kepler Short Sleeve is crafted from pure merino wool. It is a versatile base layer perfect for outdoor activities like hiking. It offers exceptional breathability, temperature regulation, and a high warmth-to-weight ratio. Its natural odour resistance makes it ideal for multi-day use. Made from soft, non-mulesed Merino with ultrafine fibres, the Kepler ensures comfort on the hill. With articulated sleeves and flatlock seams, it's designed for comfort under gear, making it an essential choice for walkers.

Mens | Womens

Kepler Merino boxers

Crafted from durable, core-spun Merino wool for enhanced comfort and longevity. These breathable, moisture-wicking, and odour-resistant boxers are perfect for hillwalking, ensuring you stay dry and comfortable. Made with ultrafine Merino from non-mulesing farms, they're designed to fit perfectly under layers, thanks to their active cut and flatlock seams. Ideal for multi-day trips, their natural odour resistance means fewer washes and more wear, making them an eco-friendly choice for walkers.

Mens | Womens

Wool Midlayer

Wool absorbs moisture directly into its fibres before releasing it outside. This allows wool to absorb up to 35% of its weight in water without feeling damp.

Brenin 100% lambswool jumper

The Brenin jumper is crafted from 100% pure lambswool for natural warmth, breathability, and odour resistance. Its fitted design and ribbed edges ensure effortless movement and layering, making it perfect for hillwalking. The thick, open-knit provides excellent insulation while staying breathable. Wool's natural odour resistance means easy care, often needing just an airing out. Additionally, wool is sustainable—biodegradable and renewable.

Mens | Womens


Ventile® fabric uniquely protects against rain using a tight organic cotton weave that swells and closes gaps when wet, creating a natural rain barrier without a waterproof membrane. This mechanism means Ventile® becomes more effective in worsening weather, acting like a hard shell. Single-layer Ventile® offers considerable rain protection, suitable for all but the heaviest rain.

Ranger Ventile® organic cotton jacket

The Ranger jacket features Ventile®, a tightly woven organic cotton with wind resistance and natural water repellency. This eco-friendly, breathable, and durable jacket is crafted with GOTS-certified organic cotton and a PFC-free DWR in Switzerland, blending tradition with modern design. It includes a removable, adjustable hood, articulated arms for movement, and an internal storm flap for enhanced weather protection. Designed for active hillwalkers, the Ranger is a testament to the effectiveness of natural fibres in outdoor gear.

Mens | Womens

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published