Travel Tips: Gear is Good, Learning How to Layer

Learning How to Layer - South America Travel
Right photo via @eggcanvas on Instagram.

Having been born and raised in Minnesota (where we exist in sub-zero conditions for the majority of the year) I actually did learn to layer before I could walk.

This knowledge of layering clothing proved useful years later in South America where, with its variable climate, it’s smart to start out with a base layer, followed by a mid or insulating layer, and topped off with a wind and rain layer. That way you’re nice and toasty starting out in the chill of the morning, and can easily peel back a couple layers once the sun starts to shine. And if it rains, you’ve got your waterproof layer keeping everything dry below. Synthetic materials are best (as compared with cotton) since they wick away moisture effectively and are quick-drying.

Learning How to Layer for Cooler Weather

The tips below are helpful when you’re traveling to cooler regions with variable weather, like Patagonia or the Sacred Valley. Learning How to Layer Colder Weather

On top, I suggest a base layer like the one pictured above (here is a similar one from Lululemon), a hooded fleece for a mid or insulating layer, and a waterproof, yet breathable, shell for the outer layer.

It’s a good idea to follow a similar system for your legs. I like to start out with a long underwear base layer and then wear a waterproof or water resistant hiking pant, like the pair pictured above, for my outer layer (here is a similar pair from REI). If the weather is warmer I will wear a pair of hiking shorts under my outer-layer pants. This way I have the option to wear just my shorts later in the day when it warms up. You could also opt for zip-off hiking pants and eliminate the need for shorts underneath your outer-layer pants.

Other helpful items:

  • Daypack (to store water, extra layers, snacks / lunch, trekking poles, sunscreen, camera, binoculars etc.)
  • Sunglasses
  • A hat (for warmth)
  • Gloves
  • Comfortable hiking shoes and warm / thick socks


Learning How to Layer for Warmer Weather

These tips are useful for those traveling to warmer weather destinations like the Amazon Rainforest, the Cloudforest or the Galapagos Islands.

Learning to Layer Warmer Weather

We recommend wearing clothing to help you handle the heat and humidity and also to protect you from the sun and/or bugs. The best option for this is typically a lighter-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting shirt (like this one from REI) that covers your back and shoulders, and lightweight pants (like this pair from Patagonia). It’s a good idea to wear pants instead of shorts, because for many of the wildlife walking excursions you will wear a pair of rubber boots provided by your lodge and wearing pants will reduce rubbing.

Other helpful items:

  • Daypack (to store water, extra layers, snacks / lunch, trekking poles, sunscreen, camera, binoculars etc.)
  • Lightweight rain gear (jacket and pants)
  • Unscented toiletries (as to not attract bugs)
  • Insect repellent
  • An extra set of socks (especially if you are in a very muggy region like the Cloudforest in Ecuador)
  • Swimsuit (for many excursions in the Galapagos Islands)

If you enjoyed this article you may interested in “4 Unique Experiences + What to Pack For a Trip To Ecuador,” our “Patagonia Vacation Packing List,” or “How to Prepare for an International Trip.”

For even more packing and layering tips specific to your region of travel or to the excursions you plan on doing, you can also visit our South America Frequently Asked Questions page. If you’re interested in planning a trip to South America give us a call at 612-315-2894 or send one of our Trip Specialists an email at


Un Beso, Tara

South America Travel Tara HarveyTara is the Co-Founder, Marketing and Operations Manager at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She first traveled to South America in college and is endlessly inspired by the cultures, food, colors and idiosyncrasies she discovers there. Read Tara’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.