ORAC teaches students ABC’s of hiking in winter layering event

Abbigail Nutter

Students interested in winter layering and proper packing for day and multi-day backpacking trips were able to learn more about the subject Monday through an event hosted by WKU’s Outdoor Recreation Adventure Center aimed towards beginners, seasoned hikers and backpackers alike.

ORAC also discussed the ABC’s of backpacking and the essentials for a day hike.

Haley Gouine, a graduate assistant for ORAC, began the meeting by discussing why proper layering is so important.


“The benefits of layering are that you can always take off and put on and it’s good for insulating,” Gouine said. “Taking it back to physics, we layer to trap heat inward to our body.”

Gouine emphasized the importance of fabrics when thinking of layering, and said moisture-wicking or water resistant-fabrics are the sort of materials hikers and backpackers should focus on when shopping for layers.

Gouine went through the three systems of layering, and said they are the base layer, the mid layer and the outer shell.

She said the base layer is predominantly for moisture wicking, while the mid and outer layers serve as insulation and protection from the elements.

“The mid layer is key to staying warm,” Gouine said. “It’s our insulating layer and it’s going to keep everything nice and tucked into our body.”

Gouine explained the most ideal clothing for the mid layer during cold temperatures is a down filled jacket, despite the downsides to the fabric which include the material not being water resistant and ethical concerns.

“Some companies that produce down jackets are not producing them ethically, so they don’t go through ethical procedures to pluck the feathers from whatever bird they’re using for down,” Gouine said. “That’s something to keep in mind if you’re passionate about items being vegan friendly and certified trade.”

For those concerned with the ethics of down jackets, Gouine said that synthetic down has the same insulating power of a down jacket.        

Gouine also emphasized the importance of layering on the feet.

“Don’t forget to insulate your feet. A nice, thick, wool sock goes a long way,” she said.

Something that is as equally important to outdoor activities such as hiking, and backpacking is knowing how to properly pack a backpack, a process that Chloe Cooper, a trip leader for ORAC, explained in detail at the meeting.

“Pack your backpack like a burrito, so it’s all evenly distributed,” Cooper said. “Have your heavy stuff by the base of your spine rather than being too heavy to prevent being unbalanced.”

Cooper then applied the ABC’s of backpacking to the packing process.  She explained understanding the way accessibility, balance, compression, deformities and the concept of food over fuel will make the backpack more organized.

“You don’t want to be digging through your dirty underwear to get to your rain jacket,” Cooper said.

The meeting was then turned over to ORAC trip leader Tatum McClure, who spoke briefly about the essentials for a day hike.

Although McClure said she doesn’t get hungry on her hikes, a pre-made lunch or snacks are one of the first essentials she suggested packing for day hike. McClure said she also includes a water bottle, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, a jacket and a small First Aid Kit in her backpack.

McClure suggested bringing a map and a headlamp just in case something was to go wrong.

“A supportive backpack is key.” McClure said. “The longer you go, the more back pain you’re going to have.”

News reporter Abbigail Nutter can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].Follow her on Twitter at @abbeynutter