The painting is composed of various elements from the Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Saxony and Bohemia, sketched in the field but in accordance with his usual practice, rearranged by Friedrich himself in the studio for the painting. In the background to the right is the Zirkelstein. The mountain in the background to the left could be either the Rosenberg or the Kaltenberg. The group of rocks in front of it represent the Gamrig near Rathen. The rocks on which the traveler stands are a group on the Kaiserkrone. 
Some meaning of this work is lost in the translation of its title. In German, the title is “Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer”. Wanderer in German can mean either “wanderer” or “hiker”. 
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog is true to the Romantic style and Friedrich’s style in particular,  being similar to other works such as Chalk Cliffs on Rügen and The Sea of Ice. Gorra’s (2004) analysis was that the message conveyed by the painting is one of Kantian self-reflection, expressed through the wanderer’s gazings into the murkiness of the sea of fog.  Dembo (2001) sympathised, asserting that Wanderer presents a metaphor for the unknown future.  Gaddis (2004) felt that the impression the wanderer’s position atop the precipice and before the twisted outlook leaves “is contradictory, suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it”. 
In the foreground, a young man stands upon a rocky precipice with his back to the viewer. He is wrapped in a dark green overcoat, and grips a walking stick in his right hand.  His hair caught in a wind, the wanderer gazes out on a landscape covered in a thick sea of fog. In the middle ground, several other ridges, perhaps not unlike the ones the wanderer himself stands upon, jut out from the mass.  Through the wreaths of fog, forests of trees can be perceived atop these escarpments. In the far distance, faded mountains rise in the left, gently leveling off into lowland plains in the right. Beyond here, the pervading fog stretches out indefinitely, eventually commingling with the horizon and becoming indistinguishable from the cloud-filled sky. 
I also draw your attention to the different techniques Friedrich used to alter the hardness of the edges.
Notice how the darks represent the man, rocks, and other “solid” objects; whilst the lights represent the clouds, sky, and fog. So not only is there a contrast between light and dark, but also between solid and transient.
Caspar David Friedrich’s On the Sailing Boat features the bow of a ship heading towards the horizon. Two figures, a man in a blue suit and hat and a woman in a pink dress with white lace collar, hold hands while looking at what lays ahead. The right side of the canvas is consumed by a closely focused depiction of the sail and the boat’s mast. In the distance, the viewer can discern the faint outline of buildings, silhouetted in mist. The largest expanse of the canvas is occupied by a glowing yellow sky.
The positive reception of this pair of paintings contributed to Friedrich’ election as a member of the Berlin Academy and also drew the favor of Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig of Prussia, who purchased the two exhibited paintings for the royal collection; a prestigious honor. Beyond the accolades, however, this work demonstrates Friedrich’s experimental spirit. Any traditional approach to landscape painting has disappeared. At a quick glance, the compositional structure appears uneven and lacks a perspective focal point. Rather than illustrate a scene, Friedrich has created an opportunity for the viewer to experience a range of emotions, only suggested by the artist. If he had included more details, the viewer would be tempted to invent a narrative or story, but with this bare minimum, we are felt with only sensorial information.
As this man was most likely killed in 1813 or 1814, this painting may also serve as a patriotic tribute.
Some believe Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog to be a self portrait of Friedrich. The young figure standing in contemplation has the same fiery red hair as the artist.