Layering refers to wearing multiple layers of clothing to protect and/or insulate your body from the elements. Whether you’re on a week-long hike or just going for a walk around the block, there’s a layering option to suit. One of the benefits of layering is the ability to add or remove clothing in response to changes in the weather.
There are four key layers. The base layer is worn next to your skin and is about managing moisture and regulating your body temperature. The mid and insulation layers are all about heat retention, while the outer layer (or shell layer) protects you from the external elements.
The purpose of a base layer is to provide warmth and insulation to the wearer and/or to wick moisture away from the body to keep you comfortable. Also known as thermals, a base layer is usually made from merino wool or synthetic fabrics, with each offering different benefits to the wearer.
Avoid cotton as a base layer, as it will retain a lot of perspiration and the outer layer will then trap this moisture against your skin causing you to feel wet, cold or stuffy.
Mid layers are designed to trap warmth against your body, so are usually snug-fitting to reduce air movement. A brushed fleece is the ideal mid layer, but note that the heavier the fleece the warmer you will be.
Insulation layers are used in extremely cold conditions and may involve more than one layer. There are down or synthetic filling options. The choice depends on your activity, the weather conditions, your pack-ability and versatility requirements, as well as your personal preference.
The outer layer, or shell, is designed to protect you from the elements – wind, rain, sleet or snow — while still being breathable. Many outer layers are coated with a durable water repellent treatment or a laminate membrane to provide protection from the rain and keep the layers underneath dry.
For more tips on staying warm, here’s how to stay warm while camping in winter.