The Art of Layering in Cold Weather

For many years I was that person. I would go on my fall and winter adventures with my cotton base layer, my 7-pound hoodie as a mid-layer, and an outer layer which didn’t protect me from the elements. Sounds OK, right? It was ok until I started being active; exerting myself; or just raising my body temperature. Then suddenly my clothing started feeling too warm, I would sweat too much and I would overheat. The worst came when I stopped or paused, I would cool down, my clothes and I would be wet, cold, and miserable.

Enter the Art of layering. And yes, it is an art for most of us. The type of art that takes time and practice. It’s basically three layers of clothing that complement each other.


The First Layer is the Base layer

The first layer is a moisture regulating layer called a base layer. This is worn directly on the body. I feel this is the most important layer to wear. This layer is ideal when it is next to your skin, firm, but not restricting. This allows the base layer to transfer perspiration away from your body.  There is a range of different fabric blends to choose from in todays market: Synthetic materials such as polypropylene ( Stripes Gear  😊), nylon and polyester. Also, there is hybrid fabrics, this is a combination of fabric such as merino and polyester, and the pure wool fabrics. 

For me, an important feature of a base layer is finding an odor-fighting fabric. Perspiration/moisture go directly through this layer. High-end fabrics will pay attention to this factor. No one wants to be stinky when hiking in the bush, or anywhere for that matter.


Benefits of different fibers:

Synthetic fibers (Polypropylene):

  • Extremely Fast drying
  • Low in weight
  • Good at transporting moisture away from your body.
  • Less expensive
  • Slightly less warm than wool

Natural fibers (such as wool):

  • Good insulating properties. Warm but ventilating.
  • Good transfer of moisture from the skin (less strong than synthetic)
  • Moisture retention increases insulating value (warm when wet)
  • Naturally antibacterial – so anti-odor

I need to say “NEVER wear cotton!” It’s a fabric that absorbs and holds water. Before you know it, you will be cold and you will be carrying dead weight around. No one needs that.  

The Second Layer is the Mid–Layer

The second layer is an insulating layer. This layer keeps your body warm. To do so, it needs to pass perspiration through your base layer to your outer layer as quickly as possible. There are various materials used in this type of clothing; fleece, polypropylene, wool or down. Mid layers are available in many different thicknesses. To be prepared, for changing conditions in the outdoors, it is important to have multiple thicknesses.

The Third Layer is the Outer-Layer or Shell

The third layer is the outer layer. This layer protects us from the elements. This layer should be wind and waterproof. It is the last step in transferring perspiration from your skin to the air outside. This type of jacket won’t have a lining or insulation in it. Modern companies tend to focus on the function of blocking the elements, while being breathable at the same time.  

Once I started following this layering concept/art for ourselves and our children, we were able to do longer and more challenging outdoor adventures. We went from a family of tears to a happier and more enthusiastic family. 

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