Layered clothing can help you stay warm, dry and safe when you are exploring the wild. Most people believe that layering your clothing for the outdoors is super straight forward – If you’re warm, you add more layers. If you’re cold, you take some off. But in reality there is a little more to it than that.
In this article we are going to explore how to layer your clothing properly so you remain at a comfortable temperature; allowing you to enjoy the outdoors.
Layered Clothing: What is it?
Layered clothing is a process by which regulate your body temperature by using different layers of clothing. You do this depending on the external conditions.
It’s common to think that we should only layer our clothing when it’s cold outside to keep warm. But it’s equally important to layer your clothing properly when the weather is warmer as it gives us the ability to adapt when out hiking, climbing etc.
Layers are usually categorised into three sections: base layers, mid-layers and outer layers.
How Layered Clothing Works
Air is trapped in between each individual layer, this is why it’s more effective to wear many thin layers as opposed to one thicker layer. It’s important that each layer is breathable. This prevents moisture build up which can lead to you becoming damp and cold.
To truly understand how layering works we’ll explain each layer and its purpose in more detail.
Base Layer: Moisture Management
Base layers are often referred to as your ‘second skin’. It has the ability to keep you both warm and cool depending on the climate you are in. Baselayers are thin, and can often be referred to as hiking underwear.
Base layers provide a layer of warmth via the air trapped between the fabric and your skin, whilst at the same time, absorbing any excess moisture and sweat away from your skin. This is referred to as ‘wicking’.
When choosing which base layer is perfect for your adventure, consider what kind of activities you’ll be doing and what climate you will be in as there are many different fabrics and kinds of base layer to choose from.
Middle Layer: Key Insulation
As the name suggests, the middle layer is worn over your base layer and underneath the outer layer. The mid-layer is where you should focus all of the main insulating duties. It’s also the piece of clothing you’re most likely to take on and off depending on the weather conditions.
In cold weather, most people will opt for a thicker mid layer like a down or synthetic filled jacket. In moderate and warmer weather, you could opt for a thinner synthetic or lightweight fleece.
Outer Layer: Protection From Wind, Rain & Snow
The outer layer’s main purpose is to protect you from the elements, whether it be high speed winds or a torrential downpour. It’s always worth packing an outer layer that can handle the most extreme weather as you never know what you might encounter!
It’s also worth noting that a high quality outer layer will still allow excessive moisture and heat to escape your body so you don’t overheat.
Outer layers can be categorized into two different groups: Hard shell & soft shell.
Hard Shell Outer Layer
Hard shells are the most common outer layer you will come across. They are a waterproof jacket, usually with a hood or waterproof pants. Sometimes they are insulated. They are designed to provide waterproof breathable protection in rain or snow. It’s referred to as a “hard shell” because the fabric doesn’t stretch very much and has a ‘crinkly’ feel to it.
Soft Shell Outer Layer
A soft shell jacket is stretchy, breathable and water resistant. You can immediately identify a soft shell by touch, most will have a very smooth fabric feel to them. They are predominantly designed to be worn in light rain and snow. Due to the breathability of a soft shell, they are often preferred over a hard shell for high energy activities, so you avoid overheating. Most soft shells also contain an internal lining or fleece for added warmth.
Choosing The Right Layers
Choosing the right layers for your trip can be the difference between a great time in the outdoors or a potential nightmare – And this is serious. Poor choices could lead to heat exhaustion or hypothermia.
So below, we’ll go over some of the most common weather types and the different layers you choose for each.
(B) = Base Layer (M) = Mid Layer (O) = Outer Layer
Trying to plan your layered clothing choices for your adventure in the outdoors can sometimes get confusing when you consider all of the different materials, design options and the pros and cons of each. You can simplify the process by just considering your base layer, mid layer and then your outer layer, and always remember that more thin layers is better than one really thick layer.
Also remember to pack your other essentials. Some common items are: