Layering gives you the ability to adapt to a wider range of conditions and helps you to regulate your body temperature. By adding layers on and off depending on the chosen activity and weather conditions, you also control comfort. So, what are the layering principles? To understand the basics you should know the function of each layer.
The layering system is made up of different thicknesses and fits. The thicknesses vary from lightweight to heavyweight subject to the conditions you intend to be in.
Base layer: A base layer is the foundation to the layering system. It keeps the skin dry by wicking moisture and sweat away from your skin. The materials chosen should be lightweight and quick drying including merino wool, polyester, silk and polypropylene.
What is Merino Wool?
Merino Wool originates from a particular breed of sheep which is traditionally reared in harsh environments where most regular sheep couldn’t survive therefore, the wool is a natural guard from extreme conditions that provide many unique benefits that synthetic wool cannot provide. What sets the Merino sheep apart is their dense, insulating coat of wool that traps heat inside. Merino wool is usually used for base layers, fleeces, jackets and much more. Any items that may require synthetic wool can use Merino Wool instead. The fine wool is commonly used for ski and winter clothing as its high insulation regulates the body temperature and naturally locks in heat while still offering wicking and breathability. The fabric offers great properties for activewear due to its versatile nature, it can also be used for thermal underwear due to its antibacterial properties.
We would try to avoid cotton as it sticks to your skin when it’s wet, takes longer to dry and it doesn’t offer full insulation.
The base layer comes in three main fits:
It all comes down to personal preference when choosing your base layer fit. Tight compression fits are designed to squeeze the body, (think of it as a tight hug) which increases blood flow to create and hold in warmth.
Fitted base layers are tighter than your regular t-shirt but are not as fitted as your compression fit. Some find these comfier than compression and feel that they are a good balance between an insulating base and one that feels a bit more relaxed.
You can also choose a regular fit which works best with skiers or snowboarders who need that extra bit of give for ultimate movement and all day comfort. “The end result is you get a soft fitted body contoured garment without any squeeze but offers a comfortable cool or thermally efficient result.” states Base Layer. The main word in there for us is ‘soft’ as it’s forgiving but still offers insulation and is not too voluminous to restrict.
For more information on base layers click here >
Middle layer: The mid layer is in the name – it is the filling of your sandwich – and retains body heat to protect you from the cold.
There are various mid layer options from lightweight fleeces to synthetic insulated jackets, finding out which one for you is generally trial and error depending on your chosen activity. Generally, thicker materials offer more warmth through insulation including natural down. Below are some of the middle layer materials used for layering.
- Polyester – Our fleeces come in a variety of thicknesses which range from 100-300. Fleece fabric helps you to stay warm even when you get caught in the rain and has breathability and quick drying properties.
- Natural Insulated – Lightweight down jackets are highly compressible and are great for packing on the go. They offer more warmth to weight ratio and are measured in fill power which ranges from 400-800.
- Synthetic Insulated – Synthetic insulated jackets are a great natural down alternative which cope well in wet weather conditions as they still retain heat when damp. The only downside to a synthetic layer is that they are harder to compress.
Outer layer: The outer layer is the shell, the final barrier between you and the outside elements. Even if you don’t follow the ‘three layers’ system, your outer layer is the most important and is something that should be considered before venturing out, whatever the outdoor pursuit.
There are three main types of jackets, from waterproof to shell and everything else in between. A kind reminder that if your outer shell allows in water you can catch a serious chill which can ultimately lead to further implications when battling the weather.
: Waterproofing protects you from getting wet under rainfall or snowfall. It acts as a shield and keeps you both comfortable and dry. The waterproof rating also known as IP rating for your outer shell is an important factor as it will not only be adaptable in wet weather conditions but it signifies how well the item defends against liquids (in this case – rainwater).
Waterproof jackets and rain jackets tend to have a high waterproof rating with additional features including breathability which is measured by how long it takes for the fabric to dry. Without any IP rating, your outer shell will only perform well in dry weather conditions with a small amount of snow contact. Generally, waterproof and breathable shells are the most functional shell and are the best option to brace wet and windy environments.
Water Resistant: People tend to think of waterproof and water resistant as the same thing but they are chalk and cheese. Water resistant shells are suited to drizzly light rain and breezy conditions for a range of high intensity activities. Water resistant shells are typically made out from man-made polyester fabrics that block rain and wind to an extent.
Soft shells: Soft shells offer more breathability, they are lightweight and feature stretch fabric which adds to the overall comfort for low intensity activities.