Layering clothing means putting one shirt or sweater on top of another. You may ask, why wear three sweaters when one jacket will accomplish the same results? That is just the point. The results are not the same. With one jacket you may be too hot so you remove it and get too cold, maybe even freezing with no other options. With layering you can easily become comfortable whether it is for an evening out or a trek into the wilderness.

There is logic to layering, but too many layers are much better than too few. Layering is insulation. During cold weather you need to keep heat in your body, and during hot weather you need lots of ventilation. Both can be achieved with the same set of clothing.

Base Layer

Start with the base layer next to your body. It should fit snuggly and not be at all bulky. Merino wool is the best fabric for the base layer because it can regulate body temperature. Cotton will trap moisture, which is uncomfortable at any temperature and will not keep you warm. Leggings, sock-liners and two layers of gloves are also good. It’s always good to have spare socks and liners as well as an extra pair of gloves.

Middle Layer

The next layer, or middle layer, should be light and breathable. It should fit loosely but not be baggy. Microfibers are good for this layer as well as fleece and wool. This garment could have a collar or hood concealed by zippers as well as underarm zippers for air circulation when things start to warm up. For those looking for adventure in the wild, it may be a good idea to have two middle layer garments.

Outer Layer

The outer layer should also include a warm hat if cold weather is anticipated. Both the jacket and pants of the outer layer should be wind and rain proof for any kind of alpine trek. The best waterproof hiking jacket should cover the waistband. This prevents water from dripping into your clothing and doesn’t hamper movement. The pants should have a tight weave and not be too baggy. They should also fit into your backpack because they will be the first to come off. Rubber or plastic is not a good option because the fabric should be breathable if possible.

These are the basics about layering, but different activities need different levels of protection. In the wilderness, layering also protects you from insects and scratches from branches. If it is not possible to use the optimum fabrics, any kind of layering will help. When a change in weather is anticipated, and before you get too hot or too cold is the best time to remove or add the next layer.


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