You’d be amazed at just what layering properly with the right type of material can do for your outdoor experience. It’s no different than a surfer using a wetsuit to enjoy the swell in Maine’s 45 degree waters. If you wear it right, you’ll not just be able to go further and do more, you also won’t end up hiding behind a rock on your trip like fellow hikers to our left. (We still give them credit for braving the winds!)
Let’s start with a simple breakdown of the general concept of layering:
- First, you have the inner layer that goes against the skin for moisture transport.
- Up next, you have the middle layer of pile for insulation. This protects you from the cold.
- And finally, you have the outer shell layer for wind and moisture protection.
It doesn’t quite stop there though. The material you use for layering is just as important as the order to which you do the layering.
It doesn’t matter if you have 10 old cotton T-shirts layered on top of you. The moment you start to sweat, it starts to rain, or you can’t move freely because of the fat suit you have on, is the moment your excursion will begin to go downhill.
(Why Cotton Just Doesn’t Do It) Moisture Wicking Layers are made to:
- Transport perspiration away from the skin
- Dry faster than standard cotton
- Reduce drastic changes in body temperature
THE INNER LAYER: MOISTURE TRANSPORT
There’s nothing worse than feeling wet and sticky in a cotton t-shirt under a rain coat while you’re out on a hike. The inner base layers are made to dry quickly and not retain water, unlike their counterpart cotton.
THE MIDDLE LAYER: PILE OF INSULATION
When it’s freezing outside and your eyelashes are frosted over , your middle layer of pile is what’s going to keep you warm. Your pile layer is for temperature control; it’s what traps the heat and aids in wicking all that moisture.
So again, stray from cotton. You’re going to want to look for natural fibers such as wool or goose down, or even fleeces made of thermal polyester.
Within the middle layers we also have a bit of a breakdown.
- Lightweight for your milder climates or basic aerobic activity ( fall hikes, runs on the beach in the spring)
- Mid-weight for your cooler climates or moderate activity ( fall hike when the leaves are gone and you can smell the crisp air signaling snow is on the way)
- Expedition weight for your colder climates or low activity (cross-country skiing, biking or running longer distances).
THE SHELL LAYER: PROTECTION FROM MOTHER NATURE
When things get icy-cold your shell is what’s going to save you from the wind, rain, snow, ice and anything else mother nature wants to throw your way.
Shells can be pretty pricey. For serious alpine climbing you’re looking at prices upwards of $600 or more, but a good shell is worth every penny.
Like our other layers, we have a few different types of Outer Shell Layers:
Breathable soft Shells:
- These shells are ideal for an chilly morning trail run or skate trip to the grocery store .
- These are perfect for lighter activities like fishing or killing time on shore when the fall surf is blown out. These shells are usually made of durable, polyurethane-coated nylon that is waterproof and windproof.
- You’ll want an insulated shell if you’re certain you won’t be experiencing a variety of temperatures. These are ideal if you’ll definitely be in colder, wetter conditions as they have a pile layer built into them.