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By:    On: 2011-11-16

Brrr!  The Secrets of Layering

 

Part of planning for a camping or hiking trip is making sure to pack the right clothing for comfort and protection against the elements that may come your way.  This is especially true during cold-weather adventures. Outdoor gear has made leaps and bounds in the last two decades; strength, quality, and even fabrics are better and offer more choices than ever before.  Hopefully the following information will help you prepare for your next cold-weather trip. 

The Three-Layer Plan 

Layering outdoor clothing is a strategy well-known for protection against cold weather and for providing comfort. Good layering should protect you from the elements while still keeping you comfy and preventing loss of body heat.

The Base Layer is exactly what it sounds like: the layer of clothing closest to the skin.  This layer can be anything from regular underwear to long johns – anything that is the first layer of clothing on your body. It is a good idea to keep this layer as a fabric which is thin but moisture-wicking.  Although cotton is a very common choice for a base layer, I suggest avoiding it if you can.  Cotton does absorb moisture from the skin but the fabric will become uncomfortable as your body heat begins to cool because it retains the moisture it wicked away.

The Mid Layer is the next layer atop the base layer.  It’s usually a sweatshirt (or a layer of fleece if you’re going to be doing a good bit of physical activity, such as hiking) and a pair of pants or jeans. Fleece and wool are the two most commonly chosen fabrics for the mid layer because they produce heat.  Be aware, however, that fleece doesn’t wick well and wool, although great for wicking,  doesn’t dry as well as other materials will.

The Outer Layer is the top layer of clothing, used to protect against wind, rain, snow and other nasty elements.  This layer should offer equally good insulation and ventilation, to keep you warm while getting rid of excess body moisture. For this layer I have a favorite ski parka I picked in the Abruzzi Mountains of Italy.  It is a double-layer coat which zips together, has multiple interior and exterior pockets, is water-resistant and offers a nice, warm cinching hood. Technically wearing this parka means I dress in four layers but I had to mention it anyway.

The important point about layering to remember is that you need to be able to remove a layer of clothing if you get too hot.  This keeps you from getting wet and uncomfortable. It’s also important to note that, if you’re hiking, you should plan space in your pack for another thin layer of clothing.  It never hurts to have these clothes, especially if you happen to get wet.

What are your favorite fabrics to wear when layering?  Leave me a comment and tell me about it!

Happy camping,

Jen

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