Dressing In Layers For The Outdoors

Unlike stylish layering of fashionable clothing, layering your garments for outdoor activities is a bit more involved. Certain types of fabrics should be avoided, especially in the base layer.

Additionally, there is a certain strategy that can be used to help get the most benefit out of the layering of your clothes when going camping, hiking, fishing, and more.

Learning how to dress in layers properly will provide that added bit of warmth that every outdoorsman needs for comfort. It is a fairly simple task once you understand a few essential details that will help you select the right type of clothing along with the proper layering technique.

Dressing for warmth sometimes involves dressing to avoid the effects of too much wind, rain, or snow. Learning how to layer properly avoids these effects. Plus, one of the added benefits of dressing in layers is that it allows you to peel layers off as the level of your activity increases and your need for the extra clothing diminishes.

Layering Levels

Layering Levels

It’s important to understand the purpose of each layering level in order to make the most out of this technique to stay warm and dry as well as comfortable.

The Base Layer

The base layer of clothing is the one that is going to touch your skin. This is the layer that will assist your body in regulating its temperature. It is also the layer that will help to keep your body dry in addition to the outer layer of clothing.

Certain fabrics should not be worn next to the skin when layering because they are prone to retaining moisture and making the individual feel wet or drenched despite the fact that they might be wearing a waterproof outer shell.

This could be the beginning to a bout of chills and mild shaking and should be avoided. Therefore, cotton clothing should not be worn as a base layer since this fabric is notorious for holding in moisture.


The best fabrics to wear for a base layer of clothing include wool, silk, and synthetic fabrics. These fabrics transport the perspiration away from the body and are often referred to as “wicking” fabrics.

As the perspiration is transported away from the skin, it evaporates and leaves the individual nice and dry. The synthetic group of fabrics in this category include: Patagonia® Capilene®, CoolMax® polyester, and Polartec® PowerDry®. Of course, there are more as these are just a few of the “wicking” fabrics available today.

Base layer clothing is designed to provide dry warmth in the winter or colder weather and cool comfort in the summer or hot months. Since most types of base garments are sold in differing weights, choose the one that is appropriate for the type of weather that you will be encountering.

The Middle Layer

The Middle Layer

The middle layer is often referred to as the insulating layer and it is designed to keep you warm by trapping heat close to your body as it traps the air in between the layers of clothing. Moreover, garments used for the middle layer should contain “moisture-wicking” components in order to help keep you dry.

Examples of good middle-layer garments include natural fibers that will act as insulators. In particular, merino wool and goose down offer exceptional insulating qualities. They are readily available in sweaters and shirts. It is important to note, however, that goose down must be kept dry in order to offer efficient insulating qualities. Therefore, it should be avoided on wet days unless a proper outer layer is also worn.


Traditional choices for middle layers include polyester fleece clothing such as vests, lightweight jackets or sweatshirts, and tights. Polartec® is one of these fabrics along with Thinsulate®. This type of fabric is lightweight so it doesn’t add a lot to body mass when hiking or hunting, allowing the individual to maintain flexibility.

Fleece garments come in different weights just like many base garments. Select the weight that is most accommodating for the activity and type of climate that you will be engaged in for the best results. Remember that overheating is a possibility so you need to choose wisely.

The Outer Layer

The Outer Layer

The outer layer is sometimes referred to as the shell layer. Its purpose is to protect you from the elements of the weather. Therefore, it needs to be able to protect from wind, snow, sleet, and rain.

However, they must also be designed to allow your body perspiration to escape as vapor once it has “wicked” away from your body and through both the base and middle layers of clothing. If not, the perspiration will simply pool up on the underside of your outer garment.

In general, there are five basic categories of outer layers or shells. They include insulated shells, waterproof/non-breathable shells, water-resistant/breathable shells, waterproof/breathable shells, and soft shells.

Insulated shells have terrific insulating capacities. They are quite suitable for adventures taken in cold weather climates. However, they are not the best choice for variable weather conditions.



Waterproof/non-breathable shells are often made of a durable type of nylon, providing them their waterproof capacity. This will often make them windproof as well. Commonly made with some form of polyurethane-coated nylon, this type of outer shell is terrific for those rainy or windy days.


Water-resistant/breathable shells are designed for use with mild types of climate that provide only light levels of rain. The fabrics are woven closely together so they help to block the wind while resisting getting wet from any precipitation that does occur.



Waterproof/breathable shells offer the most features since they protect against all types of precipitation as well as colder climates. This makes them the perfect option for skiing and hiking in the mountains.

Typically, this category is divided into two more individualized ones that are often referred to as mountaineering garments and rainwear. The latter is lower in weight and therefore portable as well. Mountaineering garments tend to be more resistant and offer additional features such as added warmth qualities.

Soft shells are those that are designed to provide breathability over and above any other characteristic. They are typically wind or water resistant with two layers. One layer provides protection against the elements of rain and wind and the other layer offers insulating qualities. Typically, this style is sold in models for both cold weather and milder weather.

Rate this post

Louise Brown
Hi buddy! I’m Louise. As a lover of the outdoors, crafting a blog about traveling and adventure is a bit of a stretch for me. I truly love to be outside, so getting in front of the computer takes me away from my passion. But, it’s important for me to share what I love so others can get out and appreciate the outdoors, too.
Louise Brown

Leave a Reply

Notify of