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Home » Expert Advice » The Layering System Guide

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What is the Layering System? - GO Outdoors

 

When shopping for outdoor clothing, you've probably heard a lot about something called ‘the layering system’. Layering your breathable clothing can help you to keep warm, dry and comfortable through varying conditions, allowing you to add or remove layers depending on how you feel and the conditions you’re in. All the items should be lightweight and packable, and should fit inside your rucksack easily.

In this guide we'll offer you all the advice you need for how to layer up correctly when you’re outdoors.




It's easy to think that when the temperature drops, wearing the thickest clothing possible is the best idea, when in actuality most mountain climbers, runners, cyclists, hill walkers and dog walkers can all benefit from some variation of a layered clothing system.

Carrying extra layers in your rucksack can help to keep you safe - the weather may be mild when you set off on your walk, but as you get higher into the hills, the temperature can and will take a sudden drop, and conditions can change in an instant.

How does the layering system work?

At its most basic level, the layering system will consist of three layers, including:

1) Baselyer - helps to regulate your body temperature and wick away moisture from your skin.
2) Midlayer - used to trap the warmth your body generates. Depending on the weather this can be a fleece, a softshell or even a down jacket.
3) Outer Layer - usually this is your protective layer. For example, a waterproof jacket in the rain or a windproof or down jacket in the cold/dry.

Below we'll take a look at these layers in a little more detail:

The Baselayer

  • Worn next to the skin, creating a thin layer of warm air against the body
  • Helps to wick moisture/sweat vapour from the skin to regulate body temperature
  • Ideal on its own for aerobic activity, or warm days
  • Avoid using cotton as a baselayer. Cotton soaks up sweat and stays wet, drawing the heat away from your body, leaving you cold.
Shop: Baselayers

 
The Midlayer

  • Worn over the baselayer to help trap in body heat
  • Further wicks away sweat vapour
  • Popular midlayers include fleece, softshell or in extreme cold and wet situations an insulated jacket.
  • If you're out walking we'd recommend a thin fleece or midlayer for milder days, and a midweight fleece or midlayer during cold weather
  • For resting, or passive exercise (like a trip to the pub, or watching a game) insulated jackets or down jackets are great to use in freezing weather.
Shop: Midlayers

 
The Outer Layer (Shell)

  • Protects you against wind and rain
  • This layer allows the sweat vapour to pass through and away from the body completely
  • This layer is usually a lightweight, packable and breathable waterproof jacket
  • There are three types of outer shell: Paramo, Membrane and Coated - we explain more about this in our waterproof jacket guide
Shop: Waterproof Jackets

Here is a handy diagram on exactly how the layers work together to keep you warm and dry



Layering System Diagram


What to wear



What's the weather like?

 

What to wear.

 

 

 Dry

 

 Baselayer

 

 

 

 

Dry Conditions

 =

Baselayer: e.g Tech Tee 

 

 

 

 

 Sunny and calm

 

 Keeps you dry from perspiration

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold

Dry 

 

Baselayer

Fleece / Softshell 

 

 

Cold Temperature Thermometer 

Dry Conditions

 =

Baselayer: e.g. Tech Tee 

Fleece / Midlayer

 

 

 Low temperatures

Sunny and calm

 

 Keeps you dry from perspiration 

Keeps you warm 

 

 

 

 

 

Warm

Wet

 

Baselayer

Waterproof 

 

 

Warm Temperature Thermometer

Rainy Conditions

 =

Baselayer: e.g. Tech Tee 

Waterproof Layer 

 

 

 Warm Temperatures

Rain

 

Keeps you dry from perspiration

Keeps you dry from the rain and stops the wind 

 

 

 

 

Windy

Cold

Wet

 

Baselayer

 Fleece/ Softshell 

Waterproof 

 Windy Conditions

Cold Temperature Thermometer

Rainy Conditions

 =

 Baselayer: e.g. Tech Tee

Fleece / Midlayer

Waterproof Layer 

 Blustery and Gales - reducing Temperature even more

 Low Temperatures

 Rain

 

Keeps you dry from perspiration 

 Keeps you warm

Keeps you dry from the rain and stops the wind  

 

 

 

 Windy

VERY Cold

Wet / Snow

 

Baselayer

 Fleece/ Insulated jacket

Waterproof/ Softshell 

 Windy Conditions

Cold Temperature Thermometer

Snowy Conditions 

 Baselayer: e.g. Tech Tee

Insulation Layer 

Waterproof Layer 

 Blustery and Gales - reducing Temperature even more

 Freezing Temperatures

 Snow/Hail or Icy Rain

 

Keeps you dry from perspiration 

 Keeps you warm

 Keeps you dry from the rain and stops the wind  

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