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GO Outdoors Expert Advice GO Outdoors Expert Advice
What is the Layering System? - GO Outdoors

When shopping for outdoor clothing, you've probably heard about layering your clothing or as some people call it the ‘layering system’. The idea being is you layer clothing to help you to keep warm, dry and comfortable when moving 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 easily packable, so they can fit inside your rucksack easily.

In this guide, we'll go through what you need to create the perfect layering set up when you’re outdoors and the weather is proving unpredictable. 


It's easy to assume that when the temperature drops, you should wear the thickest clothing possible, when in actuality most mountain climbers, runners, cyclists, hill walkers and dog walkers will benefit from some variation in layering their clothing.

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 a basic level, the layering system consists of three layers:

  1. 1) Baselayer - this helps regulate your body temperature and move moisture away from your skin.
  2. 2) Mid layer - is used to trap the warmth your body generates. Depending on how cold the weather is could be a fleece, a softshell or even a down jacket.
  3. 3) Outer Layer – this will be your protective layer from the elements. 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 layer of warmth against your body.
  • Helps to wick moisture/sweat vapour from the skin to regulate body temperature.
  • The close fit of baselayers is important to help move moisture away and prevent chaffing and bunching against your skin.
  • There are 3 different types of baselayers lightweight, midweight and heavyweight. The heavier the clothing the warmer it will so choose wisely depending on the weather.
  • Merino wool baselayers are best. Will wick moisture effectively and is anti-microbial keeping foul odours at bay.
  • 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
  • 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
  • Softshells is a protective layer that provides additional warmth but more importantly, it will keep out wind chill.
  • For resting, or passive exercise like a trip to the pub, or watching a game insulated jackets or down jackets are great because that will effectively trap warmth even when you’re not moving.

Shop: Midlayers

The Outer Layer (Shell)

  • Protects you against wind and rain
  • This layer will allow sweat vapour to pass through and away from the body completely whilst still able to keep water out
  • This layer is usually a packable waterproof jacket that can be quickly thrown on and off depending on the weather.
  • An outer layer could also be a large insulated if the weather is nearly cold but dry.
  • There are various different types of waterproof material to learn about them in our waterproof guide  

Shop: Waterproof Jackets