Hikers, skiers and anyone else who likes to indulge in some outdoor adventure will be familiar with the layering system. However, even experienced hikers can struggle to find clothing that is suitable for a range of conditions. And if you’re new to the outdoors life, finding the right clothing can be even more of a challenge, or you might not realize just how useful layering is. But as you’ll see from this article, layering has multiple benefits and functions.
Benefits of Layering:
The benefits of layering include:
Flexibility – a layering system allows you to adapt your clothing as and when you need to. Once you start to feel hot, some of the layers can be removed. If your body starts to cool down too quickly, or the weather conditions change, you can simply slip your layers back on.
Comfort – staying comfortable is a necessity if you are going to enjoy your outdoor pursuits. Getting your layering right will help you to stay snug. And by packing/wearing enough layers, you can adjust them to achieve the right level of comfort.
Lightweight – you want to stay warm outside, but you don’t want your clothing to weigh you down. Heavy clothing will hinder your activities and become difficult to carry. Ideally, you want items that are easy to fold up and light enough to carry, but still enough to keep in the warmth, and this is why a layering system works so well.
The Different Layers
Layering begins with the base layer. The base layer’s main purpose is to keep you dry by wicking away the moisture that starts to gather on your skin once the body heat starts to build and your body sweats. Choose something that fits closely, but not so much that it is uncomfortable, and make sure it is in the correct size. Base layers are usually light, but you might want to opt for a midweight or heavyweight material depending on the environment. However, don’t limit yourself to just one base layer - take extras so you have some further flexibility.
The insulating layer keeps you warm by preventing cold air from getting in and stopping warm air escaping. As with the base layer, the insulating layer will need to be a snug fit - and don’t feel you need to limit yourself to just one. Depending on the conditions, you might want the choice of at least a couple of insulation layers so you have the option of layering up further.
The shell layer or the outer layer will keep out the worst of the wind and the rain. This layer needs to be water resistant, but look for materials that are durable as it will be exposed to a lot of harsh environmental factors. You can also add an additional middle layer, especially if the weather conditions are likely to be more severe.
Qualities To Look For In Layers
Each layer you choose should have specific qualities if it is to do its job well. Look for the following attributes:
- The base layer is usually lightweight and should be made from materials that won’t let you become saturated when your body sweats or of the weather turns bad.
- Insulating layers should be breathable and lightweight, but enough to keep you warm. It needs to have wicking capabilities, and ideally, it should have antimicrobial properties to lower the chances of it developing an odor if it gets wet.
- The shell layer needs both breathability and water resistance as its key components, but it needs to be durable, too.
Suitable Materials For Layering
There are some materials you should avoid such as cotton; although cotton is lightweight, it doesn’t have wicking capabilities. However, the following materials are considered suitable for layering: Alpaca, fleece, some types of wool, nylon, goose down and polyester. Alpaca and merino are now becoming firm favorites among hikers. These materials are suitable for base layers, and they are also used in insulation and shell layers.
By building layers, you’ll have the perfect system for keeping comfortable and dry when outside. Usually, layering begins with a base layer, followed by an insulation layer and finished with a shell layer. Pack additional layers so you have a fully adaptable system and wear an extra layer if the conditions are bad.
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