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How To Layer Your Clothing

The tri-layering outdoor clothing system

The principle of layering your outdoors clothing is widely regarded as the way to protect and keep yourself comfortable when exercising outdoors.

The principle comes from the mountains where your outdoor clothing environment can quickly become a matter of life and death rather than simply a mater of comfort.

The basic idea is a moisture management system that allows the body to breathe and maintain its temperature without becoming too cold, too hot or too wet.

Outdoor clothing - The Base Layer

The base layer is the layer of clothing next to the skin. It should be breathable – able to wick perspiration away from the body to the outside of the fabric. It is in this way that these base layers differ from traditional cotton based fabrics which absorb moisture and become sticky and heavy if worn while perspiring.

These base layers are also more lightweight and less bulky than traditional cotton based fabrics – another added benefit when playing sport.

All the technical running clothing and outdoors clothing brands have vests, short sleeved t-shirts and long sleeved tops that perform this function.

The brands all have their own versions of this ‘wicking’ base layer technology:

  • Nike – Dri Fit & Sphere React base layer
  • adidas – Climacool base layer
  • New Balance – Pro Dry Plus base layers
  • Saucony – Hydralite, Hydrator base layers
  • Asics – Duotech base layer
  • Brooks – Vapor Dry base layer
  • Ron Hill – Viloft (thermal as well as wicking) base layer
  • Montane – Sportwool Bionic base layer
  • Gore – Flash Breathable base layer
  • Helly Hansen – Unique Polypropylene base layer

Compression Base Layersh2>

More recently, a new type of compression clothing base layers (for example Skins and Nike Pro) have come on the market.

These products offer the same breathable benefits as the more traditional breathable base layer but they also compress the muscles in specific areas which can help manage the build up of lactic acid. The manufactures of these products have scientific research that proves if worn during sport they will speed up your recovery time.

They are at the cutting edge of clothing technology right now.

The Middle ‘Insulating’ Layer

The middle layer of the tri-layering system is made of insulating fleece (or micro-fleece as it is sometimes known).

This fleece layer keeps the body warm while allowing the sweat to continue its journey away from the body – thereby keeping you comfortable and dry.

Fleece jackets and fleece tops are worn for sporting outdoor and leisure use largely because they are very warm, comfortable and lightweight. You would be hard pressed to find a modern household without a few fleeces in it!

The Outer Layer

The 3rd and final ‘outer’ layer needs to perform a number of functions:

  • It needs to be windproof
  • It needs to keep out water (waterproof jackets or splash-proof jackets)
  • It needs to be breathable and allow perspiration to exit your clothing environment and into the atmosphere

The industry standard for outer layer, jacket fabric is Gore-Tex – incredibly lightweight, 100% waterproof, wind proof and breathable. This jacket fabric stops water getting in but allows perspiration out. But as you might expect for the ‘marquee’ product in this arena – Gore-Tex jackets are expensive, but there are cheaper products on the market which do similar jobs.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between 100% waterproof jackets (with taped seams) and water / shower resistant jackets (not taped seams) which will keep you dry to a certain extent but not completely - water can still enter the seams of the garment. Obviously this is reflected in the price of the product with 100% waterproof jackets being more expensive. The right option for you depends on your budget and what you need to do in it.

The Layering Outdoor Clothing System is Flexible

All 3 layers can be used on their own as individual layers or in different combinations depending on the climatic conditions.

Click here for more guides and advice.

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