Clothing, Guides, How To

How to Layer Outdoor Clothing

Please note that this guide is focused on the generalisation of layering regardless of the season and weather conditions. Clothing is designed to protect the body from the elements and maintain comfort and function. Every layer has a specific function that is crucial when slipping layers on and off. There are at least three layers of clothing that should be adhered to in order to have effective protection, comfort and function.

This guide will also cover other clothing such as footwear, headwear and gloves. These items normally do not conform to the layering of clothing however some products combine the layering that is used with clothes. You may also notice that some clothes provide a solution for more than one layer, however this can be problematic as taking it off would remove both layers and not allow you to slip off layers based on the changing environment.

The Base Layer for Moisture Management

The base layer is the first item of clothing that should be considered for comfort and function. The comfort is to ensure that the clothing does not irritate the skin for a long period of time. The function is to move moisture away from the body and ensure that humidity does not irritate the skin as well. It is recommended that any material that absorbs water and moisture be avoided as a base layer.

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The Mid Layer for Insulation Trapping

Mid layers are focused on heat insulation and breathability for function and is most commonly known as a soft shell or fleece (although not limited to these types of clothes). In a way, you can consider the mid layer to be similar to the base layer, however it does not need to be as comfortable as it doesn’t touch the skin as much. The requirements of the base layer on the other hand are very similar as the mid layer is focused on retaining the body’s warmth and helping move moisture away from the body.

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The Outer Layer for Direct Protection

The outer layer is the most familiar layer for both the amateur and the most outdoor savvy of enthusiasts. Otherwise known as the protective layer against the elements (snow, rain, wind, mud), the outer layer comprises of a mixture of different types of clothes which are focused on providing a balance between breathability and protection. These outer layer  clothes include, hard shells, soft shells and insulated jackets.

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The Footwear, Headwear and Gloves

Not Just the Feet, but the Heads and the Hands Too. It’s important to note that anything that directly touches the skin should conform to the requirements of a base layer. Socks are a perfect example as comfort and breathability is very important. Once again, cotton are not recommended as sweat will not only create discomfort but also lead to irritation of the skin. 


Shoes are another essential which should be considered based on the activity. The most important property for shoes should be comfort and breathability. There are different types of shoes that are available for different outdoor activities. Walking boots are great for rough terrain where ankle support and heavy steps are important. The only issue with walking boots is that they are generally heavy and can cause fatigue. Walking shoes or trail running shoes on the other hand, sacrifice protection for comfort which is very useful for flatter surfaces due to their flexibility and light materials.

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Headwear is a very useful item of clothing that helps protect the head and face from the cold, rain and is also for UV protection against prolonged exposure to the sun. Many mid layer and outer layer jackets already provide a hood for protection and sometimes that is adequate enough. All headwear generally needs to be comfortable and lightweight, whether it be hats, glasses or scarves as they generally stay worn throughout the outdoor activity.

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Gloves are basically socks for the hands. Although this is not necessarily wrong, it is a bit more involved as the hands require dexterity and protection from physical interaction with outdoor elements (yes it’s obvious). it is very important however to ensure that the right size gloves are used for thIt is very important for the right size of gloves to be used at their full potential dexterity.

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