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Layer Up to Keep the Outdoor Action Going All Winter Long

Just because it is cold doesn't mean you can't enjoy the outdoors. Learn the basics of layering to stay warm and get out of the house. 

For most people, once the onslaught of cold has begun, their outdoor activities end. Most think only the truly bold or insane continue to venture out through the winter.

If you know how to properly layer your clothing, only the extreme cold should keep you holed up.

Layering your clothes properly is extremely simple. It consists of three parts: base layer, middle layer, and your shell. This system allows for maximum comfort while making it super easy to make adjustments as you go according to temperature fluctuations.

Let's break down each layer and how they work.

Base Layer

Your base layer essentially acts as a second set of skin. It consists of materials designed to wick moisture away to make regulating your body temperature easier.

This layer should not be overlooked as staying dry is extremely important in avoiding hypothermia. You want to avoid materials like cotton that absorb sweat and will leave you feeling chilled to the bone after a while.


The best base layers are made from synthetic materials or my personal favorite for winter, merino wool. Merino wool is lightweight, breathable, soft, and will easily keep you warm on the coldest of days.

The most popular brands are IceBreaker, SmartWool, Ibex, and OmniWool.

Middle Layer

Where your base layer is designed to keep you dry, the middle layer is your insulation to keep you warm.

The clothing worn keeps you warm by trapping air between you and it. The trapped air warmed by your body heat will help keep you nice and toasty. There are a number of clothing options and materials available including natural and man made.


Fleece or merino wool are probably the most popular choice by people today. They are lightweight, fast drying, and can even insulate when wet. For winter weather you will want a thicker fleece pullover in the mid-weight to expedition level weights.

Regular old wool is probably one of the best natural insulators on the planet. It has been used for centuries to keep people warm and still so today. It does have its drawbacks as wool pants and sweaters can be itchy and bulky. Wool is also harder to wash and loses its insulating abilities when wet.

Good options to look into are: Patagonia R2 Fleece, Pacific Trail Heavy Weight Puffer Vest, and NorthFace Thermoball Jacket.

Your Shell

This is your outer most layer or shell from the elements. The job of this layer is to block the wind, rain, and snow from piercing your other two layers.

When picking out jackets and pants, you should be looking for a few things: breathability, fit, and level of protection.

While having the correct level of protection from the weather you are in is important, you also want something that can breath. If it can't, the moisture the other layers are trying to wick away can't escape and will build up inside sucking away your warmth.

Fit is also important as you want something that can comfortably go over your other layers, but not restrict your ability to move freely.


Numerous types and styles available including soft shells, insulated shells, waterproof, and more. Unless you are spending some extensive time in the cold (days to a week or more) the expensive hardshells aren't really needed.

For hikes, skiing, or just some fun in the snow a basic hardshell or rain gear is best. A good pick for this is the Berghaus Baffin Island.

Just remember the whole point of layering is the ability to easily remove or replace layers as you go. Get to warm and take your shell/mid layer off, get cold throw them back on again.

A few other things you will want to grab is a thick pair of wool socks, some insulated boots, chute, gloves, and a warm hat.

Now layer up, slap Jack Frost across the face, and enjoy the wonderland of winter.

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SEE MORE: How to Choose Snowshoes for Winter Adventures

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Layer Up to Keep the Outdoor Action Going All Winter Long