An Absolute Guide to Layering

Absolute Guide To Layering


It's easy to think that wearing the thickest clothing possible on the mountain is the best way to keep warm, when in reality your expensive, technical jacket & pants will become completely useless if you get the system of layers beneath wrong.

Layering your breathable clothing can help you to keep warm, dry & comfortable through varying conditions, allowing you to add or remove layers depending on how you feel & the conditions you’re in.

In this guide we'll offer you all the advice you need for how to layer up correctly.

There are 3 main elements to successful layering... so let's peel back the layers.




This layer is the only one in direct contact with your skin, so of course you want something that will be kind to it. This layer should be tight fitting so it traps air next to the skin and insulates the body from the cold. Its main purpose is to transport, or 'wick' perspiration away from your skin and move it towards the surface of the fabric so that it can evaporate. If your base-layer holds moisture, you'll quickly start to feel cold when you
slow down or stop for a rest.


Traditional woollen base-layers scratch and can be very uncomfortable, but merino wool is super fine and soft against your skin. Unlike synthetic base-layers, wool fibres actually absorb moisture whilst remaining dry to the touch. Wool is lighter than synthetic fabrics but provides the same amount of warmth and is very durable. Plus it's highly breathable and naturally odour-resistant, so it’s a good choice if you’ll be working up a sweat, and your friends will thank you! The drawbacks with wool? It does take slightly longer dry out than synthetic fabrics and is generally more expensive.


Synthetic base-layers tend to move perspiration rapidly and are very quick drying. These fabrics, such as polyester, make great base-layers. The drawbacks of synthetic fabrics? They can retain odours if not washed regularly. However, many brands have started using antimicrobial treatments to try to cut down on unwanted smells so keep an eye out for these!


Snow Base-LayersOutdoor Base-Layers


This is your key insulation layer. Mid-layers should be used as your adjustable layer which you can add or remove depending on ocnditions. Its task is to trap the heat that your body generates, whilst continuing to help move moisture outward, keeping you warm and dry on the move and whilst resting. Your mid-layer has to fit under your jacket so avoid anything too bulky but keep in mind that you also have to fit your base-layer underneath.


Down is extremely lightweight yet provides incredible insulation and warmth. The drawbacks of down? It is slow to dry and loses a lot of its insulating value when it becomes wet. It also needs to be well cared for to remain in good condition and objects such as ski brakes and snowboard edges could rip the fabric.


Choosing wool for your mid-layer is also a great natural option. The same benefits of wool base-layers apply to mid layers – it remains warm even when it’s wet and offers superior odour-resistant capabilities. The drawbacks of wool? If you get too warm and it gets soaked with moisture it will not dry out quickly and becomes less effective as a removable layer.


Polyester fleece is great as a mid-layer as it's full of insulating air pockets which trap warm air. Fleece offers a superior warmth-to-weight ratio in comparison to wool, is durable & absorbs very little moisture. The drawbacks of Polyester Fleece? It can be bulky to carry so make sure you look for something that's warm whilst being compressible enough to carry in a small pack, such as garments that use Primaloft type insulation. Synthetic insulators are generally less expensive than natural ones, they dry out quickly, are easy to care for & when wet they keep a lot of their original insulating value.


Snow Outer-LayersOutdoor Outer-Layers


The outer-layer is there to protect you from the elements and is what people tend to spend the most money on. It must be breathable to allow the moisture from your inner layers to escape and large enough to fit over your inner layers whilst allowing free movement. When choosing this layer you should also consider how your jackets cuffs, collar, hood etc. will integrate with your gloves, boots & helmet.


These are generally heavier and don't pack down so small but, if you're going to be in extremely cold conditions or need extra warmth, a jacket and pants with built-in insulation could be for you. However if you'll be experiencing varying conditions they aren’t as versatile as a shell type system.


A hardshell provides the most weather protection. Hardshells are a technical layer designed to be windproof, waterproof and breathable. They’re lighter weight and pack smaller than other outer layer options. Typically, the fabrics are made of two or three layers bonded together to form a single textile. Generally, the more expensive the product, the better the breathability of these fabrics it's made with. When choosing your perfect layer, make sure you look for features like durable water repellent (DWR) coatings and seam taping which increase capacity to shed water and prevent it from getting inside.


Softshells can be very versatile as they offer slightly more insulation than a hardshell and are windproof and will shed light precipitation. They are flexible and air permeable, meant to protect but not to provide as much shelter as a hardshell. They do offer good breathability, along with stretch and comfort, but they don’t offer anywhere near the same level of protection from rain or snow as a hardshell.


CREDIT: Mons Royale (

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