What is the “3-layer system” for dressing warmly? Is this part of your winter weather defense?
Do you have your 3-layer system for dressing warmly and keeping you warmer figured out?
In most climates, regardless of how cold you don’t get, having some idea of how to make layering work for you and your family will make outdoor activities more fun.
Generally stepping outdoors in the late fall, winter and early spring means that you need to be able to stay reasonably warm. The Danish people live outdoors as much as time will allow. Their reply about the extreme weather temperatures, is “no bad weather, just bad clothes.”
To some point this is true. But how do you prepare for all the different stages of temperatures from cool to freezing? This is where the people who have become involved in outdoor activities in all seasons have helped the “granmoms” like me get out in the cooler times and stay comfortable.
This art of layering becomes my smart-tech thermostat. I can regulate my comfort by adding a layer or removing one as my activity level or the weather changes.
Why Layer Your Clothing
We have all done versions of layering, but I usually dressed in whatever I had in the closet, not considering what I needed each layer to do. Now that I know a bit more about how to get more from my clothes to stay warm, I think about what I need from each layer before making choices.
When you understand layering, and how to cool or heat your body for being outdoors, you can enjoy being in the fresh air and nature more. Even if it is only in the backyard or neighborhood park, not some mountain peak or a challenging day-long hike.
Let’s consider the function of each of your layers.
Your Base Layer
The base layer is otherwise referred to as your underwear layer. This layer’s purpose is to wick sweat off your skin. Many serious hikers recommend wool underwear.
I haven’t had many wool garments! And underwear is way down on the list of what I would consider comfy when made of wool. The other recommendation was to have synthetic fibers that are woven to wick the moisture from your body.
Synthetic is what I made sure to have as the wool thing is still “sticky” in my mind.
However, my husband likes his wool socks very well and they have surely held up well, making them a good buy for him.
My granddaughter assures me that she lives in her merino wool tank tops. Summer and winter. So, some room to grow my knowledge here. It was late June here in central Texas, and sure enough, she had one on at the time.
Now as I am learning more about how to layer, merino wool is sounding more reasonable.
So, the base layer should be woven of wicking fabric. An undershirt will also be needed in the winter or cooler weather times. You may not need this layer in the warmer times of the year.
This underwear should also be woven from wicking fabric as well. In warmer times, a lightweight tee shirt can work as an under layer, or outer layer, according to the temperature. According to the fabric content, and the wicking factor, of course.
Not so difficult as I finally understand what I need each layer to do. I just don’t want to be wet from my body’s sweat during the day. Choosing a fabric that pulls the moisture from my body will accomplish this.
The Middle Layer
Next, you will need a middle layer. This is the layer that helps hold body heat to keep you warm when it is cold.
This is known as the insulation layer. This layer should help you retain the heat that is radiated by your body. The better you can hold the heat your body makes, the warmer you will be. Polyester fleece is available in many weights. It also stays warm, even it if gets damp, and dries fast.
Poly-fleece will also breathe, helping to keep you from overheating. This makes you less likely to get too hot when wearing it, during cold weather.
Remember this about breathability. The wind blows right through, which can take the warmth your body makes.
This is why you need to have a “shell layer” with you if you’re going with a fleece middle layer. There is also the option to wear “wind fleece”, which includes an inner wind-blocking layer or finish on the outer side of the fleece. I think about a sweatshirt with a fleece lining.
As I understand that the middle layer is to insulate me and hold my body heat to keep me warm, I understand that this layer can often be in the form of another shirt. Of course, this is my central Texas history of mild winters. If I go to another part of the country where it gets colder fleece sounds good.
Now The Outer Shell
The outer layer or my shell layer is for the purpose of protecting me from the wind and rain.
You may not need to start out in all these layers. However, it is a good idea to have all the layers on every outing. Just peel off the layers if things warm up.
If you don’t take the outer layer, you won’t have the protection for staying comfortable in outdoor activities. It is easy to just pack in a backpack, or tie it around your shoulders or waist. This is especially important when you have children with you. That extra layer is important for younger ones to stay warm, and dry.
Suggestions For The 3-Layers
As there are often individual conditions to consider, let’s talk about a few of those. You may have other needs to accommodate when layering to stay warm.
Do you heat up quickly? Or do you sweat more when you are cooling down?
Is your skin sensitive to certain fabric blends? I am not as aware of the fabric sensitivity, and forget to make allowances for family members who are.
This layering won’t matter so much if you don’t plan to be out long. However, many of the excursions are now scheduled for a long day or full weekend. Staying flexible with the layers can allow you to adjust to warm up or cool down, whichever you need.
Think about the level of exercise you are planning and your personal metabolism. The following could keep you comfortable for moderate hiking for 4 or so hours a day.
Cool Or Cold Weather Suggestions
A Wearing lightweight polyester or merino wool long underwear top and bottom.
B A lightweight fleece jacket with synthetic fabric/blend for hiking pants.
C For the outer layer or shell, a lightweight waterproof but breathable rain jacket and pants. Vents can assure breathable ability.
Polyester underwear and a short-sleeve synthetic tee-shirt can make the base layer. Then a pair of convertible nylon hiking pants. A lightweight wind jacket should be the 3rd layer in your basic 3-layer dressing.
In hot weather, remembering your skin protection from the sun with sun blocking shirts and pants is important. It is often cooler to wear long-sleeve-wicking shirts than to apply sunscreen to your arms. There are also sleeves that protect your arms, with a short-sleeved tee shirt. These are light weight, can be sun blocking, and easy to pull on.
There are so many alternatives for each of these layers. The idea is to go with better options for you and your outdoor activities. What fits your budget?
Another important factor to be aware of is that you should take time to adjust the layers as you need to stay comfortable. When the wind lessens and the rain lets up, you can take off your shell when you are warm.
When you are hiking, and don’t warm up, add a middle layer. When there is a rest stop, many will add a layer to keep from getting cool when not exercising. Then remove it when moving again.
3-Layer Reminder About Base Layer
Your base layer or next-to-skin layer’s job is to move your perspiration away from your skin. This is known as “wicking.”
When you are outdoors in cooler conditions, wearing wicking long-underwear-style base layers will keep your skin dry. Staying dry is essential as it helps to keep you from becoming chilled.
You have a wide range of fabric options for your base layers, including synthetics like polyester and nylon. There are natural fibers like merino wool and silk.
There are subtle differences in wicking and drying with each of these materials.
When you think about odor retention and durability, I would do what most people do. Just go with their personal fabric preference. People who wear merino wool state that it smells clean longer than other items they have.
Base layer fabric weights offer options. Lightweight, midweight and heavyweight.
Usually, a heavier or thicker fabric will keep you warmer. However, caution should be used when combining the main purpose of the base layer with the insulation or middle layer.
Base layers need to wick the body moisture.
Fabric Technology Making A Difference
Warm-weather base-layer suggestions: Any summer shirt is really a base layer, so look for ones that also will wick moisture away from your skin.
Some shirts for warm weather spread the moisture out through the fabric, where evaporation helps with cooling. These aren’t usually marketed as a base layer. However, as your next-to-skin layer, they are comfortable.
Cotton is considered a less desirable fabric in the winter because it sponges up water. This can chill you. However, cotton can be okay if you’re outside on a super-dry, scorching summer day.
New fabric technologies, like wool infused with ceramic particles, will offer base layers that literally cool your skin for greater comfort.
Fleece Fabric, Down Insulation, Old Favorites Doing The Job In New Ways
Fleece offers many weights of fabric for building your 3-Layer base system. Paying attention to the thickness of the fabric is what helps make the fleece so useful. This attention will mean the success or failure of the layering efforts. Thicker fabric for colder weather conditions.
With down-insulated jackets, you can be ready for cool to really cold weather. Down packs well, as it mashes down. As with fleece, choosing your thickness will be the way to use this garment in your layering.
Down always has a shell, and a lining on top and bottom. So it makes a good wind or rainproof layer with the down. However, unlike fleece that will still protect you from the cold if it is a little damp, down loses its ability as an insulating layer when damp.
What Is Down Made Of?
This fact may or may not surprise you. Down isn’t made from feathers! Down insulation comes from goose or duck plumage. The plumage is the lofty, fluffy stuff underneath the feathers.
It is an undercoating or a natural mid-layer. This helps explain why down is considered nature’s best insulation. Down naturally creates high-loft clusters that trap air and body heat.
Synthetic insulated jackets: Synthetic insulations have long tried to offer down’s efficiency. It is coming closer to that standard every year. while synthetics don’t compress as well as natural down, they’re a popular option.
In rainy conditions they retain the ability to insulate when they get damp. And, like natural down, synthetic insulation is always inside a shell material that offers added water and wind resistance.
So is natural down really better than synthetic down?
Natural down is weight-for-weight a better insulator, so it’s more suitable than synthetic down for extremely cold conditions.
Very cold conditions are usually very dry conditions. Down is the ideal insulation for dry-cold climates and on expeditions and adventures where weight is an important factor, such as montain climbing.
The Outer Layer Is Important
Your outer layer protects you from wind, rain, and snow. These outer layers are usually referred to as the shell of you layering. Choices include the pricey mountaineering jackets to simple wind-resistant jackets.
Most allow at least some perspiration to escape; virtually all are treated with a durable water-repellent finish to make water beads that roll up and off the fabric.
During stormy weather the shell becomes very importment. If wind and water are allowed to soak to inner layers, you can get seriously chilled.
Shells are usually lumped into the following 4 categories:
Waterproof-breathable shells: The most functional, as well as expensive choice. Perform well for all needs.
Water-resistant-breathable shells: These are more suited to drizzly, breezy conditions and high activity levels. More affordable.
Soft shells: Most breathable. Most feature stretch fabric or fabric panels for added comfort during aerobic activities. Some combine light rain and wind protection with light insulation, making 2 layers into a single jacket.
Waterproof-nonbreathable shells: This is considered a bare-bones shell. Wear on rainy days with light to no activity, fishing, spectating. Often made of coated nylon, which is water- and windproof. Does not breathe at all.
3 Layer System
So, having a game plan for enjoying your time outdoors in cool and cold weather will make outdoor activities more enjoyable for your family.
We have many choices, and now the information for how to layer and get the best results. Helping your family understand what the different layers are and how to use them will make them have more fun too.
I remember having less than a plan, making outing not so much fun.
Having the right kind of clothing for what you are planning to do outdoors will make you look forward to being out. It is surely a way to be more active, and more healthy year round.
Don’t forget how important your sunglasses are for your eye protection when out doors, regardless of the season. Protecting your eyes and skin are year round necessities. The sun is bright and dangerous in all seasons of the year.
Remember your sunscreen for your face, reapplying every 2 hours. Wearing a wool hat with a brim can offer protection for both your head and face. Ears and back of the neck are first places for skin cancer.
Learn what the different tools you have to use to protect your skin from the sun are, and what they do. Make them work for you. Keep your skin safe from the sun.
Sami’s Take On What Is The 3 Layer System For Dressing Warmly
Taking the time to think through what you want the layers to do. This should make the whole question of finding a great cool weather solution for you to be comfortable outdoors.
I will admit I haven’t done much thinking about layers. Living in mild climates all my life, I have had little need for serious layers. However, with just a little thought to staying comfortable, not neccessarly how to stay warm should make it more fun to be outdoors in the cooler times.
Being able to add some information to make my layers work better for me should help me stay more comfortable, yet be warm in the cooler seasons.
I hope you will also be able to use some of the hints I learned and keep your family safe from the sun, and warmer for being outdoors.
What are your cool weather tips. We are learning here, and appreciate feed back from your experiences.