How To Dress In Layers
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When you head to the mountains for adventure, you never know exactly what the forecast will bring over the course of your trip. Even in a single day, the weather and temperatures can change dramatically. The best way to prepare for unexpected conditions, including unpredicted rain and snow, is to pack layers.
Why dress in layers?
Instead of relying on a single, thick layer to do everything, utilize thin, packable layers for flexibility. Layering clothing not only maximizes comfort, but it can also be a lifesaver in emergency situations. Staying warm and dry prevents hypothermia in winter conditions.
Match your layers to the weather, temperatures, and activity. High temperatures or moving hard? Peel off a layer to cool down. Stop moving or bad weather rolls in? Add an insulating layer and a waterproof shell to shield yourself from the elements.
Packing strategic layers also lightens your load, and you’ll have more room in your carry-on or backpack.
How to pick your layers?
Each layer plays an important role to keep you warm and dry.
Start with a base layer top like the KÜHL SKAR CREW. Sitting directly against your skin, base layers regulate body temperature by wicking moisture away from your skin. Wicking materials move perspiration to the outside of the layer where it can be evaporated.
Select a base layer bottom made from a synthetic fabric like polyester or from a natural fabric like merino wool. Wool is naturally wicking and odor resistant, while synthetic layers will retain odor over time.
Wear an insulating mid layer to trap air close to your body and retain heat. The key to good insulation is loft. Loft is the ability of insulation to fluff up and retain heat. Natural down and synthetic fibers create thousands of tiny air pockets which trap warm air. The greater the loft, the warmer the layer will be. 800-fill goose down creates very high loft.
For dry and cold conditions, down sweaters like the KÜHL SPYFIRE SERIES provide superior warmth-to- weight ratios and are highly compressible. Just remember: down must stay dry to maintain
its insulating properties.
Fleece is another option for an insulating layer. Fleece is lightweight, breathable and insulates even when wet. Fleece dries faster than down, but it’s not as compressible or wind resistant. The KÜHL MEN'S INTERCEPTR SERIES and ALSKA 1/4 ZIP are great options for insulating mid layers.
Outer layers, or shells, protect you from wind, rain or snow. If wind and water penetrate your inner layers, you will feel cold. Without proper ventilation, perspiration can't evaporate and instead condenses on the inside of your shell.
Hard shells are waterproof, breathable and best for wet conditions and alpine activities.
Durable Water Repellency (DWR) finish helps water bead up and roll off your outer layer. For better breathability during aerobic activities, a soft shell is best. Soft shells often feature stretch panels or fabric for added comfort during intense activity.
Tips for picking layers
Before you update your outdoor wardrobe, consider the following tips:
Don’t choose an all-cotton fabric for your base layer; cotton retains perspiration and will leave you
Size each layer so it can be worn with the other layers. Base layers should fit snugly against your skin for the best wicking performance and temperature regulation. Make sure your insulation piece fits over your base layers and under your shell. Your outer shell should fit well but needs to fit over your both your base and mid layers.
Easily cool off or warm up with features like hoods, collars, mesh vents and zippers. When the mercury rises, pop the hood off, unzip, and keep trekking.
There is no perfect solution for all seasons.
Adjust layers for each season. What works well for summer backpacking trips won’t work for winter ski trips. Winter requires more insulation; consider switching from synthetic to a wool base layer for extra warmth.
Wrap Up for Warmth
Use a layering strategy to stay warm, dry and safe wherever your next adventure takes you. Don’t be afraid to experiment and add new layers over time.