Basics for Layering

Layering: The Basics

Wearing multiple levels or layers of clothing is called layering. Layering correctly can help preserve body heat and insulate in even the coldest conditions. Sufficient layering can allow you to have full mobility in function, no matter the temperature!

There are 3 basic layers to consider but layers can be added or removed depending on activity levels and temperatures. The Base Layer helps keep skin dry by wicking away moisture. The Mid Layer Keeps heat in by insulating body heat. The Outer Layer keeps cold out and protects from the harsh elements. 

Options for Layers

Base Layer - Dry Layer

Whether working or playing in the cold, the biggest challenge won't be staying warm, it will be staying dry. At some point in the day, you will sweat and that moisture build-up can be dangerous. A good base layer should keep a layer of warm air against the skin and wick away moisture. Ideally, your base layer will be fast drying and won't absorb moisture. Avoid natural fibers like cotton, those tend to absorb moisture and stick with something synthetic like a polyester blend.

Mid Layer - Insulation Layer

The insulation layer should be a non-bulky boundary layer that creates a pocket of warm air that surrounds your body and keeps body heat in. How thick your insulation should be, depends on your individual activity level. High activity levels call for lighter insulation material, lower activity calls for thicker insulation, and medium activity would be in between the two. Insulation that is too thick can cause more perspiration and create too much moisture, it is possible to overheat even in the cold. Polyester is most efficient for its weight as it insulates even when wet.

Outer Layer - Shell Layer

The shell layer protects against the harsh temperatures, but also should allow the user to regulate internal heat by venting. There are different variations of a shell layer specialized for the environment like rain, wind, snow, or cold. This layer can be waterproof or water-resistant, windproof, breathable, or ventilated depending on the function. A good shell layer should be built tough for the elements.

Accessories - Hands, Feet, Neck, & Head

Protecting your extremities is the most important part of layering. Your hands, feet, neck, and head are usually the first parts of the body to experience the cold, and often are the most needed body parts to function. Most of the heat is lost through your head, so protecting your head and neck can prevent most of the heat loss when working in the cold. An insulated hat and neck gaiter can cover your exposed skin near your face so you can focus on the task at hand. Thermal socks and polyester gloves and boot liners can be used to reinforce gloves and boots. 


There is no one-size-fits-all option. Everyone's comfort level and job function are different. Sometimes a thicker base layer and a lighter mid-layer is the option, some environments won't require an outer layer and a hat may suffice. Experiment with what works best for you, every job is different.