Layering Clothes: The Key to Staying Warm


September 10, 2021


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Layering system - Fall hiking

This fall or winter, don’t let cooler temps keep you from enjoying your hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or camping adventures. Make sure you have the right clothes to adapt to any situation, temperature, activity or level of perspiration. Here’s an overview of how layering clothes will keep you warm, no matter how good or bad the weather is.

Learn more about the layering system, a technique that involves layering clothes to preserve your body heat:

  1. What is the layering system?
  2. 1. The base layer
  3. 2. The mid layer
  4. 3. The outer layer
  5. Layering clothes: More tips

Find everything you need to adopt this layering method by browsing our different collections of clothing for men, women and kids.

Women’s clothingMen’s clothingKids’ clothing


What is the layering system?

To enjoy your favourite activities without fear of getting too cold or too hot, layering is the way to go! Layering is a system of clothing items that you can put on, or take off, depending on your level of activity, to help regulate body temperature. The layering system includes: a base layer, a mid layer, and a good outer layer that are more effective and versatile than one big winter jacket and snowpants. You can either layer and enhance your different layers if the cold gets too intense, or remove it one by one if you get too hot.

Layering is also useful in all types of weather. No need to buy a new jacket with each change of season. For example, fall afternoons are relatively warm while evenings are cooler. It’s easier to start the day wearing layers and remove them as your body warms up than to do the opposite. And this rule applies just as much in the fall as it does in the winter or spring.

As layering clothes will help you regulate your body temperature, depending on the intensity of the activity you want to do, a high-intensity activity where you’re likely to sweat a lot, such as trail running, will require fewer layers of clothing than if you’re standing still by a campfire.

1. The base layer

The base layer is the foundation for your layering system. The base layers’ main responsibility is wicking moisture away from your skin which helps regulate temperature and keep you comfortable. Generally made from merino wool or fleece, your base layer should be quick-drying, absorb humidity, and be able to wick moisture.

Merino undergarments are warm and antibacterial. Despite the sweat and time spent outside, the fabric will not emit bad odours and will retain body heat, even when wet! Ideal for athletes who tend to sweat more or do a sport that requires a sustained level of endurance (such as cross-country skiing or snowshoeing), the base layer is a definite must.

Quick-dry shirts made of polyester can also work well as a base layer. Cotton materials should be avoided as they take a significantly longer time to dry when compared to wool or polyester. If you’re going to be doing any water activities, it is recommended to use polypropylene as it will keep you warm even if it gets wet, and it will dry quickly.

Your underwear is a base layer, too. Don’t underestimate it, because it also factors into the equation. So, pay attention to what you’re wearing underneath your clothes.

Women’s baselayersMen’s baselayersKids’ baselayers

2. The mid layer

The warmth you get from your base layer is not enough in colder temperatures. To trap body heat even more effectively, layering clothes with a middle layer is a must. The insulating layer is one you will find being put on and taken off the most frequently of all layering pieces.

Made of synthetic fibre and down, this layer will keep you warmer when the temperature drops.

Despite the accumulation of sweat, the synthetic fibre maintains its insulation qualities and doesn’t lose its shape during your activities. It is highly effective at wicking moisture and dries quickly. And it is well suited for anyone doing high-intensity activities such as cross-country skiing, ice climbing or snowshoeing.

Down is warmer and more compressible than synthetic fibre. When wet, however, it doesn’t insulate as well or dissipate odours if you sweat a lot. It is therefore recommended for those who do medium or low intensity activities, or for those who take several breaks during their activities.

The air absorption capacity per cubic inch guarantees the insulation of the down contained in the mid layer. This index, called fill power, generally varies between 650 and 850. The higher the fill power, the less air will be absorbed by the down, keeping you more protected from the cold. Our tip: For warmth, choose a layer with an 80/20 down to feather ratio.

3. The outer layer

When layering clothes, the role of the outer layer, also known as the hard shell, is to protect you from the elements, keeping you dry from precipitation, and blocking the wind. It must be lightweight, compressible, breathable and wear-resistant for long-term protection. Its internal seams must also be sealed to prevent water from seeping in. It is made up of three elements that are important to consider.

I. The outer layer

In direct contact with the outside climate, this first layer of nylon or polyester is treated with a waterproof water repellent finish. In order to strengthen its ability to repel moisture and water, it needs a lining just beneath it.

II. The membrane

Designed for breathability and long-lasting waterproofing, the membrane is essential for protecting you from rain and snow. Membranes are made of microporous Teflon fibres. Among the brands that offer this type of membrane areMammut (DRYtech™), Marmot (NanoPro™), The North Face (DryVent™ and Gore-Tex™) and many others.

III. The lining

Its quilted pattern allows it to breath and wick moisture. For the lining to be effective, spaces in the weave must be smaller than a drop of water, but larger than a molecule of air.

Women’s shellsMen’s shells

Layering clothes: More tips

  1. First, take into account the elements (wind, rain, snow) you plan to face and remember to check out the forecast before you head out. It will help you to decide how heavy (or thick) of a base layer you will want to wear.
  2. Complete your layering with a multipurpose headband that absorbs moisture, a breathable polar fleece beanie, some warm and waterproof gloves to layer on top, and a second pair of socks that will act as a membrane against friction.
  3. Having an extra insulating layer in your backpack is a good way to stay warm, especially during a break in activity, when hanging around the campfire, or if you are doing a very low-intensity activity.

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