The Art of the Layering System

By Brad Sipe, Contributor

The concept of layering is not new. Weekend warriors and athletes have been successfully layering their garments for years. Each layer is important but serves a different function. This art is a tried-and-true strategy that lets you regulate comfort by putting layers on and off as your activity level or the weather changes. To understand the layering concept in changing outdoor conditions you need to know the function of each layer.

Base (next to skin)- this layer needs to wick moisture off your skin
Mid (insulating layer)- this layer continues to move moisture but more importantly retains body heat to protect you from the cold
Outer (insulating layer)- this layer continues to wick moisture but more importantly shields you from the elements, like wind, rain, snow

It’s important to note that you need to have these layers in your possession to wear even if they are not needed. You can’t put layers on if you do not have them, but you can take them off if you need to.

Base Layer = Moisture Management

The next-to-skin layer or base layer’s job is moving moisture away from your skin via wicking. In cold conditions wicking base layers are needed to keep your skin dry. This is critically essential as this layer keeps you from becoming chilled or going into hypothermia. There are different weights with base layers and the general rule of thumb is the heavier the fabric the warmer you are. The real purpose of base layers is not to keep you warmer but to wick moisture away from your skin. So, look for a base layer that has optimal moisture management. One that is proven to have permanent moisture management and dries faster. Lakeland’s base layer is lightweight with permanent moisture management and has the optimal blend.

Middle Layer = Insulation

This middle layer moves moisture but helps you retain the heat that’s radiated from your body. The more efficient this layer is in retaining the heat, the warmer you will be. This layer is where the “art” of layering starts. This is where you wear different weights of fabric to protect you from the changing conditions. An example would be your first ski run in the morning where it’s frigid outside. So, you wear your base, a heavier weight mid layer and a protective outer shell (more on this layer later). Once your body starts to warm up and the day becomes a little warmer you substitute this layer for a lighter weight or just simply take it off. The mid layers should include different weight fabrics, the colder the weather the heavier the fabric. (I never end up the day wearing the same layering system as I started with in the morning). Look for companies that have different weight mid layer options to keep you drier and more comfortable. Lakeland’s mid layers come in different weight options including 8oz, 11oz, and 12oz. Each consist of permanent moisture management and optimal blend.

Outer Layer = Rain, Snow, & Wind Protection

Your outer layer should also wick moisture and have breathability, but more importantly protect you from wind, rain, and snow. Your outer shell is most important in stormy weather due to the fact if the wind and water penetrate to inner layers you will become chilled and this is where hypothermia ensues.

Most people error here by putting on a heavier outer shell that traps moisture and doesn’t protect you from the elements. Your outer wear should also be light weight allowing for more freedom of movement. Lakeland’s outerwear is the lightest weight in the industry with incredible stretch, water and wind resistance with a smooth, soft touch and incredible abrasion resistance.

Remember these critical factors and master the art of layering

  1. Choose a base layer that has optimal moisture management, these include:
  • Inherent permanent moisture management – This ensures the moisture management will last the life of the garment and does not have a finish on it that will eventually wash out.
  • Has the optimal blend of fibers to pull and push moisture through the fabric and spread it faster, which helps to dry more effectively. Ask us for the data-it is available. Be wary of marketing buzz words here.
  1. Choose mid layers that offer you options during varying outdoor conditions
  • Use different weights during changing conditions
  • Make sure they have inherent permanent moisture management
  1. Choose your outer wear that offers wind, rain, and snow protection
  • These should be light weight and have inherent permanent moisture management
  • Outerwear should be clearly defined to protect from wind and rain.
  • Layer from inside-out not from outside-in. This combination keeps you warmer and drier.

Moisture wicking technology was created to boost an athlete’s performance in extreme outdoor situations, keeping you drier and cooler in hot conditions and warmer, drier in cold conditions. The world’s top athletes wear high-performance garments and layering systems to optimize their performance and have better concentration on the task in front of them. Layering systems from Lakeland offer you these same advantages. Superior performance, protection, and comfort. ESW

Brad Sipe is Director of Business Development for Lakeland Industries’ High Performance FR product category (Lakeland.com).