The Layering System - How To Layer Clothing

Most people have some kind of idea of what layering clothing is about. If it’s cold, layer up – and if it’s warm, you wear fewer layers to stay cool.

Most people have some kind of idea of what layering clothing is about. If it’s cold, layer up – and if it’s warm, you wear fewer layers to stay cool.

However, there’s much more to it than that. And it’s vital to layer clothes properly to ensure you stay at a safe and comfortable temperature.

Not only is layering important for safety, but it’s also essential for enjoying the great outdoors during winter. You don’t want to be cooped up inside for three months, do you? So, Winfields is here to explain the layering system.

Read on to discover how to layer clothing properly ahead of your next outdoor adventure…

What is the layering system?

Simply put, the layering system is how you should layer your clothing successfully. If done correctly, it’ll significantly help to regulate your body temperature throughout testing weather conditions.

Of course, we most commonly think about layering when it comes to staying warm in cold weather, but it also allows us to adapt to warmer weather (should we need to) when hiking, climbing, etc.

Layers are usually categorised into three sections. These sections include base layers, mid-layers and outer layers. However, there can be additional layers depending on what type of activity you enjoy doing.

How layering works

Each layer has a different job to do. But still, the overall goal is to trap air between each layer, which acts as insulation and keeps you warm. This is why it’s better to wear several thin layers than one thick one.

It’s also important that the layers allow moisture to escape away from your body, or you’ll feel damp and cold.

Why is layering important?

This might sound a little daft – we’ve already said that layering is about regulating your body temperature, but it’s essential to understand more about how and why we get cold and how layering actually works.

In short, if we become too cold when exploring the outdoors, we can get into serious trouble, putting ourselves at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and other conditions. Likewise, if we become too warm, we can become dehydrated or suffer from heatstroke.

Why do we get cold?

We know it’s incredibly important not to let our body temperature drop too much, but how do we actually get cold? There are four main ways:


Our bodies naturally create and radiate heat – and if we’re not careful, we give off too much, which makes us feel cold. 

You’ll often hear people say we lose most heat through our heads, which is both true and false. We lose most heat through our chest and torso (that’s where our internal organs are).

However, because those are usually covered, we lose a higher percentage through our heads. That’s why it’s always recommended to wear a hat in cold weather.


Our body’s built-in cooling system is to sweat when we get too warm, and when the sweat evaporates, it cools us. 

But, if you’re in a cold environment, you may lose too much heat through evaporation and not be able to warm yourself fast enough.

This is why breathable clothing is always worthwhile for outdoor activities, as the moisture can then be moved away from your body. Clothes that retain moisture (e.g. cotton t-shirts) keep sweat (or water) closer to your skin, which makes you feel cold.



Convection cools us down by cold air coming into contact with us, warming up and then being replaced by a new lot of cold air. This constant supply of cold air to your body will end up lowering your body temperature unless you can insulate yourself.


This is where you lose heat by touching something that’s colder than you. Your heat then transfers to this object, and its cold comes the other way.

When hiking, your feet will be in constant contact with the ground, making good quality walking boots and socks essential, while climbers need to be wary of their hands getting cold.

Cold rain, sleet or snow will also make you colder as conduction occurs when each drop hits your skin.

Base layers


  • The layer closest to your skin.
  • They trap air against your body.
  • Must allow moisture to wick (move away from) the skin.
  • Can be worn on their own on warm days or during intense exercise.
  • Do not wear a t-shirt as a base layer as they retain moisture which can make you cold.

Shop our men’s, women’s and children’s base layer collections.



  • Worn over the top of a base layer.
  • Acts as insulation, trapping warm air in and keeping cold air out.
  • Like base layers, the mid-layer should be breathable to allow moisture to wick from the body.
  • Fleeces & softshells make ideal mid-layers.
  • Good to wear with just a base layer for mild weather and light exercise.
  • Stylish enough to wear for everyday use.

To shop the Kathmandu Womens Waikawa Full Zip Midlayer Fleece shown in the image, click here.

Outer layers


  • Worn as the outermost layer, over the top of the mid-layer.
  • The most common outer layer is a waterproof jacket.
  • Depending on your activity, can be waterproof, windproof or insulated.
  • A breathable outer layer is ideal, with a membrane such as GORE-TEX – which is waterproof and breathable.
  • Should be lightweight and easy to pack away as needed.


Other layers

Of course, you aren’t limited to just three layers, and you should adjust the number of layers you use according to the weather and the level of exercise you’re doing.

For example, you may want an extra layer of insulation between the mid-layer and outer shell in extra cold weather. Similarly, if it’s warm and wet, you can leave out the mid-layer and just use a base layer and outer layer.

You can also use different types of tops and jackets for each layer (apart from the base layers). So, you can use a soft shell jacket as your mid-layer, but as they offer a decent level of breathability and waterproofing, they can sometimes also be used as an outer layer.

The type of activity can also affect this. For example, if you’re climbing then you don’t want to be burdened by thick layers, so more lightweight clothing is preferable.

3-in-1 jackets

3-in-1 jackets are waterproof coats with a detachable inner fleece, making them a great way of combining a mid-layer and an outer layer.

It’s easy to attach and detach the fleece, and because they’re part of the same garment, you know they will fit well. All you need is a base layer to go underneath.

Read more: 3-in-1 Jacket Buying Guide

Shop essential layers at Winfields Outdoors

Ensuring you have the proper kit is vital to getting the most enjoyment from outdoor pursuits, whether it is a light walk with family or a strenuous hike up in the mountains.

At Winfields Outdoors, we stock a wide range of premium outdoor clothing for men, women and kids, with plenty of sizes, styles and colours, and designs to choose from. 

So, if you’re interested in stocking up on high-quality layers ahead of your next outdoor adventure, check out the rest of our website today.


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