Layering: Everyday Practice That Might Save Your Life

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Winter is just around the corner, and with that comes a lot of considerations. For those of us whose love of the outdoors doesn't stop when the temp drops below freezing, we need to adjust some of our gear for those dropping temperatures we will now be enduring.

Without going down the rabbit hole of which company has the best gear and why (we all have our favorites), it is probably best to discuss how to choose your equipment. Once you have a better idea of the characteristics of the gear you need, it will be easier to wade through the aisles of merchandise in your local REI, Cabela's, etc.

There are several activities done in a cold environment, so it is possible to have your kit be flexible enough to handle most, if not all, of those activities. The key to this is layers. Layers need to be comfortable, function as intended, be durable, and be packed down and stored conveniently in a standard backpack or ruck. Let's start with the outer layers first and work down the layers.

When hiking or hunting in cold areas, the body will heat up during movement, so you want something you can take off, which packs up small and manageable. A ton of companies have insulated jackets that pack down as little as a football or smaller. This advice is the same for waterproof outer shells; great to have and can be found from multiple manufacturers that pack down small.

Moving inward from the outer layer, a person can have a mid-layer or multiple intermediate layers depending on how cold it could be. Your comfort level is a factor here. Comfort comes with layers but never forget; ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain in an austere environment. This layer usually isn't waterproof or windproof but insulates the body well enough to be used by itself over your base layers. Again, there are many options out there that work great and pack down to a manageable size.

The last layer to consider is the base layer. Depending on how cold the environment is, the base layer can be socks, underwear, long johns, or t-shirts. Something to consider here is that this layer will probably be worn the longest and will be closest to the body. There are options out there that help combat body odor. Also, when the body starts to sweat, it will be this layer that wicks it away. For this reason, wool or a synthetic material specifically designed for this is best. Wool is great because even when it gets wet, it keeps its insulating properties.