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Style and Function: A Guide to Effective Layering

Layering is the key to keeping warm effectively on a cold day. Choosing the right type of clothes to layer can help you look appropriate for the occasion while still staying practically warm throughout the day.

Layering is one of the most important aspects of keeping warm in cold weather. Selecting the right type of layering is key to ensuring long-lasting comfort on a stormy, chilly, or snowy day.

The type and volume of your layers will heavily depend on the activity you choose to do outside. Merely going for a stroll or doing an errand may require a different set of layered clothes compared with a ski trip or other winter sports. Too often, people tend to overdress when layering. Sometimes, you end up wearing too many clothes that clash visually or be better suited for a different set of activities than the one you wore them for.

The number of layers you would actually need will depend heavily on how cold it likely will be. As a general rule, it is often better to bring additional clothing along with you during a trip. This will allow you to wear and cast off layers of clothing as needed.

The Basics of Layers

To understand the importance of choosing the right garments for layering, it is important to remember the purposes of each of the three main layers and their purpose. The innermost layer is designed to wick away sweat from your skin as it evaporates. The middle layer creates a barrier that traps the heat generated by the body, creating a warm pocket of air. The final outer layer is watertight and is meant to not only serve as a secondary pocket of warm air but also as a barrier against wind and water, which can compromise the insulating properties of the second layer.

The system of layers mimics the way furry mammals retain heat in cold weather. Most mammals rely on a thick layer of fur and fat to maintain their body heat and keep them warm in the height of winter. Fat and inner fur are designed to trap body heat, while the outer guard hairs are designed to retain heat and prevent the penetration of water.

Layer Style

Clothes should be worn as a mix of style and function, and winter clothing is no exception. Choosing the appropriate types of winter clothing will not only keep you satisfactorily warm but also make you look your best in the appropriate situations. Taking function into account will help you choose clothes that match more and clash less while still being very practical.

A meeting in the office during winter, for instance, will probably not require anything more than a heavy waterproof coat and jacket. Meanwhile, watertight and brightly colored clothing like Arcteryx ski pants, men’s shell jackets, and thermal tuques are probably best suited for active wintertime undertakings like winter sports and hiking.

Layer for the Weather

Not all layers are created equal. Some types of clothing are better suited for different weather types. You usually wouldn’t have to wear that many layers on a cold day. A thick insulated jacket may be enough to keep you warm (and looking sharp) during a chilly autumn day. A rainy day may require you to wear a raincoat if you’re staying outside for any length of time.

Winter clothes have, in general, thicker insulation and use fabrics that retain the heat better. Whereas thicker natural fibers can be used for ordinary insulating clothing, the more lightweight and agile synthetics are frequently used in activewear to maintain mobility. Winter outerwear is typically coated with waterproof material on the outside that doesn’t soak. This would allow water to slide off of the outerwear and not saturate the typically more sensitive inner layers.

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