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How To Properly Layer Clothes For Cold Weather

Why let the cold weather stop you from getting out and enjoying the great outdoors this winter? This guide on how to properly layer clothes for cold weather will ensure that you stay just the right temperature so you can get out, explore, and have fun without freezing or sweating! With a little bit of know-how, cold weather won’t be stopping you this snowy season!

Layer 1: The Base Layer

Without a good base layer, you won’t be able to successfully stay warm while spending time out in cold weather! Base layers sit close to your skin, and help to keep moisture from accumulating, which will make you feel cold and can encourage hypothermia! A long-sleeved, thin base layer with moisture-wicking capabilities is best, especially if it has thumb holes, which will prevent a gap from being exposed between your gloves and your clothing!

Thermal base layers come in different weights, which are suitable for different purposes: lightweight for light, non-strenuous activity and mild temperatures; mid-weight for moderate movement; and expedition-weight for extreme temperatures. Evaluate and anticipate your expected activity levels and environmental temperatures when choosing a weight of your base layer! Although it may seem like a good idea because of its breathability, avoid using cotton as your base layer, as it does not wick away moisture! A breathable, natural material is ideal, such as merino wool, which is also great at wicking away moisture, even when wet!

Layer 2: The Middle Layer

Although it may seem intuitive to throw on a heavy parka and head out, it is important to find a breathable, insulating middle layer to help keep you warm! As with your base layer, it is important to consider your activity level and temperatures when choosing a middle layer! The goal is to provide warmth while insulating, but also to prevent you from getting sweaty!

Natural fibers are great for achieving the balance of breathability and insulation needed from a good middle layer! Wool and goose down provide exceptional insulation, especially wool since it can insulate when wet (goose down cannot). Fleece is also great for both your top and bottom middle layers, and like thermal base layers, come in different thicknesses depending on your needs! Like wool, it also can insulate when wet, and dries quickly, making it more efficient!

Layer 3: The Outer Layer

The outer layer, or shell, is used to protect against the elements, like snow, rain, and wind. There are a variety of shells available, which you should really research and consider before purchasing. Shells can be quite costly, but depending on your needs, it’s a necessary expense! If you’re heading out into extreme temperatures and are going to be fairly active, breathable waterproof shells are perfect, although they will not be friendly on your wallet! Soft shells are great for light activity, while non-breathable waterproof shells will be your cheapest option, and are also good for light activity on days with precipitation. Just be sure to shop around and evaluate your needs!

Outerwear for your bottom half can also depend on what activities you have planned! For extreme temperatures, finish your layers with a pair of lightweight waterproof pants, anything with Gore-Tex works perfectly. If you don’t want a ton of layers and aren’t doing anything too aerobic, skip the middle layer and put on a pair of waterproof snow pants over your base layer! Just be sure that these have vents in order to let warm air out so you don’t start to sweat!

Other Items


Socks are important to layer as well! Just like your base layer, avoid cotton socks, which will retain moisture and lead to hypothermia! Choose a lightweight, moisture-wicking liner sock, and a pair of thick, warm socks to go over those. If you expect temperatures to be really cold, an outer pair of socks may also be necessary!

Head Gear

An exposed neck and head area can leave you feeling cold, so consider bringing along a hat, breathable scarf, headband, balaclava, and other head-warming items! A good pair of goggles could also be necessary, especially if it is precipitating heavily, or depending on the activity you are doing!


Finding the right winter boot for your winter activities is important to protect you from cold weather! If you’re planning on hiking in snowy, icy conditions, you’ll want a pair of insulated boots with good grip! Be sure to allow enough room in your boots for your layers of socks, as a tight-fitting boot will make your feet colder! For especially icy conditions, add ice grips to your boots to prevent slipping! Gaiters, which are waterproof covers that go over your boots, will help prevent snow and moisture from getting into your boots and clothing!


It is important to get a good pair of gloves that let you maintain your dexterity. It is not ideal to have to remove your gloves in order to pick something up or tie something. If you can’t get dressed with your gloves on, then they’re not a good fit!

Things To Keep In Mind

-If you start to sweat, it is important to start stripping layers. Even when it seems too cold, the presence of sweat will lower your body temperature when combined with cold and is dangerous, so take off your shell and even your middle layer to cool down!

-Be sure to put your layers back on once you stop your activity so that the cold doesn’t set in; it will be difficult to warm up if you get so cold that you start shivering.

-Natural materials, like high-quality merino wool, do not retain odors as much as synthetic materials, so you can wear them for longer without washing, which is great for long trips!

-Think ahead. Keep an eye on the forecast of the place you will be visiting to get a good idea of just how cold temperatures are going to be. Always take into account your body temperature as well. If temperatures are going to be cold but you perspire easily, you’ll want to take that into account.

Now that you know how to properly layer clothes for cold weather, you can get out there for a snowy hike, hit the slopes, go ice skating, or even sledding without overheating or turning into an icicle! Hopefully this guide will leave you feeling just the right amount of toasty this winter! What are your favorite winter activities that you’re excited to layer up for? Comment and let us know!

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