Enjoying your time outdoors can be greatly enhanced if you are warm and dry. Using a layering system and selecting the perfect article for each layer is key to outdoor comfort. Selecting appropriate layers for the weather conditions and your activity level can keep you at an ideal temperature in any scenario. Here are 6 pieces of clothing to build into an effective layering system.
1. Base layer: this layer rests right against your skin, and keeps you warm while wicking moisture from sweating away, keeping you dry as well. The fit should be snug and long enough to overlap with your other pieces of clothing. Many synthetic materials have been developed and work with varying success. My favourite material is merino wool, a fine knit natural material that keeps you warm and doesn't hold onto odors. Never use cotton as a base layer. For warmer conditions, select a light material with a looser cut.
2. Insulating layer: this goes on over the base layer, and is lightweight while providing maximum warmth. Ideal materials for this layer are down, fleece, or heavier wool. You can use more than one insulating layer.
3. Windproof layer:if it is cold but dry, use an article that has wind blocking capability. Look for the 'Windstopper' tag on new items. If it is also wet, skip this layer and use a combination wind and waterproof layer.
4. Waterproof layer: this is the cornerstone of an effective layering system, and the absolute best material is Gore-tex. This layer should allow moisture to escape from the layers underneath, but shield you from rain, wind, and snow.
5. Head layer: you lose a significant amount of heat through your head, make sure to wear a warm hat in cold weather. Choose a lighter, breathable option if you will be exercising. In heat, a hat that blocks the sun is best, while a hat with a brim can keep water out of your eyes when it's raining.
6. Hands: select gloves or mittens that insulate with minimal bulk, and have wind blocking capability if you will be moving quickly through the air (eg, cycling).
7. Feet:keeping your feet happy can be tricky if they are sloshing though mud and snow. Socks are available in Gore-tex, and cyclists have the optino of wearing booties over their shoes to provide wind protection. In warmer weather, choose a light, breathable sock. Cushioned merino is my favorite in cooler weather.
Always make sure to bring enough clothing for any possible conditions, and enjoy your time outside!