How to layer outdoor clothing

Correctly layering clothes for outside will keep you comfortable and protect you from the elements. Learn about the three key layers, when you should wear them and which materials will work the hardest for you.


How to layer your clothes

Whether layering clothes for winter or summer, each layer of clothing has a function.

  • Base layer clothing is the layer closest to your skin, which means its main role is in managing moisture and regulating your temperature.
  • Mid-layer clothing keeps you warm but remains breathable so that it can be used during different weather conditions.
  • Outer layer clothing shields you from elements like wind, rain and snow and is often less of an insulator than a protector. 

Once you have all three, simply mix and match the layers to suit the conditions and personal preference: wear all layers if it’s freezing and wet, or just the base and outer layer if it’s hot and windy.


How to choose base layer clothing

The base layer (you might also know them as thermals) is your next-to-skin layer. Its function is to wick sweat away from your skin so you feel dry and comfortable — rather than cold and clammy — which is especially important when wearing layers in winter.

Base layer clothing also regulates body temperature. In cold conditions, a snug-fitting base layer will trap body heat and keep you warm, while in warmer conditions a loose-fitting base layer will allow air to freely circulate and keep you cool.

The best performing base layer clothing for outdoor adventures is generally made from Merino wool or synthetic, such as:

  • KMDCore polypro: this provides lightweight warmth for everyday adventures
  • KMDMotion thermals: this provides superior insulation in high-energy activities
  • KMDAscent: keeps you warm and dry in alpine conditions.

Merino wool serves as the ultimate base layer as it suits various weather conditions, keeping you warm in winter but remaining breathable.

Want to know more? Read about the benefits of Merino wool.

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Man wearing merino base layer clothing and reading magazine by fireMan wearing merino base layer clothing and reading magazine by fire
Group of people wearing Merino wool clothing and hanging out by a fire indoorsGroup of people wearing Merino wool clothing and hanging out by a fire indoors

How to choose mid layer clothing

Layering clothes with a quality mid-layer keeps you warm by trapping body heat in its fibres.

Fabrics like wool and fleece are great for this and have the added bonus of being highly breathable, light and moisture-wicking. This means that it will continue to move moisture away from your base layer and keep you dry as you sweat. This is ideal when moving from the early morning during a hike to mid-morning when the sun starts to heat you up and you start to sweat.

Wool and fleece also have a great warmth-to-weight ratio, providing comfort without the bulk. A lightweight fleece makes an excellent hiking companion: it's light in your pack and will keep you warm on gusty summits.

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How to choose an outer layer

The outer layer is generally a lightweight jacket that provides excellent protection from wind, rain and snow.

The best outer-shell options are made from durable, waterproof and windproof fabrics:

  • GORE-TEX® jackets are treated with a durable water repellent that makes water bead up and roll off, ensuring maximum performance in extreme conditions.
  • NGX® jackets are waterproof, windproof and breathable; keeping you dry inside and out.
  • Softshell jackets are another great option that hold in body heat and allow vapour to escape.
Skiers in jackets at the snowSkiers in jackets at the snow
Skiers in jackets at the snow in JapanSkiers in jackets at the snow in Japan

If you want to be properly prepared for your next adventure, layering clothes that are designed for your activity is ideal. For a hike with potentially cool, windy or wet conditions, it's essential to have all three layers to keep yourself warm and dry.

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