Why Layering is Important for Surviving Outdoor Adventures

Why Layering is Important for Surviving Outdoor Adventures

Many hobbies and sports take us out into nature. Whether you enjoy hiking and camping, fishing and hunting, kayaking and canoeing, or rock climbing and biking, there are many ways to enjoy the outdoors. And although we can buy our gear and travel to trailheads in relative comfort, it’s essential to always prepare for nature’s ever-changing elements.

Unpredictable Weather

With fluctuating weather conditions and unexpected temperature drops, layering your clothing is a life-saving strategy to prepare for outdoor adventures properly. Many sports require early wake-up calls, with some mountaineers and hunters rising before dawn to hit the trails. Morning temperatures tend to differ quite drastically from those in the afternoon, especially at higher elevations. 

As you start your trek in the pre-dawn hours of the day, with any sunshine hidden by dense forest, temperatures can be frigid, requiring layering and proper insulation. But as the sun rises and heats the environment, you’ll want to shed those layers. But as the elements can change at a moment’s notice, leaving many outdoor enthusiasts at risk, it’s vital to keep those layers within quick reach.

Proper Layering

It’s easy to assume that layering simply means throwing on a few extra pieces of clothing. But when dealing with the unpredictable outdoors, a bit more thought goes into the process. Depending on the sport, there is almost a science to proper layering.

Base Layer

To best layer for unpredictable weather and temperature fluctuations, consider starting with a lightweight, long-sleeved base layer. Not every outdoor activity will require a base layer. Still, those that involve more time in colder temperatures or periods of less activity, like camping, hiking, and hunting, then a form-fitting cover directly over the skin is important. The optimal material for a base layer is wool, as it wicks away moisture to keep you warm and dry.

Mid Layer

Next is a mid-layer that helps to insulate your natural body heat. Again, it should be thin (nothing too heavy or you’ll be too hot). For both top and bottom layering, this can be a lightweight fleece/polyester material or a flannel, although wool still reigns in this category thanks to its moisture-wicking benefits.

Outer Layer

Conclude your layering with a jacket that insulates your body. At this point, you have a wool base layer warming your body, plus a flannel, fleece, or wool layer to maintain body heat. Insulate all that blood-pumping energy with a puffy jacket. These types of jackets are also beneficial, as they can compress into small spaces, making them the perfect material for layering. For the bottom half, consider a slightly heavier and possibly waterproof layer.

Optional Additional Outer Layer

For some sports and activities, particularly in colder weather, it may be necessary to include a fourth layer to protect against the wind, rain, and cold. These are considered “shells” that are breathable, yet water-resistant or waterproof and wind-resistant/windproof. They can also help with the insulation process, acting as a protective barrier for your insulating jacket. 

Stay Safe with Layering

The important part of layering is that each article of clothing can be removed and stored until needed again. It’s better to be overprepared than underprepared. Proper layering will help protect you against unpredictable weather that could turn life-threatening if not suitably dressed. Don’t forget about your head, hands, and feet, and be sure to wear or pack warm hats, gloves, and socks.