How to Layer for Winter?


Fall is in the air and soon, it will be winter and it’s best to learn how to layer for winter early on. This will also give you an advantage if you need to shop and stock up on clothes early because winter clothes will be expensive by the time it comes. The great thing is, as early as now, you may find sales and deals on winter clothing, scarfgloves, and footwear so you don’t have to spend too much by winter time.

But how do you layer for winter properly? What type of clothes should you wear and what to put on top of what? This guide that will show you what you need to do and the type of clothes you need to choose.

Why Do You Need to Layer Clothes?

To understand how to layer for winter better, it’s important to know the concept behind it. Otherwise, you’ll just waste your efforts. Layering clothing is a tried and scientific way to maximize your comfort while you’re wearing several pieces of clothing. This is especially useful when you go outside where it’s colder. Understanding this will also help you make quick adjustments based on your activities and weather changes.

There is a function for each layer. The base or the one that touches your skin is responsible for managing moisture. The insulating layer is what will give you protection from the cold and the outer layer or the shell is the one that shields you if there are strong winds or rain. As the temperature changes, you just have to add or remove layers as necessary.

How to Layer for Winter

So now you know why you need to layer for winter and the basic layers that will help you keep warm. what type of fabric do you choose for each layer?

  • Base

    First, you need to wear the base layer to layer for winter, which will manage the moisture for your body. This is the piece of clothing that touches your skin. It helps your body to regulate its temperature by keeping you from sweating.

    This is very important because if you end up sweating, you will not be dry inside and you cannot maintain the body temperature that you need to avoid hypothermia when it gets really cold. You need to stay dry.

    Essentially, avoid wearing cotton for the base layer. This type of fabric retains perspiration and you will end up feeling chilly. If you’re going out, choose a base layer that is made out of merino wool, synthetic fabric like polyester, or silk. It does the opposite of what cotton does. They don’t absorb moisture. Instead, they transport the sweat away from your skin and disperse it onto the outer surface. This way, the moisture will evaporate. In turn, you will stay dry even if you sweat.

    Examples of the base layer are thermal underwear, briefs and sports bras, tights, T-shirts, and long underwear sets.

  • Middle Layer

    The middle layer is the insulating layer and this is what will help you retain heat. Its function is to trap air close to your body.

    The best insulators are materials like a natural fiber. Examples of these are wool and goose down the fabric. Wear sweaters and shirts made of these materials for your second or middle layer to layer for winter. They offer soft and reliable warmth while providing insulation. If the weather is really cold and dry, it’s best to use goose down. It’s highly compressible however, it’s drawback is you need to keep it dry to maintain insulation. There are water-resistant goose down fabrics that solve this problem.

    Goose down is also great for comforters and these are the best goose down comforters for winter. Your skin also gets dry during winter and this is the best foundation for dry skin.

    Another good fabric for your middle layer to layer for winter is classic fleece and other synthetics that provide warmth under different conditions. These fabrics are lightweight and breathable, and they can insulate even when it gets wet. And if they do, they will dry faster than wool. The disadvantage of using classic fleece is its bulkiness and it’s not wind resistant. Fleece tops are available in lightweight which is great if you’re going for an exercise, mid-weight for moderate activity, and expedition weight for low activity.

    If you know that you are going to have strenuous activities such as skiing, cycling, or running, choose lightweight fleece to prevent your body from overheating.

  • Shell Layer

    The outer layer or shell layer is for weather protection. You wear this last piece to protect you from the wind, rain, or snow. This could get pricey but there are simple jackets you can use that are windproof. Most of these allow perspiration to escape and have a durable water repellent finish so that water rolls off the fabric instead of getting inside your clothes.

    It’s important to put the outer shell when you layer for winter, especially in bad weather. No matter how correctly you wore the first layers, you will still get cold if the wind and water penetrate to your inner layer. Furthermore, your sweat can’t evaporate without proper ventilation. Instead, it will condensate on the inner shell.

    It’s also important that your outer shell has enough room to allow you to move freely. It should not restrict your movement.

    These are some examples of what you can use for the shell layer when you layer for winter:

    Waterproof shells – these are very expensive but most functional. It’s best for wet, cool and alpine conditions. And here is the best rain jacket.

    Water-resistant shells – these are great for light precipitation. You should use these if you expect to go on heavy activities. They’re less expensive than waterproof shells and are usually made of tightly woven fabrics. It’s enough to block the wind and light rain.

    Soft shells – these have more emphasis on breathability. Stretchable fabrics offer added comfort, especially during aerobic activities. Some soft shells also offer insulation so that it combines two layers in one.

    Non-breathable waterproof shells – these are more affordable and ideal for light activities when it’s raining. Usually, they’re made of polyurethane coated nylon that is wind and waterproof.

    Insulated shells – other types of outer shells also have a layer of insulation so they’re more convenient when the weather is cold and wet.

When choosing clothes to layer for winter, also consider their versatility. This will help you from wearing too many items and having to take off each layer each time there’s a change in temperature.

On the other hand, you might want to check our articles about San Francisco and its cold weather and what to do in Manhattan. And for more tips on fashion, check out our take on the best fashion book.