How to layer outdoor clothing

Layering your outdoor clothing will help 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.

Layering 101:

Each layer has a function.

  • The base layer is the layer closest to your skin and manages moisture.
  • The mid-layer keeps you warm.
  • And the outer layer shields you from wind, rain and snow.

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 a base layer

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 in cold conditions.

The base layer also regulates body temperature. In cold conditions a snug-fitting base layer will trap body heat in 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 layers for outdoor adventures are generally made from merino wool or synthetic, such as:

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

> Shop all Kathmandu base layers

How to choose a mid layer

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. That is, it will continue to move moisture away from your base layer.

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

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.

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

> Shop the Trailhead Hking Layers