How To Layer Up On The Mountain
Here is a breakdown of how to layer up when hitting the mountains. With proper layering, you will be prepared for all the mountain has to throw at you.
The best advice is to wear three layers. How you mix this up is your choice.
- Base layer. Have this tight against the skin and extending down to your wrist and/or Depending on conditions, you can have a thermal skin or just a Lyrca skin. Depending on how cold it’s going to get will determine what you kick off with.
- A middle layer. This can be whatever you like. Once again this all depends on the weather, but you can wear another full-length garment, a t-shirt or even a jumper or hood.
- An outer layer. This is your jacket or pants. The most important layer to get right.
Each layer has its purpose, and if worn properly, all layers work together to wick sweat away from your body, hold in heat, and keep out wind and rain. The most important is the outer layer, then the base and the mid layer is a close third.
LET’S DRILL DOWN A LITTLE FURTHER
Baselayer. For this to work properly, and wick moisture. It needs to be tight against your skin. That way it can absorb moisture. It’s not rocket science; make it tight, but not so tight that you are finding it hard to breathe. Never ever have a baselayer with cotton. Cotton has virtually zero wicking capabilities and is prone to absorbing and retaining heavy amounts of moisture. This will not wick moisture like polyester or wool. Stay away from all cotton when on the mountain.
What you need to be conscious of is the weight of the garment. This will be the difference between a thermal or a performance tight. If you go for a thermal baselayer, you can go lighter for the second layer. A performance baselayer with no thermal, make sure you get the second layer right.
Here is a bit more info:
Lightweight baselayers: The thinner the fabric, the better it wicks. And the faster it dries. Quite simple. But it provides minimal insulation. If you are doing a lot of activity in the backcountry, this is a good option.
Midweight baselayers: Think of this as another layer of skin; it provides both insulation and moisture wicking. If you are unsure of your needs, this is the best area to start. It’s also easy to adapt from a mid-weight layer. They will generally have a blend of materials and be slightly thicker.
Heavyweight baselayer: These are for the heavy hitters. Not something we would recommend unless you are hard-core and plan on camping out in a tent. These will not wick well but will keep you warm. If you sweat a lot, you will get yourself into a sweaty, cold mess.
Midlayers. This is where it can get a bit tricky for everyone. If you nail your baselayer, and you have the right jacket, finding that middle ground should be a piece of cake. Well, no. It all depends on what you have chosen for the base, oh and what the weather is doing.
It feels so good when you can get out on a bluebird day in spring, T-Shirt on and wearing shades. That’s the life. Well, most of the time it’s not what it’s like. In extreme cold, you are generally going to put on a mid-weight baselayer, then accompany this with a long sleeve polyester shirt that is a mid-weight. Or a lightweight jumper.
If you are getting out on the start or the end of the season, get yourself a light weight baselayer top and accompany this with either a long sleeve polyester technical shirt with buttons or the ability to roll up the sleeves if you get too hot.
If you are really unsure, and you like to be prepared for all conditions, take a backpack. This gives you the ability to strip off a layer and store it for when it’s needed.
FINALLY, THE OUTER LAYER
Here is where you need to get it right. Our jackets start their ratings at 15K on breathability and waterproof. We believe this is the level to start as a base. But it’s not for everyone and we have a whole section on that here
Hard-core skiers and snowboarders, who like everything thrown at them from the backcountry to the bar need 20k. Be aware that if you are hiking to find that perfect line, it gets hot under the collar; you need your jacket and pants to have vents to let out the extra sweat. This is important when heading up the mountain and just as important with the breathability of your garments. When you have a premium jacket at 20K, your layering gets interesting. Assuming that you are going to be quite active, you can wear a lighter baselayer, long sleeve mid layer and the jacket will look after the rest. If there are any situations where you could get caught out in the cold. Switch it back to mid-weight baselayer, a light jumper for mid layer and be sure to use your vents in the pants and jacket when making those hikes.
If you like to stay out for long periods, and be prepared for anything, than get your gear with a minimum rating of 15K. This is where the standard starts for us. We have been doing this long enough to know. These are an investment, and buying your gear with a higher rating will repay you with lasting a lot more seasons than anticipated. Talking to layers, on a shoulder season where it’s not too cold, you could get away with a thin baselayer, long sleeve t-shirt and a 15K jacket with vents. If there is a cold snap; you would need a mid-level baselayer, make sure you have a long sleeve t-shirt as your mid layer, and hope there are not long periods out in the cold. This combo with a 15k jacket is going to work every time.
This all comes with experience, knowing your body and the weather. The best advice is to prepare for all conditions. Never leave it to chance and wear a backpack. That way you can adjust your layers if the conditions change.
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