“Don’t forget your jacket!” It’s a childhood refrain that’s caused eyes around the world to roll. Turns out your dear, worrying mom was probably onto something.
While none of us want the outdoor fun to stop, it can get brutally cold here in the northeast. Fortunately, you can stay warm and dry without dressing like a mummy. By observing a few simple layering rules, you’ll be out the door in ways that even your mom would be proud of.
Layer 1: Base Layer
This next-to-the-skin layer helps regulate body temps and keep you dry by moving, or “wicking”, perspiration away from your skin. This is important to avoid hypothermia in colder temperatures. Don’t wear cotton—it retains moisture and can leave you chilled in below-freezing temperatures. Instead, opt for merino wool, synthetic fabrics like polyester, or silk (for less active use).
Layer 2: Insulation
This layer helps retain heat by trapping air close to the body. Natural fibers like wool and goose down are both great insulators. Merino wool provides insulation even when wet, while down is great for very cold, dry conditions, but comes with a price—it must be kept dry. Fleece is a popular synthetic option due to its light weight and breathability, though it tends to be more wind permeable. Fleece is typically rated in terms of weight: Lightweight (high activity in mild climates), Midweight, and Expedition-weight (low activity in cold climates).
Layer 3: Weather Protection
The outer shell protects you from the elements. It can range from heavy mountaineering jackets to simple windbreakers, depending on your climate and activity. Most allow perspiration to escape, and some are treated with water repellent. In short, this layer is designed to keep wind and water from passing through to your inner layers, while allowing perspiration to pass out. There are many options for outer shells on the market—choosing the right one for you means understanding the conditions and the activity you’ll be facing.
Layer 4 (optional): Waterproofing
For extra protection, add a wind- and waterproof shell—just make sure it’s big enough to fit over your other layers. Companies like Marmot and The North Face make popular options for this type of layer. With just a few simple layers, you can enjoy the great outdoors while remaining warm, dry, and comfortable.
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