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The ‘Layer Principle’ explained

Seasoned hikers and travelers will tell you that having the correct clothing is essential for an enjoyable trip. But if you’re new to active travel or aren’t sure your gear is working for you, let me explain the layering principle, so you’ll know what gear you need to buy and how to best use what you have.

The layer principle is the established technique tried and tested by explorers and active people the world over. And it’s really simple: you build up or reduce clothing in layers in response to the changing climate and your exertion level.

Here are the layers that you need:

Layer 1: The Base Layer
This base or thermal layer goes against your skin and is designed to keep skin dry by wicking moisture away, thus retaining heat. Tight, stretchy fabrics are recommended, as are synthetic fibers. If you prefer natural fibers, always go for the much-lauded Merino wool over cotton. Wool stays warm even when wet. We recommend wool hiking socks, too!

 

Layer 2: The Insulation Layer
This is the warmth trap! Hikers commonly use fleece or down jackets of varying thickness depending on the temperatures you’re likely to encounter. Fleece is quick-drying and traps heat in its closely-knit fibers. Down, on the other hand, traps warm air within the feathers like bubbles.

 

Layer 3: The Protection layer
This keeps out the wind and rain. Wind can whip away heat and getting drenched is never fun. Gore-Tex is the most recognized material for this job, although there are others on the market. The best jackets use multiple layers and feature activity zones that stretch and offer protection where it’s most needed. Some even have zip-up vents under the arms for breathability.

Of course, you ultimately need to find what works for your body. If you know you run on the colder side, add an extra insulating layer. If you run hot, make your layers thin.

The best clothing is often described as ‘technical’. Simply, this means it has been designed for a set purpose or sporting activity. However, most important in getting the best out of technical clothing is wearing it properly. The more comfortable you are, the better your adventure will be!

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