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Base/Mid/Outer Layered System
The concept of wearing layers of clothes is suitable for any kind of outdoor
sports activity including tramping. The challenge is to maintain constant
body temperature not depending on activity level, whether it is rock climbing,
hiking or relaxing by the fire, and on weather conditions (such as rain,
wind or snow).
Usually three different clothing layers are used:
1. Inner layer. Inner layer removes moisture from the body.
2. Middle layer. Middle layer preserves the body heat.
3. Outer layer. Outer layer protects from wind and moisture.
The key principle is to be able to quickly adjust to weather and body condition
changes, removing layers when your body heats up (during activity) and adding
layers when your body cools down.
Now lets look at these three layers in more detail:
Inner layer removing moisture from the body.
This layer significantly controls the body temperature. It should be made
from synthetic, moisture removing materials made from polyester, polypropylene
or Merino wool. These materials are able to remove moisture from their inner
side, the side that is close to the body, and evenly distribute it across
their outer side, from which the moisture quickly evaporates. As a result
you will feel comfortable even when you are sweating.
In order to maintain coolness in summer and to avoid hypothermia at extremely
low temperatures it is very important that your body will remain dry. Trapped
moisture will result in chilling in cold temperatures, windy conditions,
long stops or when your energy levels begin to drop. It is very important
for inner layer to adhere to the body for best moisture removal.
"Personally I find Merino better, especially in wet conditions where
it is better for keeping you warm, and just increase the weight of the thermal
for colder conditions."
Middle layer insulation.
This layer helps retain body heat, keeping a layer of air around your body.
Fleece jackets, Merino jerseys, fleece vests and trousers are good examples
for middle layer clothes. In addition to retaining hot air, the fleece polyester
fibers are also removing moisture thus keeping their insulation properties
when wet and getting dry quickly.
"Personally because of the varying weight of my thermal depending on
temperature conditions I only need the fleece when I stop or if it is really
cold. Alternatively if wet I will remove the fleece and wear just the raincoat
to reduce sweating."
For extremely low temperatures down is still the best insulator but it should
be used only in dry weather.
Outer layer harsh weather protection
Outer layer protects you from wind, rain, and snow. Properly made, it retains
heat allowing evaporations to go out. Otherwise moisture will condense on
the inner surface of this layer.
For most of outdoor activities it is essential for outer layer to have good
breathing properties and ventilation. In addition outer layer should be spacious
enough so that it wouldn’t hamper movement, and additional layers could be
Fabrics that are most suitable for the outer layer should incorporate waterproof
impregnations or membranes, which protect from wind and moisture. Outer layer
items should also have a waterproof zippers.
Most popular fabrics for outer layer:
Waterproof/Breathable Gore-Tex, Dermizax, Marmot MemBrain. Such fabrics
are suitable for any type of activities and for any weather.
Waterproof/Not breathable usually such fabrics are made from
polyurethane-impregnated strong nylon, which has waterproof and windproof
properties. Not breathable fabrics are cheaper and can be used when your
outdoor activities don’t involve much sweating.
"On a personal note nothing really keeps you dry in wet weather because
of the internal build up of moisture from sweating. The trick is to stay
warm without sweating too much and to wear the outerlayer in such a way as
to maximise its' breathability. So wear just enough gear under the outerlayer
to keep you warm while walking without sweating and keep the raincoat done
up to allow for the maximum temperature differential which facilitates the
breathability function of fabrics like goretex."
Base Layer/Soft Shell System.
The Soft Shell system keeps the base layer of the three layer system but
replaces the mid and outer layer with one garment. The outer layer of a Soft
Shell garment trades the 100% waterproofness of the hard shell outer layer
and insulation of the fleece mid layer for slightly less waterproofness,
but improved comfort, flexibilty, combined insulation and better breathability
of the softshell. It's probably the way of the future.