Monday, 4 January 2010
Layering systems – What’s that all about?
Another in the series of things I’ve been wanting to write about lately! This article will cover a little bit about types of layer and what each is suitable for.
A number of different layers exist. When looking to get a layering system, it can be very confusing to understand all these layers and where they would fit into your system. Easiest way to look at layering is to start at the inside layer (closest to your body) and work outward:
Base layer: The base layer is as it says; your base. It is the closest layer to your body. A number of different base layers exist, some designed for summer, some for winter. Some designed to be warm when wet and some designed to dry quick. As such it is impossible to categorise base layers into any sub categories. However as a general rule summer base layers wick sweat away from the body ensuring you stay dry, but also ensuring air circulation so you stay cool. Winter base layers are designed more to keep heat in, usually comprised of wool or synthetic fibres, winter base layers are also slightly thicker.
Mid layer: “Mid layers” covers a wide variety of layers, fleeces, jumpers, down jackets and soft shell jackets. The idea of the mid layer is to provide additional warmth depending on the environment. Down jackets that are not waterproof are usually worn in the mid layer position depending on temperature (they are very warm) and weather (they are not usually waterproof). Soft shell jackets is arguably a category on its own, however I have included soft shells in mid layers. Soft shell covers jackets that provide additional warmth, but provide some protection from the elements. Soft shells (sometimes called wind stoppers) are usually windproof, and shower proof, they are however not suitable for heavier rain.
Hard shell: Hard shell jackets provide a complete barrier against water and some protection against wind. They are however not warm, so need to be supported by mid layers which provide the warmth. The hard shell basically protects anything underneath it from getting wet. Hard shells vary in quality, with the best (in my opinion) being Pro shell Gortex. Other waterproof materials include drilite, hyvent, event and paramo.
Other outershells: Synthetic belay jackets, waterproof down jackets. Belay jackets are designed to be thrown on over the top of other layers whilst climbing or in bad conditions. They are usually waterproof or highly water resistant, with either synthetic or pure down for warmth. Jackets like this provide both warmth and protection from bad conditions.
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