How To Layer Clothing For All Weather Conditions

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Dressing for the weather isn’t as difficult as some make it seem. And no, you don’t need a whole closet full of gear! A few items will get the job done. Learning how to layer clothing for all weather conditions is easy when you know how to do it properly. Keep reading below to see how it’s done.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” ― Alfred Wainwright, A Coast to Coast Walk

It wasn’t until recently I learned how to layer clothing for all weather conditions. Growing up on a farm I was always outside, but oddly enough I was never taught how to dress appropriate for the weather. The winter consisted of wearing a big heavy coat, t-shirt or long sleeve underneath, snow pants with jeans underneath, heavy boots, etc. In the Summer it was shorts and t-shirt; Spring and Fall a mix of everything. All my clothes and socks were made of cotton, which is awful.

I remember during the cooler seasons I was always left cold and wet; in the summer I was overheating and covered in sweat. I assumed that’s just the way it is and thought nothing more of it. As a kid it was okay, I didn’t know any better, but growing up I thought to myself, “there has to be something better, right?”

GO Outdoors has put together a great article and video about the concept of layering. Most information I’ve found elsewhere simply covers what layering is and the difference in fabrics, but not so much how to layer clothing for all weather conditions. Watch GO Outdoors video below and consult the simple chart I’ve created below so you can layer correctly for your next outdoor adventure.

What is Layering?

At the core, layering consists of three layers for the coldest temperatures:

  1. Base: Regulates body temperatures and wicks sweat away from skin;
  2. Mid: Traps the warmth your body creates;
  3. Outer/Shell: Protective layer from the elements (rain, wind, snow, etc.)

In more extreme conditions, I’m talking arctic storms and summit mountaineering, you may need to add a fourth later such as an 800+ down filled jacket like the Patagonia Mens Down Sweater Jacket. This is perfect to keep you warm by putting it under or even over all your layers.

The Baselayer

  • Also known as the next to skin layer. It should be against your skin and allow full range of motion.
  • Purpose is to wick moisture/sweat from your skin to regulate body temperature.
  • Great on its own for aerobic activity or warm days.
  • DO NOT USE COTTON. Cotton soaks up sweat and stays wet, this is not good.
  • Merino wool is the best to use, although it’s expensive and not as durable as synthetics, it’s wearable in all seasons and doesn’t stink! Smartwool and Icebreaker are the top brands.

Shop Base Layers on Amazon!

The Mid Layer/Soft Shell

  • This second layer helps trap in body heat and wick more sweat.
  • Could be thin, mid-weight, or heavy-weight fleece.
  • The outdoor temperatures and your activity level will determine the weight/warmth you need.
  • On nice days the mid layer will be your outer layer.
  • Popular choices include the Patagonia R2 and the Nano Puff Jacket for added warmth.

Shop Midlayers at Amazon!

The Outer Layer/ Hard Shell

  • Protects against wind, rain, snow, etc.
  • NOT insulated.
  • A jacket with vents will prevent you from getting swampy under the waterproof shell.
  • Lightweight and packable is best for versatility.
  • Popular choices are the Marmot Precip and Outdoor Research Helium II.

Shop Waterproof Shells on Amazon!

How To Layer Clothing For All Weather Conditions

Step 1: Look outside or look up the forecast for the day(s) you’ll be outside.

Step 2: Dress accordingly using the handy chart below.

Weather Condition

What to Wear

Dry, sunny, and warmBaselayer
Dry, sunny, and coldBaselayer + fleece/softshell
Rainy and warmBaselayer + wind/waterproof outer shell for protection from rain and wind.
Very windy, rainy, and coldBaselayer + fleece/softshell + wind/waterproof outer shell
Heavy winds, freezing temperatures, Snow/hail/freezing rainBaselayer + heavy fleece or insulated jacket + wind/waterproof outer shell

With this new found information you’re ready to take on the world no matter the weather! Leave a comment below on your favourite piece of outdoor gear and thanks for reading!


  1. This was actually very informative. I went to school with a bunch of outdoor enthusiasts and you think I would remember something about proper layering. I guess not. This was a very good refresher.

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