How to

How to Layer Clothes for Winter

If you’re planning to travel to somewhere cold with only one bag you’ll be faced with the challenge of packing enough warm clothes. One light and efficient way to keep warm is to layer clothes, using existing clothes and adding only a few extra packable extras to keep warm enough.

There are 3 basic components to layering:

  1. baselayer
  2. midlayer
  3. shell (outer layer)

If you shop around for jackets you’ll often see these terms and you will see different jackets and pieces of clothing categorised into these groups. I’ll break down each one and show you how I layer my clothes and give you a few alternative examples to help you make an informed choice.


From left to right: Baselayer > Mid > Mid > Shell


These are the ‘next to the skin’ layers, so typically they will have light thermal properties and should still be warm even if they get a bit wet. They should also be comfortable and breathable. One of the most popular baselayers is merino wool. It has excellent thermal properties and is soft and comfortable and breathes well while also having antimicrobial properties so it doesn’t stink after one wear. Another popular alternative is synthetics, for example Patagonias Capilene, however I have not tried it so I cant say if its good or bad, but the reviews are generally positive.

My baselayer is generally a long sleeved t-shirt and a pair of ‘long johns’


The midlayer is generally everything after a baselayer and before a shell, I will often layer my Outlier Merino Co/Pivot with a Patagonia R1 fleece jacket as my midlayer, but you could even simply use an ultralight down jacket. Basically a midlayer should be thermal and keep you warm, its worn over the top of the baselayer, so depending on how cold it is you could either wear 1 or more midlayers.

My midlayer is a long sleeve button up shirt > light fleece

Pants are usually Outlier Slim dungarees over the baselayer


The shell or outer layer is usually the water/windproof layer something that is going to keep the elements out like the shell of a hermit. My shell usually consists of Uniqlos ultralight down jacket, which could also be considered a midlayer depending on the conditions. However a popular ultralight windshell would be Patagonias Houdini jacket.

Optional extras

Buff and gloves

Merino wool buff and gloves

Although these jackets often have high collars most people will want to include a scarf. I always take a merino wool buff with me wherever I go. Its essentially a long tube that is made of merino wool, it can be worn over the neck as a scarf or twisted in the middle and worn as a beanie.


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