Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Garrett's 3 W's of Layering for the Cold

On account of the massive Artic cold front that has blown in here in Texas, I thought I'd share with you the wisdom of layering.  Now, I understand that 9 times out of 10 this will be an irrelevant subject to Central Texas outdoor enthusiasts considering it never really gets that cold here but for a couple weeks out of the year but when those couple of weeks roll around you'll sure be glad for this knowledge.  I've consolidated the concept of layering into three easy W's; Wick, Warm, and Wind.

  1. Wick-  This is your base layer and should ideally consist of a synthetic fabric such as polyester but depending on how cold it really is outside you could get away with wool or cotton (be warned though that cotton is terrible at repelling moisture and will most likely chill you down pretty fast).  Regardless of the fabric, the idea is that this layer will "wick" away moisture from your body as you sweat underneath all those clothes and allow the moisture to evaporate much quicker.
  2. Warm-  Insulation is the name of the game for this layer.  Just as the insulation of the walls and ceiling in your home trap air and create a buffer zone of comfort for you to live in, the "warm" layer does the same thing for your body.  I'm partial to fleece when it comes to the "warm" layer just because of how lightweight and adjustable it is but I know people who use wool and down as well.  This idea here is not to compress all these layers down but to utilize the dead air space in between the layers so that little heat is transferred out.
  3. Wind-  The outer layer, what I call the "wind" layer, is designed to be a shell the protects the two layers before it from the outside elements (wind and water).  Most of these outer "wind" layers will be made out of fabrics like Gore-Tex which have a thin, porous membrane that allows the wearer to "breathe" while still blocking out all the unwanted elements.  This layer really is one of the most important ones because without it stopping the wind and rain all of the layers beneath are gonna leak heat like a sieve.  Depending on the conditions, you could probably get away with wearing something similar to just a rain-jacket but some of the lesser quality ones will begin to leak moisture after prolonged exposure.

So if you live anywhere from say Texas to Maine right now, bundle up and put these layering practices to good use so you can stand to be outside for more than two minutes.  If you know of any good materials or products that you'd recommend please put them in the comments below.


  1. Very good advice. From the NE and visiting TX, I can say knowing this made it more pleasurable for me to get out there!!

  2. Thanks! I'm glad you're getting to enjoy some of Texas. You know, I was inspired to write this post after a recent trip to the NE in which I experienced the coldest temps of my life (no joke) and wanted to share my tips with people who may not know how cold it can get.

    Believe it or not, there are people that live around here who don't own more than a fleece jacket because it rarely gets that cold this far south.