Layering 101

A Word on Layering

One of our most frequently asked about subjects is layering- specifically, how does one properly layer clothing for safety & comfort in the mountains? The best place to start is with the simple five-part system outlined here. Layering is a unique and challenging concept. Each climber stays comfortable with a slightly different system. With years of practice, it is possible to hone a layering system so that it is easy to stay comfortable in any conditions during a climb or trek.

Baselayers (1)
Also known as long underwear or “long johns”, these layers are worn next-to-skin. While an upper body baselayer is always worn, lower body baselayers may or may not be worn depending on conditions.

Midlayers (2)
Typically used only for the upper body and worn over baselayers, midlayers can take many forms- from lightly insulated garments like the Rab Paradox Pull-On to classic grid-fleece jackets like the Rab Baseline- and offer extra warmth beneath a softshell or hardshell when temperatures are cool.

Softshells (3)
Stretchy, very breathable, and both wind and water resistant, softshells can be worn over baselayers or over a baselayer and midlayer. It is common to hear softshell layers called the “action suit” in the mountains!v

Hardshells (4)
Waterproof & windproof, hardshells are alpine armor against precipitation and strong gusting winds. Hardshells are often worn as the next layer in deteriorating conditions, but are best avoided as waterproof membranes are not very breathable, and thus trap sweat against the body.

Insulation (5)
When the mercury dips significantly, insulation is added as the final layer. Counter-intuitively, insulation is added over top of hardshells when necessary- and never under hardshells- as insulation is required only once precipitation has turned to snow, which will shed easily from the outer fabric of insulation.


I was extremely impressed with the overall program, from the information we received beforehand to prepare for the trip, the PDF documents and lists, the emails we received, the rapid response to our queries from Gordon Janow and the input from Willi and Ellie


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