Wicking, Warmth & Weather: Dressing for the Outdoors

Dressing for the outdoors can be summed up with one word – layering.  Rather than relying on a single garment to keep us warm and dry, we dress in layers with each layer of clothing serving a different function.

Layering allows us to adjust our clothing to the conditions by adding, removing or changing a layer of clothing.  Too hot?  Take off a layer!  Too cold?  Put on a layer! Starting to rain?  Change your windbreaker for your rain jacket!  But layering isn’t just about adjusting your temperature.  Each layer of clothing serves a specific purpose.  To help us remember the purpose of each layer, just think about the 3 W’s …

Wicking, Warmth and Weather.


Our bodies are always perspiring.  Perspiration (sweat!) helps our body to regulate its temperature.  When we’re warm we sweat to help cool off, when we’re cold we still perspire … just not so much.  If we trap perspiration next to our skin, we keep cooling off even if we don’t need to!

The goal of the Wicking Layer is to pull perspiration away from the skin.  Many synthetic fabrics are designed especially to wick moisture.  Silk and wool can wick moisture as well.  Cotton, on the other hand, absorbs and traps moisture … which is what makes cotton particularly rotten for outdoor activities!

On warm days wear a wicking T-shirt.  On cold days you can wear synthetic long underwear for some additional insulation as well as its wicking properties.


On top of the wicking layer, we need a layer (or layers!) to keep us warm.  The warmth layer is basically insulation to help keep you warm and cozy.  If you are planning to be active, it’s good to wear multiple warmth layers so you can remove a layer or two as you heat up and put layers back on as you cool down.

A fleece sweatshirt or a wool sweater is great insulation.  A fleece, down, or synthetic vest is a way to add an extra layer of warmth without a lot of extra bulk.


After all of the warmth layers comes the final layer … the weather layer.  The weather layer provides protection against the elements.  Think about snow or rain or wind and you’ve got some idea what you need protection against.  Consider a multi-use jacket as your weather layer …  A rain jacket can also double as a windbreaker.

In the winter, an insulated jacket can provide protection against the elements as well as extra warmth.  But remember with this type of jacket if you take it off, you’re taking off both weather protection and warmth.  If you rely on an insulated jacket for warmth and weather, make sure you have extra layers for those times when you need a little less protection from the elements but still need some warmth.

So the next time you get ready for an outing, remember the 3 W’s and you’ll Be Prepared to stay warm, dry and happy on your outdoor adventure!