Layering Clothes: The T9 Guide to Staying Warm When the Temps Get Low

women snowshoeing in New Zealand

The key to staying comfortable, whatever the weather? It’s all about that layer. Layering clothing well takes a little prep work, but don’t sweat it—we’ve got all the layering basics you need to know to stay warm, dry and rock any winter adventure that comes your way.


Why Layer Clothes?

Layering clothing for winter helps keep us feeling just right, no matter the forecast—layers can keep us from being too chilled at the beginning of our workout or too hot in the middle. How to layer clothes is individual to every person (layers=our own personal thermostat) but once you get the basics, it’s a handy little skill that’ll come in useful again and again.

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How Do I Layer Clothes For Fall & Winter?

Whether you’re slaying the slopes or just sneaking in a quick hike, there are three main components to layering clothing for winter:

Base Layer: 
a snug-fitting, sweat-wicking foundation piece.
Mid Layer: 
an insulating piece (or two) to keep us toasty.
Outer Layer: 
a water-resistant or water-proof shell that protects us from the elements.

Each of these layering pieces work together to keep you going when the temps drop. Read on to get essential tips on how to pick the best layering clothes for winter.

base layer, mid layer, outer layer

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Base Layers Keep Us Dry

What is a base layer?

A base layer is just like it sounds—an undershirt or a bottom layer you put on first, so it’s the layer that’s most in contact with your skin. Its main job is to wick away sweat so your skin stays dry. This super important piece of the layering puzzle often gets left behind, but without good base layers and long underwear, you’re pretty much destined to be a sweaty, soggy (and when it’s cold outside, soggy=chilly) mess.

What should you look for in a base layer?

Keep it Snug: For a base layer to work their wicking magic, it has to be in contact with your skin, so a snug fit is best.

Know your Goods: Ditch the scratchies and look for quality materials that wick away moisture and are comfy to the touch.

• Merino Wool Base Layers: 
Forget your granny’s itchy wool, Merino wool underwear are top performing base layers when it comes to being wicking, stink-proof and ultra-cozy.
• Synthetic Base Layers:
Durable and easy to find, long underwear made out of polyester, nylon, spandex (or a combo) are super-wicking, comfortably stretchy and odor resistant enough to go days between washing.

Choose Your Weight: Base layers and women’s long underwear come in different weights, from light to heavy. While the best base layer weight for your activity is really up to you, remember: your base layer’s job isn’t to keep you warm—it’s to keep you dry. Deciding between a couple pairs of long underwear? We’ll always recommend going with lighter weight but better wicking. Leave the insulation to the mid layers!

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Mid layers: Keep us warm

What is a mid layer?

The job of a mid layer is to trap our body heat, keeping us warm, even when it’s freezing. How well your middle layer insulates is a huge factor in how you feel during your workout—too much insulation and you’ll be sweating before you start. Too little, and you’ll get a bad case of the shivers (or way worse, hypothermia).

What should you look for in a mid layer?

Know Your Temps: Check that forecast and insulate to match. Frigid temps call for high-tech insulating materials like a down vest or jacket, but if it’s just chilly, adding a thin fleece to the mix may just do the trick.

Layer Your Layers: Your mid layers don’t have to be just one layer. Keep in mind what you want to do and how warm you might get, and layer accordingly. Just a bit cool? Stock up on layering tees or long sleeve shirts. All day snow play? Add on women’s jackets and vests or women’s sweaters.

Check Out That Booty: Don’t leave your bottom half out in the cold—women’s pants range in thickness and warmth, so put some thought into your pant choice so your legs and booty get the warmth they need, too.

Know Your Goods: Materials matter, so make sure your mid layer matches your adventure (and the forecast).

• Fleece: 
A great lightweight mid layer, fleece keeps you warm, stays breathable, and dries fast. Make sure you put a wind blocking outer layer in the mix though—otherwise you’ll feel every little breeze that comes your way.
• Down: 
The queen of insulating materials, women’s down vests and jackets pack down small and insulate the best. Down can be pricey, but a quality down jacket can make the difference between joy and misery on the slopes.
• Synthetic: 
While synthetics aren’t quite as insulating as down, they’ll keep you warm even when damp—a great option when rain or snow is on the horizon.

Double Duty: Many women’s jackets and vests have an outer shell that has some wind and rain resistance built in. For quick adventures in not-so-extreme weather, a quality down or synthetic jacket on top of a base layer or long sleeve shirt might be all the layering mojo you need.

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Outer Layers: Keep us Protected

What is an outer layer?

Your outer layer is the piece that’s exposed to the elements. Ideally, it’s also the piece that keeps the elements out, and you nice and toasty inside. Most outer layers consist of a water-resistant or water-proof shell jacket designed to be worn over an insulating mid layer. (Sometimes combo jackets are sold with a soft outer shell and removable insulating mid layer. These can be great options if you feel like both pieces are right for your activity.)

What should you look for in an outer layer?

Keep Breathing: Sure waterproof might sound like a good idea, but most waterproof or windproof shell jackets aren’t breathable, which means all that sweat you’re creating has nowhere to go. Look for water-resistance and breathability in a shell jacket to stay comfortable during a workout.

Consider your Cash: There’s a huge range of costs in outer layers, from simple shell jackets to expedition-level gear. Our advice? Figure out what type of outer layer you’ll get the most use out of, and what works for the activities you’re doing. Then buy the highest quality one you can afford.

Make it Rain: Make sure your outer layer is treated with a water repellant. Instead of soaking in, rain should roll right off.

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What’s the Best Layering for my Cool Weather Sport?

When it comes down to it, your layering game is a very personal one, but here at T9 we’ve got some tried and true tricks to keeping comfy when we’re out conquering our own winter wonderlands.

women snowshoeing ona mountain
woman running wearing a vest

Winter Hiking:

What to look for:

Winter Running:

What to look for:

Skiing:

What to look for:

  • Ski base layers that wick sweat while helping keep us warm.
  • Water-resistant women’s pants and outer shell jackets to keep wipeouts from sticking with us.
  • Layering tees and long sleeve t-shirt styles that are easy to take off or add on.
  • Women’s sweater styles that include merino wool for lightweight insulation that adjusts to your body temperature while keeping odor at bay.

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TOP PICKS: LAYERING CLOTHES FOR WINTER
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Product 0: Spark Legging - Solid
Spark Legging - Solid
Black
Blueprint
Charcoal
$49
We wear the Spark as a silky smooth, wicking baselayer or underneath our sassy holiday attire. Either way, our outerwear glides smoothly over. By Title Nine. XS(2), S(4-6), M(6-8), L(10-12), XL(14)
Product 1: Spark Legging - Herringbone
Spark Legging - Herringbone
Black/moonrock
Dark Knight/wisteria
Purple/loganberry
$59
We wear the Spark as a silky smooth, wicking baselayer or underneath our sassy holiday attire. Either way, our outerwear glides smoothly over. Nylon/spandex. By Title Nine. XS(2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16)
Product 2: Hanalei Jacket
Hanalei Jacket
Deep Plum
Drifter Grey
Woolly Blue
$99
From crisp, clear post-surf mornings to sunset bonfires on the beach, the Hanalei is the ideal jacket for beachtown life. Lightweight, layerable, buttery-soft blend of recycled poly/spandex is soothing on bare, sun-parched skin. Thumbholes. Body skimming fit. UPF 50+. By Patagonia. XS(0-2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
Product 3: Wonder Woman 1/4 Zip Long Sleeve Top - Print
Wonder Woman 1/4 Zip Long Sleeve Top - Print
Black Charcoal
$110
This winter-training superhero has the power to keep us warm without bulk, the power to wick us dry, the power to stay odor-free, the power to stay itch-free, right next-to-skin, all workout and all winter long. That’s the power of Smartwool®'s mid-weight Merino. Heavyweight first layer or lightweight mid-layer—you choose. Washable, dryable and oh-so-wearable. Locking ¼ zip. By Smartwool. XS(2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
Product 4: Will Power Vest
Will Power Vest
Blue Jade
$99
The Will Power gives us the edge we need over Mother Nature and her seasonal moodiness. Three layers in one lightweight cold and weather-beating piece. Wind-stopping and water-resistant shell. 360° reflectivity. By Title Nine. XS(2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
Product 5: Bank Baselayer Capri
Bank Baselayer Capri
Aqua
Was: $100 Now: $84
An investment in warmth as good as any Swiss bank account, backed by a tiny Swiss company, Ortovox. The crack team of designers there is fighting winter’s chill and reviving the Swiss wool industry with one ground-breaking, weather-beating piece at a time. Cropped styling means we can quickly ditch cold, wet socks without having to strip down completely. Made from itch-free, premium, virgin Merino wool from happy Tasmanian sheep. 185 G/M². Classic next-to-skin baselayer fit. By Ortovox. XS(2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
Product 6: Pace Running Jacket
Pace Running Jacket
White Haze
$120
When a need for speed outweighs questionable weather, we pull on the Pace. Breathable lightweight poly delivers a canopy of coverage from the elements. When skies clear, we pack it into its own pocket. Reflective front logo, back strip; reflective strip when packed, too. Wind and water resistant. Thumbholes. Stowaway hood. By Brooks Running. XS(2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
Product 7: Slalom Half Zip Long Sleeve Top Hoodie
Slalom Half Zip Long Sleeve Top Hoodie
Jam
Was: $119 Now: $89
Designed by an Olympic freestyler with a need for speed, an eye for design and a will for warmth. When winter windchill strikes, we pull on the Slalom and hit the slopes. Plush panels of 240 g jacquard knit insulate where we need it most; 4-way stretch 180 g knit side panels deliver greater ventilation. Together, they zig around all our curves in all the right ways. Classic next-to-skin baselayer fit. 19.5 micron Merino wool. ½ zip styling. By Kari Traa. S(4), M(6-8), L(10), XL(12-14).
Product 8: Wonderwool Baselayer Legging
Wonderwool Baselayer Legging
Drift Velvet/prism
Was: $130 Now: $99
Dropping temps don’t scare us inside ‘cause our world is a Wonderwool one. Here at T9HQ one merchant has declared ‘em her new favorite heavyweight first layer or lightweight midlayer—and she’s got her pick of the flock, so you know they’re good. Classic next-to-skin baselayer fit. By Icebreaker. XS(2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
Product 9: Empress' New Jacket
Empress' New Jacket
Peach
Viojsa Green
Was: $99 Now: $79
As close as we're going to get to running in our birthday suits. Yes, a full-zip, hooded jacket that weighs in at only 3 ounces. Three ounces of wind and water-resistance. 3 ounces of breathability. 3 ounces of perfect weather protection. Stuffs into our pocket, or its own. Nylon ripstop. By Patagonia. XS(0-2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
Product 10: Thermafrost Sweater
Thermafrost Sweater
Classic Navy
$149
Made for outlasting the permafrost. A layerable lightweight we wear both as a sweater and as a heavy baselayer. An agile knit of the ultimate winter performance blend of premium Merino wool and recycled poly. The Thermafrost wicks and dries fast, and shirks odor for more wearings between washings. Raglan styling with balaclava-style hood. By Patagonia. XS(0-2), S(4-6), M (8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
Product 11: Transition Micro Fleece
Transition Micro Fleece
Stone Blue
$89
Cloud-light and bulk-free, with the rapid change in seasons the only constant is this fleece. Layered over light sweaters or soft against bare skin, this fleece warms even when wet. Dense, light weight, heat-trapping 100% polyester (85% recycled) microfleece. Snap neck. By Patagonia. XS(0-2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
Product 12: Zephyr Running Jacket
Zephyr Running Jacket
Malibu Blue
$89
Light as a breeze, but still packs a high-performing punch. Weighing in at less than 3oz, the Zephyr is our go-to when it comes to stashable wind and weather protection. Wind- and water-resistant where it counts, with breathable mesh in the hottest zones (y’know… underarms, back.) Packs into its own pocket; includes a removable elastic strap for easy carrying. Attached hood. By La Sportiva. XS(2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
Product 13: Hanalei Full-Zip Hoodie
Hanalei Full-Zip Hoodie
Neo Navy
Drifter Grey
Break Up Blue
$89
From crisp, clear post-surf mornings to sunset bonfires on the beach, the Hanalei is the ideal hoody for beachtown life. Lightweight, layerable, buttery-soft blend of recycled poly/spandex is soothing on bare, sun-parched skin. Thumbholes. Body skimming fit. UPF 50+. By Patagonia. XS(0-2), S(4-6), M(8-10), L(12-14), XL(16).
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