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How to Layer Clothing for Winter

by Michelle Powell-Smith

Staying warm is essential in winter weather, whether you're simply spending a day running errands or you're working or playing outside all day. While you might know you should layer winter wear, the right layers can make the difference between being warm and comfortable or battling frostbite. The same layering principles apply whether you're layering everyday pieces or specialty outdoor gear, particularly if you live in a harsh climate.

Wicking Layers

In cold temperatures, the clothing closest to your skin should be a wicking fabric. Wicking fabrics move moisture and sweat away from your skin, helping you stay warm and dry. Close-fitting synthetic pieces are lightweight, comfortable and cozy. If you prefer natural fibers, choose silk and wool over cotton. Cotton holds moisture next to your skin, rather than moving it away from your body. You'll find wicking long underwear available at varied prices and in different styles, some light and close-fitting enough to pair with dressier attire.

Insulating Layers

While wicking fabrics help keep you dry, insulating fabrics will keep you warm. Effective choices include wool, fleece and down. Wool and fleece work in both wet and dry weather, but down should be reserved for dry weather or worn with a weatherproof outer shell because it loses its insulating properties when wet. For everyday wear, these fabrics are often your outerwear garment, providing essential warmth, but you should add an additional layer if you're working or playing outdoors for hours.

Outer Layers

For winter sports, the outer layer or shell should be weatherproof, providing protection from wind, rain and snow. Choose breathable fibers and, particularly if you'll be out for long periods, garments with ventilation so you don't overheat. Weatherproof shells typically have minimal insulation, but can be worn over base layers, for instance, a wicking undershirt and wool sweater. You'll find outer shells in both jackets and pants, making them ideal for a number of cold-weather activities.

Making It Work

Clothing layers are essential for a winter-weather hike or ski trip, but can also keep you warm and comfortable at work and running errands during cold weather. Invest in comfortable silk or polyester thermals, wool slacks, and fleece-lined tights to keep the chill away. Choose a winter coat made of wool, fleece or down, preferably with a weatherproof outer layer if you're in a wet climate. Don't forget the cold weather accessories, such as a hat, scarf and warm gloves or mittens.

About the Author

With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.

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