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Layer Up — Winter 2010 | Out Here Magazine

Combat the cold by dressing in layers

By Carol Davis
Photography courtesy of Carhartt

Wearing the right clothing makes all the difference, whether you're out sledding and having fun, or mucking out stalls.

The rule for winter dressing is to layer up, says Nicole Miller, an outerwear expert for Carhartt, which has manufactured rugged and durable clothing for more than 120 years.

"Not knowing the correct way to layer is the biggest mistake that we see people make," she says.

Wearing a T-shirt under a heavy coat, for example, creates a quandary if you become too warm in that coat.

"You can take off the coat, but if you don't have any layers, you're stuck in just a T-shirt, and you can't stay warm," she says.

Layering, she says, allows you to always be as warm as you want to be.

The three primary layers are the base, insulating, and weather protection, she says.

  • Base layer — This layer, worn next to your skin, should consist of clothing that wicks moisture, or pulls it away from your skin, allowing the moisture to evaporate.
    "You want to wear something that's moisture-wicking so that when you're working up a sweat, it pulls the moisture away from your body so you don't get so cold," Miller says.
    Cottons tend to hold onto water, so synthetics — particularly polyester — are your best bet for the base layer, which typically is thermal underwear, she advises.
  • Insulating layer — This middle layer, which should keep body heat in and cold out, should consist of fleece or a sweatshirt, Miller says.
    If you're more active, and perspiring, then this layer should be a synthetic, rather than cotton, to pull moisture away from the body.
  • Protection layer — This outermost layer, which should be waterproof, serves to protect you from the elements, such as snow, sleet, rain, and a cold wind, Miller says.
    This "shell" could be a breathable nylon or tightly woven duck shell which allows your body's moisture to escape. "Our 12-ounce duck (cloth) is a great protector," she says, "as long as you're not in drenching rain."

Carhartt offers a variety of linings to accommodate almost any outdoor activity. Lightweight linings — either a thermal or blanket lining — offer warmth to the shell without adding uncomfortable bulkiness, she says, adding, "Our sherpa lining is one of the most popular because it is soft and warm, but not bulky."

The arctic quilt lining offers the utmost in insulation, she says. "It's a great insulator, and coupled with our Extremes Cordura¨ fabric, is popular with people who snowmobile and are out in the real cold weather."

Layering correctly depends on the level of activity you're doing, Miller says.

"Someone working outdoors or who is active has different needs than someone more sedentary, who might be fishing or holding a stop sign at a construction site," she says.

"If you're more sedentary, you don't have to worry about sweating and moisture management, but you do need insulation," she says. "You also need comfort and durability, which are attributes in which Carhartt excels. The signature triple-needle stitching and superior fabrics ensure your outerwear purchase will withstand years of use."

Cotton fabrics are great for insulating if you're not performing a high-energy activity, she says.

"That's why Carhartt has a variety of cotton sweats and T-shirts," Miller says. "We find that our customers like having natural (cotton) fibers next to the skin. If you're not doing something real active and don't need moisture management, then cotton is a great alternative."

Carol Davis is editor of Out Here.