Staying Warm In Cold And Stormy Weather – Layering Guide

From snow and ice, to flash flooding, to lightning storms, severe weather is extremely unpredictable and can be incredibly dangerous and it goes without saying, but the weather should always be treated with respect and care.

For dangerous weather conditions such as lightning or large hail storms, avoid going outside at all costs as you do put yourself at great risk of injury by either being struck or hit.

However if you are venturing outside on a particularly wet and windy day, or perhaps just want to be prepared for one, here are our top tips on the best way to keep yourself warm and dry when facing the elements!

Firstly, it’s all about layers! Layers give you more versatility so you can adapt to changing weather conditions. You will also have different needs depending on how much activity you’re doing – whether it be having a nice warm puffy jacket to throw on at rest stops or shedding the fleece jacket as you power up that mountain!

1) Underwear

The absolute first step to keeping warm is unsurprisingly your underwear. A good set of long underwear can work wonders and will help keep your skin dry as you perspire, preventing chafing and providing another layer of warmth. Whilst you don’t want underwear that is too tight, the fit should be snug and made from a non absorbent material to help allow moisture to evaporate and keep your skin dry.

Icebreaker Anatomica Long Boxers are a great example of this as the material is both breathable and snugly fitted.

2) Base Layers

Next, we’re onto your base layer and here we are mostly looking to:

1) Remove any sweat or perspiration from your body and evaporate it into the environment
2) To regulate your body heat by trapping air and preventing it from circulating.

Base layers are incredibly flexible, come in both upper and lower body garments and are great for both warmer and colder conditions.

Due to their versatility, they are also an extremely effective way of dealing with wet conditions, especially those made from natural fibres such as merino wool. These materials are often naturally breathable and extremely efficient at regulating body temperature due to a great warmth-to-weight ratio. 

Shop Men’s Base Layers And Thermals
Shop Women’s Base Layers And Thermals

Another point to note on those particularly brisk days could be adding a mid layer here This is essentially another layer of clothing that essentially acts as an added level of insulation for when you’re moving.

3) Insulating Layers

When it comes to insulating all of this new heat you’ve managed to now build up, the general rule of thumb is: Thickness = warmth (however many manufacturers are obviously always trying to make their clothing both lightweight and incredibly warm).

In order to help insulate effectively, you will need to create a layer of air between you and the outside. Most jackets do this by using materials such as down, which “lofts” to create pockets of trapped air within the jacket. Synthetic insulating materials are becoming ever more sophisticated in mimicking the behaviour of down – whether you choose a down or synthetic insulated jackets will often depend on the weather conditions you might be facing. Almost all down and insulated jackets are not waterproof and can lose their loft when wet, so they’re not able to insulate you as effectively.

Down remains the lightest option. The warmth to weight can be compared using the fill power, which measures how much the down will loft – the higher the number, the higher the quality. However, down does not like getting wet, as it starts to clump and loses its ability to loft. It can also struggle to dry out and recover its loft if it is heavily soaked. In much colder conditions, such as polar or alpine environments, where it’s too cold for rain, this isn’t often a problem, but for wet and cold British winters, it’s not so great! In recent years, manufacturers have developed hydrophobic treatments for down, which coat the down fibres to help them resist getting wet, thereby preserving the majority of the down’s ability to loft and insulate you. Both Rab and Haglofs have partnered with Nikwax in using hydrophobic down in their clothing – check out Rab’s classic Microlight range or the Haglofs Roc Down jackets!

Synthetic insulated clothing is also a great option for wetter weather. Whilst the best synthetics are not quite as warm for the same weight as top quality down, they’re still very effective and absorb very little water so retain the bulk of their insulation when wet. They’re also normally much easier to clean if you get them muddy!

For added security in the wettest weather – and a bit of additional insulation – opt for a waterproof jacketover the top of your insulation layer.

4) Outer (shell) layers

Finally, and perhaps the most important part of your layering system is the shell. Ultimately, this is the piece of kit that is going to keep the cold OUT and keep your warmth in so it’s definitely one to get right!Just as sweating cools you down when you’re hot, if you get wet, it makes it much easier for the wind to sap the warmth from you and you can get cold very quickly. In fact shell layers are so important that one study even showed that in windy conditions, wind-shells can increase warmth by up to 10°C or more!

A frequent question we get asked, is what is the difference between waterproof, water resistant and water repellent?. Whilst windproof and water resistant fabrics are great for walking in windy conditions as they allow perspiration to escape more easily, they will get wet in heavier or prolonged rain, and this is where a fully waterproof jacket comes in..

Is your jacket in need of some TLC? Read our guide on how to wash and reproof your waterproof jackets here

Or check out our guide for choosing the right waterproof jacket

Some great examples of versatile jackets that make for fantastic outer shell layers are:

Sherpa Pumori Jacket – The Pumori Jacket is the perfect jacket to have on hand when you need it most. Crafted using Sherpa’s Himaltec® 3 layer waterproof fabric, this shell jacket is a fully waterproof and breathable option that is  great for tackling heavy rain and brisk winter weather. Being a full 3 layer jacket, it will also help you feel much more comfortable if you’re wearing it for long periods.

Outdoor Research Apollo Stretch Rain Jacket Men’s

Designed for all weathers and ultimate versatility, the pockets in this fantastic lightweight jacket also double up as a stuff sack, so you can always carry it with you whether the forecast calls for a 10% or an 80% chance of wet weather so you’ll never get caught out again!

Other ways to help keep warm in the cold

As covered in our cold weather essentials guide, it’s important to keep things such as your hands, feet and ears warm too to prevent hypothermia and ultimately maintain movement and blood flow around your body. A good pair of gloves will work wonders for those days when you’re caught outside.

Finding a pair of water-resistant, double layered gloves with a removable outer shell such as the Outdoor Research Arete Gloves will allow for a lot of versatility and mobility in your hands. Meanwhile a great pair of thick socks such as the Vicuna Antarctica will keep your feet warm enough to prevent your toes from being in pain whilst out and about.

Speaking of feet – ensure that your feet are staying dry! A well-fitting pair of waterproof walking boots are the obvious choice here. – check out our remote fitting service to help you find the right ones for you! [link] – and for when it gets really miserable, check out our range of Bogs wellies with hi-tech neoprene insulation – the warmest boot is comfort rated to -60C!

Read our guide on how to care and clean your walking boots, or how to pick the right walking boots for your feet!

Likewise, why not invest in a good vacuum flask? For those days that you know you’ll be outside for a long time, a warm beverage in a vacuum flask can make all the difference to staying warm and boosting morale!So there you have it, you’re now nicely prepared for whatever the weather throws at you! Be sure to stay safe in the colder conditions and don’t take any risks. For more information on any of the products mentioned here, our team is here to help! Contact us today.

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