Layering 101: How to Layer Clothes for Winter Camping?

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Who doesn’t love camping out in the open, getting mesmerized by what nature has to offer, and having a good time doing it? While summertime camping is quite popular, the same isn’t true for winter camping (too much snow and cold!) But it can be just as enjoyable if you know how to layer clothes for winter camping.

Before you go out in the cold, it’s necessary to know the layering system. The setup functions as an insulator for your body so that you can keep warm even during the harshest of cold weather. It starts with you wearing three layers of clothing – a base layer, an insulating layer, and an outer layer to finish things off.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the three-layer process of winter camping attire. Winter camping will no longer seem daunting to you. So without further ado, let’s start exploring!


What Should You Wear While Camping In The Cold?

During cold winters, it is of absolute necessity that you wear lots of layers of clothing to keep your body warm and covered.

It’s always better to wear a few layers of clothing instead of a single thick jacket or sweater. That’s because layering is much more efficient in holding the warmth inside.

The Three-layer System

How can you dress in layers to keep yourself safe from the cold? The basic clothing setup should be worn in three parts – a base layer, a mid-layer, and a top layer.

The base layer clothing acts as a second skin, which means it should be fitting but not too tight at the same time. Moreover, you want this layer to be wool or synthetic materials that will likely take the moisture away from your skin.

The second layer comes as thick clothing and is worn on top of the base layer. But it shouldn’t be as tight as a base layer. Fleece-lined clothing works excellent in this area.

The final piece of clothing you should worry about is the top layer. It should be water and heat resistant to help you keep warm, but it should also keep you dry during the snowfalls or the rain. So, Parka, coats, or heated jackets are great contenders for this layer.

Accessories to Consider

There are many accessories to consider while preparing yourself to fight the cold as much as possible. But, unfortunately, many people forget to take care of their feet, ears, and nose during cold weather. These parts of your body are extremely sensitive to temperature fluctuations.

Gloves, socks, scarves, and hats will help you in this regard tremendously. Not only will they protect you from cold, but they’ll also keep your sensitive parts like feet, nose, etc., dry.

Cotton materials should be avoided during winter periods because of their breathability. They breathe the heat out of your body instead of keeping it in. Rather, you should wear wool-made clothing more to fight the immense cold.


Best Sleeping Pads for Winter Camping

How to Layer Up for Winter Camping

When you camp outside during the cold winter days, the art of layering your clothes is vital. It’ll extend your enjoyment of camping and keep you safe from the extreme cold temperatures.

Layering for hiking is a tried and tested method that has been in practice for a long time now. But, unfortunately, a lot of people are out there who don’t know how to layer for winter properly. Here are a few pointers.

The Basics

Layering helps hold off your body temperature and regulate your comfort. It does so by dropping on or off layers of clothing according to the temperature and your activity types. But how to dress in layers for winter?

Before we start talking about how to layer clothing for cold weather, you should first understand each layer’s functions as we see fit.

  • Base layer: This section is called the wicking layer or underwear layer. The primary function of this layer is to wick the excess sweat off your skin, so you don’t feel chilly.
  • Middle layer: This portion works as the warm layer or insulating layer. As you can probably guess from the name, this layer retains your body heat from going out and provide protection against the cold.
  • Outer layer: Also known as the shell layer or weatherproofing layer, the primary function of this layer is to shield your body from the weather conditions like wind, rain, or snowfalls.

The main benefit of using the layer system is how flexible it is. If you’re on a hillside tracking or camping out in the cold, the intelligent approach is to take all the layers with you. You can peel off any layer from your body as you see fit. But you can’t produce new clothes for your body.

In the following parts, we’re going to talk about what to wear camping in cold weather to give you the best protection while you’re out there camping.


The Base Layer

We’ll start with talking about the inner layer of your clothing, also known as the base layer by most people. The primary dress for this layer is shirts, leggings, etc.

You need to deal with the sweat and moisture accumulated beneath your clothing. If you don’t factor in the humidity, it’ll cause problems during the camping and might be the reason for various medical conditions.

What Materials Should I Use?

There are mainly two types of clothing options for you that make sense as a good base layer.

You can either go for something natural like cotton & merino wool or choose something like silk. Although, natural clothing isn’t as beneficial to you in cold weather as synthetic ones.

    ● Natural Material

Most natural materials like cotton, merino wool, or silk aren’t as great as retaining moisture like the synthetic options. As a result, you won’t have the same feeling of dryness like you would feel wearing a synthetic base layer.

Natural clothing is also not very resistant to odor-causing bacteria, which means it’ll stink up sooner. However, merino wools are bacteria resistant. Base layers made with this material won’t stack up odor like other naturally made base clothing.

    ● Synthetic Material

Our recommendation is to wear synthetic clothing like nylon or polyester because they perform much better during the drying process.

In addition, synthetic materials are better at wicking the moisture out than any naturally made clothes. This means that if you want to have the driest base layer, go for synthetic layers.

Synthetic materials are also much durable and easily washable than natural materials. Moreover, some synthetic materials like polyester have anti-bacterial properties that keep your clothes free from odor.

Some Of Our Recommended Base Layer Clothing

The best clothing for the best layer is long underwear like Long Johns, which covers the whole body and keeps everything dry. However, some people might not find them comfortable or appealing. So here, we provide you with our recommended base layer for cold weather.

  • Any kind of summer shirt that can offer enough wicking of moisture from your body can be counted as a great base layer.
  • If you wear undergarments like boxers, briefs, or bras, make sure they have wicking capabilities.
  • If you can, go for UPF rated base clothing as it gives you the added protection from harmful sun rays.
  • Don’t wear cotton products in the winter, as they can accumulate your moisture and make you feel cold.
  • You can go for wool clothing infused with ceramic materials, as they will give you much more comfort and cold protection.


The Middle Layer

After you have decided on what to wear for your base layer, it’s time to determine probably the most crucial part of camp clothing that you’ll need for battling out the cold.

Middle layers are essential for keeping your body warm inside your clothes and not let them leech out. Also known as the insulating layer, this clothing layer will help you insulate your body heat from the outside cold temperature.

Unlike the base layer, there are multiple options for you to choose from when it comes to middle layer clothing. But, don’t worry, we’re going to discuss every one of them in detail.

Down Jackets

Down jackets these days are getting very popular because of one specific trait they have over any other mid-layer clothing.

Most of the winter clothes are quite bulky and takes enormous space to tuck in your drawers. Down jackets are not like the typical winter clothing. They are very compressible, and you can store them easily in your drawers without them taking huge extra spaces.

Down jackets also provide the highest weight to warmth ratio than any other material. So that makes it a definite pick for your next clothing purchase. In addition, down jackets have some outer shell materials on top, making them wind-resistant as well.

The Achilles heel for the wind jacket is that it loses its insulation efficiency radically when it gets damp. This means they are not suitable to wear out during the rain or snowfalls.

Also, down jackets can be pretty expensive to buy in the first place, but we suggest you go for them if you have the money.

Synthetic Jackets

Synthetic jackets have been trying to replicate the efficient heat resistance and smaller size of the down jackets for quite some time now. And day by day, they’re coming closer to meeting that goal.

These days, you can get away by buying a synthetic jacket and not feeling any kind of downside or almost no perceptible difference in heat efficiency.

Also, synthetic jackets are a lot cheaper than down jackets. So for people in a tight spot with money, buying a synthetic jacket will be more than enough for you in the cold.

However, synthetic stuff comes with its own set of problems. They aren’t as compact or light as the down jackets. This might not come as a big problem to most of you. But if you’re looking to maximize your drawer space management skills, synthetic jackets might not be for you.


Polyester fleece has become rather popular in rainy regions because of its excellent breathability and low time requirement for drying. Therefore, it is an ideal choice for you if you encounter too much rain during your camping.

Fleece is pretty good at breathing the extra heat out. So you will feel comfortable in relatively warm weather. But this breathability can be a problem in colder regions, as fleece won’t keep your body warm like the other options mentioned before.

A solution to this problem could be using an extra shell layer on top of the fleece, which will resist your body’s heat going out.


winter clothing for camping

The Outer Layer

The outer layer is the final piece to cover in the cold weather layering system. The primary function of this layer is to protect yourself from rain, wind, and snow.

There are multiple types of shells available in the market, starting from different mountain jackets to simple wind resistant jackets. All of the shell jackets are treated with water repellent finishes or DWR so that the water can roll off the surface like a breeze.

The outer layer needs to be solid and durable because it is most likely to take up the highest amount of abuse, like wear and tear, exposure to different elements, and temperature fluctuations.

A lot of good-quality shell jackets are available on the market. We’ll take you through each one so that you can make an intelligent purchase decision.

Soft Shells

Softshell jackets are perfect in terms of breathability and offer more features than anything else. In addition, they are made out of fabric panels to increase their aerobic activity, making them comfortable to wear in relatively warmer weather.

However, they are not good at providing you with good protection against cold, rain, or wind if the weather gets worse. So we’ll suggest you only take soft shells with you in calmer weather.

Breathable Waterproof Shells

This is your top-of-the-line, best type of shell that money can buy. Not only will they keep you free from water, but they’re also very good at keeping you warm.

But with higher functionality comes a higher price tag. These shells don’t come in cheap so that they won’t be suitable for everyone. They are best for people who are looking for the most luxurious experience a shell can give.

Breathable Water-resistant Shells

They are not as expensive as our previously mentioned shells. Suppose you don’t expect heavy rainfall while camping; this might work just fine. These shells are made chiefly of nylons, polyesters, and other synthetic materials, making them resistant to wind and rainfalls.

Non-breathable Waterproof Shells

These are the most affordable options among shell jackets, and their price tag fully justifies their usability.

But, unfortunately, they are not breathable, meaning they’ll keep the warmth inside your body, which might get uncomfortable and sweaty in certain situations.

A good thing about these shells is they are nearly waterproof because of their non-breathable structure. This means they can keep you free from water and snowfalls without any hassles.


winter camping tips to keep you warm

Tips For Staying Warm in Cold Weather Camping

It is pretty hard to camp during the cold weather. Although with the right tips and tricks, the battle against the cold will seem much more accessible to you.

Here are some of our suggestions to keep you warm even during the harshest weather.

Dress in Layers

Before you even think about camping in the cold, learn how to dress for winter camping effectively. As mentioned above, the smartest thing you can do during camping against the cold is to keep yourself warm.

The best way to layer for cold weather is to start from the base and work your way to the top. Dressing in multiple layers of clothing gives you the flexibility and resistance against any kind of weather conditions.

Don’t stay in sweaty clothes

After you build up your camp and get ready to sit and enjoy nature, don’t forget to remove your sweaty base layer immediately. Dry clothes are great for keeping yourself warm. This also includes your gloves and socks.

Keep extra sleeping pads handy

When sleeping in camps, you want to make sure your bed is as insulated as it gets.

During colder nights, one sleeping pad might not be enough to keep you warm. Having at least two sleeping pads increases the thermal resistance and R-value significantly so that you can sleep easily.

Layer your sleeping bag

Layering up your sleeping bag with a quilt or any sort of insulating cloth indeed will bring much-needed warmth inside the bag. Give this layering technique a try, and you’ll be amazed by how much difference it makes!

Keeping a hot water bottle in the core

People tend to keep a hot water bottle near their toes in an effort to keep themselves warm.

But in reality, this is not a good practice because the blood doesn’t move from the toes; it travels from the heart. So keeping the hot water bottle in the belly region will make your body warm much faster and efficiently.

Wearing balaclava

People forget to insulate their heads and lose a lot of precious heat through the cranium region. Covering your head with a balaclava will make your stay in the tent much more comfortable.

Ventilation inside the tent

A counterintuitive tip for all you new people out there, keep your tent well-ventilated.

As you stay inside the tent, you tend to release moistures and vapors from your body, which accumulate inside the tent and get condensed. So, keep an opening at the top of your tent to let all the excess vapors get out.


Wrapping Up

Keeping yourself warm during mid-winter camping might seem like an arduous task at first. You have to consider a lot of stuff at a time, like keeping your body temperature fixated, controlling your sweats, and preventing heat from leaving your body. It might seem daunting at first for a lot of people too, but worry not!

With our detailed guide on how to layer clothes for winter camping, you’ll have a great time camping out, even in the harshest weather. Happy winter camping with your friends and family!