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How Many Layers Should I Wear In Cold Weather?

At least once a week I come across an article about layers. How many should I wear? What should they be made of? How many layers should I have for various activities?

There is a lot written about layering because it is actually really important to get it right in cold weather. If you’re going to be out for an extended period of time you have to layer correctly so you sweat as little as possible. In fact, you’ll be just a tad bit cool if you get it right. It’s also important because you might be a couple miles away from your house or car, and won’t have a lot of options once you’re out there.

I’m going to share my secret to nailing the right amount of clothing every time, regardless of the weather. The solution is a little nerdy, but very simple:

Start tracking your clothing and weather conditions in a spreadsheet

I started doing this because I hate it when my body warms up 15 minutes in and I realize that I didn’t need the merino wool baselayer I’m wearing. Now it’s too late and I’ll likely get sweaty and chilled at some point. Fortunately, that never happens anymore because I know exactly what to wear when I go out.

Here’s all you have to do

layering in cold weather
Layering in cold weather

Start a spreadsheet with wind speed and temperature. I put wind speed on the side in 2 mph increments (0 – 30) and temperature on the top in 5 degree increments (-20 – +50). When you get home take a quick look at the wind speed and temperature. In that box add a quick note about what you wore and how comfortable you were. After awhile the sheet will start to fill up and the information becomes priceless when you want to head out in colder temperatures. Having one less thing to worry about means you can focus more on planning the activity itself (and where you’re going to have that pint afterwards…)

Fun fact – the picture below is from Riisitunturi National Park in Finland. The area is particularly humid due to a natural bog, hence the thick coating of condensed frost and snow. 

photo credit: Tobias Domhan
photo credit: Tobias Domhan


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