“Cotton kills fellas, cotton kills” my Third phase BUD/S instructor yelled at us as the snow began to fall on our cold sweaty bodies. The rest of the night proved to be pure misery as various levels of hypothermia swept the class.

Though the experience was miserable it taught me to appreciate nice outdoor gear and the concept of layering.

This topic can get fairly technical and I’ve seen it broken down into many detailed layers. For our purposes I’m going to keep it straight forward and simple by covering the three core layers: The Base, Insulation and Shell layers.

Base Layer

The base layer is worn close to or directly on the skin serving to collect and move sweat away from your glistening body as well as provide a barrier between your human essence and the rest of your clothes.

Typically these layers are made from either synthetic materials or natural wool, merino being my favorite.

Synthetics can be cheap, durable and high performing, but can smell like Hobo’s crotch after a day of use. Wool, especially merino wool, can be more expensive and less durable, but does better in a wider range of temperatures and doesn’t tend to get funky smelling.

Since the base layer is basically your body’s chonies I’ve found having multiple pairs to be a huge asset allowing you to change them out before body funk or sweat do their thing.

There are a ton of options out there, but I’d recommend something with a button or zip neck style to allow you to open it up when warmer. Find one you like and buy three in different colors. You’ll thank me for this later.