Baby it’s cold outside — but Louis Jordan wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on if Ella Fitzgerald had known how to layer up properly.
Whether you want the perfect antidote to unwelcome sleepover invitations, or you just want to enjoy your adventures to the max without the inconvenience of hypothermia, Brooke’s got the lowdown on proper layering for the Aussie winter.
Layering For The Aussie Winter
Has anyone noticed it’s getting a little bit chilly? I’m from across the pond (England) where I’m used to freezing my ass off for the majority of the year, but even I’m starting to feel the need for an extra bit of warmth on my adventures. Hopefully this little guide to layering will help out anyone who’s feeling the same.
The fundamental principle of layering is simple. Wear lots of different layers instead of one big bulky one. This means you can regulate your temperature much better, by being able to switch the amount of layers quickly and efficiently.
Every layer has a function; the base layer is all about wicking moisture away from your skin, the mid layers are about warmth, and the outer layers keep you protected from the wind and rain. There are exceptions of course – particularly when it comes to the mid layer. But on the whole, if you work to these principles you’ll be well on your way to becoming a layering pro.
Although this article is about winter layering, simply pick and choose the layers you need for the season and weather at hand.
It’s All About The Base
The most important layer is the one that’s right next to your skin. Choose wisely as this bad boy is the one that’s going to be soaking up the sweat while you hike, run, cycle, raft, or do whatever else it is that floats your boat. In winter it’s probably best to opt for something long sleeve to give you a little extra coverage on the arms. Think quick dry, lightweight, and comfy. Merino wool and polyester are your best bet.
Hot tip: Whatever you do – avoid cotton like you’d avoid a drive-in campsite on the Easter long weekend.
Ladies! Don’t Forget Your Over-The-Shoulder-Boulder-Holder
You can have the best layering system in the world but if you’ve not sorted out a decent bra then all you’ll have to show for it is nipple chafe and bangers looking for an escape route to sunnier climes. Invest in a decent sports bra that’s quick-drying, supportive, and easy to take on an off. When it comes to bras, choose wisely and don’t let your lady lumps bring down the hard work of the rest of your layering system.
Mid Layer Lovin’
For many people, a mid layer is a fleece or some kind of merino zip up. But personally, I’m a big fan of throwing in an extra layer here that’s a bit more lightweight. I prefer t-shirts which have built-in SPF protection (the sun still burns when it’s winter people), but I know lots of people who opt for a long sleeve shirt here.
Adopting this extra layer is perfect for Aussie winters when daytime temps can vary between 0 – 20 degrees in just a couple of days (I’m looking at you Kosciuszko). I find it adds a lot more flexibility to the whole layering system.
The Traditional Mid Layer
Fleece or merino are the best options here, but whatever you choose the primary aim is to add a bit more warmth. There’s lots of different weight fleeces available, so think about the temps you’ll be exposed to before you invest and choose the one that’s right for you.
Hot tip: This is the one that you’ll probably be taking on and off dependent on how hot you feel – so choose one with a full zip for convenience and ease.
Get Down On It
Winter can only mean one thing. It’s time to get the down jacket out. While synthetic jackets are catching up, down is probably still king when it comes to providing that added warmth. They’re also pretty light and pack down small too. Remember though, that the better quality down jacket you buy, the better quality down it will use. This is important as the down is what provides the loft (the puffing up) which keeps you nice and toasty. Truthfully though, even when it’s hitting zero on the mercury I don’t tend to hike in my down jacket, but it’s a lifesaver at camp.
Hot tip: Look out for one that comes with a stuff sack so that you can save space in your pack.
Don’t Neglect Your Legs
I have weirdly hot legs. Temperature-wise that is (although all the hiking has given me thighs of steel). Anyhow, I digress. I only wear one layer on my legs — usually high-waisted workout leggings as I find they’re the best way to avoid the dreaded thigh chafe. However, if you’re susceptible to chilly pins then invest in a pair of thermal tights to wear under your trousers of choice. They work particularly well if you’re going for the old school cargo/traditional hiking pants. They feel a bit weird and restrictive with leggings but you kinda get used to it.
Head And Hands
We all know that most of the heat you lose from you body goes out of your head (or is that just one of those childhood myths?) Anyhow, don’t forget to keep your noggin insulated. Buy yourself a beanie and throw in some gloves too to keep your paws warm too. I also like taking a ski buff which I use as neck warmer. It’s a lot more compact and lightweight than a scarf and can double up as a headband or extra head layer too.
The primary job of this layer is to protect you from the wind and rain, yet still be breathable too. Some people will just use a windproof shell jacket but to get the most bang for your buck I’d go for something waterproof so you can use it on any occasion.
Hot tip: Make sure you buy it big enough to go over your other layers. Getting my rain jacket done up over my down jacket is a mission and a half because I didn’t take this into consideration. Chuck in some rain pants too — one of those items we all carry but can never actually be bothered to use (come on, you know it’s true).
So there you have it. The complete guide to not being *too* cold this winter. You’re most welcome.
Feature Image by Lisa Owen