The ultimate guide to buying layers

Ditch that soggy old cotton tee and tired woolly jumper and enter the fast-wicking, air-trapping world of proper mountain layering

When it comes to staying warm in sub-zero temperatures, we have one word for you: layers. It’s not about one big coat, but a series of thinner layers built on top of each other to trap warm air. They are also key to regulating your temperature; take layers off when you’re hot and keep spares in your backpack for when the mercury plummets. And with brands getting ever better at meeting the fit and insulating demands of every kind of skier, there has never been a better time to renew your layering wardrobe.

Fall-Line skier Chloe gives her layers the balcony test... | Callum Jelley

Fall-Line skier Chloe gives her layers the balcony test… | Callum Jelley

Lessons in Layering

Sally Bartlett from Ski Bartlett uncovers the myths of layering…

MYTH #1: Cotton makes a great baselayer.


Non-wicking fabrics, like cotton, retain sweat when you’re active, which then makes you chilled when you stop. Next-to-skin, snug-fitting baselayers need to be made from breathable, fast-wicking fabrics like natural merino wool or synthetic versions like Capilene.

Ortovox MERINO-ULTRA-260-NET-HOODY-W-85996-strong-blue-MidRes

Merino baselayers like the Ortovox 206 Merino Ultra hoody trap air yet are naturally wicking, making them an ideal baselayer

These fabrics keep you warm, but also wick sweat away from your skin into the next layer of clothing as you heat up from exercising. What’s more, hollow fibres in fabrics like merino also trap air in their filaments, acting like an insulating blanket of warm air around your body.

MYTH #2: Christmas jumpers will keep you toasty on the hill.


Wearing thick woolly jumpers will not keep you as warm as a mid-weight merino wool and fleece layers, or insulated liner jackets. If you feel the cold, insulated liner jackets double up as a multi-use lightweight jacket for evenings. Insulated with down or synthetic fibres, they trap air to keep you warm.

Odlo Helium cocoon

The Odlo Helium cocoon uses Down for lightweight, compressible warmth

Down packs smaller and is warmer and lighter (except when wet) but it won’t be as breathable as synthetics. Fillings like Primaloft and manufacturers’ own synthetic downs are now rivalling down as they’re breathable, packable and easy to wash.

Read all our gear reviews in the 2015-16 Fall-Line Gear Guide, out now 

Fall-Line Skiing Magazine
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