3 Cold Weather Layers

3 Cold Weather Layers

Use a 3 layer clothing system to maintain a normal body temperature in cold weather conditions.  The main goals are to retain heat and stay dry by dispensing and repelling moisture.


The Base Layer of clothing is right next to your skin and is made from artificial fibers like polyester or nylon.  Artificial fiber clothing wicks moisture away from your body, which can otherwise freeze or evaporate, both which make you colder.

Cotton underwear and even cotton thermal underwear should not be used because cotton holds moisture next to your body which promotes heat loss through evaporation and conduction.


The Insulation Layer of clothing needs to be breathable, like wool or fleece, allowing moisture to vent.  Multiple small layers insulate by trapping non-heat conducting air between them.  They also have the added benefit of being able to easily self-regulate to a comfortable temperature by adding or removing layers as necessary, rather than one bulky layer.

For shelters, wool or fleece blankets work wonderfully.  In a pinch, you can use dry leaves, crumpled paper, or anything else that will trap air layers all around you.


The Outside Protective Layer of clothing protects against the elements such as wind, rain, snow & sun. Unless you are in an extremely wet environment, water resistant is usually better than water proof because it “breathes” better, letting moisture out.

A protective layer for your shelter, like a tarp, protects you from the ground.  A tent also will protect you from other elemental hazards in the surrounding environment.  A Mylar tent can reflect your body heat back to you in cold weather and reflect sun and heat away in hot.  Any safe structures that block wind, rain or sun can save your life.

An understanding of Cold Weather Clothing Layers and the Science of Effective Emergency Sheltering will help you to use your available resources to maintain body temperature and make effective, life saving shelters in an emergency.

  1. Dave says:

    Where would one find non-cotton underwear?

    • Many recreation and camping supply stores carry synthetic fiber underclothes. I’ve seen them at Big 5, Gart’s, Caballas, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and others. Some brands include Under Armor, and Base Layer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s