How to dress with the Three Layer System

by Beth Donovan

At Kitsbow, we stay dry, warm and comfortable by following the Three Layer System: a base-layer for removing moisture, a mid-layer to keep you warm, and an outer-layer to protect you from the elements.

1. Base Layer — Breathable layer for wicking away moisture.
Outdoor comfort starts with the layer that touches your skin — the base-layer. When choosing the right base layer, fabric is the most important choice:

Merino Wool — A four season favorite, merino wool moderates temperature. It cools you and it warms you. This works because moisture is retained in the fiber core which warms you up with exertion; and cools you through evaporation in warmer weather.

Perhaps the biggest advantage to wool as a base-layer is the endless hours — even days — of use without stink. Our merino fabrics are a performance blend of merino with synthetic fibers; which deliver extra benefits of faster drying and durability over straight merino. Pack light with Merino.

Synthetics — One of our go-to’s for base-layer bottoms and tops are synthetic blends. Moisture transfer and breathability are top benefits. We’ve also chosen fabrics that include stretch, offering comfortable support and fit snugly without feeling constrictive. Our base-layer synthetics are known for these characteristics: super dry, durable, and resist odor retention.

2. Mid layer — Insulating mid-layers to keep you warm.

The ability of the fibers to keep the air locked in is what makes it an insulating layer. The more air it locks in, the more your clothes will maintain your body heat.

If you wear a mid-layer that insulates too much, you are going to be too hot and sweat a lot. When wet, your mid-layer will lose its insulating qualities and all the accumulated moisture will increase the feeling of cold.

We like our mid-layers to be made of a wool blend, for mostly any season. Synthetic and cotton blends really only come out in the warmer weather; and, if we’re bikepacking, we still ride in a Merino blend shirt regardless of heat.

Selecting the right mid-layer tops add to the off-the-bike and in-camp comfort and versatility. If we can wear one shirt, and pack that as our base layer and riding shirt, that’s a win.

3. Outer Layer — A shielding outer-layer to protect you from the elements.
As far as outerwear goes, we tend to look for things that blend durability, breathability, and warmth over pure waterproofness. Since wool is underneath, we stay warm in case we get wet. 

Great outer-layers: Icon Shirt, Arcana Vest, Wind Jacket