Layer Up: Top Picks for Breathable Protection
Published on 11/20/2012
By Katie Levy
If you haven’t noticed that the seasons are changing, it’s time to look out your window. With temperatures (and rain, snow, sleet, and hail) dropping every day, it can be tough to find a layer that’ll keep you warm without making you overheat when you ramp up your activity level. Softshell jackets are great pieces to have when it’s not raining, and when you need an abrasion-resistant, breathable layer for sports like rock climbing. We’ve scouted out some great pieces that’ll keep you warm without getting clammy when you head uphill.
Outdoor Research Transfer Hoody
Softshells are great for changing seasons; temperatures drop, but it’s not quite time to put on the 800-fill down jacket. Outdoor Research’s Transfer Hoody is perfect for the days in between summer and winter. Made with breathable fleece-bonded stretch woven fabric, it’s lightweight, sports a soft interior, and the stretchy material prevents the hoody from restricting your movement. Keep this in mind when it starts raining: the water-resistant exterior keeps unwanted moisture out, but is not meant to completely repel water. You'll need a rain jacket or hard shell for that.
Columbia Powerfly Down Jacket
Temperatures can drop unexpectedly during the later hours of the day, especially the closer we get toward the winter months. To make sure you’re covered, add a lightweight, packable, super warm down jacket like the Powerfly from Columbia Sportswear. The 800 fill down insulation will keep you warm without limiting your movement. It also features Columbia’s body-heat-retaining Omni-Heat® thermal reflective lining to help you retain the heat your body generates. It’s not the most breathable jacket on the list, but it’s the warmest (and one of the most breathable down jackets you’ll find).
EMS Power Dry ¼ Zip
One of the best types of midlayers is a 1/4 or 1/2 zip top because the zipper gives you a better control over your body temperature than a collar that doesn’t zip. Without taking a layer off, you're able to let a little more air out if you're getting warm, or keep more in if you're chilly. This fall, the folks at Eastern Mountain Sports designed a shirt that's perfect for changing temperatures. The Power Dry’s interior grid surface pulls moisture away from the skin and the top dries quickly. You can throw the top in your backpack when you're expecting a chilly night or chilly morning, but it's also a great choice for vigorous cool weather activity. It's versatile, and a great piece for any layering wardrobe. Plus, 91% of the material used to make the top is recycled polyester, so you can get another stamp on your green card.
Marmot Women’s Lobo’s and Men’s Cruz Convertible Pants
Along the same line as a shirt that unzips to help you control your body temperature, convertible pants are a must for the changing seasons. Convertible pants not only help you avoid packing both shorts and pants when you’re backpacking and weight is a concern, but also provide the flexibility to adjust layers on the go. Zip off the legs if you’re getting toasty, or add them back on as temperatures drop. The Women’s Lobo and Men’s Cruz pants from Marmot are abrasion- and water-resistant, and both feature cargo pockets for quick access to necessities.
SmartWool Midweight Bottom
The closer we get to winter, the more important it is to have the right baselayers for all of your favorite outdoor activities. The SmartWool Midweight Bottom is warm, soft, and breathable. Wool is an ideal insulator, and thanks to SmartWool’s interlock knit design, the Midweight Bottom is itch-free. It’s a perfect baselayer for hiking or skiing in single-digit temperatures, or as a stand-alone pair of tights for keeping your goodies warm on cold weather trail runs.