How to layer with your down jacket

November 27, 2018 How to
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A down jacket is one of the most coveted and practical items of our outdoor gear wardrobe for most of us. Summer or winter in the mountains, the down jacket is useful year round. 

However, these jackets are quite hot, which can make you sweat if you’re moving, so knowing how to properly use these jackets as layer pieces is important.

Read more about layering here. 

Makes a great mid layer

The down jacket is made to be a mid layer on those very cold days. It should be worn underneath a hard shell (like a Gore Tex jacket) for maximum insulation. Just note, that the hard shell should be loose enough that the jacket can puff up to it’s full loft. The full loft on the jacket will ensure you have the most insulation from your jacket.  A tight jacket on top of your down jacket squishes the down fibres and causes the jacket to loose some of it’s insulating ability.  So don’t squeeze it into a layering system, give it some room to achieve maximum loft.

Under the down

Underneath the down jacket, layer how you like, depending on your level of activity. The best is a long sleeve merino wool shirt or other base layer. If it’s cold, you can also throw a fleece jacket or a more active soft shell jacket over it. It ultimately comes down to your activity level.  You can use it when you just trying to stay warm, managing moisture level (sweat) and use the jacket to throw on when you get chilly.

how to layer down sorcerer lodge lifeoutdoors photo

Don’t layer close to skin

A down jacket will need to rest on a soft base layer, so make sure you wear a long sleeve. Most down jackets are made from a polyester lining which doesn’t feel nice next to bare skin, and can stick and feel clammy. This is especially true in winter, but in the mountains, it’s true any time of year. (Find out why you get cold in the mountains in our article.)

Down jackets don’t like to be wet, the down insulation tends to pile in wet conditions. So it’s best to protect them from elements such as rain and snow by using a hard shell over top of a down jacket. 

Make it accessible

If you’re moving, even on a cold day you may feel like you’re about to overheat with a down layer. Pay attention to this and don’t wait. At the first sign of heating up, remove your down jacket and stow it away. If you overheat, you’ll sweat, and the moisture will make you cold when you cool off.  

So when using a down jacket, just be mindful about what you are using it for and your activity level. 

Find out how to take care of your down jacket