Layering, the Do’s and the Don’ts

There is a saying… we throw it around freely in the shop… “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Many years back, Simms had a bumper sticker that said, “Weather Forecast, who cares.”

The goal in layering is three-fold.

  1. Move moister away from your skin and out through the layers.
  2. Keep the elements out, while trapping warmth.
  3. Allow freedom of movement, even in the harshest of condition.

Layering is simple, keep it that way. Use fit for purpose clothing in their appropriate layers, avoid bulk, and make sure that your layers can be shed when it warms up, or added back when the temperature starts to fall. Each layer is critical, dropping anyone of them can cause the system to breakdown and negate the warmth offed by other layers.

Each layer should be fit for purpose, and each layer should be as close to the next layer as possible, thus not allowing the cold to enter between the layers. They should move or slide over each other freely and without restricting movement.


Base Layer

Your on-skin layer designed to lift moister.


Use a fit for purpose base layer, it should only perform one function, lift moister, this will keep you comfortable. It should be form fitting and allow other garments to slide over it easily. Most base layers are made from polypropylene with some percentage of spandex. Bamboo has also proven very good as a base layer and has an additional benefit of being very odour resistant and can be worn a few times between washes.


The base layer should not have warmth properties, its goal is to lift moister, other layers are designed for warmth. A base layer that has warming properties can overheat you when conditions change, they also add bulk to your layering system.

Warmth Layer

Generally, fleeces are what are worn for warmth. It is better to wear 2 lightweight fleeces than one thick one.


Use form fitting fleeces, yes, plural. Often two light fleeces are better than one heavy fleece. Or use a light fleece in conjunction with a midweight fleece. The theory is that as the fleeces knit together, they offer a better mechanism for trapping heat. It is also easy to strip one fleece off when the sun burns through the clouds.


Formfitting is the key here, don’t wear a lose fitting fleece, it will allow cold air to penetrate and you will negate the warmth properties.

Barrier Layer

Normally a puff layer, it should be the layer that keeps your warmth layer away from the cold.


Again, use a form fitting layer, that slides over the fleece layer. Puff jackets are generally the preferred garment, preferably with Prima Loft as its fill, Prima Loft sheds water well and has a good warmth for wetness ratio. Goose or duck down is a very good insulator, but it retains water, has a slow drying rate and has a low warmth for wetness ratio, it also looses its loft easily when under a shell layer.


Don’t compact the loft element of the garment by wearing a garment that is too small, or by wearing a shell layer that is too tight.

Shell/Outer Layer

This is the outermost lay that keeps the element out, be it wind, rain, sleet or snow.


Your shell is designed to keep the elements out. That’s it… it should be water and wind proof, relatively light weight, packable and breathable. It should have adjustable cuffs, high neck and a hood. Large cargo packets come in handy when you’re on the water, but generally keep the lines clean to avoid line snag.


Don’t over size the shell layer, it will just let cold air in and negate the other layers. When wearing waders, the shell should never be tucked into the waders, it should go over the top of the waders to reduce the amount of air change.

Under Waders


Use tapered garments, this will reduce the bulk in the lower leg and be far more comfortable. Simms make a wader wick fleece pant, with the correct taper or you can also wear on-skin tights like the ones worn for cycling.

Wear a loop knit thermal long sock, that are the correct size. The bootie you wear over the neoprene sock of the waders should be over sized, therefore not compacting the loop knit of the sock. It is also advisable to wear a lightweight nylon sock inside the thermal sock, allowing moister to be moved off your foot.

Your waders and shell are probably the most technical garments you are ever going to wear. Just think about what you are asking them to do. Keep water out, while expelling the moister your body is generating, all while trapping heat and moving like normal clothing. Treat them with respect. Wash them regularly by following the care instructions and manufactures directions.

The most common cause of wader failures is user error.

  • Incorrect garments worn under the waders.
  • Putting too much pressure on the seams while putting them on or taking them off.
  • Incorrect storage.
  • Incorrect care.

Under Waders


Cotton, in any form, should be avoided. It has one of the lowest warmth for wetness ratios, with it being as low as not retaining any warmth’s when only 20% wet. Angora can retain 90% of its warmth at 90% wet. Cotton is also highly abrasive and becomes more abrasive when it is wet. Denim material must always be avoided. Globally, Demin jeans can comfortably attribute to 40 percent of wader failures, not only the fabric, but also those pesky copper studs.

Avoid hiking socks, they generally have a cotton content and are usually a little short.

ZIPS, yes avoid them!! They break and become sharp points. Don’t buy under wader garments with zips, unless they are plastic.



Find garments that have ¼ zips, this allows you to zip down to cool off.

Try and find good quality garments, generally the more you pay, the better you get. Not all fleeces are made equally.


Don’t have full zips on all your layers, they will build bulk on the zips. There is also the possibility of them rubbing or catching on each other.

Never wash your technical garments, including fleeces, with fabric softener. It clots the pile or pours in the garments and reduces the loft.

Technical shirts should not be worn as they are designed to be a lose fit and therefore allow air to penetrate your system.

Although they look like they are warm and will fight the elements, 3-in1 jackets should be avoided. They are not form fitting, they move as one unit and you are not able to strip just one layer off. They also tend to be oversized, thus allowing cold air in.

These simple do’s and don’ts will keep your technical gear doing what it was designed for, keeping the elements out and you comfortable and warm.


Putting waders on
  • Always sit down when putting waders on.
  • Work your foot into the wader until it is half in the stockingfoot at an angle.
  • Grab the wader at the back of the ankle and work the stockingfoot onto your foot.
  • Once both feet are in, work the wader up your legs and body until they are on.
  • Never stand in the wader and pull them on like you would with a pair of pants or jeans. This creates excess stress on the seams which can cause seams to leak.
Taking waders off
  • Like putting waders on, always sit down when taking waders off.
  • Work the wader down from your chest to your legs.
  • Grip the ankle/heal of the wader and work it off both feet.
  • Waders can then be slipped off easily without putting stress on the seams.
  • Never stand on the tip of the stockingfoot with the other foot and pull your foot out. This creates excess stress on the seam and will cause the wader to leak either in the toe of the stockingfott or the seams joining the neoprene to the breathable membrane.
Float tubing and walking the bank
  • Always wear a protective shoe over the stockingfoot of the wader. Never walk in the wader when the stockingfoot is not protected.
  • Dive booties are a great way of protecting the neoprene of the stockingfoot, not only do they protect the bottom from pin holes caused by walking in them, but they stop your fins from damaging or causing wear on the ftockingfoot.
  • For fishing from a bank or in a river a pair of wading boots over the stockingfoot is the best as they provide sturdy ankle support as they limit ankle movement.
  • Wearing true wading boots with fins attached to the bottom limits the amount of movement of the ankle and causes fatigue a lot quicker when finning. Dive booties are designed to allow for ankle movement when finning.