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How to use layers to stay warm

January 16, 2019 6 min read

How to use layers to stay warm

Discover the seven secrets to using multiple light layers to stay warm without compromising your comfort or movement.

by David Michell, the founder of ioMerino


Don't be fooled by thickness

In life, bigger isn’t always better, and the same goes with layers where thicker isn’t necessarily better. Some fabrics are nice and thick, but not necessarily nice and warm. Whether it’s Merino or some other fabric, features like the weave of the fabric can affect how warm they are. So don’t be fooled by how thick something feels. Our MicroMerino fabrics, for example, are relatively thin, yet surprisingly warm. And that’s the whole point; you want something lightweight, that still gives you a full range of movement when you want to be active, without compromising the warmth. The good news is, with our superior MicroMerino layers you can stay toasty warm and still be as free as a bird.


Different materials give different types of warmth

If you put your hand inside a plastic bag, your natural body heat will generate warmth and your hand can end up getting unnaturally sweaty, clammy and uncomfortable because plastic doesn’t ‘breathe'. A lot of synthetic fabrics are exactly the same. Let’s face it, they’re made from basically the same stuff! Which is why they can generate a stinky, uncomfortable type of warmth. Many of them don’t breathe very well, if at all, and although you may be warm, you won’t be very comfortable. Some of these fabrics are made from recycled plastic, and while that saves some landfill, they’re no comparison to the clean, comfortable warmth the all natural ioMerino fabrics create. Besides, our MicroMerino fabrics are way better for the environment than they’ll ever be!


Some layers handle moisture better than others

The minute you start perspiring, you’re going to want your layers to keep that moisture away from your skin.Something like polyester will absorb a grand total of just 1% of its weight. Needless to say, if you start perspiring while you’re wearing a synthetic like polyester, you’re going to know all about it. Fast. You’re going to be damp and uncomfortable straight away. And if it’s already cold outside, you’re going to get colder, not stay warmer.

Cotton, is better and absorbs 24% of its weight which actually sounds pretty impressive compared to those synthetics until you consider how much our MicroMerino fabrics are able to absorb.

Our fabrics will absorb a massive 35%of their own weight in water which means you’ll be much more comfortable for much longer. The human body is actually pretty clever. The whole reason you perspire is to help cool you down. The perspiration evaporating on your skin is designed to keep you cool when it’s hot. And that makes perfect sense when it’s actually warm outside. But, when it’s cold outside and you perspire through effort, the last thing you want is to cool down. By drawing moisture away from your skin this is where the moisture ‘wicking’ effect doesn’t just keep you comfortable, it keeps you warm, and in extreme conditions, alive.


Comfort of the fabric

What’s the point of being warm if you’re not also comfortable, right?

Sometimes in life, you have to compromise, but not when it comes to layering with ioMerino. In the old days, explorers wore wool because of its warmth and breathability. But if you ever see a picture of those explorers, you’ll see their gear looks very coarse and not at all comfortable. For them, uncomfortable was better than dead. Today, thanks to modern knitting techniques, along with years of research and experimentation, we’ve uncovered the secret to creating fabrics that are strong and durable enough to deliver all the best qualities of Merino, but soft and comfortable enough to still feel amazingly good.

My family has been in the wool industry for 145 years, and it’s taken us every bit of that experience, along with the help of a scientist or two, to come up with our own unique fabrics. They’re so unique, we don’t even call them Merino any more, but MircoMerinoto describe just how fine they are. That combination of comfort and performance is a delicate balance, for sure, but one we’ve managed to perfect. If the professionals who choose ioMerino are anything to go by, one we’ve gotten just right.


How to allow for changes in temperature

One of the biggest challenges most people have, is what to wear when the temperature can go up or down quite a bit. If you’re just going to be sitting down in a consistent temperature, it’s easy enough to dress appropriately, sit relatively still, and be perfectly fine. But if the external temperature goes up or down by more than a few degrees, or your activity level varies enough for your own body temperate to go up or down, that’s when you’re going to need to be much smarter about how you dress, and when layeringcan really come in handy.

For starters, if your version of layering involves putting one really warm thing over one really minimal thing and the warm thing becomes too warm, you’ve got nowhere to go. You can either be boiling hot, or freezing cold. So multiple layersallows you to take one layer, or more, off if you really warm up. This may not always be convenient, but at least it’s possible.

With ioMerino’s MicroMerino fabrics you’ll also get natural temperature regulation. Think of it like insulation in the roof of a house. It keeps you warm when the temperature drops, and also helps cool you down when it rises. We’d love to take the credit for creating this, but the reality is it’s one of the natural properties of Merino developed over the past million or so years courtesy of Mother Nature.

The wool fibres themselves are actually hollow, and while there’s not an awful lot of space inside wool fibre, it’s just enough to trap a tiny amount of air as an extra insulation layer. Add that to the moisture ‘wicking’ effectthat draws moisture away from your skin, and you have a complex, and highly effective, temperature regulation system. Something no amount of modern technology has managed to match making MicroMerino the ultimate fabric for performance layering.


The Magic happens between the layers

It makes perfect sense that the more layers you wear, the warmer you’ll be. But it’s not just the warmth from the layers themselves that counts. When fabrics are created specifically with layering in mind, like ours are, the combination of textures can dramatically impact just how warm and comfortable you are.

The mathematicians out there might struggle with this, but think of it as one plus one equals three. Where one performance layer, plus another performance layer in combination, actually provides you with not two, but three levels of insulation.

Here’s why: Fabrics that are specially designed to work together as performance layers trap a layer of air between them, and that layer of air actually acts as an extra layer of insulation.

So a flat fabric that sits flat against smooth skin won’t necessarily be as warm as a fabric made from a similar weight and type of yarn that’s been knitted with a texture. Why? Because when you put flat against textured, even when the texture feels smooth, there’s tiny pockets of air in between them and this creates that extra layer of insulation. This is one of the real secrets to layering and why smarter lightweight layers can punch well above their weight in the warmth department. And why we’ve put so much effort and know-how into all of our fabrics to work in combinations that deliver the ultimate in warmth and comfort.


Beware of bad microns

When you’re trying to make an informed decision about what’s best for you, it’s easy to get a bit bamboozled by technical specifications. One of the measurements we use in Merino, for instance, is a thing called a ‘micron’ which measures the how fine the fibre is. A ioMerino, we use an 18.5-micron fibre, but there’s more to performance than mere microns. What a lot of companies don’t tell you is this micron measurement is actually an average. So if you use finer, high quality and more expensive fibre like we do you end up with 18.5 smooth, comfortable microns. If you’re a company who cares more about making money than making your customers happy, to cut costs you can use some nice fibre mixed in with some cheaper, scratchy fibre and end up with 18.5 coarse, rough, uncomfortable microns.

It goes without saying we only use the good stuff, and we can guarantee it because we know exactly where all of our wool comes from. You know the whole ‘you can’t compare apples with apples’ saying? Well, the same goes for microns and Merino. It’s nice to know the micron rating, but there’s more to comfort than microns, and sometimes you need to touch and feel and wear a garment to know what it’s really like.