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How to Think About our Outdoor Survival Gear the Survival System - Part 2 the Mid-Layer

How to think about

Outdoor Survival Gear

Your Wilderness Survival System

Part 2 the Mid-Layer



In a previous post I wrote about what I consider to be the base of our “wilderness survival system” and that is our clothing. Clothing must be taken into consideration as part of that overall survival system, because we as humans don’t survive long in austere environments without it.

At this point, we can take the concept of a system a step further and say that it is generally agreed upon that clothing works most efficiently when layered. With that said, the typical clothing system consists of a moisture wicking base layer, an insulating mid layer, and a weather resistant yet breathable outer layer. This clothing system allows us to control the “mini environment directly around our bodies no matter what the big environment is doing. By controlling this “mini environment” we can keep our body temperature at that critical 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit that we need to survive.  

In the previous article we discussed the base layer of the clothing system. So, in this article we are going to discuss the mid-layer of the clothing system. As in the last, article I don’t want to discuss what type of material or brand of clothing is the best for a mid-layer but rather what the function of the mid-layer is.  

The Mid Layer

The Mid-layer put simply is the insulation layer and, in my mind, the most difficult layer to get right. If you go too heavy with this layer your too hot and will sweat. If you go too light with the mid-layer you can’t stay warm in the conditions. Either way you’re not setting yourself up for success or comfort. The correct mid-layer will keep you warm in the conditions yet not be so warm that you are constantly having to take it on and off.

What Does the Mid-layer look like?

The Mid-layer can take a couple of basic forms. I often like to use a vest for my mid-layer. This keeps my core temperature stable while letting my arms move freely for the task at hand, especially if I’m wearing the shell over it. This arrangement also allows my arms to dissipate some heat helping to prevent sweating.

Other people might be more comfortable with a wool or synthetic jacket type of layer. This can impede movement some especially if it fits tight under the shell. So, if you prefer this type of mid-layer make sure that it fits well under your shell. Tight clothing does not insulate well. On the other hand, this type of mid-layer has the potential of holding more heat from the arms and arm pits, so in extreme situations this might be a better choice than a vest.

Which one is the best?

The short answer to this question is, it depends. While I know people hate that answer, sometimes it just can’t be avoided. Choosing the correct mid-layer for your outdoor system is dependent on a lot of factors, not the least of which is comfort. If clothing is not comfortable, you’re not going to use it, let alone use it properly.

The next consideration is how well the material and form insulate. After all the mid-layer is there to provide the insulation necessary to keep that happy core temperature. The amount of insulation need depends largely on your environment. Winter here in Montana is quite different than say in California or even Utah for that matter, so

So, you need to try different forms and materials for your mid-layer until you find the one that works the best for you and the conditions that you expect to encounter while you’re in the outdoors.

The Takeaway

To wrap this up, the mid-layer of you clothing system can take different forms (Jacket or vest) which one you use depends on conditions and comfort. The amount of insulation provided by the mid-layer also depends on the activity and conditions that you are expecting to encounter. An early fall bow hunt requires much different insulation than a mid-January snowmobile ride. So, you could have different mid layers or entirely different clothing systems for different conditions or activities.

The next post in this series will be about the outer shell of your clothing system, so stay tuned.   

Thanks for reading,

As always,   Don’t Be Safe, Be Prepared

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