woman smiling in the rain wearing a rain jacket

The benefits of layering

When practicing outdoor activities, layer your clothing to stay comfortable, dry and warm. Learn how to layer up properly before you head out!

At Decathlon, we go to great lengths to ensure our products are made with technical fabrics that have your back (literally!) in all types of weather conditions. We design each item carefully, while keeping in mind the activity for which it is intended. Discover how our products are tested, and how you can layer for each outdoor activity.

woman and man hiking in the rain

Layering basics

Layering is a good idea because it ensures you are ready for anything. If you get too warm, you can remove a layer or two. If you start to feel chilly, or it starts to rain, you can throw an extra layer on. The key is to consider the fabric each garment is made with, as well as the amount of physical exertion you expect during the activity. 

When going on a long hike, you may work up a sweat as you head up the mountain; but your body temperature will likely drop when you stop at the summit to take in the view. Your needs will be different depending on the amount of sun or rain that day; so it’s important to consider all factors when deciding how to layer up appropriately. You will want to consider the weight of the fabric when conditions are cold outdoors. The thicker a fabric is, the warmer it will keep you; so choose some layers made with thick fabrics when the temperature is really low.

Skip the cotton
Cotton is not a great choice when layering up for outdoor activities because it absorbs moisture quickly and dries slowly. This creates a damp cold layer close to your skin which could increase the risk of hypothermia.

woman zipping up her jacket

The 3-layer technique

To keep things simple, you can always follow this three-layer technique to ensure your bases are covered, particularly for cold weather or winter activities.

Base layer: You want to stay dry while you exert yourself, so choose a sweat-wicking fabric for the first layer as it is the one in closest contact with your skin. This base layer will pull moisture away from your body so that you don’t get too damp and cold. Merino wool is a great choice of fabric because it regulates heat and doesn’t absorb odours.

Middle layer: This second layer will help keep you warm if the air is cool and should also be breathable in order to wick away moisture. A light-to medium thickness fleece may be a good option for this layer. Choose something that is easy to put on and take off as your needs may change depending on how much you are moving.

Outer layer: This top layer will protect you from wind, rain or snow. Choose a waterproof or water resistant fabric for this layer and consider its ability to cut the wind on particularly gusty days.

man zipping up his waterproof jacket

Water resistant or waterproof?

You may have already asked yourself: “What’s the difference between the two?” Let's break it down…

Water resistant: The fabric is tightly woven and covered in certain coatings so as to resist the intrusion of water, but the solution is temporary and won’t stand up to a serious downpour.

Waterproof: The specially coated fabric resists water penetration almost entirely and the garment is also designed so that zippers and seams are equally coated to guard against leaks. This is your best bet for extremely wet conditions.

Let's test it! 

At Decathlon, we make a point of testing our products to identify any issues or design flaws that should be improved. When it comes to the fabrics we use, we test everything from toxicity to impermeability. We also put items through rigorous lab and field tests to see how well they stand up to regular use. Here’s a peak at some of the tests we run.

  • water resistance test on a boot

    Water column test

    This test is used to check the water resistance of a fabric and the product as a whole. 
    Results of the test are expressed in mm of a water column or mm "Schmerber" (the name of the textile manufacturer Charles Edouard Schmerber who created this measuring tool). ‍

    1 Schmerber = 1 mm water column = 0.1 mbar

    Average rain pressure is represented by 1,000-2,000 Schmerber. 
    If a garment resists up to 1,300 mm, it is considered waterproof (according to the standard ISO 811 - hydrostatic pressure test that determines resistance to water penetration).

  • shower test on a jacket

    Shower test

    This test is used to determine a garment’s overall resistance to water, including the actual construction of the item (zippers, seams, etc.). The garment is submerged in a steady shower of water. Here’s how we rate each garment’s water resistance: 

    Rating 2: protects from 6 cm of rain in approx. 1 hour).
    Rating 3: protects from 12 cm of rain in approx. 2 hours.
    Rating 4: protects from 30 cm of rain in approx. 3 hours.
    Rating 5: protects from 1.8 m of rain in approx. 4 hours.

  • Mechanical test on a boot

    Mechanical testing

    We use these tests to simulate years of wear and tear so that we can determine how our products stand up to rigorous use. Our mechanical testing can measure friction, traction, colour bleeding and more. We want to push our prototypes to the limit in order to see what they can withstand. 

  • woman hiking with walking poles

    Field testing

    We also test our products in real-life conditions. For example, our team of testers may try our hiking boots and backpacks on extensive trips in the mountains to see how the products stand up to the activity. These field tests allow us to easily address pain points and find solutions to improve our products. 

member testing

We also ask our members to test our products and evaluate durability to see if anything was missed during our mechanical or field testing. Who better than our members to give us honest feedback about our products? We take all comments into consideration and our teams work together to determine how our products may be improved.

water resistance test on boots

Let's talk boots

Of course, we test a variety of items, but one of our most tested items are our boots. We know how important it is to keep your feet warm and dry when you’re out in the elements. We also want to ensure you have adequate grip and support regardless of the conditions you’re experiencing while you practice your sport.

Most of our boots have a waterproof membrane to provide optimal waterproofing and breathability. Boots are immersed in water with pressurized air inside to check that no bubbles form on the surface of the boot. Next, the boots  are put on a mechanical foot that simulates walking while half immersed in water to ensure the inside stays dry.

During the waterproofing test, we test 5 levels of waterproofing:
- 2,000 flexes (approximately 4 km, 30 minutes of walking)
- 10,000 flexes (approximately 10 km, 3 hours of walking)
- 30,000 flexes (approximately 15 km, 6 hours of walking)
- 50,000 flexes (approximately 20 km, 8 hours of walking)
- 100,000 flexes (approximately > 20 km, 24 hours of walking)

woman wearing a waterproof jacket

All geared up

We firmly believe that, with the right gear, you can stay active and comfortable in all types of weather conditions. Layering up with technical fabrics is a great way to stay dry and warm as you move. Each sport has its own requirements and you can always check in with one of our knowledgeable in-store sports advisors if you have specific questions about your chosen activity. Learn to layer like a pro, and you’ll get the most out of every season, all year long!

More like this

sheep's head

Why choose merino wool?

The key to a successful outdoor activity? Put on Merino wool base layers. Antimicrobial, stretchy and breathable, Merino wool protects the body against temperature changes. This fabric is extremely effective in all seasons.

kids hiking

How to dress your kids for a hike

Children tend to run everywhere and get into everything. Follow our tips for kids' hiking gear to make sure they stay dry and warm while exploring.

trekking boots on a mountain hiking

How to choose the right hiking footwear

Deciding what kind of hiking shoes or boots to get can be tricky—there are so many options! It helps to think about the terrain you are going to explore and the load you plan to carry.

Hiking map with a compass

How to use a compass?

An indispensable device for getting your bearings, a compass is one of the first things you should pack when going on a hike. Extremely useful for orientation, it is one of the best ways to get you from point A to point B. Still, you have to know how to use it to make sure you’re on the right track!