Walking gear: Midlayers
Choosing the right midlayer can really transform your comfort levels on a cold winter walk. Here are five cosy options to choose from...
Fleece lined bamboo overshirt
Jacket, shirt – or shacket? Who cares. Made of soft flannel and lined with brushed fleece, it is deliciously warm and comfortable, and pleasant to wear on shorter, less demanding winter walks, especially those that involve a splash of mooching, idling or stone-skimming. Note that you might find sizes a tad on the large size.
Fabric: 55% organic cotton 45% bamboo viscose
Water resistance: None
Odin Stretch Hooded Insulator
Helly Hansen, £180
The first thing that struck me with this jacket was the immediate comfort. The polyester inner fabric provides an instant feeling of quality that you don’t always get in a lightweight jacket. I was impressed with how cosy and cushioned it felt. It delivers real warmth but you don’t get the build-up of sweat you can experience from some jackets while stomping the hills, thanks to its breathable insulation.
Stretch fabric panels under the pits make the jacket allow unrestrained movement. A lined comfy hood and padded chin.
The Odin is easily compressed, ideal to pack for weekend jaunts to the countryside.
As much as I liked this jacket, there were a few niggles. The cord around the waste only pulls from one side, making the coat lopsided once tightened. And the cuffs aren’t sturdy enough to hold back the insulating material; I found the lining pulling through when putting on the jacket.
But overall, if you’re after a lightweight jacket that combines warmth and comfort you won’t go far wrong the Odin Stretch insulator. It’s simple, clean styling means you’ll feel as happy in town or down the pub as you will walking the countryside, a real all-rounder delivering great performance. [TB]
Material: Lightweight 30D fabric, 4-way full stretch
Water resistance: Shower proof – treated with Durable Water Repellent (free of harmful PFC chemicals)
Insulation: Primaloft Gold Active + 80g stretch Insulation
Kiruna men’s liner jacket
This stylish, low-profile jacket is designed to be worn beneath a rain jacket or overcoat on chilly days – or on its own.
It's not the most technical garment: for example, while a drawstring allows you to pull the hem tight at the hip, keeping out cool air, the collar is rather loose-fitting, so expect to wear a scarf in chilly weather. The synthetic insulation is relatively thin but surprisingly warm; there are three pockets – two at the hips and one at the breast. Finally, the fabric is water-resistant enough to cope with a light shower.
All this adds up to a general-purpose midlayer, perfectly adaptable to life on a walker's back, but not exclusively designed for life bobbing around on moors and mountains. This low-key look – with an outer fabric that feels like cotton but is actually polyester – will suit those for whom shiny, technical jackets bristling with zips are a little showy.
Sizes com up a little larger than usual, but even so the cut is quite full, allowing room underneath for a jumper, and a shoulders are a touch boxy, giving it a smarter than average appearance.
Material: 100% polyester
Water resistance: Treated with Durable Water Repellent (free of harmful PFC chemicals)
Insulation: 100% polyester fill
Alpha Direct Jacket
This has become my go-to walking jacket. It’s extremely versatile – wear it all year round, as an outer layer or a midlayer, depending on the weather.
With a thermal baselayer beneath, it should keep your warm enough in freezing conditions, as long as you keep moving.
The ultralight outer fabric (Pertex Quantum Air) is treated with a durable water repellent finish, which works well even in heavy showers – though don’t expect it to work all day in pelting rain. It also resists chill breezes; Pertex do make more wind-resistant fabrics, but the trade-off is breathability – which you’ll appreciate when you heat up as you slog uphill.
The big thing about this jacket though is the Alpha Direct insulation, which lines the whole jacket. It is a kind of fluffy fleece, low profile but warm when you need it, and very breathable, so you are less likely to overheat. It’s also hydrophobic, drawing moisture away from your skin, so you feel dry even when you are perspiring.
The hood is designed to wear under a helmet if necessary (which of course is much better suited to most walkers, who often have to put up with baggy over-helmet hoods, when they may never wear a helmet). This makes the hood close-fitting and cosy, but can’t be fastened tight around the face. A soft peak keeps snow and rain out of your eyes; thumb loops on the cuffs are very satisfying design.
So it’s a perfectly viable outer layer in a variety of conditions – but there are times when you’ll want to add a layer or two over the top. If the temperature dips below freezing, or in the event of heavy rain, or once you’ve stopped for a break. Then you’ll want to pull a shell jacket over the top, or an insulated jacket.
Fortunately, the Alpha Direct’s low profile makes layering easy. Expect to go for a close-fitting size, and keep layers beneath minimal: a T-shirt, or baselayer or perhaps a micro-fleece, depending on the weather.
Delightfully light, warm and versatile.
Material: Pertex Quantum Air outer fabric
Water resistance: Shower-proof – treated with Durable Water Repellent (free of harmful PFC chemicals)
Insulation: Polartec Alpha Direct 120
Tingri men’s jacket
We like to keep our fingers on the pulse at Countryfile, and couldn’t help notice that ‘teddy’ fabrics are hot on the high street at the moment. Fortunately they are also pleasantly warm on the high hills. Sherpa point out that ‘heathered’ fleece like this has a high pile, which is pretty effective at trapping air when worn as a midlayer beneath a shell jacket. There’s a button-down breast pocket and a pair of hip pockets too. A polycotton panel over the shoulders adds a rugged feel and protects the fabric when you are carrying a heavy pack.
• TIP: The medium size we tried was smaller than ususal – you may have to go up one size from normal.
Material: 100% polyester fleece with polyester/cotton patches
Water resistance: Shoulder pads are treated for water repellncy but not the fleece material
Insulation: High pile heathered fleece