Trouts Journal

Layering For Winter

Ivan Orsic / Nov 10, 2021

I don't know if yall have noticed, but over the past couple of days here in Colorado, the mornings have been There has been a certain crispness in the air in recent mornings, and I love it. We are ten days into November, and winter seems to be on its way already. Given the current coolness in temperatures, I naturally started thinking about winter weather fishing trips. In particular, I started thinking about how I would layer up this season. If you are not familiar, knowing how to layer up properly is an art form, and when done correctly, can lead to a more enjoyable time on the water when the weather takes a turn.

How Should You Layer?

There is an essential layering system you should know before you hit the water this fall or winter, and it should go as follows:

1.) Baselayer: Moisture Management

2.) Mid-layer: Insulation

3.) Outerwear: Weather Protection - Rain, Snow, Wind

Look, I understand that on the surface, this can be a lot of extra clothing to bring with you on a fishing trip but, trust me on this one, it is better to have them with you than be miserable watching your buddies who came prepared to enjoy their time on the water. My advice, which is nothing groundbreaking, is to keep a couple of extra pieces of layering gear in the same plastic tub that has your waders and boots, so you always have them with you. Just remember to keep them dry. But let's dive into the specifics of each section a bit here and why they are necessary.

Base Layer: Next To Skin Moisture Management

Arguably your base layer is essential in the layering system. Why? Well, because it is the closest layer to the skin. Typically referred to as a "Next-To-Skin" layer by specific brands and companies. This layer's purpose is to wick away moisture from your body as much as possible and to keep you cool and dry all day long. This layer is typically thin, which may seem counterintuitive, but remember, the point of this layer is to keep you dry. Which generally, is in the form of wicking away sweat, and if you are dry, you are usually warm. Even in cold temperatures, you still sweat, so this layer is worth the price tag. A perfect example is Simms Lightweight Baselayer Top.


There are tons of materials out there these days; however, base layers made out of Merino Wool, Silk, or Synthetic materials are typically the best performance-wise. An important note about base layers is that they come in different "weights," which typically refers to the season in which the layer should be worn. If you are in the summer season, you usually want to have a "lightweight" layer on, for fall, you'll want to have a "Midweight" layer, and in winter, you wish to have a "heavyweight" layer. While the fabric of these is warmer (respective to their name), that isn't the point of the garment. You want your base layer to wick away all your moisture it possibly can and keep you dry.

Mid-Layers: Insulation

The "insulation" layer might be the most common layer people are familiar with. Why? Well, this is where your puffy style jackets and vest come into play. And, for most, this is the end of their layering system. I hate to break it to y'all, but this is a bad idea later. While your base layer is supposed to manage moisture as much as possible, the insulation layer (Mid) is supposed to keep you as warm as possible. In short, this layer works by efficiently trapping your body heat, thus making you warmer throughout the day the warmer you will be throughout the day. Paired with a high-quality moisture-wicking base layer and you are set for an enjoyable day on the water.


As we saw with base layers, mid-layers come in a wide array of insulation types and styles. However, there are some staples that you cannot go wrong with when choosing which is best for you, and those are traditional goose/duck down insulation and synthetic insulation such as Primaloft, which can be found in the Simms ExStream Hooded Jacket. When it comes to the difference between Down and Synthetic, there are a few to consider when deciding which one is best for you. When we look at Down Jackets, we tend to see a highly compressible jacket (read packable) that provides a high-quality warmth to weight ratio, especially when compared to fleece or synthetic materials. If you are not familiar with the "warmth to weight ratio," this is simply the ratio of how "warm" a jacket will keep you compared to the jacket's weight.

A good tidbit to know is that more down does not necessarily mean a warmer jacket. It is the inverse, higher quality down will provide your jacket with more loft, which in turn will give you a warmer and a more packable jacket and less overall down. Sometimes you may see a jacket denoted at 650 down or 850. When you see these numbers, a general rule of thumb is that the higher the number, the less amount of down there is in the jacket. There is a lot more to this idea, and if you want to dive into it in another post, we can, but let's move on for now. Since down does not perform well when wet, you will typically find that these jackets come with some water-resistant and wind-resistant technology built into them.

For those looking at synthetic jackets, you will notice that these garments will always try to mimic that of down. And, in the modern-day and age, we are seeing that replication has become more common. Compared to down jackets, synthetics do not compress nearly as well (read low packability), and they are typically heavier when compared to down jackets. However, while these might be minor downsides, synthetic jackets perform very well in the water-resistant and wind-resistant departments, especially when compared to a down jacket. Oh, and synthetics are often cheaper than traditional down jackets.

Outerwear: Weather Protection - Rain, Snow, Wind

Last but surely not forgotten, is outerwear. This layer is often the most overlooked article in the layering system, given the technologies found in the previous layer. Still, I am here to tell you, my friends, that having a high-quality rain jacket or waterproof jacket is an inexhaustible resource. If you are working with a budget, I will offer that this is where you should spend a majority of it. This layer is the layer that will protect you from rain, snow, wind, and pretty much anything else the elements throw at you. The best ones will keep you locked away from all the elements all day long while not making you sweat up a storm. A perfect example of this is the Simms G3 Guide Tactical Jacket.


When it comes to these types of jackets, you will find ones that are either Waterproof or Water Resistant, and when choosing which is best for you, it is best to analyze what type of environment you will be fishing in the most. Is it constantly rainy? Does it only rain sometimes? The outer shell is one of the most critical pieces of gear you can have with you when you hit the water, especially in the fall and winter. In Colorado, fast-moving storms are pretty standard, and having a high-quality weatherproof jacket with you is paramount.

Cold Weather Basics

As you can see, there is a bit more to layering systems than you may have thought. However, I hope this write-up helps you navigate the next time you are shopping for base layers. If you would like to see more of these in the future, or if you have any comments regarding this post, please shoot me an email at As always, if you have any questions regarding what we talked about today or questions on your favorite rivers, feel free to come into the shop at either our Denver or Frisco location. If you cannot make it into the shop, feel free to give us a ring at 303-733-1434

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