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Who has not felt cold in a Milsim or even a standard game? Or, on the contrary, who has not experienced extreme heat while wearing a vest, helmet and other equipment? Although it may seem silly, the layers of clothes, their order, function and use is a very useful and valuable tool to avoid making basic mistakes such as extreme heat exposure where you end up soaking all the clothes with sweat, or having a bad time feeling too cold or having wet feet.

THEORY OF THE THREE LAYERS

Today the theory of the three layers is very well-known: an inner or base layer, an mid layer, and a shell layer, which, when combined, provide a comfortable feeling in any climate. It is true that its use depends on several factors. First, that the apparent temperature varies a great deal whether we are standing or if we are doing any activity. Also, the weather, temperature and humidity. And finally, each person has a different “thermostat”.

There are different options within each layer. There are light, medium and heavy weights. And although each layer has its specific function, depending on the situation, it may be good to take these options into account since they greatly increase the range of possibilities to be able to dress properly in any part of the world with any climatic condition. From this range of possibilities the famous "Levels" of clothing are born. Seven of which are best known and used (although there are already up to nine): Light layer 1, Heavy layer 1, Light layer 2, Heavy layer 2, Light layer 3, Mid layer 3 and Heavy layer 3.

1. Base Layer

It is the one in direct contact with the skin. It manages moisture, keeping sweat away from the skin and keeping you dry. Without it, the sweat could get cold, being able to induce hypothermia in extreme cases. Or in hot conditions, we could feel flushing when we are not able to release all that heat from the body. The most commonly used materials are synthetic ones (polyester or nylon) or natural fibres (merino wool or silk). Any normal shirt can be used for this purpose. 

In cold weather conditions we should avoid cotton since it absorbs water and can generate a cold sensation, since this material is more useful in hot conditions.  Even so, there are much more technical garments for each situation. Garments that distribute moisture across the fabric to improve evaporation or with materials with ceramic particles that literally cool the skin.

Example: 

Lightweight base coat: sports shirt, fully breathable and offers no thermal properties. 

Heavy base coat: long sleeve thin thermal t-shirt. Breathable and warm, also called: second skin.

2. Mid layer

It is the insulation layer; responsible for retaining the heat that radiates from your body. Polar fleece sweaters are the garments for this layer. There is a wide range of materials, synthetic and natural (polyester fleece or merino wool). They usually keep warm even when they get wet, and are breathable, preventing you from overheating. But in return they make you vulnerable to water and wind. 

Example:

Light mid layer: a technical trekking or mountaineering polar fleece.

Mid heavy layer: your typical grandmother's wool sweaters, which literally weigh a lot but will always keep you warm.

3. Shell layer

They protect us from wind, rain and snow. They are usually membranes and plastic materials, waterproof and breathable. They prevent adverse weather conditions from penetrating the rest of the layers.

Waterproof and breathable outer layers  

The best and the most expensive options. These materials are immune to rain and snow; even during a storm they do not let the wind through. But that, at the same time, are breathable letting out excess heat.

Water resistant and breathable shell layers

Somewhat cheaper, also breathable, but they are just rain and snow repellent, for “not so light” conditions they just let water and air pass through.

Soft shell layers

They focus on breathability but they are not water or wind repellent. 

Waterproof but not breathable shell layers

Good water and wind resistant options, but these garments are not to be in any activity, as they are not breathable and will saturate your lower layers and soak you in sweat.

IN PRACTICE

It is just a matter of simply combining the layers according to the situation in which we find ourselves. For example: if we are in a Milsim and the weather is cold and wet, we will carry:

- Layer 1: some technical or basic shirt

- Layer 2: some polar fleece, field jacket, etc.

- Layer 3: a PCU, softshell, or Gore-Tex jacket

And, depending on the activity, if we are hot, we can remove layer 2 and go only with layer 1 and 3.

If on the contrary we are in a cold, but dry climate:

- Layer 1: some technical or basic shirt

- Layer 2: some polar fleece, field jacket, etc.

And we will carry in the backpack some membrane, or softshell in case cold wind rises or it starts to rain.

If the weather when we go out on missions looks wet, but hot:

- Layer 1: some technical or basic shirt

- Layer 3: a PCU, softshell, or Gore-Tex jacket

Carrying some warm clothing (Layer 2) in the backpack in case it gets dark or the temperatures fall.

And, as you can imagine, if the weather is dry and with high temperatures:

- Layer 1: some technical or basic shirt

We will only wear layer 1 to wick away body sweat.

We are all different and have different needs; we might be in those conditions sometimes doing physical activity and sometimes just standing still. We will value the use of layers 1, 2, and 3 light, mid and/or heavy. To always adapt to the weather and avoid wearing excess clothing and sweating when starting to move, and not feel cold making sure the thickness of the layers is appropriate.

So far gearing up was just a matter of combining garments to create the most tacticool kit possible, but the best thing about airsoft is that every day you play you learn something new, more and more, which makes you modify the way you play and your kit to be more efficient and play smarter. How much did you know about the layers when gearing up? And what do you intend to do now?