Q:

Is there any reason to wear a shell under a fleece?

I have been debating a question with my buddies: Some of the hardcores we have seen wear their waterproof-breathable shell on the inside of a heavy fleece or down jacket. Is this a good idea for maintaining warmth on wet days? Spencer Thunder Bay, Ontario

May 24, 2004
Outside
Outside Magazine

Infurno

A: Can't say I've heard of that one. I'm trying hard to visualize what these folks think is going, from a physics standpoint, between their skin and the outside air. I think it has something to do with keeping the breathable layer closest to the skin, so it can transport moisture as quickly as possible. And, because wetness doesn't affect a fleece layer that much, it's OK for that to be on the rainy side.

But generally, my response is: Huh? It seems to me you're essentially wasting the insulation layer by even putting it on, as the idea behind donning fleece THEN a waterproof-breathable jacket is to trap warmth between your skin and the outer shell. Plus, the system you describe also ensures that your fleece layer gets soaked, and what's the point in that? As for putting down on the outside, that really stumps me.

Generally, I think the best system for staying warm when working hard in cold, wet weather is to wear a water-resistant shell over fleece. Patagonia does this in its Infurno ($250; www.patagonia.com). The idea is that moisture from your body is driven out fairly easily through the shell layer, actually blocking rainwater as it comes in. It's an idea borrowed from some British outerwear makers such as Paramo.

Anyway, I'm all ears on this one. If someone wears their fleece outside their Gore-Tex, and has a sound argument for doing so, drop me a note.

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