How to buy a Midlayer

Technical fleeces, down jackets, hybrids and softshells. Picking the right midlayer can be tricky business, so let OAG do the hard work for you

Getting your layering right is key to staying happy, warm and dry.

A moisture-wicking baselayer keeps you dry and comfortable while a protective outer shell keeps the foul British weather out. In between that is the midlayer, varying from technical fleeces to more substantial pieces that can be worn as standalone pieces in fair weather.

“Midlayers are part of a clothing system,” explains Richard Shepherd, purchasing director at Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports. “That might sound like marketing waffle but it is, in fact, borne out of the realities of being outdoors and doing a multitude of activities in mixed weather conditions.

“The best way to get dressed for the outdoors is by using the idea of several different layering pieces, each with its own unique properties that combine to form
a set of interchangeable clothing suitable for most conditions.

“Layers can simply be added or subtracted as the weather temperature changes, rather than leaving you trapped in a single layer that is too hot or too cold.

“All layers are designed to have a small pack size so are not a hassle to carry when they are not being worn.”

But what is it that makes a good midlayer?

Says Peter: “That’s a tough question. Everyone ends up with their own favourites that tend to get lived in a lot because they are so versatile. Within the many varieties there is no single one that could be said to be the very best. It’s down to personal preference. The main thing is to get one that works for you.”

These three midlayers (available in men’s and women’s styles) showcase the technologies and fabrics available. 


A high-function fleece offering a vastly different level of performance to the fleeces you see piled high on tables at knock-down prices in some outdoor stores. The R2 Jacket twins short-sheared, quick-drying, high-loft Polartec Thermal Pro fleece with Polartec Power Dry side panels, which combine to effectively trap heat yet breathe freely. The result is a multi-purpose midlayer that keeps you warm when needed, yet won’t get sweaty on uphill slogs.

THE NORTH FACE CATALYST MICRO JACKET £200The north face Catalyst Micro (1)

A super-light and packable down-filled jacket just had to make this list. Yes, it’s a current high street trend, but it will outlast this as it’s a super-practical, highly stuffable jacket that provides superb levels of comfort and reliable warmth without a weight penalty.

This one has a feather-light, windproof Pertex Quantum shell combined with top-of-the range 800 fill goose down, with an added Pro Down water-resistant treatment. The skinny-baffle channel construction captures plenty of warmth.

260 TECH HALF ZIP £85 

If you’ve yet to experience merino clothing, let me assure you it’s a fantastic fabric for many outdoor adventures.

Merino wool is super-comfortable to wear over a wide range of temperatures and conditions since you will never feel too hot or too cold – just right.

And its long, soft and fine fibre doesn’t give the usual wool itch, either.

Want more midlayer inspiration? We put eight more midlayers to the test in the current issue of OAG, out now.