Like base layers, midlayers are another part of the foul weather gear equation that has undergone major changes in recent years.
Time was that base layers consisted almost exclusively of fluffy, quick-drying synthetic fleeces. But while these work great under a wind- or waterproof outer layer to channel perspiration quickly away from the body, they do little if anything to protect against the elements on their own.
Enter today’s “hybrid” midlayers, which are as capable of protecting you from light spray and a stiff breeze as they are of keeping you warm.
To see our other foul-weather gear guides, click here.
One of the leaders in this area has been Atlantis WeatherGear, which carries a range of different midlayers and fleeces. The Atlantis Zephyr Softshell ($125), for example, combines a microfleece lining for comfort and warmth with a DWR (durable water repellent) treated outer layer to keep out both wind and wetness. The result is a jacket that keeps you comfy even in moderately rough conditions when you shed your outer layer after the storm has passed or the sun is coming up after a chilly graveyard watch. The Zephyr includes a low-profile collar, specifically to keep it out of the way when layering and Velcro seals in the wrists.
Another jacket that takes this approach is thei5 Crosswinds jacket from Gill($165). Made from a multi-layer fabric that includes both a waterproof and insulating component, it is constructed with full taped seams to help keep the water out.
Gill also recently introduced what it calls its Headwind jacket ($165), a “dynamic” mid-layer that includes an “Intelligent Thermoregulation System” allowing it to adapt to varying weather conditions. Specifically, the fabric includes thousands of tiny “gates” that open and close to retain or release heat as necessary. Although the physics of this kind of nanotechnology are well beyond this sailor’s pay grade, the results are a jacket that insulates when necessary while also offering plenty of wind resistance for when you shed that outer shell.
Another great option is Musto’s Technical Windstopper($275) top, which is available in either a full zipper or in a pullover version. Although light enough to serve as a base layer, the jackets include a Gore-brand Windstopper layer that allow it function as a light midlayer capable of standing up to wind and spray as well.
Of course, your legs can get cold too, and while a base layer/bibs combination may be adequate in warmer conditions, a cozy midlayer is crucial to remaining comfortable when temperatures plunge.
This is another area in which single garments are now being built for double-duty use. Musto’s Gore Tex Middle Layer($399) combines a rip-stop, 2-layer Gore Tex shell fabric with a high-lofty fleece lining to make them as waterproof as they are warm. Reinforcement patches in the seat and knees protect them from wear and tear so that they can be safely worn sans outer layer in marginal conditions. (A top is also available.)