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Why It Is Important to Layer Clothing in the Winter

Updated on October 24, 2018

Most children will complain when parents bundle them up before stepping out into the winter air. In fact, it has been the subject of jokes in pop culture and real life. However, what if parents aren't just being over protective? What if there is a reason for the layering madness? Well, science proves that parents are right when it comes to adding on the layers of clothing before stepping out into the cold.

The human body can only generate so much heat. In fact, humans have an internal temperature is 98.6° Fahrenheit but the human skin temperature is only 91° Fahrenheit. Because humans weren't engineered to withstand frigid temperatures, keeping warm in the winter depends greatly on how you dress. It all has to do with layering of clothing, air, and trapping in body heat.

Most people will dress with one layer of clothing and throw on a heavy coat. Then they complain about how cold they feel. Actually there is a scientific reason why adding layers of clothing before putting on your winter coat actually keeps you warm.

Between each layer of clothing, dead air forms. Dead air isn't flowing so it has the ability to absorb and trap in your own body heat. This forms a type of natural insulation. The more layers you can comfortably put on the better. This creates more dead air, thus being able to heat the body longer.

Most everyone has heard that humans lose most of their body heat through their head. For the most part this is true. Humans do lose 50% of the body heat through the neck and head. This is due to the fact that the head area is large area that is typically exposed to the elements of winter.

Adding a scarf and winter hat is a good idea to lower the percentage of body heat leaving the body. Most people like scarves as a fashion accessory and typically don't wear them to their fullest potential. To utilize a scarf in an effort to stay warm, consider using a scarf long enough to wrap around your neck at least twice. Remember the layering concept to stay warm? Apply that concept to scarves. Utilize the layers created with the scarf to keep your neck region warm.

When it comes to winter hats or beanies, consider a beanie that is had at least two layers. This will create a dead air layer to trap in some of the body heat trying to escape, thus keeping your head and ears warmer longer.

Layering your hands and feet will also help your extremities stay warm. Humans lose 30% of the body heat through their hands and feet. Choose gloves that have several layers. Padded winter gloves are great for trapping in dead air and keeping your hands warm. Some people wear two pairs of socks to keep their feet warm. Some people choose to wear thicker socks in the cold weather. Utilizing science, it is better to layer socks to keep the feet warm than just wearing a thick pair of socks.

So the next time you prepare to go out in the winter cold, think about how to utilize science to keep you warm. Although you may feel as though your mother was going a bit overboard in dressing you for winter, thank her for being smart enough to use science to keep you warm against the elements of winter.

© 2014 Linda Sarhan


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    • Tenochtitlan profile image


      11 months ago

      Thanks for this. Layering also helps show off your figure when it’s not too cold by removing the need to wear bulky overcoats where all the hard work is taken up by a thick outer garment than a small series of thinner, under and mid level clothing. Such invisible layering may keep you just as warm without needing heavy outer clothes; though not in a subzero context.


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