Clothing Systems

Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly. - Epictetus

The most efficient system for survival clothing is the layer system. The idea of layering clothing is to create insulation in the form of still air between the different layers. By utilizing the principles of layering you will have the ability to adapt to both weather and physical changing conditions.

When your body temperature varies too far from normal your efficiency drops. When you are too hot you can loose precious water and salts through perspiration. When your body cools it burns calories at a higher rate. In both cases your mental and physical abilities deteriorate as your body temperature varies on either side of normal.

Because of the dangers of wet clothing due to excessive sweating, it is better to keep your body temperature a little on the cool side. Cool and dry is far better in a survival situation than hot and wet. Keeping perspiration to a minimum and staying as dry as possible are crucial in survival situations. The layering system of clothing allows you to regulate your body's core temperature to a degree.

Base Layer

The first layer is the base layer this layer of clothing will be in direct contact with your skin. The material should be thin and cool allowing you to wear it alone when you are overheated. It should keep you both cool and dry by wicking moisture away from your skin.

Excellent materials for base layers include:

  • Coolmax
  • PolarTec
  • Capaline

Insulation Layer

The second layer of clothing is the insulation layer. This layer works by trapping still air space around your body, limiting the amount of heat loss. In general the more loft a material has the more still air space and so the more body heat it is able to retain. The insulation layer is the thickest.

Excellent materials for base insulation layers include:

  • Fleece
  • Bunting
  • Pile

Shell Layer

The last layer is the shell layer. Its main responsibility is to keep wind and water from penetrating into the inner layers. This outer shell should also be able to expel the water vapor that collects inside your clothing from perspiration. Vulnerable areas include the seams and zippers. Be sure that seams and zippers are either well sealed or shielded.

Excellent material for base Shell layer include:

  • Gore-Tex
  • Conduit
  • H2NO


Waterproof boots are a critical to any survival clothing system, as in the shell layer Gore-Tex is available for boots also. Of equal importance when considering boots is comfort and stability. Studies have shown that wearing one extra pound on your feet takes as much energy as carrying five or six pounds in a backpack. With the added weight of supplies from you BoB, pressures on your feet can be extreme. Combine that fact with the elements and rugged terrain and you can wear your feet out quickly.


Socks are vital in keeping the feet warm and free of moisture. When looking for a good inner sock you should look for fabrics that are smooth against the skin and have the ability to wick moisture away from your feet, like wool or polypropylene. Keep socks as clean and moisture free as possible to prevent fungal infections and other ailments.