In the classic three-layer garment system, each layer offers a specific function. First-layer garments worn next to the skin are designed to wick away humidity to the outer layers, to stay dry and to offer thermal protection in cold weather. Second-layer garments focus on thermal insulation and are also designed to draw moisture away from the skin to the outer layer. Fleece has been the synthetic material of choice in second-layer clothing. New generations have sought to offer the best warmth-to-weight ratio and have therefore focused on reducing bulk without reducing insulation. The role of outer layer garments is to protect from the elements.
The classic protective garment
They are now most often made of laminated textiles that block out wind and water without reducing breathability. Combined, these three layers are designed to work together to offer overall comfort and protection. Even during intense activity, the body stays dry and comfortable while protecting the wearer from inclement weather. The classic protective garment system is well adapted to outdoor activities, from hiking to cycling to skiing. In situations of extreme cold or humidity, the three-layer system remains the best solution. However, it implies that rain is regarded as a constant companion of outdoor sports and relies heavily on the outer layer for protection.
This approach is currently changing. It is increasingly recognized that rainy weather deters people from going out. Although important, waterproofness is now not considered a feature necessary at all times. On average outings, a water resistant garment will be necessary 10% of the time whereas high breathability is fundamental in 90% of sports activities. Sportswear manufacturers now admit that rain protection has been overestimated, especially in summer collections where total waterproofness is rarely necessary and often reduces a garment’s breathability
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