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# 9 Performance layering as a skill for athletes, guides and outdoor instructors.  

Updated: May 6

Performance Layering is a high-level skill based on a sound understanding of what your layers do and don’t do. It's an active process, requiring skill and judgement to remain a step ahead of changes in the weather, your hydration and nutrition levels, the terrain and activity type. Group leaders should also consider the fitness levels of their colleagues, clients, and people they have a duty of care towards.  


 ‘Performance Layering’ is multi-layer and replaces the outdated 3-L system.

Hands and feet are embraced within our multi-layer system.

However, ‘simple or street layering’ is a fashion concept that has little or no relationship with outdoor performance layering.

What Performance Layering isn't! 

It's not simply about having a bunch of garments in the closet.

The purchase of a high-priced garment is not a turn-key solution.  

What are the wider benefits of Performance Layering?

  • It enables you, as an individual, to get better results from your existing garments and make a more compatible next purchase.  

  • Performance layering can be taught as CPD for outdoor leaders, ML, BAIML, AMI, and IFMG, who will proactively pass on this knowledge and skill. 

  • This knowledge and skill can add value to your courses and leadership. Our information enables you to advise clients without knowing any of the ‘X’ thousand garments on the market.  

  • The skill is based on a set of science, core principles, experience and a sound understanding of what each layer does or does NOT do in a holistic manner. 

  • The advantage is that it applies to ALL GARMENTS and Textiles regardless of BRAND. This is especially important for training retail staff and indeed for anyone making a purchase.

  • Performance layering helps all to refocus on key skills that have always been important; quote: “Alex McIntyre, 1982. Formerly a leading-edge mountaineer in the trend towards lightweight alpine-style Himalayan mountaineering. “You know, Mike, the Polish climbers don't have any of the modern stuff we do, but they are the most prolific winter and Himalayan climbers. They just have good technique.” 

  • Garments are changing rapidly because of demands of sustainability and repairability. It is becoming harder to understand just what they do or don't do.   Quote: Sandy Allan, IFMG guide and Piolet d’Or winner with Rick Allan for their traverse of the Mazeno Ridge-Nanga Parbat.  “Mike, I realise I can no longer pick up an article of clothing and know what it does for me.” 

  • Mark Twight wrote in his book ‘Extreme Alpinism’ published in 1999. "One goal of this book chapter (Extreme Alpinism) is to debunk the marketing hype that created a consensual reality called the layering concept…………. the 3-L layering system, as now sold, is a lie when it comes to alpinism. …….. The way to go is to have enough layers to keep you warm when you are moving fast and to overlayer when you are stopped on belay.“ NB. Down jackets have been known as ‘belay’ jackets ever since Mark's book was published.    

Goodbye, 3-L system!  

  • What's wrong with the 3-layer system? Chris Townsend, TGO magazine UK product tester since 1990, says, ‘If that's all you have, that's okay, but you are likely to be uncomfortable. The 3-L system is easy to understand but performs poorly. I use up to seven layers simultaneously if the situation demands.” 

  • Retailers and garment brands will benefit by changing to ‘Performance Layering’. Almost 100% of retailers talk about the 3-L system. Surprisingly almost all garment brands also repeat this ‘conventional wisdom’. One major ski brand recommends the 30L system for both nordic and alpine skiing. These two activities are dramatically different in terms of metabolic rate and movement and need quite different layering and garment types. Even cycle brands quote the 3-L!  




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