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My favourite top layers for keeping warm outdoors

As it's snowing outside, as in properly snowing outside, for the first time in 4 years here, I thought it would be appropriate to share the items of clothing I am currently layering on the top half of my body to keep cosy when hiking. I can confidently say that this is the first time I've been truly happy with a clothing combination for my outdoor pursuits. Each item in itself has the perfect combination of performance and style, and when worn together, they work equally as well.

Function always comes first, but style is still important to me when choosing clothes for the outdoors. When I say 'style', I mean the overall look and fit of the clothes as opposed to the brand names. Brand labels aren't a priority for my ego but their reputation for being well-made and long lasting is. 

All but the Berghaus down jacket came with me on the West Highland Way in October 2017. Each piece met my expectations and performed as required on the bleak moors and wet woods of the 7-day hike so, therefore, I'm confident recommending them to my blog readers, friends and family. 

Sub Zero Merino Base Layer Leggings Pink

Top £79.99 Leggings £69.99

This base-layer combo is made in the Britain which is quite unusual for outdoor gear. Most labels on clothing I have show they are manufactured in Taiwan or China, so it was refreshing to know that Sub Zero continue to manufacture all of their lines in Britain. Sub Zero has been around since 1969 and was one of the first companies in the world to manufacture synthetic fleece jackets.

Although this post focuses on top layers, I felt it is important to show full base layer set because they work so well together. I have got the leggings on under my salopettes in these photos. I have a thing about keeping my lower back and midriff covered at all times when walking as I hate draughts on my skin. This combo works so well together because I can pull the leggings up over my belly button and pull the top down over the leggings for draft-free comfort.

For the West Highland Way, the combo served two uses – base layers in the day and pyjamas at night! The fair weather we had meant I didn’t need to wear them while walking but boy oh boy did they feel cosy when I was tucked up in my sleeping bag in the tent. The combo is now a staple part of my camping gear as they can be worn under anything at any time of the day. Bonus!

Sub Zero kindly sent me the base layers in return for honest exposure.

Link to product

Jack Wolfskin Kiruna Jungle Women Midnight Blue Fleece

£72.95

Just look at how cool this fleece is! I am in love with the leafy pattern. As you will see from the rest of my outdoors attire in these pics, I tend to go for black clothing. Black goes with everything and I still haven’t grown out of my emo ‘phase’ some 10 years after everyone else did.

When the fleece first arrived in the post, I was a little concerned about the thickness of the material. I had chosen it to take on the West Highland Way and was wanting something to keep me toasty in the desolate moors of Scotland. But those fears were quickly quashed; it is, in fact, the perfect thickness. It isn’t bulky so fits well under my Berghaus down jacket (more on that next) and it provides the right amount of warmth without getting a sweat on when walking on an incline. My older Jack Wolfskin fleece has a longer pile and made me sweat buckets when I all but looked at a hill. This fleece performed superbly for all 7 days of the West Highland Way and I have received several positive comments from people who like the pattern.

I was kindly offered an item for review by Outdoors Supply and it took me hours, days actually, to make a decision because their range is so extensive. They stock most outdoors brands and they have a contact form on each product page which you can submit if you have a question about any item.

Link to product.

Berghaus Tephra Stretch Down Insulated Jacket

£170

This Berghaus down jacket is everything I had been looking for; it’s warm, easy to move around in, can be worn comfortably under my waterproof jacket, doesn’t have a hood, is tailored to fit my female figure and goes over my bum. It was a long list of needs, but this jacket meets them all!

Standard straight up and down tops make me feel frumpy.  So, as most outdoors wear is this standard shape, it’s often a challenge to find tops that tick all the boxes AND fit my round derrière and small waste.

When it comes to insulation properties and comfort, I feel natural down can’t be beaten. Being an animal lover n’ all, I ensure the products I choose use ethically sourced don, and this one is. Berghaus uses the best quality, ethically sourced goose down which they then treat with a water repellent to make their clothes stand up to the weather, even when damp. They call their down system ‘Hydrodown™’.

Up until getting this jacket, I have been wearing my second-hand Fat Face down jacket which I picked up for the bargain price of £8 in a charity shop a few years ago. I love it, especially because it was such find, but it has a hood which meant I often found myself in a tangle when trying to get the hoods from my jacket and Buff over my head. When not in hood-on-head mode, the collection of hood bundle up in a Hunchback of Notre Dame way. The more viable benefit of the Tephra Stretch Down Insulated Jacket is the thermal properties and the fact it is designed for hill walking.

Berghaus kindly sent me this item in return for honest exposure on my blog.

Link to product.

Further Faster Neo Jacket

£129.99 in the sale

I am genuinely in love with my Montane jacket. It took HOURS of research to find the perfect waterproof for the West Highland Way. It needed to keep me 100% dry and be thin enough to wear over everything else and pack small and light enough in my rucksack. With the help of some fabulous friends from the Outdoors Bloggers community, I found ‘The One’. When I was originally looking, this jacket was £260 in most places but I bagged it for £129.99 from the Needle Sport website. I had already ordered two other jackets so when it arrived I had three to compare and choose from. This one won because it was the only one with the tailored fit around the waist. I love the gather at the back which hugs my body, even with all the other layers beneath.

This jacket did not let me down on the West Highland Way. On day 6 of the walk on the section between Glencoe and Kinlochleven, it rained nonstop for 7 miles or the difficult downhill section. The clouds opened just as we left the highest point of the Devil’s Staircase and the rain was still pouring when we reached the youth hostel in the town. On arrival, I removed my jacket and my top half was bone dry- winner!

Product link. 

Buff Hoodie Thermal

£45

This Buff is part of my staple outdoors kit. It keeps my neck, head and face covered at once or can be easily altered to just cover the neck. With the neck section tucked under the collars of my top layer, it keeps the cold out very well. The soft fleecy hood works well under my jacket hood and can even be worn under a helmet. The face part can be pulled up to cover mouth, nose and ears.

The model I have is no longer on sale, but Kit Shack have a similar one available here.

All prices are accurate at the time of publication. 

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.

  • John Warburton

    Nice post and very descriptive, will share this for others to pick up on.
    I concur that although slightly different I also love and would highly recommend my Montane gortex jkt.