The mid-layer provides additional warmth by trapping body heat. Here’s what you need to know to find the perfect mid-layer for your kids’ next outdoor adventure.

Fabrics

There are a ton of choices when it comes to fabrics, but fleece and wool offer the best flexibility when the conditions turn. Here’s what you need to know to find the perfect mid-layer for kids.

Fleece

Fleece is a staple in the Pacific Northwest and for good reason. It’s soft, durable, and warm. Plus, it holds warmth even when it gets wet, and dries quickly by simply ringing out the moisture. You’ll typically see fleece measured in “weights”, which correlates to thickness and warmth. The most common weights are 100 (light-weight), 200 (

The most common weights are 100 (light-weight), 200 (mid-weight), and 300 (heavy-weight). So, what is the preferred weight for a mid-layer? For backpacking, I always buy lightweight fleece for my kids’ mid-layer because it’s lighter and more compressible. But, in the shoulder season or colder climates, a thicker fleece may be preferred. Most fleece jackets are sold with either a full zip or quarter zip construction for ventilation. I prefer the quarter zip to save weight from excess materials. Finally, fleece is extremely affordable, with jackets ranging from $30-70 depending on weight and construction.

However, there are a few disadvantages of fleece.

First, it’s highly flammable, so you’ll want an extra-long stick for roasting smores. My kids have been hanging around campfires with fleece for years and there have been no instances of spontaneous combustion…yet. But, a few stray tinder’s have burned straight through their fleece.

Second, fleece is a polyester fabric, so it’s prone to odors. That can be an issue in some situations, but I find it less problematic for mid-layers. Finally, it can be breezy. In fact, the wind seems to go right through fleece and straight to your bones. Some heavier weights include a wind-stopper material over the chest and shoulders. I avoid this extra fabric because it adds unnecessary weight and reduces compressibility. If the wind becomes problematic, or your kid needs additional warmth, they’ll have additional layers that can serve as a wind barrier.

Merino Wool (or just plain wool)

I’m a huge fan of merino wool for the ultimate base layer. What’s not to like! It’s soft, warm, moisture-wicking, and extremely effective at controlling odor. It can serve as a perfect mid-layer in almost every situation. However, there are few big drawbacks. First, a mid-weight merino wool sweater or shirt is expensive, averaging twice to three times the price fleece. Also, there are extremely limited options for kids in mid-weight merino wool, most likely because parents have other ways to spend their money.

What about good ol’ fashion wool? Of course! There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a wool sweater, particularly one with a zipper for ventilation. Yes, it’s scratchy and itchy, but over a base-layer, it works great! I’ve scored some great deals on mid-weight wool sweaters in consignment stores and discount department stores like Kohl’s, particularly in the Spring.

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