The key to keeping your teeth from chattering when skiing, sailing, or climbing is knowing how to layer. Layering is useful in city settings, but it’s an absolute must for any cold-weather outdoor activities. That’s because as you’re moving or resting, you may find yourself wanting different levels of warmth. Only wearing one heavy jacket limits your options, and you may be nice and warm — but you could also be incredibly gross and sweaty.
As the name implies, a mid-layer goes on top of your base layer, and can optionally be worn under a shell or parka if the weather demands it. Mid-layers can be layered on top of each other too. Mid-layers are made from a variety of materials, including fleece, merino wool, and down. They are cut in a variety of styles too, including jackets and 1/4 zip pull-overs. The kind you choose will come down to a matter of what features you need, whether that’s flexibility and breathability or wind and water resistance. They’re pretty stylish these days on their own, too.
We’ve rounded up options in various categories, including fleece pullovers, puffer jackets, and waterproof zip jackets. While these were made with adventurers in mind, they’re also great at keeping you warm during your morning commute, weekend donut run, or as an extra sweater alternative when the A/C is turned up too high at the office.
1. Helly Hansen Men’s Midlayer Jacket
Norwegian-based Helly Hansen has been making tough-as-nails outerwear since the 19th century. This stylish mid-layer is water-resistant and lined with Polartec fleece. The jacket keeps water out, but is still breathable, allowing sweat to evaporate. It has velcro-cuffed sleeves and an adjustable hem.
Pros: Zippered chest and hand pockets for storing valuables, good for wet activities.
Cons: Runs a little tight.
Helly Hansen Men's Midlayer Jacket
2. The North Face Men’s 1/4 Zip
For a lighter option, this simple 1/4 zip from The North Face is a thin but warm option made from durable fleece. It is breathable so you won’t overheat, but easy to layer with other mid-layers or jackets for colder days. The silhouette is trimmer than the other jackets on our list, making it hug the body for a cozier, warmer fit.
Pros: Lightweight but warm fleece, easy to layer under something or wear as the outer layer.
Cons: Thin material is not ideal for very cold weather.
The North Face Men's 1/4 Zip
3. Columbia Men’s Steens Mountain Full Zip 2.0 Fleece
A fleece jacket is a great middle layer, because it helps keep you cozy and warm, which is perfect for a blustery morning commute. This jacket from outdoor outfitter Columbia has two zippered hand pockets and a full-zip front. The funnel neck design also helps keep your neck warm if you zip it all the way up. There are a variety of color options, including some stylish color-blocked designs.
Pros: Comfortable and soft fleece. Full-zip funnel neck for added warmth.
Cons: Unlined, so not ideal for very cold days.