Best Base Layer and Outer Layer Combo for Survival

Dressing for the weather is something that can prove problematic for many people. It can be overwhelming to walk into an outdoor store and choose the best clothing to put in your bug out bag or store with your emergency supplies. There are so many choices and the salespeople in the stores always want to sell you the stuff that is high-priced and pretty.

When you are thinking about preparing to survive brutal cold or extreme heat for days on end, it doesn’t matter how pretty the gear is. In fact, in most cases the clothing is worn under your other clothes and never seen anyways.

Survivalists will tell you base layers are a big deal. You need to have the right base layer of clothing to suit the season. The base layer is what will be against your skin. You don’t want something that is going to make you sweat, chafe or is insufficient against protecting you from the elements.

One of the most important elements to any base layer is the ability to keep you dry. Even in a hot weather situation, you don’t want to be wet. The weight of your backpack and the movement of your arms and legs combined with wet clothing is going to leave you hurting.

Chafing may not seem like a big deal, but it can get to the point of bleeding and any kind of open wound in a survival situation is a bad thing. It invites infection. That is something you want to avoid at all costs.

There are four main types of material that are at the top of the list for base layer clothing.

Everybody will have their own personal preference. Cost may be a deciding factor as well.


Moleskin is a favorite among outdoorsmen simply because it is durable yet flexible. It is slightly heavier, which makes it a good choice for winter weather situations. While it isn’t necessarily waterproof, it does dry fairly quickly. Because it is a nice, thick twill, you wouldn’t really feel much of the dampness on the underside of the clothing. It is one of the few materials that gets better with age. The more you wear it, the softer it will feel, but it will still remain durable. Another benefit to the moleskin is the tight weave makes it fairly wind resistant. You don’t have to worry about a cold wind ripping through and freezing your skin.

Duck Canvas

This is a very durable material that is often used to make outdoor lawn furniture, awnings and on boats. It is water resistant and when you wear duck canvas pants, you can rest assured you are going to stay dry should you be traversing the country while it is raining or snowing. The tight weave of the cloth makes it incredibly warm and wind resistant. It is a stiff cloth, but you will appreciate the protection it offers in a wilderness situation. It can hold up against kneeling on rocks and won’t snag as you walk through heavy brush.

Merino Wool


This is an ideal choice for preppers planning on roughing it in the wilderness for a while. There are different weights available. The breathable material is warm and because it is wool, it is fairly water resistant. The lightweight merino wool base layers are fitted and typically wear like the wicking
clothing athletes tend to wear. You can also invest in a heavy merino wool pullover or poncho. You have probably seen photos of sherpas wearing these wool sweaters. Those wool garments are extremely warm and repel water while blocking the wind. A nice merino wool top and bottom pairing will cost you, but the investment is certainly worth it. Your clothes are what will give you the most protection in a survival situation. It makes sense you would spend a little more to get quality clothing that will keep you warm and dry.


You may already have a pair of Goretex pants or a coat made with the water repelling material. Goretex is a very common part of a lot of outdoor wear. It is probably one of the best ways of staying dry. The thick rubber-like material also blocks the wind. However, Goretex is not all that durable. Unlike a cloth material, it does wear down with repeated rubbing.

For jackets, that place under your arms or where the straps of your pack rub will break down and leave nothing but the flimsy liner below. The same is true of the pants that can be worn over your jeans or cargo pants. The material is not very durable and can easily be snagged by branches or torn with sharp rocks. Once the material is torn, it is essentially useless. It will do very little to keep you warm and without a solid bit of material, water will get in and soak the layers underneath.


Unlike the wool and canvas options, Goretex can be repaired with a needle and thread. You would be spending a lot of money for something that isn’t going to last you very long in a true survival situation. You could use a little duct tape to repair a hole in the gear in a pinch.

Ideally, when you are preparing to bug out or spend a lot of time outdoors, you want a base layer of clothing that offers your skin plenty of protection from moisture and the wind. These two things alone can make life very miserable.

You will be cold and your skin will break and chafe. The ideal combo would be merino wool pants and long sleeve shirt with durable duck canvas pants and a moleskin top. This will give you nice, durable outer layer to shield you from rocks, branches, bug bites and the elements while the merino wool will keep your skin dry without rubbing it the wrong way.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

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