One of the beauties of travelling long distances for several months or years is the fact that you do not know what will come your way. Nice encounters, wonderful people, nice landscapes or great food. But please expect also the opposite. Experimental food, nasty border check, thieves and scamming and in a lot of places the landscape in just "average".
The same will happen with the weather. No one knows how the weather will be. We can believe the forecast or just gamble. Sure if I travel to Arizona in the summer, I can expect better weather than in Scotland. As a rule of thumb ;)
So in our equipment and our garment has to be something that keeps us warm, too. On the bike, when its chilly or it rains, but also in the evenings at your camp.
Depending where you go and what to expect your Base Layer, Protective Layer and Rain Layer will do the job. In other places you will need a layer in between that keeps you warm.
Several possibilities to choose from. And most of these pieces would also fit in my class of Dress Layer if you want to use it as a jacket to go out without using your motorbike jacket.
- Fleece or Softshell
- Down- or Microfill Vest of jacket
- Wool Sweater
The Hoody is most of the time made of cotton. Nice to wear as a light layer for more or less warm days and for the evening. Cotton does not really fold away in a small package and when it is wet (sweat or rain) it takes forever to dry.
These type of jacket is the most versatile of them all. It is warmer than a hoody, dries much quicker and makes a great jacket for outdoor activities or a chilly evening when there is some wind.
These jackets have a pretty big volume, I don´t know any of these jackets that can be packed away easily. But they are pretty light.
My personal favorite with this is an pretty old model that was revived, thankfully, 2 years ago.
The Wolfskin Blizzard. It is a windstopper fleece jacket, with a high collar that closes firmly around your neck. It has cordura patches on the shoulders and the ellbows and very long ventilation zippers unter the arms.
The range of usage for this jacket is huge.
The warmest version of a middle layer are these filled versions. It depends a little on your personal choice what you prefer. There jackets can fold down to a very small package and you will hardly feel the size and weight of them in your luggage.
You choose a potentially cooler destination or you want to be prepared for the worst scenario. This is your choice.
I am personally not a big fan of down. It is light and very warm. I agree, but it is compromised when its wet and another issue for me is the ethical aspect of down production. If you are interested, google it, "but viewers discretion is advised"
My favourite here is a jacket from Northface that comes and goes on the market. It is filled with hollow fiber. The same stuff you find in sleeping bags. It packs very small and is with its integrated hood very warm. Even if it gets a little rain or I have to pack it away in wet conditions it will still do its job.
The classic woollen sweater is the most traditional Warm Layer. Sailors and mountaineers trusted them for hundreds of years. They keep you warm and stay also warm if they are wet, as I described with the Base Layer.
Packing them away when you don´t need them can be a pain, because they take a lot of space and are not light either. A great traditional choice if you know that you will wear it most of the time anyway.
If you want one of these have a look for Irish Aran Sweaters or the traditional Norwegian sweater.
There is one more. The electrical heated jackets and vests that you will have to plug in to your bikes electrical system.
I must admit that I never tried one myself. I guess for a lot of winter riders, commuters or very sensitive people it is an option.
But there are some drawbacks. First of all your bike has to have enough juice to heat it up. Some newer bikes, like the Triumph 1200 Explorer and bigger touring bikes have an alternator that produces enough electricity. The majority of dualsport and adventure bike will not.
Another reason is that electrical heated jackets are very thin on themselves, so in the evening or at night you have NO warm Layer at all.