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Creating the Reach Midlayer

Designing the Reach Midlayer: Modern, Technical, Sustainable

Our model Emma, wearing the reach with the hood up and the bugg over her chin for extram warmth.

Our Reach Technical midlayer, in it's element on a chilly Winter morning

Ready for your favourite midlayer? Good, because it’s here! Packed full of clever features, modern design, and sustainable materials - you’re going to want to wear your Reach all the time…we already do!


As you might know, we have an amazing team of Ambassadors that wear our garments all year-round. When it came to the colder months, they all asked for warmer garments 3RD ROCK style… But, we take our time when it comes to developing new styles, sourcing sustainable materials, especially when it comes to more technical fabrics, isn’t a simple task and we knew that when it comes to performance, we won’t tolerate anything less than great. So we got to work: We realised there wasn’t a high performing, highly sustainable midlayer that we really vibed with. They were either ugly, not suitable for climbing/sports, or generally uncomfortable - so we finally decided to make one…and boy, are we glad we did!


What were the goals of the Reach? Simple; To create a midlayer that looks great, is suitable for a range of activities from Hiking mountains to morning jogs, and is kind to the environment. We wanted to make that go-to hoodie you take to the outdoors on a chilly day that you know will keep you cosy. One of those items you grab (almost wrote “reach out to”, sorry!) out of your wardrobe without a second thought.


The Reach: Built for purpose, with the planet in mind 

Step 1: Realising the need for the reach

We’re based in the Peak District, UK - which isn’t exactly known for its glorious warm, sunny weather. Most of the year it’s a wee bit nippy, and those colder seasons are when a lot of us here enjoy heading outdoors.


Unfortunately, The cool, damp weather we get can quickly turn an outdoor day into an uncomfortable hike or day at the crag. This is where the importance of a solid midlayer comes into play. A crucial and often underappreciated part of layering up, midlayers provide essential insulation, trapping body heat to keep you warm while still being breathable enough to manage moisture as your activity level increases.


So midlayers are important…cool - so we went online and looked for a well priced, stylish and sustainable midlayer that is also suitable for climbing (as the mantra goes “If you can climb in it, you can do anything in it”, Mahatma Gandhi, probably 😛). That wasn’t as easy as we thought. They weren’t tailored correctly so when wearing a harness, it would pull up and become uncomfortable. Hmm…annoying to say the least.

Also, if you hadn’t guessed, we’re very conscious shoppers here at 3RD ROCK - we focus on sustainability in the products we buy as well as the sustainable trousers and leggings we make. Well, we weren’t happy with the “sustainable” midlayers we found, they either weren’t really that sustainable or they just didn’t live up to our expectations.

Design sketces of the Reach, outlining some of the features and focual points.

Some of our original designs of the reach, and how we expect the garmnet to move & stretch

Step 2: Building the idea in our heads - what can we do differently to solve these problems?

We sat down and starting racking our brains. What exactly could we do differently to solve these problems. Is it possible to make a super sustainable yet high performing midlayer? How could we stop the midlayer riding up whilst climbing in a harness? What about anything else we’d like to pre-emptively solve…storage, extra warmth, whatever else?

A lot of the ideas came from us being outside and thinking, “wouldn’t this be cool?” or “damn this is annoying”. Because we were trying to create something new that solved problems, finding any sort of inspiration wasn’t an option - otherwise we wouldn’t be in the position of creating our midlayer.


We also spoke with our awesome ambassadors on what they would want or like to see from a midlayer. What problems had they come across when out climbing and adventuring?

Our very first reach prototype: Testing the stretch and tension points

Step 3: Prototypes & testing - did our ideas work in reality? Or was it all a pipedream?

So after talking to our ambassadors, and addressing our own issues we’ve had with midlayers in the past. It was time…let’s get some prototypes designed and created. This was a pretty tricky process. Focussing on what materials to use to make sure all of our boxes were ticked as well as the actual shape of the garment. We know we wanted more space below the arms to allow the climber to reach…but we’re not designing a wingsuit here people!!


The materials were key, they needed to be sustainable yet practical. Fine, that’s possible…but we also want it to be affordable - oh. That added just a little bit more difficulty. But we researched, dug deep and found something we were genuinely happy with. It looks good, felt nice and ticked our boxes - woohoo!

So we’ve got the material, and an idea of the garment shape and how it will behave when worn - what about some cool features that just add that little extra? What can we add to our midlayer to add more value - after all, we’re “above & beyond” kind of people!


“How about harness compatible pockets?” Yeah that would be cool! “How about a zipped chest pocket for your phone? Quick to access when wearing a jacket yet secure.” - Perfect, that’ll be handy when on a hike or a climb! “Now, hear me out, a built in buff for when that wind is super cold” - Bloody great idea! Let’s get that added and see if it works.


It took a few iterations, tweaking the zips, the built in buff position, the sleeve length so they don’t rise up when reaching…but we got there! A working prototype of a sustainable, high performance midlayer with some added extras…yay!

Thank you Jess for showing the "reachiness" of our Reach

Step 4: Bring it to the people - Producing the Reach

Now this is the first time we’ve made anything like this - how many do we produce? Will people take interest or do they only love us for our Jeans? We’re confident in our Reach, but understand people may be slightly hesitant at first. We’re trailblazers not a big ol’ business, things can take time to gain traction. As we were launching our Alex fleece around the same time we thought we’d play it a little safe. Over-producing clothing is a huge issue in the fashion industry and we don’t want to be a contributor.


It’s now out there, in the public eye - so far we’ve had very positive feedback. It’s warm, comfortable, and looks great! We’ve had people wearing it running, climbing, just on a day-to-day basis. Brilliant!

Now the question is - have we set a new standard for Midlayers? We think so. We’ve just proved you can create high performing, well design, sustainable kit. Let us know what you think

One of many cool and handy features: a 2 way zip for belaying

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