The 8 Best Base Layers For Hiking Cold Weather

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There is clothing that is meant for hiking adventures. This clothing works to ensure that your experience is the best it can be.

Different types come into play. The base is the foundation. The one that is closest to the skin. Others include outer or multi-functional layers. 

Wearing multiple materials when hiking is so that you can adapt to the climate. For instance, if a hike began in the morning, the climate may change throughout the day. You will want to be able to adjust to the climate throughout the day. Multiple coverings will help with that.

The best place to begin is with a foundation. There are a few different styles and materials when it comes to foundation materials. In this article, we will discuss the best base layers for hiking.

Best Base Layers For Hiking

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Best Base Layers For Hiking: Reviews

Base layers come in handy on different occasions. However, they are synonymous with humid conditions. Actually, the base layer forms the foundation to maintain the core temperature. Sub-zero temperatures demand a thick layer of clothing for adequate insulation. On the other hand, you might need a thin and light layer if you are to venture out on a warmer day. Therefore, this layers come in varied materials and characteristics to suit different temperatures or activities. Read on as we try to break down some of the best base layers available:

1. Icebreaker Merino Men's Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Top


Excellent mid-layer for cold-tolerant hikers and a superb first layer for ordinary hikers!”

Main Features

  • Dependable UV light protection
  • Natural odor resistance
  • Durable merino wool
  • More body coverage

Reliable Pick

Icebreaker Merino Mens Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Top

The must-have hiking gear!

It is hard to look past this top if you are keen to find a naturally insulating base layer to keep you nice and toasty. The Icebreaker Merino Men's Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Top will be your favorite kit once you get a taste of its pioneering functionality: 

Superior Insulation

You do not have to mind freezing weather conditions once you are clad in this garment. It provides next to skin warmth. Other than that, extended hems ensure added body coverage. Moreover, it is quick-drying complemented by excellent ventilation for advanced temperature regulation.

Quality Construction

The flatlock stitching on every piece of this top is noteworthy and reliable. It curbs chaffing, eliminates irritation, and gives it a reassuring feel. Besides, it features soft pure wool with a fine weave. As you might expect, wool makes the garment odor-free and long-lasting. UV light protection is another advantage of the top.

Comfortable and Fits Well 

The top stands out for its breathable fabric that promotes air circulation to keep the body cool and dry. In the same fashion, the material dries at an impressive speed to support insulation. You will also love its snug fit as it is true to size. Additionally, the model encompasses a collarless neck. This way, you can wear it under heavy layers without having to worry about choking or any other discomfort.

A solid generalist base layer in cute merino wool.

Pros

  • Machine washable
  • Super lightweight
  • Quick-drying
  • Extra warm

Cons

  • Can be warm for physical activities
  • Smells of sheep after sweating

2. Icebreaker Merino Women's 200 Oasis Leggings


Perfect protection layer for cold weather activities!”

Main Features

  • Unnoticeable under other clothes
  • All-round comfort and protection
  • Pure merino wool construction
  • Unmatched thermoregulation

Reliable Pick

Icebreaker Merino Womens 200 Oasis Leggings

The base layer that puts your favorite product to shame!

If you prefer natural fibers then you will love the Icebreaker Merino Women's 200 Oasis Leggings. Crafted for optimal insulation and unhindered movement, the versatile layer will keep you warm and cozy when it gets cold. Let us check out its incredible profile:

Impressive Moisture Management

The model works well in any weather conditions.  Monumental moisture-wicking absorbs sweat with ease to keep the skin dry. Likewise, it is super breathable to ensure a cool hiking experience whenever temperatures hit the ceiling.

Natural Body Odor Control

Besides exceptional thermoregulation, the leggings yield unbeatable odor control. This is courtesy of the merino wool material known for its antimicrobial properties. It kills odor-producing microorganisms by absorbing sweat and drying fast. To crown it all, the fabric has efficient UV protection.

Unrestricted Movement

Icebreaker Merino Women's 200 cater to active hikers. You can tell this from its dynamic design, which enhances lots of freedom when moving. It comes with a wide elastic waistband that hugs gently but securely on the feminine frame. Flatlock seams eliminate chafing while strategically placed gussets heighten comfort and guarantee smooth movement.

A deserving investment for the cold season.

Pros

  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Elastic waist for a snug fit
  • Odor resistant

Cons

  • The fabric is too thin limiting durability
  • Might be itchy on sensitive skin

3. Thermajane Women's Ultra Soft Thermal Underwear Long Johns

An excellent choice for all year insulation!”

Main Features

  • Impressive temperature regulation
  • Stretchy for a customized fit
  • Easy care and maintenance
  • Flexible and easy to wear

Reliable Pick

Thermajane Womens Ultra Soft Thermal Underwear Long Johns Set with Fleece Lined

The new way to conquer the cold season!

It is hard to look past this top if you are keen to find a naturally insulating base layer to keep you nice and toasty. The Icebreaker Merino Men's Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Top will be your favorite kit once you get a taste of its pioneering functionality: 

Snug Fit

The model hugs onto the skin smoothly without bunching up. On top of that, the pair is light an aspect that eliminates pinching. Also, it does not show under other clothes not to mention that it is non-see-through. Although thin and light, the underwear’s insulation is like no other. It can accommodate varied body sizes with its four-way stretch fabric.

Flexible

This underwear allows you to hike stress-free. It is flexible enough for the full mobility courtesy of the stretch construction. The fabric – featuring a blend of spandex and polyester - offers you the sense of freedom to engage in any outdoor activity.

Extraordinary Moisture Wicking

For better moisture management, these layer features the moisture transport system. It wicks moisture efficiently thus keeping the fabric dry and light.

Outdoor Oriented 

Kingly comfort and functionality are a top priority in the design of this model. It is super breathable thanks to the poly-spandex design. This is essential in eliminating odors too. Chaffing and skin irritation will be a thing of the past as it has a tag less design. Quality stitching at the waistband and seams holds the underwear together for a long.

An impeccable all-rounder with exclusive features for sub-zero adventures

Pros

  • Soft comfy fabric
  • Light and snug
  • Versatile wear
  • Thin and light

Cons

  • Shrinks when washed
  • May fit too snugly

4. Smartwool Men’s Base Layer Top - Merino 250 Wool Active Crew

Best for active pursuits in cold weather!”

Main Features

  • Does not shrink after washing
  • Unmatched thermoregulation
  • Traditional slim-fit design
  • Breathable warmth

Reliable Pick

Smartwool Mens Base Layer Top Merino 250 Wool Active Crew

The only under layer that delivers!

The Smartwool Men’s Base Layer Top is a great way to complete your outdoor wear when the cold spell sets in. You can count on its trailblazing features to get you through extreme temperatures.

Anti-Odor

Merino wool fabric is one of the greatest selling points of this top. It has antimicrobial capabilities coupled with an advanced moisture-wicking ability to get rid of bad odors for a refreshing hike.

Targeted Insulation and Ventilation

This layer is always adventure-ready. It has an interlock knit that improves thermoregulation. Likewise, the knitting improves ventilation and airflow. Unbeatable moisture management also takes ventilation to the top.

Cozy Slim Fit

The most effective base layers have next-to-skin coziness. That is what you get for choosing this model. The top comes with rear body seams. They smoothly hug all around to the front for a better fit. Merino-covered shoulder panels make the top extra comfy.

UV protection

It is advisable for outdoor enthusiasts to have enough UV protection whenever they hit the road. The creators of this layer understand that. As a result, the model’s fabric is equipped with a UPF 50+ rating that generates unbelievable coverage against UV rays.

Long-Lasting Wear

The top is relatively thicker than other models to ensure it stays together for ages. In the same way, you will experience minimal chafing because of the flatlock seam construction.

Might be a little bulky but its exemplary insulation and comfort are worth the extra bulk.

Pros

  • Machine washable
  • Quality tailoring
  • Odor resistant
  • Versatile wear

Cons

  • Fabric is itchy on sensitive skin
  • A little pricy

5. Minus33 Merino Wool 706 Kancamagus Men's Midweight Bottom

Good for everyday wear!”

Main Features

  • Ultra-fast moisture wicking
  • Naturally flame retardant
  • Simple and functional
  • Absolutely itch-free

Reliable Pick

Minus33 Merino Wool 706 Kancamagus Mens Midweight Bottom

Your first choice for premium warmth!

This thermal bottom is famous for its clever balance of weight, warmth, and epic base layer functionality.  It is built for a three-season performance meaning you can wear it all year round.

Inherent Anti-Bacteria Properties

Merino wool boasts of long-lasting anti-bacterial properties. As a result, the fabric is odor resistant. Contrary to what you might expect, the fabric is not itchy at all. Additionally, you will not have to worry about animal fur or sheep smell after sweating. Flatlock seams banish chafing for comfortable warm wear.

Top Class Thermoregulation

Merino wool is one of a kind owing to its ability to react to temperature changes in the body. This is largely attached to its interlock knit construction and natural merino wool. It will cool the skin by absorbing perspiration and releasing it into the air. Still, it is less likely to cling to the body because of great wicking abilities. Full body coverage due to stretch cuffs and a quick-drying fabric means better heat retention. Aside from that, the material is stretchy for a personalized fit.

Easy Care and Maintenance

You will be glad to learn that the model is machine washable. It neither loses color nor shrinks after a wash. On the same note, wool curbs stain absorption, which implies that it will remain clean and spotless even after an excruciating hike.

Nothing beats a natural product making it well worth the price.

Pros

  • Machine washable
  • Naturally elastic
  • Water repellent
  • True to size

Cons

  • Lacks heel straps to secure it in place
  • Relatively pricy

6. Helly Hansen Women's HH Dry Original Base Layer Shirt

A does-it-all layer perfect for hiking in humidity!”

Main Features

  • Stretches with your movements
  • Decent quality to price ratio
  • Holds up after washing
  • Lightweight warmth

Reliable Pick

Helly Hansen Womens HH Dry Original Base Layer Shirt

Best undershirt ever!

Helly Hansen Women's Shirt is a total package. It wicks moisture, repels odors, and offers a sufficient amount of heat in a well-tailored fabric. Let us unravel other selling points.

Iconic HH Dry Construction

Made of purely synthetic polypropylene, the garment is quick-drying an aspect that helps in moisture management and insulation. The fabric is also very breathable to promote thermoregulation when the sun is up.

All-Round Comfort

You can rock the garment 24/7 due to added comfort. It is thin and light for appealing wear. Together with that, it provides next to skin warmness owing to a slim non-clinging fit. Its allergy neutral inside material makes it cozy and itch-free. Finally, the model encompasses flat lock stitching that curbs chaffing and irritation.

Trendy and Easy to Maintain

Cutely detailed to appeal to the feminine eye, the model is a woman's favorite. Nonetheless, the underlayer comes in a variety of colors to match different outfits. Most importantly, it is machine washable, dries fast, and does not shrink afterward. 

The ideal option if you are looking for a budget-friendly base layer with high performance.

Pros

  • Pocket friendly
  • Allergy neutral
  • Trendy design
  • Itch free

Cons

  • Sleeves are tight on the lower arm for larger women
  • Too warm for intensive exercise

7. MERIWOOL Women's Base Layer 100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Shirt

Fits the bill for outdoor sports activities and hiking!”

Main Features

  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Feminine and functional
  • Light and ultra-soft
  • Great fiber density

Reliable Pick

MERIWOOL Womens Base Layer 100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt

Your reliable first line of defense!

You should try the MERIWOOL Women’s Thermo shirt if you need a high-end base layer that will live up to your expectations.

All Merino Wool

Merino wool is the ultimate fabric for making base layers. It manages moisture efficiently fighting off-odors with ease. Its fine fibers are great at moisture wicking and elevating breathability. Warmth and unrivaled insulation are other top advantages of the fabric. Likewise, merino wool is crimped, stretchy for unhindered mobility, and added life. With a UPF rating of 30+, you will not have to worry about UV rays.

Out-of-the-box Tailoring

The model’s expert construction suits different activities. It provides personalized fit and next-to-skin warmth. On top of that, it features raglan sleeves that deliver unrestricted arm movement. A wide crew neck collar is responsible for extra warmth and insulation.

Affordable Pricing

Some people might say that MERIWOOL Women’s Thermo shirt is too good for its price. That is true indeed. The model has the features, comfort, and functionality of a high-end base layer at less than 100 US dollars.

Good value for the price

Pros

  • Good size variety
  • Naturally warm
  • Priced well
  • Dries fast

Cons

  • Itchy on sensitive skin
  • Little color variety

8. MeetHoo Thermal Underwear for Women


Good under layer for less demanding winter conditions.!”

Main Features

  • Remarkable wind resistance
  • Superior insulation
  • Affordable pricing
  • Nice fleece lining

Reliable Pick

MeetHoo Thermal Underwear for Women Winter Warm Base Layer Compression Set Fleece Lined Long Johns Running Skiing

A true undergarment that lives up to your expectations!

Are you on a tight budget? Are you looking for a warm base layer set with decent functionality at a reasonable price? Well, look no further as the MeetHoo Thermal Underwear for Women is now at your rescue.

Wonderfully Warm

This set boasts of a multi-layer fabric composed of spandex and polyester. The multi-layer has a windproof outer layer and mid-layer for insulation and an inside layer for elasticity. The pants fit snugly around the sleeves and waistline to keep heat loss at bay. Additionally, fleece-lined inside guarantees added warmth.

Premium Grade Fabrics

A combination of expertly interwoven spandex and polyester fabrics deliver dense fibers. The dense fibers ensure better insulation and promote durability.

Versatile Wear

The model is ideal for different occasions. You can either have it on the trail or rock it at home. Its design is simple and elegant.

One of the budget friendly base layers set in the market offering above-average performance.

Pros

  • Standard textiles
  • Soft and light
  • Extra flexible
  • Skin-friendly

Cons

  • The top is a little buggy
  • The bottom runs small

The secret to hiking comfort is layering your garments. A great base layer will set you off in the right direction. Hopefully, the models we have reviewed above will help you make an informed decision on your next buy. Choose based on underlying temperature conditions, type of fabric, and your personal needs. Once again, a good base layer ought to yield classic temperature regulation without hampering your movement. Predominantly, the preferred choice must be light and comfortable.  Have a good time!

What Is The Importance Of Wearing A Base Layer?

The base covering is the one that is closest to the skin. The purpose of this one is to remove the moisture from your body. This process is referred to as wicking, the removal of the moisture. Wicking moisture from the skin is important in both cold and hot temperatures.

In cold temperatures, water close to your body is the last thing you want. Talk about sickness and discomfort.

On the opposite side of the possible temperature is a hot climate. Wicking moves the sweat from your body, allowing for it to evaporate. Your excess body heat goes along with it as well!

This one overall helps to keep you comfortable. Appropriate clothing on a hike can make the difference between a great or miserable time.

How Do You Choose The Base Layer?

How Do You Choose

There are a few ways for you to choose the appropriate foundation material for you.

There are different thickness levels when it comes to this piece. There is ultralightweight, lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight. Regardless of the thickness, moisture-wicking will take place. Thickness levels are for different types of weather and activity.

When choosing this initial covering, you should think of the other ones too. This is to ensure that all of your coverings function together properly. It's important to keep this in mind to choose the correct amount of layers.

You can choose a starting point layer based on fabric. Three types of fabric make for efficient starting points. The three fabrics are synthetic, silk, and Merino Wool.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of support layers.

Different Types Of Base Layers

Different Types Of Base Layers

Now that we are aware of the need for a foundation covering let’s go over the different types.

Fabric

Okay, let’s start with this, cotton is the worst choice you can make when going on a hike. This is especially true when it comes to the foundation. This is because cotton has no wicking properties to it. As a result, your hike would end up very uncomfortable.

Three different fabrics are the most common. All of which have various pros and cons.

Synthetic Fabrics

Common synthetic fabrics include polyester, spandex, nylon, and more. They are typically more affordable than other wicking fabrics.  They are more easily accessible than other fabrics. You can find these at a local department store. Synthetic fabrics will not hold heat in, so they are more ideal for warmer climates.

The main downside of synthetic fabrics is that they often will hold onto odors. If you will not have easy access to washing your clothes for a long time, this may not be ideal. They are also not as durable as other fabrics. This could be an issue if you will not have access to other clothing.

Silk

Silk is no doubt going to be the most comfortable and luxurious of the fabrics. It is an ideal fabric as support covering because you can easily add layers to it. It is important to look for silk that has been chemically treated. This will wick away better than just plain silk.

This fabric will retain heat better than synthetic fabrics. It takes a bit longer for silk to wick away moisture though. Silk is not the most durable of the fabrics.

Merino Wool

Merino Wool is the absolute best fabric for cool to cold climates. Regardless of this fact though, Merino Wool is suitable for all seasons. It is breathable enough to be worn in warm climates. While in cold climates it retains heat even when it is wet.

It is more expensive when compared to synthetic and silk fabrics. Though it is more expensive it is not necessarily more durable. It also will not dry as quickly. If you will be in weather or situations where water will be present, Merino Wool may not be your best option.

Thickness Level

There are four different levels of thickness. The level of thickness can also depend on the fabric. For instance, Merino Wool may feel a bit thicker compared to silk material. No level of thickness is more common than another. There are four levels to suit various preferences and needs.

Ultra lightweight

This level of thickness is best for warmer climates. It is ideal to choose this style especially when it comes to backpacking. This is so you are not adding any extra weight along your trip. An ultralightweight one will, of course, do its job to wick away moisture and keep you cool. This level of thickness as a starting point material is great for layering. You can add or remove as many pieces without feeling weighted down.

Lightweight

A lightweight foundation option will offer the warmth that is suitable for cool to slightly cold climates. Though the thickness is a level up from ultralight, it is still suitable for high volume activities. This level of thickness will provide a bit of warmth while wicking away the moisture from your skin. This level of thickness is also great for when you plan on having multiple layers.

Mid weight

This level of thickness provides warmth while aiding in a bit of wind protection. With this thickness level, you may begin to sweat while doing a more intense hike. Not to worry though, the base material would still do its job! The moisture will not stay trapped or leave you feeling uncomfortable. A midweight level of thickness is pretty diverse. Much like a lightweight one, you can have as few or as many layers on top.

Heavy Weight

Being the thickest level of starting point materials available, it is meant to keep the warmth in. It will still wick away moisture as the other levels of thickness do. It does take a bit more time for the moisture to work its way through a heavyweight option. This level of thickness is best for low and frigid temperatures. Heavyweight can also be beneficial for when you are at camp.

What To Consider When Buying A Base Layer?

When choosing a support material there are a few important things to consider.

It is crucial to think about the climate in which your hike will be taking place. Not just the overall temperature but also the various endeavors you will come across. These may include wooded areas, bodies of water, or excess amount of dirt.

Considering the activity level that will be happening is to be taken into consideration. For instance, you may be backpacking.

Durability and functionality are important aspects of support covering as well! If you will not be able to easily access other clothing, you want to be sure you will not have any problems along the way.

Having these things in mind can help you to determine a few things regarding your base covering. It can help you determine the level of thickness. The levels of thickness range from ultralightweight to heavyweight. All levels are beneficial to a hiker. The fabric that will best suit you can also be determined. For example, a synthetic fabric that is lightweight would be the best for someone on a long day hike in a warm climate.

Who makes the best base layer for cold weather?

Following are the best picks to protect you from cold weather:

1. Icebreaker Merino Men's Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Top

2. Icebreaker Merino Women's 200 Oasis Leggings

3. Thermajane Women's Ultra Soft Thermal Underwear Long Johns

4. Smartwool Men’s Base Layer Top - Merino 250 Wool Active Crew

5. Minus33 Merino Wool 706 Kancamagus Men's Midweight Bottom

6. Helly Hansen Women's HH Dry Original Base Layer Shirt

7. MERIWOOL Women's Base Layer 100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Shirt

8. MeetHoo Thermal Underwear for Women

Final Verdict

The base covering is the foundation. The one that is worn next to the skin. The essential job of a foundation material is to wick away moisture and keep you comfortable! Wearing the appropriate clothing on a hike can make the difference between an enjoyable or a miserable experience.

There are different types of base materials. There are different levels of thickness. There is ultralightweight, lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight. Different fabrics are the best when it comes to this clothing. Synthetic fabrics, silk, and Merino Wool are the best when it comes to hiking.

When choosing a foundation covering, you should consider the climate and activity level that will be taking place. You should determine the best fabric and level of thickness with these aspects in mind.

Ideally, when it comes to an average hike your foundation covering should be lightweight and dry quickly.

Grab yourself a great base layer and get hiking!