Best Base layers for Winter 2021

Best Base layers for Winter 2021

Last updated on Mar 19, 2021

Sometimes, wearing winter jackets and pants isn't enough to keep us warm in extremely cold weather. Many of us ignore the fact that layering is essential and that we cannot just choose any kind of layers; we need layers that are designed to keep us warm, and at the same time, are absorbent enough to wick away moisture or perspiration from our body. We also need layers that dry quickly so that sweat will not linger, thus making us feel colder.

So if you are planning to go out and be active outdoors in the winter and have no idea where to start when it comes to buying base layers, let this guide take you through everything you need to know about choosing quality base clothing.

Best Base Layers: Our Quick Answer

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Best Overall

1. Smartwool Merino 250 Crew

Smartwool Merino 250 Crew

Click to view on amazon.com.

Material: 100% Merino Wool (Machine Wash)

Weight: Approx. 9.2 Ounces

Fit: Slim

Smartwool was founded by two New England ski instructors in Colorado in 1994. The company primarily makes products from treated merino wool and claims that their treatment has moisture-wicking, odor-reducing, and anti-bacterial properties. They have products for men, women, and kids, and this Smartwool Merino 250 Crew is one of their high-quality inner clothing.

What we like about the Merino 250 Crew is that it is available in men's, women's, and kids' sizes.

This base clothing is constructed with 250 g/m² merino wool fabric, which is the thickest weight of its kind, and so it offers optimum warmth and versatility. It performs well in the coldest weather conditions as well as in warm weather. When worn as a mid-layer, it increases its versatility.

This Merino 250 Crew base layer will pull away sweat from your skin when things heat up, and evaporate it at the surface. Its balance of warmth and breathability makes this a great base layer for freezing temperatures and fall activities.

The soft, thick, and plush fabric of the 250 Crew will swaddle you comfortably while offering a full range of mobility because of the stretch weave on the arms and torso. The offset shoulder seams will also keep your shoulders comfortable. Additionally, you would not feel any seam lines against your skin because it utilizes flatlock seams.
This base layer from Smartwool also resists odors and regulates temperature. You can wear this over a thin base layer or under an insulated jacket.

What we don't like about the Merino 250 is that it does not dry quickly when it is soaked or washed because of the thickness of its fabric, although it does a great job at wicking perspiration, thus keeping you dry. Plus, it still insulates when wet. Additionally, this base layer is a bit large so if you want it to fit tightly and if you are in between sizes, we suggest sizing down.

Overall, this is a great base layer that is designed simply but with quality materials and impressive features.


 

Best Base layers for kids

2. Burton Kids' Lightweight Base layer Set

Burton Kids' Lightweight Base layer Set

Click to view on amazon.com.

Material: 100% Polyester Fabric (Machine Wash)

Weight: Approx. 9 ounces

Fit: Regular

The Burton brand was founded in 1997 in Vermont by Jake Burton Carpenter, who has dedicated his life to snowboarding. Thus, it mainly manufactures products for snowboarders such as snowboards, boots, bindings, accessories, and outerwear. Over the years, it became the largest snowboard brand in the world.

What we like about the Burton base layer set is that it is lightweight, not too tight, and not too baggy either. This set includes a bottom and a top that has thumbhole cuffs to lock the sleeves in place. It also utilizes DRYRIDE Ultrawick fabric, which wicks away moisture and is breathable enough to keep your child comfortable. It is an all-in-one package that has anti-pilling properties to prevent the fabric from getting thinner and developing holes. It also has chafe-free softlock seams for added comfort. Plus, it provides a sustainable odor control feature to eliminate body and environmental odors to keep your child fresh. It also has a Stretch 180° feature to allow for a wide range of mobility, making this set a perfect base layer for active kids, even in cold weather.

What we don't like about these base layer sets from the Burton brand is that they run a bit large, so most kids might prefer sizing down. You have to carefully check their sizing chart to choose a tight fit or leave room for growth. Overall, this lightweight base layer for kids is super soft and cozy, providing the right amount of warmth and moisture, with a wicking ability that is best for snowboarding, skiing, and any winter adventure.


 

3. Helly Hansen LIFA 2-Layer Thermal Baselayer

Helly Hansen LIFA 2-Layer Thermal Baselayer

Click to view on amazon.com.

Material: 57% Merino Wool, 43% Polypropylene (Machine Wash)

Weight: Approx. 9 ounces

Fit: Regular

Helly Hansen is a manufacturer of sports gear and textiles, founded in 1877 in Norway. They began with oilskin jackets, trousers, and tarpaulins made from coarse linen soaked in linseed oil. Over the years, they developed and innovated fabrics that are good enough for workwear, rainwear, and generally for outdoor use. In 2015, the brand became the apparel partner for alpine and para-alpine ski teams in Canada.

What we like about the Helly Hansen LIFA base layer for kids is that it is constructed with two layers of fabric. The exterior is made of 100% merino wool, which is not an itchy fabric, and its interior is made with the unique LIFA fiber technology that will keep moisture away from the skin and provide insulation to keep your child comfortable, warm, and dry.

This thermal long john and top dry quickly, and when your child sweats, the moisture will quickly disappear, leaving no odor. Its flatlock seams make this inner clothing less bulky and comfortable. The knees and elbows are also reinforced with 100g of Polartec fleece, which is a polyester fabric that adds protection from wear and tear, provides warmth without adding weight, and is hydrophobic. Plus, it absorbs less than a percentage of water, making this base layer ideal for the outdoors.

What we do not like about this winter thermal set is that it runs small, so most kids will probably prefer to size up to also allow room for growth. Plus, it will be a bit loose for slimmer kids, and there are no darker color options for girls. Overall, this is a good base layer or even a mid-layer for kids. It's cozy, feels nice on the skin, and retains its shape even after being washed.


 

4. Icebreaker Kids Merino 200 Oasis

Icebreaker Kids Merino 200 Oasis

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Material: 100% Merino Wool (Machine Wash)

Weight: 4.93 ounces

Fit: Slim

The Icebreaker brand was founded in 1994 in New Zealand. It was the first company to utilize the natural performance properties of merino wool. The company's mission is to build sustainable products with the use of natural fibers, considering environmental and social principles as well as animal welfare. They started with base layers made of merino wool and now manufacture underwear, mid-layers, socks, outerwear, and accessories based on natural fibers.

What we like about the Merino 200 Oasis is that it is designed neatly and simply. When thinking about garments made of wool, we often picture how bulky they are, but this base clothing is not and weighs just like a regular shirt, at only 4.93 ounces, placing it into the lightweight category.

All of its seams are flat locked, which means that there will be no chafing. The fit is slim and close to the skin, so it can wick away moisture from your child's body when it gets warmer. Although when your kid perspires, this clothing might feel a bit damp, they will still feel dry. Plus, because of the natural properties of merino wool, this base layer will also resist odors, keeping your child fresh after hours of playing.

This Merino 200 Oasis base layer is form-fitting and flattering, although not skin-tight. It is super soft against the skin and will keep your child warm in cold weather. It even retains its shape even after being washed, and it dries quickly.

What we don't like about this base clothing is that the sizing might be a bit confusing. If your child is in between sizes, we suggest sizing down for a tighter fit or up for a looser fit. The brand's size guide is based on height and weight. The garment might also be a bit itchy for children with sensitive skin, but some just felt it on their first try and eventually didn't feel as itchy when wearing it a few more times.

Overall, this Icebreaker Merino 200 Oasis is a perfect base layer for kids because it is made of natural fibers, is lightweight, and will keep your child feeling fresh, dry, and warm, even after hours of playing out in the cold.


 

Best Base layers for women

5. Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip

Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip

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Material:  90% Polyester, 10% Elastane (Machine Wash)

Weight: 7 ounces

Fit: Skin Tight

Arc'teryx is a company based in Canada. It was originally named “Rock Solid,” and was founded in the late 1980s. They started with harnesses and now manufacture products for climbing, skiing, snowboarding, backpacking, and hiking. They also offer a lifetime warranty and a gear trade program.

What we like about the Rho LT Zip base layer for women is that its fabric construction gives a long, tight fit and retains warmth. The interior is fleece-lined and has a zip-up collar for additional warmth and for releasing heat. Its exterior fabric is smooth and does not generate static. Plus, it's thin and very easy to layer.
This base layer is perfect for frigid weather conditions, regulates body temperature regardless if you are being active or just standing still. Also, it wicks away moisture and transfers it outside the fabric. It resists wind to a certain degree, and if you are not up for adding layers, it can function well on its own. The Elastine composition in its fabric makes this layer a tight fit and the fleece lining is comfortable. It is constructed with flat seams that will not scrape the skin while in motion and it does not itch. Additionally, it has a stash pocket for keys or a credit card.

What we don't like about this base layer is that the exterior fabric is not windproof, although it can still resist a minimal amount of wind. Plus, it is less breathable when the day gets warmer and it does not have any additional venting. Although it is odor-resistant, like most synthetic clothing, the odors stick after using it for a few years. Besides, it may linger after a few years of use. Overall, this base layer gives a flattering fit, will provide all-day comfort, and can accommodate most body types with its stretchy fabric construction. Although it is synthetic and is not made of merino wool, it still performs well for a wide range of activities.


 

6. Icebreaker Women's Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve

Icebreaker Women's Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve

Click to view on amazon.com.

Material: 100% Merino Wool (Machine Wash)

Weight: 7.05 ounces

Fit: Slim

Another quality and sustainable product from Icebreaker is the Merino 200 Oasis for women. It is made of the same material as its kid counterpart, but there are a lot of features that set it apart.

What we like about the Merino 200 Oasis for women is that it is the perfect weight for a base layer, and it effectively traps heat when layered underneath and when the days get warmer. Plus, it will still keep you comfortable and dry. It is very versatile and can keep you warm in colder temperatures. In terms of breathability, it does a good job at removing moisture from the skin, and it quickly dries. Note that even when the weave of the merino wool is tighter, it still offers some resistance to wind while maintaining its breathability.

This base clothing is made with 100% merino wool, is known for its durability, and is stretchy and soft against the skin. Plus, the fit is snug and very comfortable.
It features flatlock seams, offset shoulder seams, and gusseted underarms, which are really helpful for a full range of mobility. Besides, it impressively dries very quickly compared to other garments made of merino wool. Plus, it is odor-resistant, making it perfect for any activity.

What we do not like about it is that it has a breaking-in period. On your first try, you will find it a bit itchy. However, it goes away after a few washes. This is a comfortable base layer but it will run a bit small around the arms and torso on taller women, causing it to expose your belly and wrists when you reach above your head. When washing this garment, note the tag that says, “Do not tumble dry” as doing so would make it shrink slightly. Thus, it's best to dry it by laying it flat.

Overall, this long-sleeve top does an impressive job at layering. The snug fit, stretchiness, and smooth fabric make it very comfortable to wear.


 

7. Under Armour Women's ColdGear Fitted Crew Shirt

Under Armour Women’s ColdGear Fitted Crew Shirt

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Material: 89% Polyester, 11% Elastane (Machine Wash)

Weight: Approx. 7 ounces

Fit: Slim

Under Armour Inc. is a company that manufactures sports apparel, footwear, and casual apparel. Founded in 1996 in Maryland, its first products were shirts made from moisture-wicking fabrics. They soon developed clothing from microfibers that do not only wicks moisture but also keep the body cool and dry. The company got its first big break in 1999 when it was featured in Warner Bros. films. Up to this day, Under Armour remains one of the biggest sportswear manufacturers.

What we like about this base layer is that it is constructed with Under Armour's ColdGear Fabric, which is ideal for active sports because of its moisture-wicking and quick-drying abilities. This thermal fabric is also lightweight and designed to keep you warm. Plus, it will not weigh you down. Besides, it has a fitted and athletic look and feels cozy against the skin. It is also breathable, which is why it dries really fast.

In addition, it features rolled forward side seams, a 4-way stretch construction to allow you to move better, and thick cuffs and thumbholes on the bottom of each sleeve to keep it in place, seal in body heat, and add to its versatility. It also features an anti-odor technology to prevent the growth of bacteria that cause odors. This base layer works great for cold-weather workouts, even for indoor activities. It is a flattering fit for women and is very comfortable.

What we don't like about this Under Armour ColdGear base layer is that the sleeves and torso are a bit long although they are adequate for taller women or those of us with longer arms. However, this is not much of an issue when using this as a base layer. Besides, Under Armour has a size calculator which you can use to find the best fit.

Overall, this base layer will keep you warm enough and comfortable, and with the addition of more layers, it is adequate for colder temperatures.


 

Best Base layers for men

8. Smartwool Intraknit Merino 200 Crew

Smartwool Intraknit Merino 200 Crew

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Material: 53% Wool, 45% Polyester, and 2% Elastane (Machine Wash)

Weight: 7.1 ounces

Fit: Slim

Smartwool has a lot of comfortable and durable clothing and accessories for hiking, running, cycling, and daily use. One of their best base layers for cold weather is the Intraknit Merino 200 Crew.

What we like about this base layer is that its merino-blend construction is perfect for trapping and retaining heat, and it also does a great job at blocking the wind. It also has the ability to get rid of excess heat and maintain an even temperature. Plus, its relaxed collar helps shed heat and moisture.

The gender-specific 3D mapping on this base layer targets areas where moisture tends to build up, and so it is designed to have woven vents on the upper chest and down the center of the back to help keep these areas dry. It also makes the garment a near-custom fit and allows freedom of movement thanks to its ribbed elbows and armpits. Finally, it is designed to have a long, stretchy torso and is a slim fit to allow it to be easily tucked in and layered over.

What we don't like about the Intraknit 200 is that the arms are cut a bit long, which means that the articulated elbows are not in the right place, and pulling the sleeves up will make the fabric bunch up on the inner elbow, causing sweat to build up in the area. This issue makes this top difficult to layer, but with the right adjustments, it will fit comfortably. It is designed with a stretchy, athletic fit but may also feel a bit restricting for some. When washing it, you have to lay it flat to dry.

Overall, this base layer is made with a very impressive knitting-technology that will keep you warm and dry during your outdoor activities.


 

8. Under Armour Base 4.0 Crew

Under Armour Base 4.0 Crew

Click to view on amazon.com.

Material: 78% Polyester, 22% Elasterell (Machine Wash)

Weight: Approx. 11 ounces

Fit: Fitted

Under Armour has been a manufacturer of high-performance clothing for many years. They produce well-built workout clothes, as well as tools for sports teams. Their Base 4.0 still gathers good ratings from consumers.

What we like about the Under Armour Base 4.0 is that it has excellent breathability. Indeed, its fabric stretches out, creating spaces for venting out moisture, thus wicking away any sweat that is condensed on the interior layer. Plus, it features a cozy drop tail and thumb loops to secure the sleeve and keep the heat from getting out. Besides, the fabric does not itch and you will not feel any chafing under the arms either. It comes equipped with Under Armour's Scent Control Technology to keep you smelling fresh after hours of activity, and the 4-way stretch construction will allow freedom of movement.

We also like that the fabric feels strong yet smooth and is snag-resistant, even on Velcro. It is designed for high-intensity and low-duration activities, even in cold weather. You can even wear it underneath your jersey during outdoor winter games.

What we don't like about the Base 4.0 is that the sleeves are a bit short, causing the thumbholes to be uncomfortable. The fit is also a bit tight, thus it does not fall back into the right place when moved into a different position. There are also no gussets under the arms to be able to reduce stress on the seams. Overall, this is best worn underneath layers, and is one of the best base layers for heavy sweating, and is perfect for active men due to its breathability and moisture-wicking ability.


 

9. Arc'teryx Rho AR

Arc'teryx Rho AR

Click to view on amazon.com.

Material: 90% Polyester, 10% Elastane (Machine Wash)

Weight: 9.9 ounces

Fit: Next-to-skin

Arc'teryx specializes in technical high-performance outerwear and equipment, and their system of quality control and craftsmanship allows them to guarantee that their products measure up to their standards. The Rho AR for men is another reliable product from Arc'teryx.

What we like about the Rho AR is that it has a snug and comfortable fit, which traps heat remarkably. When it gets a little warmer, you can utilize its 9 ½ inch neck zipper to let the heat out. It is called “Rho” because it is a thermally-efficient base clothing that wicks away moisture. The soft jersey fabric on the interior is extremely comfortable, and the stretch will fit snugly around the torso. Plus, it stays in place so you don't have to keep adjusting it.

Additionally, it features extra-long sleeves and torso to avoid exposing the wrists and belly. Its flatlock seams are located in areas that are away from chafing, and with its sturdy side and underarm gussets, this base layer allows for a full range of movements. Besides, the upper part of this shirt dries out quickly and drains it at the bottom part, so you need to wring it out to be able to dry it quickly.

In terms of durability, the fabric is strong and the seams are stitched thrice and four times to be able to withstand wear and tear.

What we don't like about the Rho AR is that it is easy to overheat in it when using it as a base layer for high-intensity activities. Plus, it performs best in a low-impact activity. Because it provides optimum warmth, it will lack breathability, which will slow down its moisture-wicking ability. With heavy use, the fabric in some areas will become vulnerable to snagging and pilling.

Overall, the Arc'teryx Rho AR is best used as a base layer for cold to frigid weather conditions, and is a great second layer over shirts and thicker winter thermals.


 

Best under $100

11. Helly Hansen Classic JR HH LIFA Set

Helly Hansen Classic JR HH LIFA Set

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Material: 100% Polypropylene (Machine Wash)

Weight: 6.5 ounces

Fit: Fitted

Another innovative apparel from Helly Hansen is the JR HH LIFA set. The brand has been trusted by professionals since 1877, and we are glad to be able to share what we know about this product, from their line of classic base layers for kids.

What we like about the JR HH LIFA set is that it is constructed with lightweight materials and 100% LIFA fabric, a yarn technology that wicks moisture away from the skin and evaporates it through the surface of the fabric, keeping your child warm, dry, and comfortable, even after hours of skiing, snowboarding, or playing in the snow.

This winter thermal is perfect for active kids as it is light and soft against the skin. There are also no complaints about the fabric being itchy. Plus, it is made with natural stretch fabric for maximum freedom of movement. Its Flatlock seams are designed to be softer, flatter, and more secure. Besides, it feels great against the skin and can be layered easily.

What we don't like about this classic base layer from Helly Hansen is that the sizing is a little bit confusing. Most of us found the top a little loose and the bottoms a bit too tight, while some find the fit perfect for kids with slender physiques.

Overall, this is a good base layer for keeping kids warm and comfortable during their winter outdoor activities. Plus, it is simple to wash and it dries extremely fast.


 

12. Minus33 Ossipee Women's Midweight Crew

Minus33 Ossipee Women's Midweight Crew

Click to view on amazon.com.

Material: 100% Wool (Machine Wash)

Weight: 8 ounces

Fit: Regular

Minus33 is a company that was founded by textile engineers in New Hampshire in 2001. They started as a snowmobile brand, before expanding into making products for skiing, hunting, and hiking. New Hampshire has been the testing ground for their products, with the goal of producing quality and affordable clothing and apparel that can be used by anyone who loves the outdoors.

What we like about the Minus33 Ossipee is that it is a mid-weight base layer that provides ample warmth when worn alone, and that will keep you very warm on a winter day when combined with other layers. It is constructed with 100% merino wool, which remarkably regulates the body temperature, making it great for high-impact activities. It will also keep you cool when it gets a bit warmer. Besides, it is soft and comfortable against the skin, the length of the arms and torso is just right, and it is one of the most affordable merino wool layers.

What we don't like about this Ossipee Midweight base layer is that the cuffs are not stretchy enough to roll up the sleeves easily. Plus, it dries a bit slow when it is soaked, so we do not recommend it for boating, rafting, and other watersports. This base layer should be treated with care because it is vulnerable to pilling and stretching out.

Overall, this is a functional base layer with great temperature regulation, layering ability, and warmth. It can be used for low-impact activities on warm days and for most winter outdoor activities.


 

13. Icebreaker Men's BODYFITZONE™ MERINO 150 ZONE

Icebreaker Men’s  BODYFITZONE™ MERINO 150 ZONE

Click to view on amazon.com.

Material: 83% Wool, 12% Nylon, 5% Elastane (Machine Wash)

Weight: 6.03 ounces

Fit: Slim

Icebreaker claims that this is one of their lightest base clothing and that the 150 Zone Long Sleeve Crew is perfect for everyday training and active adventures.

What we like about the 150 Zone is that it is made with merino wool, 150gm of Jersey fabric, and Lycra, making this base layer snug, thin, and stretchy. This layer performs well through a wide range of temperatures, from rainy to harsh winter days.

It fits well when layered as the sleeves and torso are long enough and it is not too tight around the chest. Plus, the Lycra in its composition adds to its stretch and keeps the shirt in place.

The 150 Zone can also regulate the body temperature and feels comfortable even in temperatures up to 50°F. In colder conditions, this layer will keep you warm and dry, and will be perfect for a cold-weather backcountry outing.

This base layer features thumb loops to keep the sleeves in place and the cold out. The gusseted underarms and raglan sleeves allow for a wide range of mobility, and the flatlock seams prevent friction. Additionally, it is equipped with BodyFitZone™, allowing certain areas to be more breathable during high-intensity activities.

What we don't like about the Icebreaker Bodyfitzone Merino 150 is that the sleeves might be a little too long for some, while others may struggle with the overall fit. So, we suggest double-checking your measurements and Icebreaker's size chart to find the perfect fit. This base layer is also not the most comfortable shirt for sleeping or lounging around.

Overall, the Merino 150 Zone is an ultralight base layer that is comfortable and designed for movements. If you are looking for a base layer that performs well in nearly any condition, this is a good option.


 

Best under $50

14. 32 DEGREES Kid's Heat Base Layer Set

32 DEGREES Kid's Heat Base Layer Set

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Material: 39% Polyester 34% Acrylic 22% Rayon 5% Spandex (Machine Wash)

Weight: Approx 3.5 ounces

Fit: Regular

What we know about the 32 Degrees brand is that the full trademark name is “32° Weatherproof” and it is owned by an independent corporation called DPI Imports, which is located in New York. They produce coats, jackets, belts, gloves, sweatsuits, and other clothing, footwear, and headgear. They gained a lot of reviews with this Kids Heat Base Layer, and we are here to share why.

What we like about the 32° Kids Heat Base Layer set is that it is lightweight and easy to integrate into a layering system without adding bulkiness and weight. The fabric may seem thin but it is excellent in retaining body heat and will keep your child warm, even at 20 to 50°F. Plus, it will be very easy to pack. The stretch fit also makes it easy for kids to slide it on by themselves and allows mobility. The material construction makes this garment resistant to static and odors. It will also withstand countless washes and dry pretty fast.

This base layer set features an elastic waistband to provide a snug fit and keep the cold air out. As for the crew cut neck, it is designed to keep the upper body warm without feeling discomfort.

What we don't like about this set of base layers is that the fabric is too thin to the point that it may seem see-through when stretched. However, it provides ample warmth for most and is preferred for easy layering. It is also vulnerable to pilling and tears with heavy use.

Overall, this is an affordable base layer that will provide additional warmth and comfort, especially in a layering system. Plus, it can be used as pajamas.


 

15. Carhartt Women's Base Force Heavyweight Poly-Wool

Carhartt Women's Base Force Heavyweight Poly-Wool

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Material: 80% Polyester, 20% Wool (Machine Wash)

Weight: 6.5 ounces

Fit: Regular

The Carhartt brand was founded in 1889 in Michigan. It is a family-owned company that began producing work clothes for railroad workers and is now also known for manufacturing jackets, coats, jeans, shirts, vests, fire-resistant clothing, and hunting clothing.

What we like about the Carhartt Base Force Heavyweight base layer is that it is built with FORCE technology, which allows this garment to attract moisture and move it away from the body. On colder days, it creates a thermal layer to return infrared energy back to the body for the user to feel warmer. This base layer also has the ability to fight odors and to dry fast when soaked. Besides, it gives you a full range of mobility thanks to the Rugged Flex stretch technology incorporated in the fabric. It also features concealed thumb loops to keep the sleeves in place, flatlock seams, and a tag-less label to avoid irritation.

This Carhartt Base Force Heavyweight Poly-wool can be used as a base layer in below freezing temperature and is also comfortable for wearing around the house.

What we don't like about this inner thermal wear is that it may run short for others, especially on the sleeves. Thus, you might find it complicated to use the thumb loops. It is also a bit see-through when stretched, but that should not be an issue when you are to use it as a base layer.

Overall, this Base Force Heavyweight base layer for women is a budget-friendly choice. It is effective at wicking moisture and regulates the body temperature well.


 

16. Helly Hansen Men's HH LIFA Stripe Crew

Helly Hansen Men's HH LIFA Stripe Crew

Click to view on amazon.com.

Material: 100% Polypropylene (Machine Wash)

Weight: 5 ounces

Fit: Regular

According to Helly Hansen, this is the original technical long-sleeve base layer. It is extremely lightweight, at just about 144 grams, and can be used for a lot of outdoor activities.

What we like about the Stripe Crew is that it is one of the more affordable, lightweight, and synthetic base layers from Helly Hansen. It is made with 100% LIFA fibers to provide warmth and adequate insulation. Besides, LIFA fibers naturally draw out moisture and keep it away from the skin. The outer layer of the fabric will ensure that you stay warm, dry, and comfortable.

This layer is great for active men because of its fast moisture-wicking ability and the thin fabric that makes it easier for air to pass through, making it very breathable and able to dump heat quickly. In addition, the fabric withstands minimal pilling and abrasion while offering a fast-drying capability, making it a great layer for high-intensity tasks in cold weather. Finally, it features lightweight insulation, flatlock seams, natural stretch fabric, and low bulk cuffs.

What we don't like about this Stripe Crew winter thermal is that the fit is a bit odd and runs small. It is tight around the neck and cuff, which is restricting, although it is nice for layering because it stays in place. The length of the torso is also short and can expose your back and belly when lifting your arms or bending over.

Overall, this affordable Stripe Crew base layer is a nice option for high-intensity activities in cold weather as it dries really fast and it is very breathable.


Best Base layers: Comparison Table

FotoBase Layer MaterialFitWeight
Smartwool Merino 250 Crew

1. Smartwool Merino 250 Crew

100% Merino Wool (Machine Wash)SlimApprox. 9.2 Ounces
Burton Kids' Lightweight Base layer Set

2. Burton Kids' Lightweight Base layer Set

100% Polyester Fabric (Machine Wash)RegularApprox. 9 ounces
Helly Hansen LIFA 2-Layer Thermal Baselayer

3. Helly Hansen LIFA 2-Layer Thermal Baselayer

57% Merino Wool, 43% Polypropylene (Machine Wash)RegularApprox. 9 ounces
Icebreaker Kids Merino 200 Oasis

4. Icebreaker Kids Merino 200 Oasis

100% Merino Wool (Machine Wash)Slim4.93 ounces
Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip

5. Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip

90% Polyester, 10% Elastane (Machine Wash)Skin Tight7 ounces
Icebreaker Women's Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve

6. Icebreaker Women's Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve

100% Merino Wool (Machine Wash)Slim7.05 ounces
Under Armour Women’s ColdGear Fitted Crew Shirt

7. Under Armour Women’s ColdGear Fitted Crew Shirt

89% Polyester, 11% Elastane (Machine Wash)SlimApprox. 7 ounces
Smartwool Intraknit Merino 200 Crew

8. Smartwool Intraknit Merino 200 Crew

53% Wool, 45% Polyester, and 2% Elastane (Machine Wash)Slim7.1 ounces
Under Armour Base 4.0 Crew

9. Under Armour Base 4.0 Crew

78% Polyester, 22% Elasterell (Machine Wash)Fitted Approx. 11 ounces
Arc'teryx Rho AR

10. Arc'teryx Rho AR

90% Polyester, 10% Elastane (Machine Wash)Next-to-skin9.9 ounces
Helly Hansen Classic JR HH LIFA Set

11. Helly Hansen Classic JR HH LIFA Set

100% Polypropylene (Machine Wash)Fitted6.5 ounces
Minus33 Ossipee Women's Midweight Crew

12. Minus33 Ossipee Women's Midweight Crew

100% Wool (Machine Wash)Regular8 ounces
Icebreaker Men’s  BODYFITZONE™ MERINO 150 ZONE

13. Icebreaker Men’s  BODYFITZONE™ MERINO 150 ZONE

83% Wool, 12% Nylon, 5% Elastane (Machine Wash)Slim6.03 ounces
32 DEGREES Kid's Heat Base Layer Set

14. 32 DEGREES Kid's Heat Base Layer Set

39% Polyester 34% Acrylic 22% Rayon 5% Spandex (Machine Wash)RegularApprox 3.5 ounces
Carhartt Women's Base Force Heavyweight Poly-Wool

15. Carhartt Women's Base Force Heavyweight Poly-Wool

80% Polyester, 20% Wool (Machine Wash)Regular6.5 ounces
Helly Hansen Men's HH LIFA Stripe Crew

16. Helly Hansen Men's HH LIFA Stripe Crew

100% Polypropylene (Machine Wash)Regular5 ounces

FAQs

What is the best material for a base layer?

While cotton provides warmth and is great for wearing at work or around town, it is not ideal to use outdoors or in the wilderness because it absorbs water around 20 times its own weight, making it heavy and slow to dry. Merino wool or synthetics are more ideal for outdoor activities.

Merino wool is a natural fiber that is highly breathable and that insulates when wet. It dries quickly and is naturally odor-resistant. The merino sheep is very special, and its ultra-fine wool is not itchy to the human skin and is much softer than most synthetic fibers. This type of wool can also be weaved into thin fibers, making a garment lightweight and perfect for all seasons. Its only downside is that it is a bit expensive and not as durable as most synthetic materials. However, if you are to use clothing made with such fabric occasionally and not for regular outdoor activities, they can withstand minimal wear and tear. Additionally, a lot of manufacturers blend merino wool with nylon to increase its durability.

Synthetics, on the other hand, have better moisture-wicking properties and are much cheaper. They are hydrophobic, which means that they do not absorb water. Some synthetics dry slightly faster than merino wool and are a better option for watersports or activities during which you might sweat profusely. However, synthetics can be uncomfortable when damp, contrary to merino. Lastly, synthetics cannot claim that they have the same odor-resistant and anti-bacterial properties as merino wool.

Should base layers be tight or loose?

Base layers should be close-fitting to be able to trap heat in and be much more effective at wicking moisture. It is also important for the base layer to be stretchy and to naturally adjust to your body shape with proper length in the arms and torso. Badly fitting base clothing will lead to heat loss, reduced wicking abilities, and possible skin sores as the excess material can rub against the skin. Thus, base layers should fit snugly and not be restrictive to be able to exploit every feature they offer and ensure maximum effectiveness.

BUYING GUIDE

Layering systems vary from person to person. What works for someone might not work for you, so to help you decide and understand base layers better, we've put together this buying guide.

Material - Merino wool is excellent for retaining heat and great for breathability. It allows freedom of movement, and it naturally has antibacterial properties, which means that it can be worn for days without washing it. Meanwhile, synthetic base layers are also great for breathability. They have better moisture-wicking abilities and are quick-drying, but they are not as warm as merino base layers.

Ventilation - Whichever material the base layer is made of, you should always look out for its ability to regulate the body temperature or to vent out heat when it gets a little warmer.

Fit - Base layers should be close-fitting to efficiently retain body heat and wick moisture. Slim fit base layers are snug and closer to the body, while regular fit base layers are neither snug nor loose, and skin-tight base layers are very close-fitting.

Weight - Lightweight base layers offer versatility and can be used alone in hot temperatures and under layers in cold temperatures. They are best used as the very first layer of your layering system, regardless of the outside temperature.

Mid-weight base layers can be worn over a lightweight base for added insulation in cold weather conditions. They can also be worn alone as a mountaineering shirt in the summer, or even just around the campfire. Most are heavy but are enough to provide warmth.

Heavy-weight base layers are usually used for colder climates, but also function well in the spring and fall when worn alone. They provide more insulation and dry quickly.
Meanwhile, a compression base layer restricts vibrations and movements to help reduce fatigue around the muscles. This type of base layer is more in-demand among athletes and anyone who can benefit from its muscle stabilization.

Seams - Seams are another important feature to look out for because they add to the garments' durability.

Odor retention - It is best to look for base layers that can prevent the buildup of odors causing bacteria. Base layers made with fabrics that can control odors are best used for high-intensity outdoor activities.

Fast-drying - Base layers should have quick-drying abilities not only after a wash but also when breaking a sweat as this will help exploit their insulating properties.

Durability - Look for more durable base layers if you are to use them regularly. Wool is moderately durable, while synthetic lasts longer. You can also choose base layers made of wool and blended with synthetic fibers.

Layering clothes is the best way to stay warm in cold weather conditions because it traps air between each layer and it is much more effective than one thick jacket. The layering system is composed of a base layer, mid-layer, and outerwear.


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