Cozy Up with The Best Base Layers in 2022

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Your base layer plays a crucial role in wicking moisture away from the body and helping to regulate your core body temperature. A good base layer is as important as your down jacket, so don’t neglect this layer, especially if you enjoy activities like skiing, hiking, and climbing.

We researched extensively, then tested these out in the field by hiking, walking, skiing, and more. Let’s dive right into the best base layers for colder temperatures.

Editor’s pick: SITKA CORE System

sitka core system

  • 100% polyester construction
  • Lots of pieces to choose from
  • Excellent odor resistance
  • Multiple colorways
  • Shorts, long sleeves, pants, and zip-ups available in the lineup

While we’ve featured one item in this link, there are quite a few items that make up the SITKA CORE system. From long sleeve tops for both men and women to shorts and pants for both genders, you can mix and match your way to the perfect base layer set. Each piece offers excellent moisture wicking, just the right amount of softness and breathability against the skin, and rarely creates any friction.

I tested a set of SITKA goodies, as did my partner, and we were both over the moon with comfort, odor resistance, and moisture wicking. We used these for camping, sleeping, and skiing (resort and ski touring) and they performed exceptionally well. These polyester pieces may come from a hunting and fishing background, but they serve a wide range of outdoor pursuits, as does the bulk of SITKA’s line.

Lastly, one of my favorite features is that amongst the women’s clothing, the CORE boyshort features an option to use gadgets like GoGirl for easy wilderness relief.

See SITKA CORE System on Sitkagear

See SITKA CORE System on Amazon

All-rounder: STOIC Midweight Baselayer

stoic midweight baselayer

  • Polyester and spandex construction
  • Moisture-wicking, odor resistant
  • Stretchy construction
  • Thumb loops

The STOIC Midweight Baselayer set is a perfect companion for cold-weather activities. I love this set for anything cold and active. If red isn’t your cup of tea, green, purple, and black are also available.

The polyester and spandex construction allows for exceptional freedom of movement. This is the best merino base layer for easy movement. Even during my sweatiest ski tours, this set was quite odor-resistant and didn’t scare off any ski touring partners. This set is budget-friendly, too, and also available in a women’s version.

See STOIC Midweight Baselayer on Backcountry

Great for cross-country skiing: NORRONA PureUll Zip Neck

norrona pureull zip neck

  • Merino wool construction
  • Great temperature regulation
  • Lightweight base layer
  • Not form fitting and great for those who don’t like fabrics pulling on their skin

The NORRONA PureUll Zip Neck is an excellent skiing layer. NORRONA builds gear fit for Norway’s rugged landscape. I found this to be both an excellent base layer and a luxuriously soft option as a light sun shirt layer for protection from UV rays. This isn’t how this base layer is ‘supposed’ to be worn, but it’s something I used it for. I love the odor control and temperature regulation thanks to the wool design.

Even though this is merino wool, it has a very light fabric weight and sits comfortably on your skin, whether it’s a base layer or one of your outer layers. However, we don’t recommend it as an outer layer in rain or snow.

See NORRONA PureUll Zip Neck on Norrona

Daily comfort: Mack Weldon WARMKNIT Long Underwear

mack weldon warmknit long underwear

  • 43% modal, 38% Thermolite polyester, 15% wool, 4% spandex
  • No-roll waistband and stay-put ankle cuffs for heat retention
  • Thermolite insulating technology
  • Micro-waffle technology
  • Soft and comfortable fit

The Mack Weldon WARMKNIT Long Underwear proved very comfortable. Our male tester swears that he “could live in them if they’d last me my whole life”. Our tester enjoyed how soft and comfortable these are, and loved the fit and finish. His only concerns were about their durability. He didn’t feel that he could rock climb or scramble in this pair without other layers on top.

The WARMKNIT is one of the best thermal underwear options out there. Mack Weldon added Thermolite technology and micro-waffle knit fabric for premier insulating properties. To keep everything in place, they’ve added a no-roll waistband and stay-put ankle cuffs to help keep heat where it belongs.

See Mack Weldon WARMKNIT Long Underwear on Mackweldon

Tried and true: Icebreaker Merino Fastray Tights

icebreaker merino fastray tights

  • Merino wool and LYCRA construction
  • One of the best merino base layer models
  • High waist for shaping and comfort
  • Machine washable
  • Stash pocket on thigh

The Icebreaker Merino Fastray Tights are a unique merino base layer that keeps your legs warm and can also be worn as an outer layer and hiking pant. I love wearing these as hiking pants or as a thicker base layer because the fabric weight is thick and sturdy without being overbearing. Plus, they are excellent at wicking sweat.

I like the thigh stash pocket, which is a nice departure from the classic teeny tiny leggings stash pocket that can hold a single piece of bubblegum and nothing more.

These are available in both prints and solid colors, but if you aren’t sold on these tights, Icebreaker has a huge variety of cold-weather gear including men’s base layer leggings and men’s base layer sets.

See Icebreaker Merino Fastray Tights on Icebreaker

See Icebreaker Merino Fastray Tights on Backcountry

See Icebreaker Merino Fastray Tights on EVO

High-performance: 5.11 Tropos Baselayer Tight

5.11 tropos baselayer tight

  • Polyester blend construction
  • Great temperature regulation
  • Tight and supportive
  • Comfortable seams

The 5.11 Tropos Baselayer Tight is an excellent polyester graphene mesh jersey blend that’s perfect for training and cold-weather activities.

Our tester loves these for workouts, runs, rock climbing, and skiing. He noted they were generally tight and supportive all around. The graphene yarn is excellent for temperature regulation and warmth. The flatlock seams prioritize comfort.

Because of the shape, these are best paired with other outer layers rather than as a stand-alone tight. Overall, these tights are an excellent cost-effective option for a men’s base layer or cardio tight.

See 5.11 Tropos Baselayer Tight on 5.11

Cardio-killer: Ten Thousand Full-Length Tight

ten thousand full length tight

  • Nylon core and spandex construction
  • Sweatproof phone pocket
  • Contoured fit for mobility
  • Anti-odor treatment

The Ten Thousand Full-Length Tights are one of the best men’s base layers for cardio. The vented knee and ventilation zones help sweat escape during heavy workouts. The fit around the waist is snug and the general look makes them best underneath other layers.

Additionally, there’s a sweat-proof phone pocket, a permanent anti-odor treatment, and a contoured fit for excellent mobility. These leggings move as easily as you do, making them ideal for cardio, CrossFit, and other sports.

See Ten Thousand Full-Length Tight on Ten Thousand

Comfort and performance blend: Sportiqe Mohave Long Sleeve Tee

sportiqe mohave long sleeve tee

  • 100% cotton construction
  • Relaxed fit
  • Multiple colorways
  • Unisex and inclusive sizing

The Sportiqe Mojave Long Sleeve Tee is great as casual streetwear, ideal for chilly days around town. This shirt also looks good as a standalone piece, making it an excellent option for shoulder season days or in variable conditions.

The unisex fit and inclusive sizing make this a great option for all kinds of folks. I love this as an easy, relaxed fit layer for lighter activities or chill hikes. It also works great under a sweater or jacket.

See Sportiqe Mohave Long Sleeve Tee on Sportiqe

Day-to-day use: Buck Mason Surplus Rib Henley

buck mason surplus rib henley

  • Cotton and spandex construction
  • Deep V-neck with pearl snap buttons
  • Great for streetwear and layering
  • Multiple colorways

To round out our selection of tested base layers, we have the Buck Mason Surplus Rib Henley. This stylish model is great on its own or as a base layer. I’ve loved Henleys for a long time and they’ve been a layering staple. I use this as a base layer or mid-layer over a tank top for streetwear outfits on chilly city days.

The flatlock seams and stitching make this very comfortable. The cotton and spandex construction is a divergence from most other options on this list and gives this model a comfortable slim fit.

See Buck Mason Surplus Rib Henley on Buck Mason

Excellent men’s top: MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer Thermal Shirt

meriwool mens'base layer thermal shirt

  • 100% superfine 18.5-micron Merino wool
  • Moisture-wicking and odor-resisting properties
  • Breathable
  • Machine washable

The MERIWOOL Thermal Shirt is arguably the best men’s base layer as it combines comfort and durability. It is made of Merino wool, which is incredibly soft and comfortable. It’s a breathable shirt that regulates body temperature, keeping you cool when it’s hot outside and warm on colder days. It is versatile, making it an ideal option for any weather.

This base layer has just the right thickness, meaning you can wear it as your only piece of clothing underneath a jacket during fall. It also has a handy moisture-wicking feature to keep you dry all day.

See MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer Thermal Shirt on Amazon

See MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer Thermal Shirt on Walmart

Perfect for running: Under Armour Men’s Base Layer 4.0 Crew Top

under armour men’s base layer 4.0 crew top 1

  • Made from 100% polyester
  • Four-way stretch construction
  • The brushed negative interior traps heat
  • Wicks sweat & dries fast
  • Snug fit

Under Armour built much of its excellent reputation on thermal base layers. Keeping it classic, athletic, streamlined, and of course, warm and dry, is their 4.0 Crew Top. It’s a snug fit, ideal as a base layer whether you’re hiking, skiing,g or running in extremely cold weather.

Best of all, the Under Armour 4.0 Crew Top is superb at wicking moisture. It’s also soft and stretchy, so comfortable to wear all day.

See Under Armour Men’s Base Layer 4.0 Crew Top on Amazon

See Under Armour Men’s Base Layer 4.0 Crew Top on Dick’s Sporting Goods

See Under Armour Men’s Base Layer 4.0 Crew Top on Walmart

Great for ski touring: Helly Hansen Crew Neck Base Layer Top

helly hansen crew neck base layer top

  • 100% Polypropylene
  • LIFA dry technology keeps the moisture away from skin
  • Flatlock stitching and low-bulk cuffs
  • Regular fit, neither slim nor oversized

A more lightweight alternative, this Helly Hansen is relatively cost-effective and will keep you moderately warm in most conditions thanks to its unique fabric constitution. It features Lifa fabric which is made from polypropylene and is superb at wicking moisture from the body.

We also like the athletic fit and design of this crew neck. It may not be one of the warmest base layers in this review, but it is undoubtedly one of the highest-performing. Our handy guide to the best Carhartt jackets features more great products like this.

See Helly Hansen Crew Neck Base Layer Top on Amazon

See Helly Hansen Crew Neck Base Layer Top on Helly Hansen

See Helly Hansen Crew Neck Base Layer Top on Backcountry

Top-rated leggings: Carhartt Base Force Midweight Base Layer Leggings

carhartt base force midweight base layer leggings

  • 8oz polyester, waffle knit
  • Contoured front with concealed stitching
  • Rugged Flex tech for ease of movement
  • Fast Dry tech wicks away sweat
  • Flatlock seam traps heat

These Carhartt Base Force Leggings are made from polyester with a waffle knit.

With FastDry and Rugged Flex technology, they will keep you warm but not sweaty and allow you to move around comfortably. Team these men’s thermal leggings with the matching crewneck cotton top.

See Carhartt Base Force Midweight Base Layer Leggings on Dungarees

See Carhartt Base Force Midweight Base Layer Leggings on Carhartt

Excellent moisture-wicking: Duofold Men’s Thermal Base Layer Pants

duofold men’s thermal base layer pants

  • 60% cotton, 40% polyester
  • Moisture-wicking waistband keeps the moisture away
  • Flatlock seams protect from chafing
  • Available in a variety of colors

These Duofold Men’s Thermal Base Layer Pants deliver excellent thermal protection with all the warmth you require but none of the bulk or weight that might slow you down. With a moisture management system, they wick moisture away from your skin so that you remain dry and comfortable.

The Duofold base layer pants feature Duofold’s original technology, which has two layers of fabric knit together to form a super-effective thermal barrier. All the comfort, all the warmth, and all the performance at an affordable price.

See Duofold Men’s Thermal Base Layer Pants on Amazon

See Duofold Men’s Thermal Base Layer Pants on Walmart

Perfect midweight baselayer: Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Crew Base Layer Top

smartwool classic thermal merino crew base layer top

  • Made from 100% Merino wool
  • Crew neck design with set-in sleeves and shoulder panels
  • Flatlock seam construction eliminates chafing
  • Can be machine washed on a gentle cycle
  • Wide variety of attractive colors available

Crafted from soft Smartwool Merino 250, this Classic Thermal Merino Crew Base Layer is one of Smartwool’s most popular base layers for a reason: it has an elegant, slimline, and chafe-free fit that feels lovely against the skin. There’s seamless knit, flatlock construction in this mid-250 garment which is their warmest base layer. It could even work as a single layer in chilly weather and a base layer in much colder weather.

The top is moisture-wicking and odor-repelling. Durable, dependable, and with a UPF 50+ rating, it’s great for biking, hiking, and running.

See Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Crew Base Layer Top on REI

See Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Crew Base Layer Top on Moosejaw

See Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Crew Base Layer Top on Backcountry

Best merino wool base pants: Minus33 Kancamagus Merino Wool Men’s Base Layer Pants

minus33 kancamagus merino wool men’s base layer pants

  • 100% 18.5-micron merino wool
  • Interlock knit construction with flatlock seam technology
  • Sizes to fit all shapes from XS through to 6XL
  • UPF 50+ rating

Comfortable and classic midweight base-layer pants. Put these on under your favorite pants and you will stay warm and dry.

These merino wool bottoms use flatlock seams to reduce friction and chafing, as well as stretchable rib knit cuffs which keep pants and socks in place. The Minus33 Kancamagus Merino wool leggings are tagless, so no more itching or scratching either.

See Minus33 Kancamagus Merino Wool Men’s Base Layer Pants on Amazon

See Minus33 Kancamagus Merino Wool Men’s Base Layer Pants on Walmart

Best two-pack base layer tops: Hanes Men’s Long Sleeve Cool Dri T-Shirt UPF 50+ 2-Pack

hanes men's long sleeve cool dri t shirt upf 50 2 pack

  • Made from 100% polyester
  • Rapid-dry fabric
  • 50+ UPF rating
  • Narrow ribbed color
  • Available in 10 colors

If you’re looking for an affordable pack of base layer tops, this two-pack from Hanes is perfect. They can’t compete with the Carhartt or Arc’teryx base layers on quality or performance, but they beat them on price. They also provide impressive extra warmth, ideal for snowsports, cold-weather hiking, and working outside in the winter.

The Hanes long-sleeve shirts feature rapid-dry interlock jersey knit for moisture-wicking, 50+ UPF protection, and a comfortable loose fit. Plus, you can get them in a bunch of different colors.

See Hanes Men’s Long Sleeve Cool Dri T-Shirt UPF 50+ 2-Pack on Amazon

See Hanes Men’s Long Sleeve Cool Dri T-Shirt UPF 50+ 2-Pack on Hanes

Best budget set: Rocky Thermal Underwear

rocky thermal underwear

  • Made from polyester 92%, and spandex 8%
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Fly front opening
  • Available in multiple colors

The Rocky Thermal Underwear Set is perfect if you’re looking for a multi-purpose and affordable set of thermal base layers.

Made from a mixture of ultra-soft polyester (92%) and Spandex (8%), they’re stretchy enough to allow freedom of movement, without compromising on warmth. They’re also naturally moisture-wicking.

See Rocky Thermal Underwear on Amazon


Also recommended: Thermajohn Men’s Ultra Soft Thermal Underwear

thermajohn mens'ultra soft thermal underwear 1

  • Made from polyester 92%, and spandex 8%
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Four-way stretch
  • Elastic waistband
  • Available in five colors

We had to include the Thermajohn Men’s Ultra Soft Thermal Underwear in this list. With over 35,000 ratings on Amazon (and most of them highly positive), this set of base layers has been road-tested by customers thousands of times. That tells us that they do their job well.

Made from ultra-soft polyester (92%) and spandex (8%), they are similar to a lot of the base layers on this list already. We like them for their simple design (available in five colors), comfortable fit, and affordable price.

See Thermajohn Men’s Ultra Soft Thermal Underwear on Amazon

See Thermajohn Men’s Ultra Soft Thermal Underwear on Walmart

Best snug fit base layers set: Meetyoo Men’s Thermal Underwear Set

meetyoo men’s thermal underwear set

  • Made from polyester 92%, and spandex 8%
  • Snug, stretchy design
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Available in five colors

Like most quality base layers, the Meetyoo Men’s Thermal Underwear Set is made from a blend of soft polyester (92%) and spandex (8%). They provide a lot of extra warmth without restricting your movement. Ideal for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding.

We also like the fact that the set is available in five awesome colors, and we appreciate the affordable price tag. The only flaw? This set is to be hand-washed only.

See Meetyoo Men’s Thermal Underwear Set on Amazon

Why trust us

Our team has decades of gear reviewing and testing experience.

Who this is for

This guide is for anyone looking for warm base layers for any season. Whether you’re heading out around town in chilly weather, going skiing, or hiking, there’s a temperature-regulating base layer for you.

How we picked

Selecting the best base layers was a combination of testing, tried and true personal favorites, and loads of research and reviews.

How we tested

We wore some models around town on chilly days and we took others for winter mountaineering and skiing. Some exceptionally breathable options went with me to cross-country ski. Some models got several seasons of testing under their belt whereas others only got one or two.

mens base layer

Features to look for in base layers


Most base layers are made of merino wool because of its warmth-to-weight ratio. However, there are a variety of materials available. Synthetic material base layers are available, including nylon and polyester, which are great at trapping heat and wicking moisture away from your skin.


The best base layers should fit you snugly without being too tight. Additionally, a material with some stretch is good as it allows for greater mobility. The Under Armour top is a good example as its four-way stretch construction fits well and doesn’t feel too tight or uncomfortable. Also, you can get tighter-fitting tops for colder climates while the more loose-fitting ones can be purchased for warmer weather.


The thickness of the material is also something to look out for. Thicker materials make for heavier clothing and this could bog you down, especially if your base layer is being used for strenuous activity. However, if mobility is not a concern, a thicker wool blend or insulation weight may not be a bad thing.


Generally, the purpose of a base layer is to stay warm, wick away moisture, and trap heat. However, the greatest emphasis is usually on the heat bit. Base layers are usually purchased and worn to keep warm in cold conditions.


You want your base layer to be breathable and adapt to both cold and hot weather. A material that is breathable and allows you to regulate your temperature is best.


Try to avoid shorter fibers as these tend to tear easily and you will soon be left with holes in your clothes. Longer fibers like merino wool are durable and last much longer.

Fabric weight

If you’re all about fast and light, then you may want to look into lightweight base layers. However, for most of us, the weight of the fabric won’t matter that much.

base layer

Base layer FAQ

Q: What is a base layer?

A base layer is a piece of clothing that can be worn underneath your clothes for additional warmth. It is usually designed to prevent chafing and sweating. A base layer wicks moisture effectively away from your skin so you don’t become cold. This next-to-skin layer also offers odor control and traps heat.

Q: What material is best for a base layer?

Polyester and nylon were the most common materials used for base layers; however, merino wool is perhaps the best option as it is naturally adaptable and soft to the touch. Synthetic materials seem to be making a comeback in some outdoor gear, but merino wool base layers may always remain king.

Q: Should base layers be tight or loose?

This depends on how you will use it. A tight-fitting base layer is ideal if you’re in a cold area with questionable weather. However, you might want to wear something a bit looser if you’re wearing it alone in warm weather.

Q: Which base layer is the best for cold weather?

Tight-fitting base layers work best for cold weather. You’ll also want to opt for a material that traps heat and keeps you warm. As mentioned earlier, merino wool is the ideal material for this. An insulating layer is a must-have if you are spending time in cold conditions. We have some merino wool base layer options on our list and others made of synthetic fabrics.

Q: How are base layers supposed to fit?

A base layer should ideally fit against your skin to wick moisture properly. So, it would be best to purchase one with a snug fit. Too tight, and you’ll feel like you’re suffocating, too loose and the garment will lose its moisture-wicking capability.

Tuesday Kirby Kahl

Tuesday Kirby Kahl is a native Texan now residing in Portland, OR. In addition to her work as a writer, she’s a competitive climbing coach for youth and adult athletes. When she’s not working, you’ll find her rock climbing, exploring, skiing, and paddle boarding all over the Cascades. When at home, she’s usually tending to her collection or houseplants or painting with a cup of tea in hand.