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Best Base Layer: Best Option for Any Outdoor Activities

John C. Porter
Written by John C. Porter

Do you want to ditch the old cotton undies and add some boost to your next outdoor adventure? Are you tired of those souvenir concert T-shirts you usually wear as your base layer and wear something that is moisture-free? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

Cotton materials can leave you clammy, wet and chilled, you probably experienced that, but choosing the best quality base layer can be a daunting task. There is a mind-boggling exhibit of choices in the base layer selling stores. It appears as though every store has their own particular exclusive innovation that they declare is the best base layer ever made; at the same time prices move upwards.

Great layering framework is required to be comfortable and safe in the outdoors. The base layer has seemingly the best effect on your solace during dynamic pursuits, and it is the only fabric that comes in close contact with your skin.

Man wearing a base layer is taking a picture outside

Little deformities in configuration, such as scraping lines or a despicable fit, can get to be baffling agonies when being used. So, if a textile is itchy you will be irritated, and if it gathers moisture and does not make you warm when wet, it is more than possible that you may not enjoy yourself.

To help you with your confusion and in order to help you choose the best layering basics, the Hiking Mastery team is bringing you all the information you will need about layering plus some interesting and best selling products on the market with extensive research and review. Let’s start with some things to consider before diving into reviews.

Product NameMaterialColorSpecial FeaturesGenderPrice
Mammut Trovat ProFace: 40% nylon, 40% wool, 20% elastin; lining: 100% polyesterBlack, bluePolartec power blend of wool within and synthetic material outside, extra-long front zip, flatlock seams, chin protectorUnisexCheck price on Amazon
REI Midweight89% polyester, 11% spandexArmy cot green, asphalt, inkwellSoft polyester wicks, zipper and chin guard, flat-seam mode, raglan sleeves and side gussetsMen’s    Check price on REI    
Icebreaker Siren96% merino wool, 4% elastinWhite, pinkMoisture wicking and breathable, non-tingle merino, flattering crew neck, set in sleeves, self-fabric bindingWomen’sCheck price on Amazon
Icebreaker ZoneBody: 96% wool, 4% elastin; eyelet: 85% wool, 14% nylon, 1% elastinAquamarine, black, pink, gray, dark red, purpleAnatomical cut, zip neckline, flat-lock seams, dropped text style and back hem, offset shoulder seams, moisture breathable and wicking,Women’sCheck price on Amazon
Patagonia Capilene100% Polartec power grid polyesterBlackPolartec power grid textile, rib-weave crew at neckline with inward neck tape, locker circle, elastic thumb circlesWomen’sCheck price on Amazon
REI LightweightPolyesterBlack, asphalt, mineral, inkwellSoft polyester, zipper with chin guard, tall neck augments scope, flat-seam construction, longer back trim, UPF 35 sun security, fitted.Men’s    Check price on REI    
Smartwool NP603100% merino woolBlack, olive, charcoal, dark blue, deep navy, light gray, moab rust, taupeInterlock weave, 25 cm center front zipper, shoulder panels, flat-lock seam constructionMen’sCheck price on Amazon

Things to consider before buying

It’s crucial to know what features to consider before heading out to buy the base layer. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or your better half, you should always keep in mind these primary factors:

Types of base layer

There are different types of materials that are being used for base layers and each has its perks. In order to help you find the best material for your skin, below you’ll find an explanation for each material.

Synthetic

The most famous base layers nowadays generally fall into two classes, i.e. synthetic or wool. The synthetic base layers are primarily made out of polyester, joined with a material such as elastin, spandex, etc. to include particular design features, like warmth and elasticity.

A man wearing Sugoi Carbon Long Sleeved Base Layer

Synthetics, albeit less expensive and durable, give lower execution in breathability and warmth and can be ill-smelling after some while.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is good for cool conditions, however, useful for most exercises in many conditions, unlike the synthetic base layer, it offers more warmth, yet it is still good for warm days. This base layer has mostly supplanted customary fleece due to its non-irritated, soft ultra fine filaments.

Close-up of KUIU's 185 Merino Wool base layer

The moisture dissipated within the textile keeps skin cool, enhancing a steady body temperature. Furthermore, the breathable fleece filaments can support skin from air warmed by the sun a similar way they can attract warm air and keep it near the skin in cool situations.

Silk

Silk is good for temperate cool-climate exercises, snow sports, and stationary exercises. The silk has been synthetically refined to improve wicking. However, it transports dampness far from the skin more gradually than synthetics, it offers a soft, rich surface.

Man wearing a base layer is smiling at the camera

It includes no layers and bulk well. To stay away from the smell, silk should be washed after each usage. There are some styles that require hand washing; washing with the machine can bring about shrinkage. The silk base layer is conceivably helpless against sunlight and abrasion.

Bamboo Base Layers

These base layers are a generally new creation, produced using bamboo residue sometimes joined with filaments, for example, Lycra, cotton, and even merino fleece. This base layer will be a tighter fit compared to 100 percent merino wool and retain their shape better.

Woman wearing a bamboo organic cotton black base layer thermal

The amazing soft base layers are likewise perfect for those with touchy skin who find wool irritating.

Weight of base layers

Base layers are promoted utilizing various different weights or thickness.

Lightweight

These are the most slender and are generally held for high intensity and summertime activities during shoulder periods. They often feel incredible and can cost somewhat less compared to the thicker stuff. The weights of merino wool range from 100-195 g/m². A top example is the Patagonia Merino 2 and is most of the times offered by organizations as a much more slender weight compared to light.

Midweight

Midweight is the most multi-useful weight and the best for fall and spring or consolidated with protecting layers in the winter.

Columbia Men's Baselayer Midweight Long Sleeve

The Midweight of merino wool is often considered somewhere around 200 and 295 g/m.

Expedition Weight

This is known as the thickest long clothing for difficult adventures. These are base layers proposed for really chilly conditions, however, many can likewise act as protecting layers at different circumstances to extend their utilizations and justify their high sticker prices.

Warmth

Warmth is an essential factor to consider when selecting base layers, but it shouldn’t be the only factor. If warmth were the only factor, we would all be streaming in down, jumpsuits, one-piece. Perhaps, warmth must be consolidated with breathability to make a viable base layer that can be put on serenely when at rest or active.

Man dressing a Merino wool base layers

You need to consider these two factors while choosing the best layer for your expected utilize. Warmer temperatures or high exertion activities might be better appreciated in a smaller warmth scoring item.

Breathability

While resting on the sofa, who does not enjoy warm, comfortable apparel? But, when moving, your body begins to heat up, and that warmth needs to get away, or you will be caught in a bad dream of sweat.

Man wearing a Columbia Baselayer on the top of Fox Mountain

Here is the place at which breathability gets to be distinctly critical. Breathability is characterized as the ability of a textile to permit water vapor to go through it; a shirt that is breathable will permit the soggy air created from sweat to go through the item and into the atmosphere without soaking the textile.

Drying speed

Being wet on the outside is irresistible. Be it from sweat from inside or precipitation outside, your clothing layer will get wet eventually, and when it finally gets wet, the drying time can significantly affect your warmth and comfort. That is the reason why you need to consider the drying ability of any base layer before getting one.

Durability

The expensive cost of some of these layers makes durability an imperative factor. There were no undeniable disappointments in stitching or fabric. The synthetic base layer is likely to outlive their counterparts when it comes to durability. Merino wool base layers make incredible golf shirts due to the fact that they all have eighteen holes.

Man wearing Craft Active Extreme Crewneck baselayer

This is surely an embellishment, however, the fabric is found to be more allergic to abrasion and scrapes. The clarification for this is the more noteworthy warmth of fleece for the weight permits it to be sewn into a more slender fabric than a similarly warm synthetic; typically, durability endures.

Comfort and fit

The comfort and fit of a base layer should be the most vital factor to consider, however, it is likewise the most immanent to assess. The important thing to consider is the pattern of sewing or a piece’s propensity to retain a static charge.

Woman dressing base layer

The measure of that top rose, located in the abdomen with arms above, which untuck the garment and open the body to cold, is another feature to be considered as regards to comfort and fit.

Price

Base layers are mostly cheap, but there are also those base layers that are a bit pricier, such as the ones offered by the REI brain. And while no one who’s into outdoor activities wants to have a cheap gear, everyone loves a good bargain.

Best products on today’s market

Here are the reviews on some of the top base layer product available on the marketplace:

Mammut Trovat Pro Mammut Trovat Pro ML Jacket

Price: Approx. $200

Weight: 195 g

Dimensions: 11 × 10 × 1 inches

Size: S, M, L, XL, XXL

Gender: Unisex

Material: Face: 40% nylon, 40% wool, 20% elastin; lining: 100% polyester

Color: Black, blue

Specific features: Long-sleeve, Polartec power blend of wool within and synthetic material outside, high quality, offset seams, extra-long front zip, flatlock seams, chin protector

Best use: Mountain hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing

Description: The Mammut Trovat Pro Jacket is a great long-sleeve pullover best for men who need to remain active when it is winter. This base layer makes you warm yet is sufficiently light not to burden you during your exercises.

It is made from a brilliant fleece material; it is outstandingly comfortable to wear. The nice arrangement of fleece within and synthetic outside, provides it with great dampness management capacity, making you dry and good looking every time irrespective of how intense your workout is.

Blending the best of fleece and wool and fleece, the Mammut brand made no mistake when choosing Polartec’s Power Wool material for this jacket. It can be worn on a daily basis and can endure exhausting hiking adventures. It comes with the soft chin guard that will make your skin not irritated while ducking your head during windy days.

The chin protector is a basic inclusion that secures your chin from abrasion. The extra- long front zip enhances the fitting of the jumper and ventilation. This base layer makes an incredible choice for any exercise during the winter.

PROS:

  • Breathable
  • Comfortable
  • Soft chin guard
  • Moisture wicking
  • 2 side pockets with zips

CONS:

  • The quality is a bit lower than advertised

Related: Most buyers who bought this pullover also opted for Nonwe Casual Pants made of polyester material with elastic waistband and side pockets for additional storage. Sweat pants are light, comfortable and warm.

Check the price on Amazon

REI Midweight  REI Midweight  

Price: Approx. $50

Weight: 175 g

Dimensions: 7 x 5 x 4 inches

Size: S, M, L, XL, XXL

Gender: Men’s

Material: 89% polyester, 11% spandex

Color: Army cot green, asphalt, inkwell

Specific features: Soft polyester wicks, long-sleeve, tall neck amplifies scope; zipper and chin guard, flat-seam mode, raglan sleeves and side gussets which enhance comfort

Best use: Multisport and resort skiing

Description: The REI Midweight Base Layer is hard to beat as far as the value for your money is a concern. For approximately $50, this base layer offers a large portion of the performance in a basic but functional style.

With the fitting base, you get a full layer for approximately $100, which is similar in cost to a Merino layer from SmartWool. This model functions admirably for casual use, however, you may sweat a lot amid vigorous exercises like hiking or Snowshoeing.

Though the clothing is soft in a velvety kind of way, but it cannot be compared with Patagonia Capilene or merino when it comes to comfort and softness. If you need to gear yourself up during the winter, you should get this base layer. So if you want to stay dry and insulated during winter activities such as skiing, hiking, Snowshoeing, this REI Midweight base layer is your number one choice.

PROS:

  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • UPF 50 sun protection

CONS:

  • Size chart may differ from the products

Related: If you want to stay dry completely, then we suggest you look into Duofold Varitherm Thermal Pant, same as the crew top, this layer bottom will keep you warm during all winter activities.

Check the price on REI

Icebreaker Siren Icebreaker Siren Crewe Top

Price: Approx. $50

Weight: 150 g

Dimensions: 10.7 x 6.1 x 1.7 inches

Size: M, L

Gender: Women’s

Material: 96% merino wool, 4% elastin

Color: White, pink

Specific features: Naturally smell-free, moisture wicking and breathable, non-tingle merino, flattering crew neck, set in sleeves, self-fabric binding

Best use: Heavy exercise

Description: The Icebreaker Icebreaker Siren Crewe Top  is produced with a lightweight fleece knit and can be the first layer under different layers in a chilly climate, or all alone as a comfortable pajama outfit. This serves as one of those items that you can toss into your bag on any sort of trek and eventually make use of it more than you had anticipated that you would.

This base layer is quite easy to hand-wash in a sink and drip-dry without missing its shape. It is also machine washable and the lightweight textile is incredibly breathable, comfortable and soft, cooling in warm conditions, yet protecting when it is cool.

The set-in sleeves and a self-textile joining at the neck area guarantee comfort during any activity. Since this model is merino, you can put it on for quite a long time before washings, therefore making it the perfect travel attire.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Soft

CONS:

  • A little thin

Related: If you want to dress up completely, then we suggest this Icebreaker Quantum Sleeve Zip Hood from the same brand. With the combination of underwear top and this tip hood you’ll be ready for any outdoor activity you had in mind.

Check the price on Amazon

Icebreaker Zone Icebreaker Zone

Price: $50 – $120

Weight: 260 g

Dimensions: 15 x 11 x 2 inches

Size: XS, S, M, L, XL

Gender: Women’s

Material: Body: 96% wool and 4% elastin; eyelet: 85% wool, 14% nylon and 1% elastin

Color: Aquamarine, black, pink, gray, dark red, purple

Specific features: Anatomical cut for great fit, zip neckline, strategically arranged merino work, flat-lock seams, dropped text style and back hem, 100% merino wool, offset shoulder seams, set-in sleeves, naturally smell-free, moisture breathable and wicking, non-itch merino.

Best use: Hiking, skiing

Description: The Icebreaker Zone Top offers all the advantages of merino fleece with great ventilation. It is good for exceptionally dynamic, high-yield times on the skis, rock, trail or bicycle. This body layer consolidates lightweight 200gm elastic merino fleece with technically set merino panels to control temperature during unpredictable days.

A profound half zip helps in dumping warmth when you are moving quickly, and the inset side boards secure the top from being pulled up while reaching. The Flatlock sewing disposes of scraping during daily workouts.

This long sleeved top is lightweight, warm, comfortable, odor resistant and breathable with strategically placed mesh for ventilation. It’s made of Core Spun fabric that enhances its durability.

If you choose this top you won’t be disappointed, our advice is only to be careful on which size you’re ordering as it seems that the size chart doesn’t fit the product, so measure yourself and contact the seller for advice.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Warm
  • Odor resistant
  • Breathable
  • Comfortable

CONS:

  • Size chart could be wrong

Related: Same as for our previously reviewed product from the same brand – Long underwear top, we suggest you buy If you Icebreaker Women’s Quantum Sleeve Zip Hood. Both products make a perfect outfit combination.

Check the price on Amazon

Patagonia Capilene Patagonia Capilene Crew

Price: $30 – $60

Weight: 189 g

Dimensions: 7 x 5 x 4 inches

Size: XS, S, M

Gender: Women’s

Material: 100% polartec power grid polyester

Color: Black

Specific features: Polartec power grid textile gives unrivaled warmth and breathability, rib-weave crew at neckline with inward neck tape for great comfort, locker circle, elastic thumb circles

Best use: Winter hiking, skiing, climbing, snowshoeing

Description: The Patagonia Capilene Crew hits the nice spot of breathability, weight and wicking that, well used alone or with extra layers, is the embodiment of versatility.

This base layer keeps you comfortable and dry when worn amid intense exercises in cool temperatures and insulates underneath a shell in an icy climate. It is made of a Polartec Power Grid textile, which makes it have a smooth appearance for simple layering and a fleecy grid that enhances warmth and also wicking.

The base layer is blue-sign affirmed, and has 93% reused polyester material (made of recycled plastic soda bottles) and is molded with Polygiene long-time smell control. The thumb loops are flexible, easy to push away in case you are simply not that type of fellow and keep sleeves set up when pulling on extra layers. So, if you’re looking for something cozy, warm and eco-friendly, this shirt is definitely for you.

PROS:

  • Eco-friendly
  • Breathable
  • Odor resistant
  • Comfortable
  • Dries quickly

CONS:

  • Size charts according to Asian fit, which is too slim for an average American woman

Related: If you’re looking for something to wear over the shirt and maintain your body warm, then we suggest looking into Patagonia Snap-T Vest. It’s a nice addition to any person’s wardrobe who likes dressing in layers.

Check the price on Amazon

REI Lightweight REI Lightweight

Price: Approx. $40

Weight: 175 g

Dimensions: 7 x 5 x 4 inches

Size: S, M, L, XL

Gender: Men’s

Material: Polyester

Color: Black, asphalt, mineral, inkwell

Specific features: Soft polyester, zipper with chin guard, tall neck augments scope, flat-seam construction, side gussets and raglan sleeves guarantee solace, longer back trim, UPF 35 sun security, fitted.

Best use: Multisport

Description: Same as women’s REI base layer, REI Lightweight Base Layer for men will also keep you dry and warm during intense exercises when the temperature begins to drop. It offers temperate warmth, alongside an incredible stretch and dampness control for winter activities.

This base layer can be used as the first of a few layers in cooler temperatures or just alone when you require a lesser insulation. This outfit uses two unique yarns on the sides of the textile to promote comfort. The interior and external yarn dries rapidly.

The blend of the two different yarns makes you dry during exceedingly vigorous exercises since it moves dampness far from skin quicker than single-segment textile, for example, cotton. The textile secures the skin against harmful UV light by employing a UPF rating of twenty and has a soft touch. It has a flat seam construction, side gussets and raglan sleeves with ensures additional freedom and comfortable body movements.

PROS:

  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • UPF 50 sun protection

CONS:

  • Size chart may differ from the products

Related: If you want to stay dry completely, we suggest checking out the Hanes X-Temp Thermal Pants for additional warmth during all winter activities.

Check the price on REI

Smartwool NP603 Smartwool NP603

Price: $70 – $250

Weight: 140 g

Dimensions: 12 x 11 x 2 inches

Size: S, M, L, XL, XXL

Gender: Men’s

Material: 100% merino wool

Color: Black, olive, charcoal, dark blue, deep navy, light gray, moab rust, taupe

Specific features: 100% merino wool, interlock weave, 25 cm center front zipper, shoulder panels, flat-lock seam construction

Best use: Skiing

Description: The Smartwool NP603 Zip T  is the complete package in a base layer. The softness of the base layer against the skin gives the appropriate measure of wicks moisture, warmth and repulses scents and like any match of the base layer can.

It is an incredible warm option for skiing and even has, a UPF 50+ rating for use as an outer layer amid exercises like biking, hiking and running. The greatest issues with the NTS Mid 250 are cost and durability. In the event that you include SmartWool merino base, you are taking a gander at around $250 for your base layers alone.

It is produced using 100% merino fleece, it basically will not keep going forever. In any case, for a definitive in performance and comfort, this base layer is the best. It is this brand’s best selling product, not to mention that it’s warmest base layer this brand has to offer.

PROS:

  • Warm
  • UPF 50+
  • Comfortable
  • Durable

CONS:

  • Size chart may differ from the products

Related: If you’re looking for a matching bottom, we can recommend this  Smartwool NP605 Bottom. Also, 100% Merino wool this bottom layer has elastic waistband and popular fly design that is characteristic for this brand.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

That ends our post on the best base layer. By now, you are aware that a decent base layer should keep you dry and warm, wicking off the sweat of dread, and keep you comfortable – all while looking great.

Image of two runners wearing base layers

Now that you know what to keep an eye on, and after you read our reviews, we hope that you will find the model you are looking for. Also, whether you chose the Icebraker Zone or the Mammuth Trovat Pro, know that you will not be making a bad choice.

All the products in our article are top quality, you just need to find the model that best suits your personal needs and you will be more than happy with your purchase. In case you have any other favorite base layer clothing in mind, you can let us know by writing a comment below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John C. Porter
John C. Porter

John is passionate about hiking long distances. His record is over 65 miles in one day with backpacking gear. John hiked over 10 thousand miles, tried over 100 hiking shoes and visited 56 countries so far. His favourite hiking route is West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

  • Sam Parker

    This is going to be my first time winter backpacking and I am very excited about it. I have some health challenges that are often escalated by the cold weather but my doctor has given me the go ahead to do this. My worry is if I will be able to keep warm enough out in the wildness. I already have some Smartwool layering pieces which intent to carry with me and some other warm gear but I am worried I might not be able to keep warm enough, especially at night.

  • John C. Porter

    Don’t worry Sam, if you have good material for your base layer, you won’t be cold. Opt for Merino wool which offers more warmth than synthetic materials. Also, make sure you have an excellent sleeping bag that also provides insulation.

  • Jimmy Hilton

    How much warmth does the Patagonia top provide? Say I was to wear it in weather below 20 degrees, how much more layering would I need. Secondly, can I wear it alone in warm weather or is it strictly for layering. I will appreciate some answers to my questions. Thank you.

  • John C. Porter

    The Petagonia is very versatile, it insulates well in extreme weather conditions and can be worn alone in warm weather. It’s your best option when doing outdoor activities in any kind of temperature.

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