WOMEN'S CLOTHING

Best Base Layer for Women: The Must-Have for Staying Warm this Winter

base layer for woman
Jessica Bayne
Written by Jessica Bayne

There are only a couple reasons why people dislike winter: it’s cold, you have to wear multiple layers and your socks get wet. So, the best thing you can do to prevent you from getting the chills is to have a solid base layer underneath your clothes.

Base layers are great for maintaining body temperature and keeping away moisture which is ideal if you’ll be skiing down the slopes. So, let’s take a look at some of the best base layer for women.

What do base layers even do?

As stated above, the purpose of a base layer is to elevate body temperature and remove moisture away from your skin. If you’re active, it’s normal for you to sweat, and during winter, this sweat can open you up to catching a chill. Base layers act as a second layer of skin, it’s the base of your outfit.

You’ll be able to have a mid layer and outer layers on top which are appropriate for the weather and climate you’ll be in.  So, if you’ll be outdoors during the winter, a base layer is an absolute necessity.

Types of base layers

There are a variety of different fabrics which can regulate body temperature and act as a moisture wicking base layer.

wearing base layer while cycling

Synthetic fabrics and merino wool are some of the most popular materials used for base layers. Let’s take a closer look at the different materials used.

Synthetic base layers

Synthetic material is one of the most popular materials used for base layers. They’re usually made of polyester or a polyester blend. These layers will protect you from weather anywhere ranging from -8 to -10 degrees if worn with an outer layer.

What’s good about synthetic material is that it’s quick drying, lightweight and is excellent for moisture wicking. Though, it’s not antibacterial and not as warm as merino wool. But, unlike merino wool, in relation, synthetic material is much cheaper.

Merino wool base layers

Merino wool is a great natural way to regulate body temperature. What happens is that the tiny air pockets within the wool help to remove excess heat from your body, preventing you from overheating. However, at the same time, it also acts to retain heat as well.

merino top base layer for woman

You’ll be able to stay warm in temperatures dropping down from -15 to -20 degrees, at the same time, you can also wear merino wool in warm weather. In addition, it has natural UV resistance, so you won’t have to worry about any winter sunburns.

Merino wool is naturally antibacterial, highly wicking, and breathable. It’s an amazing base layer, however, it’s more expensive in comparison to synthetic and doesn’t wick as well as synthetic materials.

Bamboo base layers

Bamboo base layers are a relatively new concept in outdoor apparel. Though it’s made of bamboo, it can also include a combination of Lycra, merino wool and cotton. Bamboo base layers are generally a tighter fit and can hold their shape better.

bamboo base layer

They’re also a soft material, so if you have sensitive skin, this is definitely the material you should be looking for.  There are a lot of great things about bamboo: it’s quick drying, antibacterial, antistatic, eco-friendly and resistant to abrasions. The only problem is, is because it’s new on the market, it may be a slight challenge to find.

Cotton base layers

We recommend that you don’t choose a cotton base layer. Cotton is not a wicking material, so if you sweat, you’re going to feel it.

cotton base layer

In addition, when wet, cotton becomes very heavy. It may add some warmth, however, it’s incomparable to the other materials.

Who can wear a base layer?

  • If you’re constantly cold, wearing a base layer will help you retain heat regardless if you’re on the slopes or at the office. If you’re at the office, you can opt for a silk base layer, it’s more trendy,
  • If you’re a city cyclist, a base layer will help battle the annual elements – protecting you from both now and rain. For this, opt for merino wool due to its light weight and temperature regulating properties.
  • If you’re going skiing or snowboarding, you’re going to be going against cold temperatures. Merino wool will keep you dry and warm, Plus, you’ll be able to layer.
  • If you’re a motorcyclist, you’ll be in all types of weather, plus battling city traffic. You can get up to some high speeds, so you’ll need something to protect you from the wind chill. Getting a synthetic base layer will keep you warm and you’ll be able to layer appropriately with your gear.

Fit

There is one important thing to note about the fit of your base layer. Because it’s acting as a second skin, you want to make sure that it fits snugly. If not, it won’t be able to properly act as a wicking base layer, thus, you’ll stay sweaty. However, make sure that it doesn’t restrict your range of motion.

perfect fit for woman base layers

Now that you know about the materials available, what a base layer does, the fit and who can wear one, it’s time that you were shown the best base layers for women.

Reviews

Arcteryx Zip Neck Base Layer

arcteryx rhod lt zip

Weight: 2 lbs / .90 kg

Dimensions: X-small to X-large

Specific features: 100% polyester, rapid moisture transfer, zip neck for ventilation

Best used: Outdoor activity

If you’re looking for a long sleeve base layer, the Arcteryx Zip Neck Base Layer will be a perfect fit for you. It’s 100% polyester and the fabric is next-to-skin in softness. The flatlock design provides a snug fit that helps regulate body temperature and promotes moisture wicking. The zip neck design allows quick ventilation while also protecting your neck from the elements.

You also have a laminated sleeve pocket, so you’ll be able to store your car keys or cell phone safely.  It comes in five vibrant colors, so you can mix and match however you please. It is a little pricier than some of the other base layer options. However, if you’re going to be using it frequently, then it’s worth the investment.

Related: If you want a pair of base layer pants to go with your shirt, Arc’teryx have a couple options. The Arcteryx Rho LT Bottom is a polyester blend that is designed to provide maximum protection. It’s next-to-skin and has articulated patterning and gusseted crotch area for maximum mobility. The Arcteryx Rho AR Bottom is also another option which is moisture-wicking and insulated. These two vary in price, however, are both good choices.

Check the price on Amazon

Smartwool Crew

smartwool nts mid 250

Dimensions: X-small to X-large

Specific features: 100% Merino wool, back body seams, form fit

Best used: Outdoor activity

Another long sleeve option, Smartwool Crew top is a great option if you’re looking for merino wool. You’ll be kept warm and dry in merino wool. It has form fit and flatlock seam design to remove chafing, making it ideal for sports.

The back body seam wraps from the front to the back, giving you a perfect fit. In addition, the shoulder panels remove top shoulder seams, thus, creating extra comfort. It comes in seven fun colors, that you can match with your outdoor gear.

Related: If you’re a fan of merino wool, Smartwool has a Zip Long Sleeve version of the crew top as well as Merino Wool Bottoms. Both are made of 100% merino wool with form fit and interlock knit. Both are great options in moisture wicking and body temperature regulation.

Check the price on Amazon

Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Crewneck

hot chillys micro elite

Dimensions: X-small to X-large

Specific features: Polyester blend, made in the USA, next-to-skin fit

Best used:  Outdoor activity

Beside having a great name, the Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Crewneck makes a great base layer. It’s made of a polyester blend and also, made in the USA. It has moisture wicking properties that’ll transfer moisture away from your body, keeping you dry. It’s next-to-skin fit, so it’ll fit nice and snug to your body.

The nicest part of this crewneck is that it’s extremely soft to wear, so if you have sensitive skin, it won’t be irritated. The polyester and spandex blend creates extreme mobility, so if you’re going down the slopes, this is a great option.

Related: Hot Chilly’s is known for their fitness apparel, so they also have Micro-Elite Chamois Tights which are constructed of moisture transfer fibers, removing moisture away from your body. Also, Hot Chilly’s have a great pair of Premier Mid Volume Socks that are designed to support your feet during physical activity. It’s made with bio-silver antimicrobial fibers which also aid in odor prevention.

Check the price on Amazon

Minus33 Merino Wool Crew

minus33 merino ossipee

Weight: 0.51 lbs / 0.23 kg

Dimensions: X-small to XXX-large

Specific features: Midweight base layer, flatlock seams, merino wool

Best used:  Outdoor activity

Made of 100% merino wool, the Minus33 Crew will keep you warm and dry. It’s a midweight base layer crew top, so you’ll be able to handle extremely cold weather conditions in this top. It comes with a flatlock seam design to prevent chafing and promote mobility – two things you want especially if you’re highly active.

It’s machine washable and machine dryable, so no need to spend any money going to the dry cleaners.  The stretch cuffs also help in keeping the sleeves in place, so you can easily layer your jacket and gloves over top. This base layer was designed to make sure you’ll be kept safe and warm.

Related: Minus33 also designed a pair of Franconia Midweight Bottoms which are also made of merino wool. It’s a little heavier, however, is designed to battle against extreme weather conditions. It comes with flatlock seams and is also machine washable and dryable.

Check the price on Amazon

Under Armour Base 2.0 Crew

under armour base 2

Dimensions: X-small to X-large

Specific features: Polyester blend, US base 2.0, quick-dry construction

Best used:  Outdoor activity

You’ve probably heard of Under Armour, as they’re well known for their fitness apparel. The Under Armour Base 2.0 Crew is a polyester and elastane blend which is mid-weight for colder climates. It has thermal grid fabric that traps heat for long-lasting warmth and protection.

The quick-dry construction acts as moisture wicking that transfers wetness away from the body, keeping you dry and light. The 4-way stretch design also helps in keeping the shape of the shirt and promotes mobility.

Related: Under Armour of course has a pair of base layer bottoms to go with your long sleeve. The Base 2.0 Leggings are the same in design as the base 2.0 crew. It also comes with anti-microbial technology that helps fight odor, keeping your leggings lasting longer.

Check the price on Amazon

Icebreaker Oasis Crew

Icebreaker Women's Oasis Long Sleeve

Weight: 0.56 lbs / 0.25

Dimensions: X-small to X-large

Specific features: Lightweight, elliptical hem, anti-chafe flatlock

Best used: Outdoor activity

If you’re wanting to have a base layer made of merino wool, the Icebreaker Oasis Crew is the right choice for you. It’s made of 100% merino wool and is extremely lightweight. It’s slim fit and holds snug to your body. It’s odor resistant and highly breathable, which makes it ideal for high activity use.

The offset shoulder sleeves prevent pack rub and the elliptical hem provides additional coverage. Another great feature is the anti-chafe flatlock stitching, so you have full mobility and comfort. Whether you’re at the office or on the slopes, this base layer will keep you warm and dry.

Related: Icebreaker has the Oasis Leggings which are made of 100% merino wool. They come with gusset for comfort and mobility, brushed elastic waistband, flatlock seams for anti-chafing, odor-resistant and non-itch merino wool.

Check the price on Amazon

Tasc Hybrid Top

tasc hybrid

Dimensions: X-small to X-large

Specific features: Lightweight, crew neck, anti-odor coverage

Best used:  Outdoor activity

If you’re looking for a base layer that’ll help you with anti-odor coverage, the Tasc Hybrid Top is a great option. When you’re working out, you develop quite a sweat, so this may be a good option if you’re highly active. Also, if you’re active outdoors, this base layer has UPF 50+ protection.

It’s a 4-way stretch that is a blend of cotton, viscose from bamboo, and Lycra Spandex. A nice feature is that it has thumb holes, so your sleeves won’t annoyingly ride up your arm. In addition, it’s also moisture-wicking, so you won’t have to worry about feeling wet and sticky.

Related: If you want some protection for your neck, Tasc also has the Sideline Zip Top. It has all the features at the Hybrid top, however, has a turtle neck design for extra protection from the elements.

Check the price on Amazon

Patagonia Capilene Crew

patagonia mid crew

Weight:  0.15 kg / 0.33 lbs

Dimensions: X-small to X-large

Specific features: Polartec Power Grid fabric, superior moisture wicking, self-fabric binding

Best used: Outdoor activity

Patagonia is another exceptional brand that designs outstanding outerwear. So, if you purchase the Patagonia Capilene Crew, then you’re in good hands. It’s made of Polartec Power Grid fabric that’s a polyester blend. It’s extremely soft and provides superior warmth, moisture-wicking and breathability.

It also has self-fabric binding at the collar, as well as a locker loop for hang-drying. What’s cool about this long sleeve is that it’s made of 93% recycled fabric which is a great way to be eco-friendly. It comes in five soothing colors, so you can match it to your outer layer.

Related: Of course, Patagonia has a pair of base layer bottoms called the Capilene Midweight Bottoms. It’s made of a polyester and spandex blend that has a gusseted crotch for increased mobility and comfort.

Check the price on Amazon

Helly Hansen Base Layer

helly hansen base

Weight: 0.92 lbs to 0.42 kg

Dimensions: X-small to XX-large

Specific features: Polypropylene, lifa stay dry tech, lightweight

Best used:  Outdoor activity

Helly Hansen is a great brand that makes affordable active wear. The Helly Hansen Base Layer is made of polypropylene that’ll keep you warm and dry. It uses Life Stay Dry Technology that acts for moisture wicking and thermal regulation.

It comes in a variety of colors, so you’ll be able to mix and match. Regardless of your activity level, you’ll be kept warm in this base layer. It doesn’t have any antibacterial properties, however, you do get what you pay for.

Related: If you’re looking for complimentary base layer bottoms Helly Hansen also designed a pair of Dry Base Layer Pant. They’re modest in price and are designed with Life Stay Dry technology. It has low bulk cuffs, flatlock stitching, non-itch and is lightweight. Everything you would want in a pair of base layer bottoms.

Check the price on Amazon

ColdPruf Basic Dual Layer

coldpruf dual layer

Dimensions: small  to XX-large

Specific features: Tagless and flat seam design, ring spun yarn, polyester blend

Best used:  Outdoor activity

If you’re not looking to invest too much money into a base layer, however, still want a top that’ll keep you dry and warm, the ColdPruf Basic Dual Layer is a great option. It’s very modest in price, so you won’t have to worry about emptying your bank account. It’s made of a polyester/ring spun cotton, giving you extra softness.

The tag-less and flat seams provide extra comfort and reduce irritation against your skin. The base layer top has been designed to battle extremely cold weather regardless of your level of activity. So, whether you’re at the office or on the slopes, this shirt will keep you warm and dry.

Related: To match your base layer shirt, you’ll need a pair of base layer pants. ColdPruf Basic Dual Layer Bottom is a polyester blend that’s made with Thermachoice system, making sure you’re kept warm. Regardless of the activity level, it’ll support you.

Check the price on Amazon

Conclusion

Now that you know everything there is to base layer tops, it’s time you went and tried them on. Make sure that the base layer fits snug, however, doesn’t restrict your mobility.

The base layers we reviewed above are the best on the market, so let us know in the comments below what you think of them!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Bayne
Jessica Bayne

Jessica believes that the only things you need to explore the world are a good backpack and a bit of courage to make the first steps. She also loves the beauty of a sunset seen from the mountaintop and the delicious flavor of a meal prepped over the camping fire. Ready to start a new adventure at any given time, Jessica knows how to be prepared for any situation and understands how important is to find the right gear. She also knows a lot about the type of gear to have and how to choose the products you actually need.

  • Jessica Bayne

    It’s amazing!

  • Jessica Bayne

    That’s great!

  • Jessica Bayne

    The ColdPruf Women’s Basic is very warm and comfortable. Not to mention that it is budget-friendly. Great product for the money.

  • Jessica Bayne

    The Helly Hansen is a lovely base layer shirt. Your wife definitely made a great choice. You should also consider the Icebreaker Oasis Crew, it is high performing.

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