Best Cold Weather Clothing: Essential Gear for Comfort and Safety

Defend yourself from freezing temperatures with the best cold weather clothing money can buy. Experienced survivalists and outdoorsmen know that the having the best gear means more than just finding the newest, fanciest products.

When it comes to outdoor gear, quality is determined by performance, not looks, so you’ll need to do your research before actually making a purchase. This list of low-temp clothing layers gets you started in the right direction.

Simply buying all the items on this list will set you up for some degree of success, but it’s also important to get a basic understanding of why we included each item. By the time you’re done with this article, you’ll know these particular product choices stand out above the rest.

With that knowledge, you can make recommendations to friends and family so they can stay safe too.

Note: We get commissions for purchases made through links in this article

Top product picks

The North Face Zip Neck

Layer: Base

Size: Available in men’s S, M, L, XL, XXL

Features: Long sleeve, zip neck, tight fit, midweight, moisture-wicking, quick-drying, flexible

Best Use: Vigorous cold weather activity (e.g., hiking, skiing, running, climbing) and any activity level in variable temperatures

With its slim fit and stretchy, flexible fabric, The North Face Zip Neck is an ideal base layer for cold-weather activities. It’s made from The North Face’s very own FlashDry™ Eco fabric, a proprietary polyester blend that uses 43% recycled materials. This fabric is special because it includes high-tech microparticles that not only wick moisture but dry off quickly, giving you the best defense against the hazards of damp skin in cold weather.

One interesting feature that further helps vent out sweat and heat is the partial neck zip, which you can leave pulled all the way up or pull down a bit to give yourself some breathing room when you need it. This makes for an ideal layering piece that you can use in situations where you might get a little overheated in spite of the cold.

Other features, including flat seams and highly flexible construction, make this long underwear top perfect for any winter weather scenario in which you need a full range of motion. The flat seams are particularly helpful for avoiding any discomfort or abrasion from chafing, a highly desirable quality in a next-to-the-skin base layer.

Related: The North Face also offers the Expedition Zip-Neck Men’s Top, which is a similar long underwear top in a heavyweight fabric. It has similar moisture-wicking properties with a partial zip neck, but in a warmer material for extreme conditions.

Check the price on Amazon

Arc’teryx RHO AR Zip Neck

Layer: Base

Size: Available in men’s S, M, L, XL, XXL

Features: Long sleeve, zip neck, tight fit, mid-weight, breathable, moisture wicking, flexible, insulated and lined, chest pocket, tall collar

Best Use: Vigorous cold weather activity (e.g., hiking, skiing, running, climbing) and any activity level in variable temperatures

Designed to be both efficient and comfortable, the Arc’teryx RHO AR Zip Neck is a versatile addition to your winter athletic wardrobe. You can wear it alone with some leggings for a winter run or layer it under a sweater and a parka for skiing.

Features such as the flatlock seam construction and soft lining make this mid-weight base layer top feel fantastic next to the skin, and the moisture-wicking fabric provides even more comfort. Made from Polartec® Power Stretch® fabric, this base layer insulates with breathable, flexible performance that provides efficient warmth relative to its weight and bulk.

The 10% elastane content allows the fabric just enough give while also keeping it close to your body for the best insulation and moisture-wicking performance possible. Extra features such as a laminated, zippered chest pocket and a turtleneck-like collar further set this long underwear top apart.

You can keep a key in the pocket or enjoy continued cold and sun protection on your neck even if you unzip the top a bit to allow for ventilation.

Related: Arc’teryx also offers the Satoro AR Zip Neck long sleeve base layer top for those who prefer to incorporate the insulating and odor-fighting power of wool into their winter wardrobes. Its construction is similar to the RHO AR Zip Neck, though in a different nylon-wool blend fabric. If you want a lightweight base layer, Arc’Teryx’s RHO LT Zip Neck, which presents the RHO AR’s design in a soft lightweight fabric, may be a better choice.

Check the price on Amazon

ColdPruf Basic Dual Layer Crew Neck

Layer: Base

Size: Available in standard men’s S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL and tall men’s sizes M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL

Features: Long sleeve, crew neck, slim fit, tagless, ribbed cuffs, drop tail, dual-layer construction

Best Use: Light-to-medium activity levels in mild to moderate cold temperatures. Not for extreme conditions or vigorous activity.

Made from a blend of polyester and ring-spun cotton, the ColdPruf Basic Dual Layer Crew Neck long underwear top is a good everyday item to wear when temperatures get a bit chilly. It’s a worthy part of a basic winter wardrobe, but its features make it less suitable for survival wear in extreme conditions.

The dual-layer cotton-poly blend fabric provides insulation that traps heat between the two layers, but cotton tends to absorb and retain moisture. This causes cotton to become heavy lose its insulating power as it grows more damp, meaning this long underwear top isn’t the best choice if you plan to get athletic in the cold.

Features such as flat seams, tight wrist cuffs and a long tail make this long sleeve top comfortable and practical for layering. The tail tucks easily into trousers or long underwear bottoms for a secure fit. Soft feel and easy care make this an easy addition to your wardrobe, particularly for those times when you don’t need to break out your toughest gear.

Related: For a tougher base layer that’s better suited to extreme conditions, try ColdPruf’s Classic Men’s Crew long underwear top. Made from 100% merino wool, this mid-weight shirt is a good choice for more vigorous activity and colder temperatures than the Basic.

Check the price on Amazon

Carhartt Base Force® Crewneck

Layer: Base

Size: Available in standard men’s S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL, XXXXL and tall L, XL, XXL

Features:  Long sleeve, crew neck, slim fit, heavy weight, tagless, moisture wicking, ribbed cuffs, stain-resistant, reinforced stitching

Best Use: Light-to-medium activity levels in moderate or very cold temperatures. Not for extreme conditions or vigorous activity.

The Carhartt Base Force® Crewneck long underwear top is a good choice for moderate outdoor activity in cold weather. Its special 100% cotton fabric technology helps keep you dry and reduces the potential for stains, and it’s also machine washable, making it a convenient choice for casual daily wear.

If you enjoy the Carhartt brand for work wear, this cotton crewneck top may be the right choice for you, particularly if your job takes you from outdoor to indoor conditions so you can avoid hypothermia and other cold-exposure health risks. With a heavy 9.5-ounce cotton knit and thick cotton texture, this is a bit of a bulky base layer, but it’s a good choice if it’s the only thing you plan to wear underneath a coat.

Because it’s made entirely from cotton, this isn’t a good base layer choice for extreme survival conditions. However, you may find this crewneck top most comfortable for casual wear, particularly if you prefer the natural feel of cotton to synthetic fabrics or wool.

Related: If you want a more rugged, survival-ready base layer from this trusted brand, try Carhartt’s Base Force® Extremes long underwear line. Available in a variety of weights, these performance fabric tops provide moisture-wicking base layer protection in an insulating warm-when-wet polyester fabric.

Check the price on Amazon

SUB Sports COLD Compression Tights

Layer: Base

Size: Available in men’s S, M, L, XL, XXL

Features: Long leggings, elastic waistband, compression fit, moisture wicking, flexible

Best Use: Medium-to-vigorous activity in moderate cold temperatures

Whether you plan to layer more trousers on top or you’re simply looking for a warm pair of leggings to wear on a winter run, SUB Sports COLD Compression Tights may be just what you’re looking for. These compression-fit leggings combine the sleek feel of a running tight with the cold-weather performance of long underwear trousers for an athletic garment that works hard to keep you warm.

Featuring a soft internal lining, these polyester-elastane leggings are stretchy and comfortable whether you wear them alone or with other layers. The warp knit fibers work to “transport” moisture from sweat away from your skin, giving you the functionality you need for extreme weather conditions.

Whether you’re running, hiking, snowmobiling or chopping firewood, the four-way stretch in these leggings gives you full range of motion, which is important for base-layer comfort. Tight fit throughout, including the elastic waistband at the top, helps keep this moisture-wicking fabric next to your body to retain heat and quickly remove any sweat that forms on the surface of your skin.

Related: SUB Sports FREEZE semi-compression leggings use stretch fabric in a thicker weight to provide similar performance with more warmth. Use FREEZE as an alternative to COLD if warmth is more important than movement.

Check the price on Amazon

Carhartt Base Force® Bottoms

Layer: Base

Size: Available in standard men’s S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL, XXXXL and tall L, XL, XXL

Features:  Long leggings, elastic waistband, slim fit, heavy weight, tagless, moisture wicking, stain-resistant, reinforced stitching

Best Use: Light-to-medium activity levels in moderate or very cold temperatures. Not for extreme conditions or vigorous activity.

Choose Carhartt Base Force® Bottoms when you want the smooth, soft feel of cotton and a thick base layer to protect you from moderate weather, particularly when conditions are dry. This 100% cotton option won’t provide much cold protection if it gets wet, but if that’s not a concern, you’ll appreciate the moisture-wicking and stain-repelling properties in this machine washable base layer garment.

Modeled after classic long underwear trouser styles, these comfortable base-layer bottoms have an elastic waist and fit tight through the ankle, keeping the garment close to your skin for superior insulation and moisture removal. The heavyweight ring-spun cotton used to make these leggings provides familiar comfort and style, and features such as reinforced stitching makes them suitable for heavy duty wear.

If you work construction or take on other rugged activities that don’t see you stuck in extreme blizzard conditions for days on end, these long underwear trousers are a great addition to your winter wardrobe.

Related: Carhartt’s Base Force® Extremes long underwear line includes some performance-ready long underwear bottom options that use synthetic fabrics to provide superior protection from wet and cold.

Check the price on Amazon

Baleaf Windproof Thermal Cycling Pants

Layer: Top

Size: Available in standard men’s S, M, L, XL, XXL

Features: Long trousers, medium fit, elastic waistband, leg zippers, reflective elements, zippered pockets, fleece lining

Best Use: Outer layer wear for light-to-medium activity levels in mild to moderate cold temperatures

With a variety of handy features, Baleaf Windproof Thermal Cycling Pants are a fantastic choice for cold-weather cycling, running and walking, particularly in urban environments. The reflective elements on the trousers provide excellent visibility for increased safety in low-light conditions, whether that means an early-morning bike ride to work or a down-the-street trek in heavy snow.

Features such as a looser fit and zippered legs make these trousers an ideal top layer for wearing over other bottoms. From long underwear leggings to a pair of fleece trousers, you can easily layer these thermal pants over top.

The elastic drawstring waistband makes it easy to adjust these trousers depending on how thick your bottom layers are, but you still may want to purchase a size up if you plan on doing a lot of layering with these trousers. Fleece lined and made from water-resistant polyester, these windproof pants provide the insulation and protection you need to brave winter weather.

Check the price on Amazon

4ucycling Windproof Athletic Pants

Layer: Top

Size: Available in standard men’s S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL, XXXXL; runs small

Features: Long trousers, medium fit, ankle zips, elastic waistband, adjustable leg openings, reflective elements, zippered pockets, fleece lining, double-layer construction

Best Use: Outer layer wear for light-to-medium activity levels in mild-to-moderate cold temperatures

The 4ucycling Windproof Athletic Pants are designed specifically for cycling, but you may find them useful for a variety of other cold-weather activities. However, features such as front waterproofing and rear breathability and padding may make these trousers unsuitable for vigorous activity in extreme weather.

The waterproof layer in the front is made from 75% polyester and has dual-layer construction for better moisture protection and range of motion for the wearer. The breathable layer in the back uses 85% polyester and 15% spandex to keep you cool and dry while you’re exerting yourself in the cold.

You’ll stay warm in these fleece-lined pants and enjoy a nice range of motion in spite of their bulk thanks to the loose knee design and adjustable leg openings. Zippered ankles make it possible to adjust these cold-weather trousers over bulky boots and keep the bottom opening of your layers closed to the outside elements.

Check the price on Amazon

What to Look for in Cold Weather Gear

Before you start shopping for your low-temp wardrobe, it’s important to understand what you’re looking for and why. Staying safe in cold weather, especially when you’re planning to be out in the elements for the long haul, is all about keeping yourself dry and warm.

It’s important to be realistic: chances are that you’re going to feel the cold at least a little bit. But if you dress in layers and make smart clothing choices, you’ll set yourself up for success.

The ideal winter survival wardrobe provides protection from wind, rain or snow, ice, cold and sweat. That’s right: sweat is not your friend. You want to be warm inside your clothes, but you should also be dry. Moisture can be deadly in a survival situation.

So what should you be looking out for? These basic qualities make cold weather clothing effective at keeping you safe and comfortable.

  • Layered: You should be wearing multiple layers of clothing, including a base, middle, top and outer layer. With layers available, you can remove or add clothing items depending on how cold and wet it is outside.
  • Moisture-wicking: Remember that sweat is the enemy in a winter survival situation. Having a base layer of moisture-wicking fabric next to your skin will help keep you dry and comfortable.
  • Insulating: In addition to staying dry, you need to keep your body heat close to your body. It may be the only source of heat you have. Lower-layer clothing items should fit close to the body, and all of your layers should have elastic or tight cuffs at wrists, ankles, necks and other openings.
  • Breathable: It may seem counterintuitive, but breathability is actually quite important. Think about it: the moisture you generate through sweating has to go somewhere, right? Having moisture-wicking fabrics pull sweat from your skin isn’t enough. Breathable layers will let the moisture from inside out while blocking outside wetness from getting in.
  • Comfortable: Yes, comfort is important, but not in the same way it’s important for a pair of pajamas. You’re looking for clothes that you can move in, so focus on finding the right fit. Some of the items on this list are even designed for specific athletic purposes, which indicates that they’re easy to move in. Comfort can also indicate that you’re doing something right in terms of staying dry and warm.
  • Comprehensive: You’re looking to cover as much as your body as possible. Give yourself layers for each region of your body, starting with thin, moisture-wicking base layers and working up to a top layer that’s both weatherproof and insulating.
  • Efficient: The proliferation of modern performance fabrics and insulators means you can build your winter wardrobe exclusively with lightweight, flexible, comfortable gear. There’s no need to wear a bulky fur coat when you can have a warm down parka made from Gore-Tex.
  • Smart: Good gear uses good materials. Synthetic fabrics and some animal-derived materials such as wool and feather are your best bet. Look for products that are specifically designed for the context in which you intend to use them. Remember: you’re not shopping for street clothes.

Putting Theory in Practice

What does this all mean, then? First, it means that unless you already have an established wardrobe of winter survival gear, you’re going to need to buy some new clothes. Those flannel-lined cotton trousers aren’t going to cut it in a survival situation. Casual fabrics such as denim, flannel, canvas typically aren’t good candidates for your winter wardrobe. You’re not trying to be stylish, so leave the hoodie and jeans at home.

You’ll notice that the items on this list focus on clothes that fit close to the body and use special blends of synthetic materials. That’s what it’s all about: smart materials designed by experts in a fit that allows for movement. Build up appropriate layers of clothes that fit these criteria and you’ll be ready for just about anything Mother Nature can throw at you. The clothes we’ve picked out here offer a good place to start.

Wrapping Up Your Options

As you can see, there is a wealth of cold-weather clothing options out there, and what works best for you is likely to be a matter of preference and practicality. If you’re gearing up for an extended trek through the wintry wilderness, some of these items are likely to be better for you than others.

On the other hand, if you’re going to load up your truck and head out to a job site where you’ll be in freezing temperatures for an hour or two, you may prefer some of the more comfortable items on the list.

The items on this list are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the best options for staying warm in winter weather. Do you have any favorites you’d like to suggest? Let us know what your ideal winter wardrobe looks like in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Best Cold Weather Clothing: Essential Gear for Comfort and Safety”

  1. You chose well, the Baleaf Thermal Cycling Tight Pants are amazing. The price range is budget-friendly. Make sure you recommend the tight pants to your friends.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.