Home > Apparel

The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

The best base layers of 2024 are made of high-quality fabrics with technology to keep you warm and dry. These are some of our favorite men’s shirts for winter sports in wool, synthetic, and blends.

gear tester and author Steve Graepel wearing the Ortovox Rockn Wool base layer long sleeve as he carries skis
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

There are a lot of great choices for base layers these days. To help you pick the best this season, GearJunkie tested and reviewed dozens of products.

Proper layering is the key to sustained comfort on the coldest winter days. A good layering system begins with base layers — form-fitting underwear that retain heat, wick sweat, and breathe when needed. Base layers come in a variety of materials, but merino wool is by far the most popular. If you’re seeking base layers for active pursuits like skiing, hunting, or ice climbing, it’s important to purchase a full-body set — a long-sleeve shirt and a pair of bottoms. Some base layers are available as combined sets, but most tops and bottoms are sold separately.

Our primary tester of men’s base layers is Steve Graepel, an experienced skier, climber, and trail runner based in Idaho. During testing, Graepel wore various base layers in all sorts of winter conditions. From thick heavyweight options to thin barely there layers, Graepel assessed fit, feel, warmth, durability, and more.

In our handy comparison chart, we compare the price, materials, pros, and cons of every base layer on our list. When possible, we’ve also provided fabric weight in either grams per square meter (g/m²) or microns. Be sure to also check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide, and FAQ sections for help in narrowing in on the best base layers for your needs.

One tip before we dive in: Everyone has an internal thermostat. If you tend to run cold, buy warmer. If you find yourself stripping off layers when others are bundled, go lighter.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article on October 19, 2023 to add several new products and additional buying guidance.

The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024


Best Overall Base Layers

Ibex Woolies Tech

Specs

  • Price $115 (bottoms), $115 (top)
  • Materials 81% Wool 12% Nylon 7% Elastane
  • Fabric weight 180 g/m²
Product Badge The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Warm
  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Effectively seamless

Cons

  • Pricey
Best Budget Base Layers

MEETYOO Men’s Thermal Underwear Set

Specs

  • Price $29 (set)
  • Materials 92% polyester, 8% Spandex
  • Fabric weight N/A
The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Stretchy
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Minimal heat retention
Best Lightweight Base Layers

L.L.Bean Lightweight Base Layers

Specs

  • Price $40 (top), $40 (bottoms)
  • Materials 100% polyester
  • Fabric weight 130 g/m²
The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Good value
  • Versatile
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Not the best warmth retention
Best Midweight Base Layers

Patagonia Capilene Midweight Base Layers

Specs

  • Price $79 (top), $79 (bottoms)
  • Fabric weight N/A
  • Materials 100% recycled polyester
The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Durable
  • Wicks moisture
  • Prevents odor

Cons

  • Athletic fit doesn't work for all
Best Heavyweight Base Layer Top

Xenolith Yak & Merino Wool Mountain Sweater 2.0

Specs

  • Price $270
  • Materials 70% merino, 30% yak (body); 100% nylon (lining); 100% polyester (lining)
  • Fabric weight 240 g/m²
The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Exceptionally warm
  • Great for active use in very cold temps
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not available in bottoms
Best Heavyweight Bottom

Kora Yushu Yak Wool Base Layer Bottoms

Specs

  • Price $165
  • Materials Merino wool
  • Fabric weight 230 g/m²
The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Very warm
  • Low profile seams
  • Durable waistband

Cons

  • Pricey
Best of the Rest

Icebreaker Merino Oasis 200

Specs

  • Price $115 (half-zip top), $105 (leggings)
  • Materials Merino wool
  • Fabric weight 200 g/m²
The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Retains warmth when wet
  • Versatile mid-weight fabric

Cons

  • Top lacks thumb loops

Sitka Core Merino 220 Baselayers

Specs

  • Price $199 (half-zip top), $129 (bottoms)
  • Materials Merino wool
  • Fabric weight 220 g/m²
The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Low profile seams
  • Comfortable
  • Odor resistant
  • Breathable

Cons

  • Pricey

Ortovox 185 Merino Rock’n’wool Base Layers

Specs

  • Price $110 (top), $66 (bottoms)
  • Materials Merino wool
  • Fabric weight 185 g/m²
The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Precise athletic fit
  • Versatile thermal range
  • Comfortable texture

Cons

  • Seams are noticeable under pack straps

Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Base Layers

Specs

  • Price $120 (half-zip top), $115 (bottoms)
  • Materials Merino wool
  • Fabric weight 250 g/m²
The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Soft, cozy texture
  • Versatile
  • Durable

Cons

  • Pricey

Ridge Merino Aspect Midweight Base Layers

Specs

  • Price $75 (top), $70 (bottoms)
  • Materials 84% merino wool, 16% nylon
  • Fabric weight 180 g/m²
The Best Men’s Base Layers of 2024

Pros

  • Good value for Merino
  • Versatile
  • Low-profile seams

Cons

  • Athletic fit won't suit everyone

Men’s Base Layers Comparison Chart

Base LayersPriceMaterialsFabric Weight
Ibex Woolies Tech
$115 (bottoms), $115 (top)81% Wool 12% Nylon 7% Elastane180 g/m²
MEETYOO Men’s Thermal Underwear Set
$29 (set)92% polyester, 8% Spandex N/A
L.L.Bean Lightweight Base Layers
$40 (top), $40 (bottoms)100% polyester130 g/m²
Patagonia Capilene Midweight Base Layers
$79 (top), $79 (bottoms)100% recycled polyesterN/A
Xenolith Yak & Merino Wool Mountain Sweater 2.0
$27070% merino, 30% yak (body); 100% nylon (lining); 100% polyester (lining)240 g/m²
Kora Yushu Yak Wool Base Layer Bottoms
$165Merino wool230 g/m²
Icebreaker Merino Oasis 200
$115 (half-zip top), $105 (leggings)Merino wool200 g/m²
Sitka Core Merino 220 Base Layers
$199 (half-zip top), $129 (bottoms)Merino wool220 g/m²
Ortovox 185 Merino Rock’n’wool Base Layers
$110 (top), $110 (bottoms)Merino wool185 g/m²
Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Base Layers
$120 (half-zip top), $115 (bottoms)Merino wool250 g/m²
Ridge Merino Aspect Midweight Base Layers
$75 (top), $70 (bottoms)84% merino wool, 16% nylon180 g/m²

How We Tested Base Layers

man and woman putting on snow gear
Layering up in a ski hut before a big day out; (photo/Xander Bianchi)

Steve Graepel — the author of this guide — has spent the last 10 winters living and skiing in Minnesota. In an ongoing battle to remain warm and comfortable on the slopes, he’s made quality base layers a standard part of his wardrobe.

In addition to frequent skiing, Steve also puts base layers to the test while running and cycling throughout the northern winter. While actively testing base layers, Steve pays careful attention to overall comfort, warmth, and durability. Other more subtle factors also play a role in the evaluation process. We note the quality and feel of the seams, the breathability of the fabric, the tendency for piling, and much more. Overall, we’ve tested over two dozen base layer styles over three-plus winter seasons.

To complement Steve’s personal expertise, half a dozen male editors across GearJunkie’s entire staff base weighed in with their favorite base layers for snowsports, daily wear, and much more.

If Camo is your color and hunting is your game, be sure to check out GearJunkie’s guide to the best base layers for hunting.

Buyers Guide: How to Choose the Best Base Layer

Everyone who plays outside in winter needs base layers, and it’s hard to have too many. Start by considering how you play outside.

Are you active, working hard in the backcountry, and needing it to wick and breathe? Or do you need to stay warm on the lift or hunkered over the lake fishing? There’s no right or wrong answer, but knowing how you’ll use these layers will help narrow the field.

Some base layers have fitted hoods — a great asset in certain conditions; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Styles of Base Layers

Technically, base layers feature a range of designs including tank, long-sleeve and short-sleeve tops, hoodies, bottoms, knickers, briefs, and the traditional full-length underpants. In our guide, we focus on the best options for cold weather and the winter season, which are usually long-sleeve tops and ankle-length bottoms.

The fabric blends of base layers include merino wool, synthetic fibers, or a blend of the two. Within those fibers, there are various densities from ultralight to light and midweight and at the far end, heavyweight.

Some tops feature a hood, partial zipper, or thumb holes. Others are tailored with a crew, mock, or turtleneck.

Base layer bottoms don’t have pockets or belt loops. These pants are effectively long underwear — they’re meant to be worn against the skin in a seamless way that’s comfortable beneath other midlayers and outer layers across various activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, or working on a farm.

Fabric Weights

Ultralight base layers are lightweight and form-fitting. The ultralight base layer will prevent heat loss on an autumn day, shun solar radiation when things heat up, or provide that first quick-drying layer against the skin under heavier base layers.

If you want to strip them off altogether, they disappear nicely in a daypack. The downside of the ultralight lineup is they can be fragile. Materials with thinly woven mesh can snag on brush and Velcro tabs.

  • Fabric weight: 80-140 g/m²
  • Fiber diameter: 17.5 microns

Lightweight base layers can be worn alone in 30-degree temps or paired with another layer when the mercury dips. A lightweight base layer is your skin’s first line of defense against Old Man Winter. During the colder months, we never leave home without one.

  • Fabric weight: 140-190 g/m²
  • Fiber diameter: 17.5-18.5 microns

Cooler temperatures require a boost to your base. Midweight base layers strike a balance between insulation and wicking power and are the workhorses of cold-weather pursuits that have you on the stop-and-go.

Wear these base layers for cold days or layer them over a lighter base for added versatility for changing weather conditions.

  • Fabric weight: 145-190 g/m²
  • Fiber diameter: 17.5-18.5 microns

Cooler temperatures require a boost to your base. Midweight base layers strike a balance between insulation and wicking power and are the workhorses of cold-weather pursuits that have you on the stop-and-go.

Wear these base layers for cold days or layer them over a lighter base for added versatility for changing weather conditions.

  • Fabric weight: 190-250 g/m²
  • Fiber diameter: 21.0 microns

If your activities find you ice fishing, ice climbing, or bunkering down in a snow cave at 5,000 m, an expedition-worthy heavyweight layer is what you’re looking for. The heavyweight isn’t used alone; it supplements a lightweight or midweight base layer.

  • Fabric weight: 250 g/m² and heavier
  • Fiber diameter: 24.5 microns
Ortovox Rockn Wool
No need for outer layers on a warm spring day; (photo/Steve Graepel)

Activity and Use

When purchasing a base layer, consider the activities you want to do. High-aerobic activities (like running, ice climbing, and cross-country skiing) require moisture-wicking capability, where lightweight base layers typically shine.

For those who spend long days outside in more leisurely activities (like downhill skiing), a midweight base in merino wool or synthetic materials will serve you well. And it can be the most flexible piece in your cold-weather arsenal.

Merino vs. Synthetic

Merino can suck up to 30% of its weight in moisture. This isn’t a bad thing — that water traps heat and keeps you feeling warm. Synthetics hold less than 7% of their weight in sweat, leaving you feeling colder as moisture rapidly evaporates.

Wool will be more expensive and typically require more care and attention. It’s typically not as durable as its synthetic counterparts.

On the flip side, polyester fibers can trap stinky bacterial waste, which creates that funk that’s hard to wash out. For mountaineers (or those who never change their clothes), do yourself a favor and get a stink-resistant merino or find a brand that includes stink-inhibitors like Polygiene.

Every year we see a slew of new options that leverage synthetic-wool blends with panels of lighter-weight materials. These feel soft and increase the temperature range of the layer.

Cut and Length

Most of these base layers are offered in crewneck, quarter-zip, and even with hoods. To crew or not to crew is a personal preference. Some crewnecks can bind around the neck (which is uncomfortable when sucking air on hill sprints).

And it’s easier to cool off by dropping the zipper on those days when the sun comes and goes. But we did find ourselves inconspicuously sliding the crewnecks into our work wardrobe. It simply looks less sporty than the zipper tops.

Hoods and Thumb Loops

Hoodies are a fickle fit. Some hit it out of the park, and others squeeze awkwardly around the face, limiting your peripheral view. We called out hoodies that fit us well, but we highly recommend you try before you buy any base layer with a hood.

Many of the base layers on the list come with thumb loops. These can make it easier to pull over another layer (you don’t have to fish a sleeve back out). They can also block the intense sun and warm the wrists (our vasculature tends to run shallow in the armpits, elbows, and wrists, close under the skin to dump heat).

Like the hoody, these can run the spectrum of effectiveness. We’ve called out the real winners and faulted them where they don’t quite measure up.

The GearJunkie team testing an assortment of winter layering systems in Crested Butte, Colo.; (photo/Eric Phillips)

FAQ

How should you wear base layers?

Base layers — as their name implies — are meant to be worn as the base of your clothing system, next to your skin. If you pile on cotton underwear and a cotton T-shirt under your base layers, you’re negating all the ways a base layer is intended to work. Most base layer bottoms are intended to be worn as long underwear.

Should a base layer fit tight or loose?

A base layer should have a close fit to your body without sacrificing freedom of movement. Some base layers, like Patagonia’s Capilene Midweights, fit snugly but shouldn’t be restrictive or cut circulation. Others, like Ibex’s Woolies, have a more relaxed pajama-like fit.

Base layers should be able to fit nicely beneath a fleece sweater as well as a pair of Carhartt pants or overalls or ski outerwear.

How do you choose the right fabric for your base layers?

There is no hard rule. It comes down to what you can afford and what activities you do. Synthetics are highly durable and high-wicking, and they have some odor-beating technology. They also usually have a lower price tag. While Patagonia’s Capilene Midweight layers are somewhat expensive at $79 each, we think it’s a fantastic value that will last you a very long time.

Merino is less durable, but it has temperature-regulating features that can work in a wide range of weather, combats odors, blocks harmful UV rays, and also wicks well. Merino wool typically costs more than synthetic blends.

What about silk? Silk needs a lot of washing, is very thin, and is not very durable, so we left it off the list. Most of the base layers on this list are a wool blend or polyester-elastane blend.

Equally as important to materials is the weight of the fabric. Most people will do well with a pair of simple midweight base layers. If you’re perpetually cold or doing a sedentary winter activity, grab a pair of heavyweight base layers. If you’re buying base layers to backcountry ski, run in, or for any other intense activity, go light.

What is a good base layer for cold weather?

If you’re out in extremely cold temperatures, have poor circulation, or tend to be cold-sensitive, consider a heavyweight set like Smartwool’s Classic Thermal Merino layers. We’ve found it a fantastic blend of temperature regulation and insulation for cold-weather activities like fall and winter fishing.

For all-around recreation and use in average winter temperatures, grab a midweight option like Patagonia’s Midweights, or the Ortovox Rock’n’Wool.

Cardio-intensive activities, like running or cross-country skiing, and warmer winter days are a good time to opt for lightweight base layers like L.L.Bean’s Lightweight Base Layers. For better thermal regulation, consider getting the quarter- or half-zip version of the base layer.

What is the best layering system for winter activities?

For the greatest warmth and protection, layers are the name of the game. You’ll want to wear full underwear base layers, which wick sweat and help manage body heat during high output or laidback activities.

Base layers fit beneath a midlayer — like a fleece or micro-down jacket or synthetic insulation layer — followed by an outer layer, like a shell, that will protect you against the elements from rain to snow or wind.

Depending on the day’s activity and climate, you might choose to wear a base layer beneath an outer layer and skip that middle piece of insulation.

Subscribe Now

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!

Join Our GearJunkie Newsletter

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!