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Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois Base Layers Review: Reliable Warmth, Fewer Winter Layers

Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois Premium Base Layer top(Photo/Rebecca Ross)
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The Hot Chillys Micro-Elite is a soft, warm, midweight foundation layer with lots of elasticity that reduces the need for additional layers.

I’ll admit, I’ve been known to layer up to the point of absurdity. This is due, in part, to Raynaud’s syndrome and having a lower-than-average body temperature, which keeps warmth at the forefront of my mind when engaging in winter activities. With any base layer I come across, I’m always prepared to layer, layer, and layer some more. I figured when I went to test Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois Premium Zip-T and tights, they would be no different.

However, it only took me a few minutes — not even long enough to raise my body temperature — to realize that I needed fewer layers than I’m used to while hiking in the dreary Pacific Northwest at 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Initially, my skepticism got the better of me. But after putting these layers to more tests while hiking and camping, I realized there was no need to bring my entire outdoor wardrobe with me.

In short: I spent 2 months engaging in physical activity (and just generally being outside) on some of the rainiest and coldest Pacific Northwest days while testing Hot Chillys’ Micro-Elite Chamois midweight layers (new for 2022).

I was pleasantly amazed by how I can significantly cut down on layers while still maintaining warmth. Even without gloves, I didn’t find myself reaching for my hand warmers, which I can only assume was attributed to a warmer core and a more efficient baselayer system.

Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois Premium Base Layer Review

Hot Chillys' Micro-Elite Chamois midweight layers
(Photo/Rebecca Ross)

My most memorable experience testing this base layer was during a week in December when we were expecting fresh snow. Instead, a nasty ice storm swept through, covering everything in a layer of ice for days. I decided to go for a 3.5-mile hike while wearing Hot Chillys’ Micro-Elite Chamois Premium Base Layer.

Immediately, I noticed and appreciated the softness and stretch of the 80% polyester and 11% spandex blend. The flat seams that sit away from my shoulders provide no irritation even while moving. On my shorter frame, I had plenty of coverage, without too much excess — the fit of the top and bottoms was comfortable. Other noteworthy qualities included the thickness compared to other base layers I own (including a lighter, more transparent Kari Traa).

There were a few minor drawbacks. I noticed the Zip-T was a little roomier than I was expecting, although it still allowed me to layer if needed. On occasion, the tights needed readjusting over my hips, but that’s also partly due to the four-way stretch. And this baselayer top is missing the handy feature of thumb holes at the wrists.

Also, comparing the Hot Chillys midweight base layer to other base layers, I’d definitely opt for this midweight when I needed serious warmth. Other base layers don’t quite give me the warmth I need, unless I pile on additional layers. And as for price, this Hot Chillys base layer is pricier than some baselayer brands on the market, but ultimately, it’s par for the course. With Hot Chillys, you are getting quality, you are getting warmth, and you should expect to pay around $175-200 per set.

Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois Premium Base Layer Set
(Photo/Rebecca Ross)

Overall, aside from being warm, I found Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois midweight layers best for those who run colder than most and don’t want to find themselves with too many layers. Although, they do offer a mountain-weight layer with a chilly warmth factor of 10 out of 10 (if you really need the boost in warmth).

And for those who generate heat fast, the brand offers lighter base layers as well.


  • Fabric: Four-way stretch; 89% polyester, 11% spandex blend
  • Weight: Midweight
  • Warmth factor: 8 out of 10 (upgrade to the Micro Elite XT layers for a warmer fleece-backed option)
  • UPF 30 protection
  • Fast-drying
  • Sizes: XS-XL (0-18)
  • Price: $100 (top); $70-90 (bottoms)

Final Thoughts

Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois Premium Base Layer Set
(Photo/Rebecca Ross)

I really like this base layer. Although it’s not as cheap as other base layers, it’s also not the most expensive on market; and it does provide warmth and quality for the price. This base layer is perfect for me when I’m not over-exerting myself and need to keep warm.

Additionally, the smooth fabric, non-irritating seams, and wonderful stretch provide for a next-to-skin fit and feel that I enjoy. It also enables me to layer accessory items. I’m 5’2″, and I appreciated having extra material in the arms and legs to tuck into socks and gloves to block drafts.

Check Zip-T Price at Hot ChillysCheck Tights Price at Hot Chillys

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