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The Best Base Layers for Hunting of 2024

You only need a handful of base layers in your hunting kit. Get the best long underwear and base layer tops and use them for years to come.

Best Base Layers For Hunting(Photo/Sean McCoy)
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The best base layers are the unsung heroes of hunting and outdoor adventure. No, they don’t get the headlines as often as shells and puffys. Generally, only your closest companions see them. But the apparel you wear next to your skin has as much impact on your comfort as any other piece of clothing, maybe more.

Over the years, the hunters at GearJunkie have put dozens of base layers through extensive, heavy use. The baselayers that float to the top over and over again are included here, and while some are more hunt-specific than others, all will keep you warmer and dryer than any cotton apparel sitting around your house.

Before we get deep into base layer materials, designs, and more, here are a few notes on how to use this guide.

Because base layers encompass both bottoms and tops, we’ve included several packages of both in our selection. A few shirts stand out on their own and don’t have a matching leg layer, but are still listed among the products below. You’ll find light, medium, and heavy layers and our favorite styles from a few brands.

If you’re a new hunter, please understand that you don’t need a special base layer to hunt. If you own good long underwear made of synthetic or wool materials, they’ll serve you well for hunting purposes. In most cases, hunting base layers are very similar to their counterparts in the skiing, hiking, or camping markets.

For the hunters out there looking for hunt-specific features, the base layers found here are the cream of the crop, with hunt-friendly colorways, odor protection, and a fit that favors mobility. For a quick comparison, check out our spec chart, and read over our Buyer’s Guide and FAQ sections for advice on staying warm, dry, and comfortable while hunting or hanging out in camp.

The Best Base Layers for Hunting of 2024


Best Overall Base Layer for Hunting

KUIU ULTRA Merino 120

Specs

  • Material Nuyarn Merino- 70% Merino / 30% Nylon
  • Protection UPF 50+ Rating, Naturally Odor Resistant
  • Weight Light (120 g/m²)
Product Badge The Best Base Layers for Hunting of 2024

Pros

  • Lightweight but durable Nuyarn merino sets high bar for performance
  • Maintains warmth when wet
  • Dries fast
  • Zip-off bottoms removable with boots and pants on

Cons

  • Not as fast drying as synthetics
Best Budget Base Layer for Hunting

RedHead Elite Midweight Base Layer

Specs

  • Material 94% polyester/6% spandex
  • Protection 4MOST Inhibit treatment fights odors
  • Weight Midweight
The Best Base Layers for Hunting of 2024

Pros

  • Quick-drying fleece-grid polyester
  • Smooth texture easy to layer
  • Warm enough for colder conditions

Cons

  • Too warm for active hunting
  • No SPF rating or zip-off features
Best Midweight Base Layer for Hunting

First Lite Kiln Midweight 250

Specs

  • Material Merino-X (95% merino, 5% spandex)
  • Protection 37.5-infused anti-microbial
  • Weight Medium (250g/m)
The Best Base Layers for Hunting of 2024

Pros

  • Zip-off bottoms removable while wearing boots/pants
  • Warm when wet
  • Soft and comfortable on skin

Cons

  • Slightly less durable than nylon-infused merino
Best Lightweight Merino

Sitka Core Merino 120

Specs

  • Material Armorspun merino (85% merino, 15% nylon)
  • Protection Naturally odor resistant
  • Weight Light (120 g/m)
The Best Base Layers for Hunting of 2024

Pros

  • Light but insulating
  • More durable than most merino
  • Comfortable for days on end

Cons

  • Lacks SPF rating
  • No zip-off feature
Most Versatile Base Layer

SITKA Equinox Guard Hoodie

Specs

  • Material 82% Polyester, 18% Elastane
  • Protection Polygiene odor control, SPF 50+, Insect Shield
  • Weight Light
The Best Base Layers for Hunting of 2024

Pros

  • Light yet protective
  • Quick drying
  • Insect repellence is great in warmer weather
  • Built-in face cover

Cons

  • Expensive
Best for Bitter Cold

First Lite Furnace Base Layers

Specs

  • Material Merino-X (95% merino/5% spandex)
  • Protection Naturally odor resistant
  • Weight Heavy (350 g/m2)
The Best Base Layers for Hunting of 2024

Pros

  • Very warm
  • Warm when wet
  • High wool content
  • Fleeced inner lining

Cons

  • Too heavy for active hunting
A Base Layer From Hunting to Fishing

Stone Glacier Avro Synthetic Hoody

Specs

  • Material Polyester
  • Protection Polygiene odor treatment, UPF 43+ protection
  • Weight Medium (145 g/m2)
The Best Base Layers for Hunting of 2024

Pros

  • Quick-drying
  • Versatile, works as base layer or outer layer in warmer conditions
  • Great, sun-protective hood

Cons

  • Not available in camouflage

Hunting Base Layer Comparison Chart

Base LayerPriceMaterialProtectionWeight
KUIU ULTRA Merino 120$89 top, $99 bottom70% Merino, 30% nylonUPF 50+ Rating, Naturally Odor ResistantLight (120 g/m²)
RedHead Elite Midweight Base Layer$50 top, $55 bottom 94% polyester, 6% spandex4MOST Inhibit treatment fights odorsMidweight
First Lite Kiln Midweight 250$135 hoody, $100 bottomMerino-X (95% merino, 5% spandex)37.5-infused anti-microbialMedium (250g/m)
Sitka Core Merino 120$119 top, $119 bottomArmorspun merino (85% merino, 15% nylon)Naturally odor resistantLight (120 g/m)
SITKA Equinox Guard Hoodie$150 top only82% polyester, 18% elastanePolygiene odor control, SPF 50+, Insect ShieldLight
First Lite Furnace Base Layers$160 top, $110 BottomMerino-X (95% merino/5% spandex)Naturally odor resistantHeavy (350 g/m)
Stone Glacier Avro Synthetic Hoody$89PolyesterPolygiene odor treatment, UPF 43+ protectionMedium (145 g/m)

How We Tested Hunting Base Layers

The author testing base layers during a frigid and wet turkey hunt in spring 2024; (photo/Sean McCoy)

The GearJunkie hunting crew is a passionate group. We spend months in the field each fall hunting everything from whitetail deer to elk to upland game to waterfowl. And we’ve been doing it for more than 60 collective years. So we’ve spent a lot of time in really good and bad base layers. And we know that long underwear can make or break your trip.

We’ve taken all these years of knowledge and packed them into this buying guide. We do this because we want you to have a great experience on your next hunt. All the recommendations here are the same that we’d make to our best friends, family, and hunting partners. Indeed, when they ask us which ones to buy, we’ll likely forward this article. It’s the best advice we have in buying base layers for hunting.

If you’re raring to go, here’s the bottom line from Sean McCoy:

Just buy these: The KUIU ULTRA Merino 120 LT Zip-Off bottom is simply the best long underwear for hunters, and it’s a very reasonable price. Hunters can remove the simple, lightweight merino layer with long side zippers; there is no need to take off boots or pants. It’s a huge bonus in the field, and at about $100, these are tough to beat.

For tops, pick up the Sitka Equinox Guard Hoodie, a light, synthetic layer with a built-in hood and camo mesh to cover your face. Or, if you’re looking for a more traditional, hoodless base layer, the First Lite Wick Quarter Zip blends light merino wool with supercharged nylon for a breathable, fast-drying layer you can wear on its own or under many other layers in cooler weather.

If you don’t require hunting-specific coloration, check out GearJunkie’s general guide to the best base layers for men and women. Many of these would serve you (and have served me) well in the hunting arena, too.

Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Base Layers for Hunting

Above, you’ve seen a selection of tried and true base layers that our team loves. Choose the weight and style that fits your needs, and you should be set.

However, there are thousands of good base layers on the market. How should a hunter pick base layers from the crowded market? We break it down into a few attributes: materials, weight, design, and special features.

The Best Materials for Base Layers

The best base layers use either merino wool or synthetic materials such as polyester to provide soft, warm layers that dry quickly.

Of the materials available, merino wool (and sometimes alpaca) is the best material for base layers meant for hunting. That’s because it is soft, fast-drying, and warm when wet. Even more importantly for hunters, it’s naturally anti-microbial, which helps it remain odor-free for longer than most synthetic base layers. Many brands blend merino with a small percentage of synthetic material, usually nylon, to add durability. The only downside of merino is it’s expensive.

Kuiu base layer label
Merino wool provides best-in-class insulation and odor control; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Synthetic base layers are also a great choice for hunting. They dry even faster than merino wool. And with anti-odor treatments such as Polygiene, synthetic layers are much less smelly than the synthetics of olden days. As an added benefit, synthetic polyester base layers tend to be much less expensive than merino wool. So they’re a great choice for those on a tighter budget.

Weight

The “weight” of a baselayer refers to the weight of the fabric used in production. Most of the base layers we test range from 120 grams per square meter (g/m²) to 350 g/m². On the lighter end of that spectrum, you’ll find versatile layers that you can wear under other layers in cold weather or alone in hot weather. Heavier base layers are suited only for cold weather use and will be too hot when worn alone in warm weather.

Base Layer Design

The seams are the first thing you should look at beyond materials and weight. Many high-quality baselayers (and most of our selections above) use flatlock seams to provide a smooth, chafe-free surface against your skin. While some stretch fabrics use other seam styles, the flatlock is often a sign of high-quality manufacturing in the base layer space.

Kuiu Zip-Off base layers
The KUIU ULTRA Merino 120 LT Zip-Off has quick-removal zippers and is our top choice for long john; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Hoods are another important design consideration. A hood adds both warmth and concealment to a base layer. But if you plan to wear several layers, too many hoods can stack up on one another, leading to a lot of fabric around your neck. For next-to-skin base layers, we usually recommend no hood if you plan for multiple layers over it.

Special Features

Base layers for hunting have a few notable features. First, some bottoms have side-zipper panels that allow you to remove the base layer without taking off your pants or boots. This is awesome for those who need to strip down during the heat of the day. Our top long john choices have zippers for this reason.

First Lite Kiln Zip-Off Bottom
The First Lite Kiln is among several offerings from the brand that zip off on the sides; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Face masks for concealment are another useful feature. The Sitka Equinox Guard Hoody, for example, has a hood with a built-in face cover that works perfectly for turkey or big game hunting. We love the design that keeps your face hidden any time you raise the hood.

Finally, many hunting base layers have some kind of anti-odor treatment. This is an important consideration for big game hunters, who must manage scent as much as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who makes the best base layers for hunting?

KUIU, First Lite, Stone Glacier, and Sitka make our favorite base layers for hunting. But other brands like Patagonia and Black Diamond also make great base layers that work wonderfully for hunting.

What is the best material for base layers?

Merino wool is the best base layer material for hunting. However, synthetic polyester also works great in base layers and has the advantage of drying faster and being less expensive

What are thermals?

When talking about layers, there are a whole lot of terms that get thrown around. Base layers, long underwear, long johns, long janes, thermals, tops, and bottoms: They all refer to the same product category, which we generally refer to as base layers. “Thermals” usually describe heavier base layers worn in cold weather.

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