Wearing a base layer of clothes is not only a question of comfort, but health and survival. The immune system responds slower when your temperature is below a certain threshold, making it easier for viruses to replicate and infect your body.
Each layer of clothing has a different purpose and the base is critical to keep you functioning efficiently.
A quality layer works as a second skin and if it’s a high-quality one you won’t even feel it.
Comparison Chart of the Best Base Layers for Cold Weather Hunting
Icebreaker Merino Everyday Base Layer
FITEXTREME Mens MAXHEAT
Best for the Money
Best Merino Wool Base Layer for Hunting
Under Armour Men's Base 4.0
Best Under Armour Hunting Base Layer
Ekouaer Women's Long Thermal Underwear
Best Women's Hunting Base Layer
Are All Base Layers The Same?
There are two main qualities that make base layer clothing different from each other: material and design. Most products are manufactured of either polyester or wool, and there's a reason for it. Fabrics have different characteristics, and while keeping you warm is the number one concern in cold weather, there are other factors like sweat and elasticity that not every type of material shares.
Design-wise you want a product that is breathable but also can still retain the heat your body produces, which is called thermal insulation, so you’re both warm and dry. Some options are better for a situation where you’re standing still while others excel when you’re in constant movement.
Budget-wise, no specific material is more expensive than the other. It all depends on how the product is tailored. More manufactured materials, like polyester, are usually marketed with the same characteristics as a traditional wool option. The difference is always in the details.
Features of Our Top Picks
Not all fabrics function or work the same way. These are the properties a good base layer can offer you:
Temperature aside, an excellent base layer is one you won’t even feel. Bad tailored products are itchy and will limit your movement because the fabric is stiff and not well-designed. When you feel like scratching your body all the time, standing still can become an ordeal and this will have an impact on your aim.
Heath Retention Insulation
This is where traditional materials like wool shine, such as its natural thermal insulation qualities, make it a perfect fit for hunting products, as they work even while wet. Depending on the manufacturer, some polyester products have quick dry characteristics.
This is crucial for remaining dry as fabrics that don’t have this characteristic retain liquid. This not only makes you more uncomfortable but increases the chances of animals detecting you because of your scent.
Review of the Best Base Layers for Hunting in Cold Weather
There are several types of base layer clothing so many people may assume that they work the same way, but there are a lot of details to consider. Here’s a list of the best models that not only offer you top-tier insulation but a set of features you can’t miss:
Icebreaker Merino Everyday Base Layer
Wool is one of the biggest contenders when it comes to fabrics. As stated before, it has all the characteristics that you should be looking for. This long sleeve model is made 100% with Merino sheep wool, which is one of the most popular types in the world. It feels comfortable on the skin and generates no itching.
The insulation qualities are complemented by a breathable fabric that helps retain your body's heat in cold climates, but lets sweat evaporate to keep you cool in warmer situations. The ability to regulate temperature through different types of weather makes for a versatile product.
Another great trait is the natural odor control qualities that this material offers as the product can be worn for several days without generating any scent. Deer noses are really sensitive to certain scents and they can definitely smell you before they see you.
In terms of washing, you must be really careful as dryers and hot water make it shrink, compromising durability. Sizing is inconsistent among different products so it is advised to pay extra attention to the sizing chart.
While maintaining the traditional qualities of Merino wool, this product offers a modern design that can not only keep you dry, but comfortable. While the fabric is soft and doesn’t itch, you have to make sure the sizing is correct as it can get confusing.
Best for the Money:
FIT EXTREME Men's MAX HEAT
The model offers a complete set of shirts and pants while having the lowest price on the list, making it perfect for people on a budget. However, quality is not compromised by price as it has all the traits of a high-end product. Being an athletic-driven product, it has great sweat control qualities for people that are in constant movement.
This choice is mostly made out of polyester which is lightweight and allows you to have a full range of motion. Its insulation qualities are great as it retains heat without making you sweat.
However, it doesn’t work as well when you sit still for long periods, and while it's not a dealbreaker, it’s something to keep in mind depending on the type of hunting you’re performing. You can also benefit from its quick dry feature.
Another great characteristic about this product is that it has an option designed for women both quality-wise and in style, as you have the ability to choose from four different colors and sizes. For a better fit, it's recommended to aim for one size larger, but this depends on how tight you generally like the base layer to be.
It's a budget option for both sexes that provides a lot of flexibility and is comfortable to wear. This set is better suited for hunts that require a lot of movement as standing still can become uncomfortable due to the breathability of the cloth.
Best Merino Wool Base Layer:
Wool X Glacier
Quality-wise this is the best Merino product on the list Wool products don’t always have the same quality and there are a lot of factors that have an impact on it, mainly the size of the fibers used to manufacture it.
Fiber diameter is expressed in microns, the lower the microns the better the product. Towels, mantels, and other unwearable products generally have over 25 microns, while this soft choice is 18.5, making it a really comfortable option.
It’s dense and designed for extreme below freezing point temperatures, which implies that it has top-tier thermal insulation. Such conditions require excellent breathability, which Merino fabric has. The cloth is thick but it doesn’t itch and it retains body odor which is essential. The material is not waterproof, but the thermal insulation qualities still work even if it’s wet.
Most options require extra care when washing in order for them to be durable. However, this product is easy to take care of as it won’t shrink in washers or dryers. Design-wise it has thumb holes that help protect your hands and adjust your elbows.
In terms of comfortability, this is the product that makes the top of the list. It's designed to be a strong option for below freezing temperatures but it does require a lot of care in order to have an adequate expected lifetime.
Best from Under Armour:
Under Armour Men's UA Base 4.0 Crew
Within the line of the Under Armour’s warmest base layers, this is the warmest product as its infrared technology is even better than the popular Cold Gear Technology that UA markets. The product offers one of the best designs on the list with a four-way stretch build that allows you to move without problems.
The polyester material doesn’t generate heat but it maintains your body temperature while letting moisture evaporate into your middle clothing layer. While it does an excellent job of keeping you warm while moving, it ironically may get too hot as it’s not as good as other models in releasing sweat.
This product is designed for extreme temperatures, so while you may be a little too hot at times, it beats the health problems related to exposure to cold climates, like strokes and hypothermia.
It has an anti-odor technology to keep you concealed and can be washed in washing machines with cold water without having the durability compromised. The incorporated fabrics have quick-dry characteristics that dry quickly should the need arise.
This product has an unmatched standard of quality. Despite its breathability issues, it makes for an excellent product for the below freezing point model. The quick-dry quality of the fabric comes in handy for harsh weather situations.
Best for Women:
Ekouaer Women's Long Thermal Underwear
This set is designed for women and includes both a shirt and a pair of pants, so the whole body is protected. Unlike most other options this is a 95% cotton-made model which has a set of advantages which are different from wool. On the good side, the material is soft and comfortable. It isn’t itchy and offers a lot of flexibility.
It has great insulation and heat retention properties that keep you warm even in the most extreme situations. While using any cotton base it’s important to make sure you’re wearing a water-resistant outer layer as it loses all insulation qualities when wet which can be dangerous.
You can get it in 13 distinctive styles, making it the most (personalizable) item on the list. Sizing-wise there are plenty of options, but it is recommended to get it one size bigger than you are to avoid a too tight fit. Many products like this tend to be more costly, making this one a cost-effective option.
Like any other fabric, the durability depends on how well you take care of it. It’s recommended to hand wash this product regularly as it does not possess the same odor retaining characteristics that wool has. The best fit for this model is not a tight one, so a little looseness is all right.
While some products advertise options for women, they generally lack quality, which doesn’t happen here, as the properties of the fabric and model are in the top tier. This base layer has insulation qualities like no other, just make sure to wear a water-resistant outer layer.
While the type of material is essential, ultimately a good design is what makes a good base layer. Cold climate clothing requires extra care because a bad product can be a risk to your health. When buying base layers, without proper knowledge, you may end up with a cheap choice that could impact your health and comfort while hunting.