Mastering Cold Weather Comfort: The 11 Best Base Layers for Men

Mastering Cold Weather Comfort: The 11 Best Base Layers for Men

Tops

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Best Lightweight Base Layer

MPG Sport Orbit Long Sleeve Base Layer Shirt

Orbit Long Sleeve Base Layer Shirt

Best Lightweight Base Layer

MPG Sport Orbit Long Sleeve Base Layer Shirt

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
Pros
  • Come in five sleek colors
  • Comfortable fit
  • Reasonable price
  • Breathable and fast-drying

The thinness of this shirt from MPG Sport gives it a second-skin feel, making it incredibly comfortable to wear. Crafted from a blend of Polyester, Merino Wool, modal, and spandex, this base layer strikes the perfect balance between cost-effectiveness and performance. While it may not be 100% merino, it doesn’t compromise on breathability and moisture-wicking properties.

It offers versatility with five sleek colors that are suitable for layering under outerwear or wearing solo on brisk days. We love that this shirt is made primarily from recycled materials, which aligns perfectly with outdoor enthusiasts’ eco-conscious values.

The only downside? It requires air drying after each wash, as it’s not tumble dry recommended.

Read more: Best Cold Weather Workout Tips

Material 72% Recycled Polyester, 14% Merino Wool, 10% Modal, 4% Spandex

Best Compression Base Layer

Under Armour ColdGear® Compression Mock

ColdGear® Compression Mock

Best Compression Base Layer

Under Armour ColdGear® Compression Mock

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
Pros
  • Protects the neck
  • Snug yet comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Moisture-wicking
Cons
  • Mock neck can cause discomfort for some

Under Armour has long been a dominant name in the compression wear market, and its ColdGear® material lives up to the hype. “This base layer truly takes winter wear to the next level by keeping me warm, wicking away sweat, and maintaining breathability all at once,” says John Thompson, Senior Gear and Commerce Editor. The mock neck design is a smart choice for layering, providing excellent neck protection against the cold and wind on those chilly days.

The OG compression style fits snugly and conforms to the skin. This not only feels athletic and comfortable but also promotes an increase in venous return and improved circulation and prevents chafing. “Whether I’m hitting the gym or braving the cold for an outdoor run, the Under Armour ColdGear® Compression Mock has become an essential part of my cold-weather workout gear,” says Thompson.

Read more: Best Compression Shirts

Material 87% Polyester/13% Elastane

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Best Half-Zip Base Layer

Houdini M’s Desoli Thermal Half Zip

M's Desoli Thermal Half Zip

Best Half-Zip Base Layer

Houdini M’s Desoli Thermal Half Zip

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
Pros
  • Protects the neck
  • Can be worn as a base or mid layer
  • Easy to take on and off without removing hat/helmet
  • Great for tall guys

As someone who’s constantly looking for the right fit for my long arms, I was pleased to discover Houdini’s base layer collection. This shirt is long-limb and tall-guy approved, providing full coverage for your arms and torso against the winter chill. The standout feature of this garment is its high collar and zip design, which not only add versatility to its layering capabilities but also allows for easy ventilation when things heat up. I love that I can remove it without the hassle of taking off hats and sunglasses mid-hike or run.

It works well as a first or second layer and delivers the kind of softness and comfort that only 100% merino wool can provide. The fabric’s 270 g/m² weight ensures ample insulation, while the grid construction ensures excellent airflow, keeping you comfortable during high-intensity activities. Aside from its softness, what really sets merino wool apart is its ability to stay warm even when wet, its long-lasting freshness, and its adaptability to your body temperature.

Read more: Best Running Vests

Best Budget Base Layer for Extreme Conditions

UNIQLO HEATTECH Cotton Crew Neck Long-Sleeve T-Shirt

HEATTECH Cotton Crew Neck Long-Sleeve T-Shirt

Best Budget Base Layer for Extreme Conditions

UNIQLO HEATTECH Cotton Crew Neck Long-Sleeve T-Shirt

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
Pros
  • Cozy, brushed fabric
  • Feels like pajamas
  • Extremely warm
  • Great value
Cons
  • Not as fast-drying as thinner options

This top is a true winter essential that exceeded our expectations in terms of warmth and overall value. It offers 1.5 times the warmth of UNIQLO’s regular HEATTECH line, which we already found to be impressively cozy for hiking in chilly 35-45-degree weather under only a shell jacket. Its 100% cotton lining is not only warm but also incredibly gentle on sensitive skin. During our testing, it excelled in heat retention, moisture-wicking, and even proved effective at combating odor, ensuring that you stay fresh even when things get seriously sweaty.

The plush brushed fabric feels thick and cozy, and we’d categorize it as heavy-weight. In fact, it’s so comfortable that we’ve used it as sleepwear while camping on multiple occasions. Despite its substantial weight, it’s remarkably easy to layer and provides the breathability needed for high-intensity activities.

Read more: Best Thermal Shirts

Material 52% Cotton, 41% Acrylic, 7% Spandex

Best Premium Base Layer for Extreme Conditions

UYN Evolutyon Underwear Shirt Long SleeveTurtle Neck

Evolutyon Underwear Shirt Long SleeveTurtle Neck

Best Premium Base Layer for Extreme Conditions

UYN Evolutyon Underwear Shirt Long SleeveTurtle Neck

Pros
  • Protects the neck
  • Great aesthetic
  • Athletic fit
  • Very warm
  • Well-ventilated
Cons
  • Fabric can bunch through the torso

This turtleneck from Italian performance wear brand UYN is one of our favorite options for high-intensity activities like running or skinning in cold weather. We were impressed by its exceptional breathability and athletic fit, which contours to the body and looks sharp. It kept me comfortable even during intense workouts, thanks to well-placed vents that allow constant airflow where it matters most. Unlike some merino base layers that left me feeling overheated and in need of shedding a layer, this top maintained a perfect balance of warmth and breathability even under a couple layers.

The Hypermotion arm and shoulder construction enable the garment to be crafted from a single piece of fabric, making it completely seamless. This design feature prevents chafing, making it an excellent choice for sweaty, high-intensity sessions, especially on colder winter days. It’s worth noting that if you prefer a snug fit for your base layers, I recommend sizing down, as there is typically extra fabric throughout the torso.

Read more: Best Turtleneck Sweaters

Material 89% Polyamide, 9% Polypropylene, 2% Elastane

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Best Moisture-Wicking Base Layer

SmartWool Intraknit™ Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew

Intraknit™ Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew

Best Moisture-Wicking Base Layer

SmartWool Intraknit™ Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
Pros
  • Absorbs and wicks away moisture
  • Uber soft against the skin
  • Lightweight and breathable (suitable for most seasons)
  • Great aesthetic

Merino wool base layers are the top choice for those who, like me, yearn for warmth without the bulk. It also makes a great choice for cold weather activities that might get you sweating, because it can absorb up to 30% its weight in moisture. “This top offers everything I could ask for in a base layer,” says Thompson. It’s flexible, lightweight, and moisture-wicking, ensuring warmth and dryness without feeling weighed down.

The price tag may be on the higher side for a shirt, but as soon as I felt the buttery, soft, and luxurious fabric against my skin, I understood its value. It’s a splurge, yes, but it looks and feels so good that you’ll be comfortable wearing it on its own for casual activities in or out of the house on chilly days. With a choice of six modern earth tones, there’s a color to suit nearly everyone’s preference.

Read more: Best Thermal Underwear

Material 53% Merino Wool, 45% Polyester, 2% Elastane

Bottoms

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Best Lightweight Base Layer

Kora Outdoor Bamboo Base Layer Bottoms

Bamboo Base Layer Bottoms

Best Lightweight Base Layer

Kora Outdoor Bamboo Base Layer Bottoms

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
Pros
  • Great for year-around use
  • Thermoregulating
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Similar feel and function as merino for nearly half the price
Cons
  • A little tight through the ankles and waistband (we recommend sizing up)

The Kora Outdoor Bamboo Base Layer Bottoms perfectly showcase the perks of bamboo base layers. Whether I was braving the winter chill or facing a strenuous hike in milder fall conditions, these bottoms adapted to my body’s temperature by offering warmth when needed and keeping me cool when the sun was high. The versatility of these lightweight bottoms makes them a fantastic choice for year-round use.

In addition to their thermoregulatory properties, these pants are great at wicking away moisture. The fabric is lightweight, breathable, and luxuriously soft against the skin, offering a level of comfort and performance we’d go so far as to compare to merino wool (except it’s nearly half the price). While the garment contains some spandex that allows it to contour to your body, the ankle openings and waistband are snug and less forgiving. I recommend ordering a size up if you’re between sizes or uncertain about the fit.

Read more: Best Bamboo Sheets

Material 90% Bamboo, 10% Spandex

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Best Moisture-Wicking Base Layer

Houdini M’s Desoli Mid Tights

M's Desoli Mid Tights

Best Moisture-Wicking Base Layer

Houdini M’s Desoli Mid Tights

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
Pros
  • 100% merino
  • Soft merino waistband
  • Great for tall guys
  • Feels like a second skin

Another perk to going the merino route: unblended merino wool can be recycled or even composted when the garment reaches the end of its life. Crafted from 100% super fine merino wool, these tights offer a level of warmth and stretch that’s hard to beat. During my tests in alpine skiing and hiking in chilly conditions, these tights proved up to the challenge when I needed serious moisture-wicking action to keep me dry and warm.

One of my favorite features of these tights is that the waistband is made entirely of wool, which is much softer and more comfortable against the skin than the elastic alternatives found in some other bottoms. Like Houdini’s base layer tops, these tights are long-limb approved, making them a perfect fit for taller individuals whose ankles typically get cut short by bottoms. To maximize warmth, I recommend tucking them into a pair of merino socks for the ultimate cold-weather protection.

Read more: Best Joggers

Best Mid-Weight Base Layer

SmartWool Intraknit™ Thermal Merino Base Layer Bottom

Intraknit™ Thermal Merino Base Layer Bottom

Best Mid-Weight Base Layer

SmartWool Intraknit™ Thermal Merino Base Layer Bottom

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
Pros
  • Comfortable fabric waistband
  • Mesh vents facilitate airflow
  • Great fit
Cons
  • A little pricey for a merino blend
  • Doesn’t feature a fly

Smartwool is one of the champions of merino garments, and these bottoms are no disappointment. They strike a balance of warmth and breathability that makes them ideal for when you need more insulation than a lightweight option without the bulk of heavy-weight layers. The snug and tailored fit makes it easy to wear under additional layers, while mesh ventilation zones keeps things cool and airy.

While these base layer bottoms come at a slightly higher price point considering they are crafted from a blend of merino wool, polyester, elastane, and polyamide rather than 100% merino, the investment is worth it in terms of performance. They offer the exceptional insulation, comfort, and absorbent properties of merino, with the added fit, stretch, and quick-drying perks of synthetics.

Read more: Best Wool Socks

Material 52% Merino Wool, 44% Polyester, 2% Elastane, 2% Polyamide

Best Base Layer for Very Cold Conditions

Patagonia Capilene® Thermal Weight Bottoms

Capilene® Thermal Weight Bottoms

Best Base Layer for Very Cold Conditions

Patagonia Capilene® Thermal Weight Bottoms

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
Pros
  • Suitable for extreme cold
  • Anti-odor properties
  • Soft, brushed fabric is super cozy
  • Flatlock seams (no chafing here!)
Cons
  • Slim fit may not be ideal for some

Patagonia’s Capilene® Thermal Weight Bottoms top our list for durability and insulation, making them our go-to for extreme conditions. I’ve personally worn tops and bottoms from the Capilene Thermal line for over six years, and I can vouch for its longevity and performance. It’s all in the details. The smooth exterior of the fabric glides effortlessly under other layers, adding no bulk while ensuring a comfortable fit. On the inside, an open-grid pattern not only provides exceptional warmth but promotes breathability, moisture-wicking, and has odor-fighting properties to keep you fresh and comfy all day.

A brushed elastic waistband and flatlock seams deliver next-to-skin softness and preventing any chafing, while a gusseted crotch and functional fly offer unimpeded mobility and convenience. The fabric itself is soft and stretchy, allowing for unrestricted movement, and the form-fitting cut provides an athletic feel. However, it’s worth noting that the relatively slim fit may not suit everyone’s preferences.

Read more: Best Track Pants

Material 92% Recycled polyester, 8% Spandex with HeiQ® Pure odor control

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Best Compression Base Layer

Under Armour Tactical ColdGear® Infrared Base Leggings

Tactical ColdGear® Infrared Base Leggings

Best Compression Base Layer

Under Armour Tactical ColdGear® Infrared Base Leggings

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
Pros
  • Compressive fit
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Reasonable price
  • Brushed fabric interior
Cons
  • Some elasticity lost with frequent tumble drying

Under Armour’s ColdGear® Infrared technology does not come to play games, retaining body heat exceptionally even when worn alone or under shorts in milder conditions. This technology helps to keep you warm while remaining incredibly thin and easy to layer bulk-free. The compression fit not only offers excellent support for circulation but also excels in moisture management by wicking away sweat, keeping things dry and comfortable throughout intense activities.

Four-way stretch allows for unrestricted movement and a full range of motion, while the brushed interior provides a level of comfort that sets these leggings apart from other compression options. Instead of that off-putting sticky feel some compression tights have, these feel soft, warm, and gentle against the skin.

While these leggings are technically tumble dry safe, I recommend air drying them to maintain the integrity of the elastic and compression over time, as I noticed some degradation with frequent tumble drying.

Read more: Best Compression Pants

Material 87% Polyester/13% Elastane

What to Consider When Shopping for Base Layers

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When the mercury drops and winter’s grip tightens, having the right base layers can be the difference between enjoying the great outdoors and shivering through the day. We’ve put together this guide to help you navigate the world of cold-weather base layers before the chill sets in.

Fabric weight: Choose the fabric weight based on your activity and the weather. Lighter-weight base layers offer breathability and moisture-wicking for high-intensity activities, milder conditions, and transitional weather. Mid-weight base layers are ideal for cold weather without precipitation or wind, while heavier-weight base layers provide extra warmth in extreme cold and protection against wind.

Material: Different materials offer different benefits. Merino wool is ideal for its breathability and moisture-wicking capabilities for high-intensity activities, while polyester is a great choice if you’re on a budget and need quick-drying properties. Fleece-lined options are ideal for extreme conditions.

And remember: your base layer is just the first layer of your clothing system. Choose one that’s easy to layer under mid-layers and outerwear without adding bulk, allowing you to adapt to changing weather conditions.

Moisture-wicking ability: Quick-drying base layers are a lifesaver in wet conditions. Whether you’re caught in the rain or working up a sweat, a base layer that dries fast keeps you comfortable and prevents chilling.

Breathability: Breathability is crucial to prevent overheating and moisture buildup. Look for base layers with moisture-wicking properties that allow sweat to escape while keeping you dry and comfortable.

Comfort: A comfortable fit is essential for all-day comfort and unrestricted movement. Ensure your base layer fits snugly but not too tight. Look for flatlock seams to prevent chafing and irritation.

Durability: Your base layer should withstand the rigors of winter activities and plenty of laundry cycles. Check for reinforced stitching and high-quality materials to ensure durability, even with frequent use and washing.

How We Selected the Best Base Layers for Men

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Men’s Health Fitness and Commerce Editor, Talene Appleton, NASM, and Senior Gear and Commerce Editor, John Thompson, have tested a wide range of base layers from top-rated brands over the years. We spent more than 80 hours researching products online and testing them firsthand for running, hiking, and skiing in temperatures from 50 to below ten degrees Fahrenheit. We evaluated each product based on factors including design, feel, fit, warmth, and price point, as some base layers simply provide a better overall value than others. We also combed Reddit—home to many cold weather activewear threads—to discover any base layers that had garnered positive feedback with reviewers.

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Why You Can Trust Us

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At Men’s Health, we take great pride in providing our readers with reliable and trustworthy product recommendations. We believe that our readers deserve the best, which is why we always make sure to conduct thorough research and testing before making any recommendations.

Our product recommendations are purely editorial, and while we may receive free products to test and review, we only recommend the products we are most impressed by. We never let retailers or public relations contacts dictate our content or product coverage. Which is why you can trust us to provide you with reliable and unbiased product recommendations.

Read More About Our Favorite Activewear

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Headshot of Talene Appleton, NASM-CPT

Talene Appleton is a fitness and food writer and editor, certified personal trainer (NASM-CPT), and former professional dancer based in New York City. Passionate about both exercise and cuisine, she merges her fitness, nutrition and culinary expertise with the goal of motivating others to embrace balanced healthy living. Her work has appeared in Men’s Health, General Surgery News, The Food Institute, The Nessie, and more.

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