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Anupama Pradeep

Top 10 Best Hiking Base Layers [2022 Reviews]

Layered clothing is always preferred by mountaineers and hikers and base layer is one of the most important parts since it has a direct contact with your skin.

You can choose the highest quality of mid layer and outer layers, however if you are choosing to wear a base layer which has poor performance, then you will not be comfortable throughout the trails.


Quick Comparison: Top Hiking Base Layers

  1. Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch® Zip Tee
  2. Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 Crew
  3. Icebreaker Merino Men's Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe
  4. Hot Chillys Youth La Montana Zip Base Layer Top 
  5. Woolx Glacier - Men's Merino Wool Base Layer Top

**Below, you'll find our expert's reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

How to Choose the Best Hiking Base Layers?

The hiking base layer plays an important role in taking the moisture content away from your body. It also helps in regulating the temperature of your body as well. In this article, we have tried to blend moisture wicking, durability, comfort and various important performance features of the hiking base layers.

Base layers are mainly responsible for managing moisture, regulating the natural temperature of your body and above all will protect your body. Hence choosing the best and high-quality product is extremely important. Below listed are the factors which you should consider while picking your base layer.


hiking men women in hiking dress with base layers

Merino wool

Merino wool is one of the best and the most popular material which is picked up by majority of the hikers. It is really breathable, soft and also won’t pick up any odor like the synthetics do. In addition to this, the material helps to manage the temperature of your body while the temperature changes.

Synthetic Base Layers

The synthetic base layers are good in pulling the moisture content and is more breathable. They are durable as well. The only drawback is that, they pick up odors.


Even though this is not a common material which is opted by many, it is gaining popularity these days owing to its amazing features. It has got wool like anti-bacterial features which promotes breathability. It is really hard to find and often comes with a blend of other materials.

Silk Base Layers

This material is also not common like the other ones. They are not preferred by the hikers as they do no breathe well like other materials.


Blends of many high-quality materials are now common in the market. It is not a simple matter to decide on merino or the polyester base layers.

There are many makers who have come up with the blends of these materials and claims to offer all the comfort and performance of the merino wool, without compromising on the durability of polyester. They are highly expensive and hence are more about performance.

Base Layer Thickness

It is always good to choose thin base layers which have got compensating insulation together with mid-layer instead of picking thick insulated one. Thin base layers can easily dry, wick moisture as well as more breathable.

Temperature Control Features

The zippers, collars, thumb loops as well as the hoods will help you manage the levels of temperature and to get the warmth you wish to without take the layer off. However, it also adds some extra weight and cost to the layer.

Fit and Style

Base layers which are loose will allow the heat to escape while those which are tight will try to maintain it. But if they are too tight, then they will restrict the movement or the air circulation. Ensure that it fits rightly on your body and obviously it should look good too.


Even though lightweight ones are the top rate breathers, they won’t help to maintain the warmth factor. And hence they are best suited for mild climatic conditions and also for high-output activities such as hiking and backcountry skiing.


It will help to provide more warmth along with offering better breathability. They are usually chosen by downhill skiers. They are not that much popular as the lightweight base layers for warm condition hiking since the additional warmth will lead to a drop in the fabric’s ability to manage temperatures.


These base layer models are mainly intended for cold temperatures. The additional thickness will permit breathability and is easy to sweat even on very short walks. So, choose this based on your hiking climate and your requirements.

Odour Prevention

If you are planning for a multi-day back country trail and you don’t want to add extra weight to your backpack and wish to carry just a single piece of base layer, then going for the merino wool is the best option. This is due to the fact that they are great in pulling out the moisture content from your skin and thus you won’t feel stinginess. On the other hand, synthetic materials will produce odour if you work up or walk after a huge sweat. Always try to keep yourself dry and odour free.


When comparing all the other materials, merino wool is found to be the perfect choice, but there are high chances for developing holes after a long use. The synthetic materials last for a life time. However the instructions which the maker claims for following for ensuring the durability should be taken into account. Choose the one which is suited for multiple seasons.

Base Layer Bottoms

Each and every piece of base layer has got a matching bottom which is having the same make, same construction as well as an identical price.

One of the major things to keep in mind regarding the base layer bottoms is that, majority of the hikers still use underwear beneath and this especially true in the case of high exertion activities.

It is not from a point of comfort, but it will increase the cleanliness of the base layer.

How to Care and Wash Your Hiking Base Layers?

It is always better to wash and clean your base layers after each hike since frequent washing of these clothes will prevent from the stinky smells. While washing, make sure that you don’t place it along with items which are having clips or Velcro.

One the common methods in which the wicking shirts get spoiled are from the snags. It is highly important that you check for the instruction which is printed on the label for adding life to the fabric.

Ensure that you don’t use any fabric softeners unless and until the makers recommends.

Review of some of the Best Hiking Base Layers

Our Recommendation

Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch® Zip Tee

The Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch® Zip Tee is really versatile and it can be used as a base layer, mid-layer, or just as such.

Use it along with your fleecy inner layer as well as the smooth outer layer. This will make the perfect companion while hiking around.

Reverse it, and you will now find an amazing warm mid-layer for protecting against the extreme temperatures. The material used for the construction is 88 percent polyester and 12 percent elastane.

Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch® Zip Tee base layer


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    Soft fleece
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    Stretchy fabric
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    Reversible to have a warm base layer
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    Fast-drying mid layer


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    Picks up odor
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    Too warm

Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 Crew

Whether you are hiking or ruing or climbing up a mountain, the Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 Crew makes you stay comfortable all through the day.

Merino wool is the materials used for its making and thus give you high-performance clothing.  It has a natural ability to breathe, wick moisture as well as prevent odors.

The Flatlock seam structure design helps to eliminate chafing. The shoulder panels will remove the top shoulder seams.

Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 Crew base layer


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    Anti-odor merino
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    Good everyday wear


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Foot Note!!!

The base layers always function by pulling out the excess amount of sweat into the fibers of the base layer. If the base layer is wicking, then it draws the moisture from your skin and will get evaporated.

 This procedure will help you to maintain the body temperature at optimum levels and stay cool and dry at extreme weathers. And this is the reason why choosing the right kind of materials is important while hiking around.

Choose the one which offers you better comfort and advanced performance.

image credit: amazon.com, decathlon.in

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