best cold weather hunting baselayers

The Best Base Layers for Cold Weather Hunting

Staying warm doesn't have to be a chore: with the right base layer, you can move freely without feeling bogged down by weight.

The Best Base Layers for Cold Weather Hunting

A quality base layer, along with a technique for properly layering the rest of your clothes, can prevent harmful exposure and help you get the most out of your winter wear. A proper layering technique allows you to maintain your central body heat while also protecting you from snow and cold air. 

When you are working or hunting outdoors in the winter months, you should use an inside layer for wicking away your body’s moisture, a center layer of clothing for insulation, and an outside layer to protect your body from the harsh elements.

For your inside layer, it’s best to pick something crafted from silk, wool, or synthetic fibers, rather than something made of cotton. Cotton can trap your body’s moisture, becoming damp and increasing risks from the cold. 

Other types of fabric, on the other hand, will let moisture freely evaporate, keeping your body dry and warm. We have compiled a list of the best base layers for cold weather for you, followed by the features that make them great. Read on to learn more.

Our Top Cold Weather Hunting Base Layer Picks

  1. Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 Zip T
  2. REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Crew Top
  3. Icebreaker Men's Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Top
  4. Ibex Merino Wool Men's Woolies 1 Crew Shirt
  5. ULTRA Merino 125 LS Crew-T
  6. Sitka Merino Core Bottom
  7. Under Armour Base 3.0 Leggings

These products were chosen because of their reputation among outdoorsmen and other users, as well as our personal experience and the overall user experience as reviewed by others in the industry. Continue reading to learn more about each option.



Athletic Merino Wool Performance

Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 Zip T 

merino wool base layer

This slim fit option was knit in Vietnam and is crafted from 100 percent Merino wool. The top includes shoulder panels to eliminate shoulder seams on the top and the seam construction completely eradicates risks of chafing. The material is breathable while being warm and comfortable. 

This shirt is very versatile. It works well for hunting, skiing, or working outside. You can even wear it under your sweater to the office in winter or for outdoor jogs. For those who are seeking an alternative to synthetic or plastic materials, this material is ideal. 

"Combining a stylish construction with craftsmanship that added comfort," said Ross Robinson at OutdoorGearLab, "it was a piece we could quickly forget we were wearing (in a good way)."

Wear this layer for hours and hours outside in below freezing weather and it will keep you even warmer than a T-shirt and hoodie under your winter coat. In order to preserve the life of your Smartwool zip tee, make sure you wash it on a gentle setting and hang to dry. This shirt is made from quality materials and built to last.

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Affordable Midweight Warmth

REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Crew Top

rei midweight base layer

This fitted base layer will keep you dry and insulated even during intense outdoor exercise in winter. Wear it snowshoeing, hiking, skiing, and of course, hunting. This durable spandex/polyester blend dries quickly and wicks moisture effectively, while the mineral based finish on the material keeps the top free from unappealing odors. 

"Several of our male testers told me they use REI synthetic baselayers (lightweight, not midweight) in their personal outdoor activities and have had them last longer than ten years," said Elizabeth Thomas at the Wirecutter.

The side gussets, raglan sleeves, and Flat seam construction will allow you to stay comfortable, even during intense movements. This top offers UPF 50 protection from the sun, was made in the USA and has a drop tail hem for keeping your back covered when you need to bend forward.

The hem will settle comfortably under your backpack’s hip belt. For the fabric, cut, and fit you get from this brand, testers have found that this is an incredible deal.

REI synthetics offers an outer fabric that has a silky feel, perfect for bushwhacking and layering as it will not snag on jackets. In addition, the polyester and spandex blend is stretchy, offering full mobility for your body while you’re on the go. 

The tops are warm and comfortable without adding unnecessary bulk and the construction of the flat seam is efficient for preventing painful chafing. Layer this at night and stay warm. The fabric feels smooth against the skin, fits snugly, and will dry fast to keep you warm, even after you sweat. 




High-Performance Moisture Wicking

Icebreaker Men's Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Top 

icebreaker base layer

This naturally odor-resistant base layer helps your body stay fresh for longer periods of time with a moisture wicking function to keep you comfortable and dry.

The 200gm Merino material allows you to stay warm, even in conditions that are below freezing while the drop tail hem of the shirt protects your lower back from cold winds. Chafing is a bit of a concern when it comes to under armor, so you’ll be happy to know that the flat locked seams on the Icebreaker Crewe Top prevent this.  

"This merino wool top naturally regulates temperature to keep you warm or cool, so it’s great for winter, spring, or fall," said Andrew Bettlach and Amy Schlinger at Best Products. "It’s engineered to absorb and release moisture, and it’s naturally antibacterial, so it will stay fresher for longer than most thermals."

This long sleeve top is an active layer built with a lightweight construction to manage moisture and provide your body with core temperature stability. In addition, it helps to keep your heart rate low with its thermoregulation properties. The shoulder seams are intentionally offset to prevent pack rub and the top is warm and soft, holding up well even with continuous use. 

The fit of this top is not as slim as the Icebreaker’s BodyFit line, which makes it ideal for outings that involve a lot of movement. It’s not uncommon to purchase a variety of base layer tops for a variety of occasions, but this one can do it all. It’s soft, comfortable, and durable, keeping odors away. 

To properly care for this material, clean it correctly and hang it up to dry. This extra effort will pay off in a longer life for your under armor. The cost of this layer is worth the convenience that comes with traveling with the top and not needing to wash it as often as you would other materials. It works great for minimalist-minded people! 

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Lightweight, High-End Comfort

Ibex Merino Wool Men's Woolies 1 Crew Shirt 

merino wool base layer for hunting

This 14 percent nylon, 86 percent merino wool base layer from Ibex is imported, has a tag-free label, and comes with Flat lock seams. The guide-approved, award-winning ribbed material is luxurious, yet durable, even in harsh and rigorous outdoor conditions.

The 18.5 wool yarn is superfine and offers a close-to-body, warm fit that maintains its shape while moving with your body. 

"Buy this base layer if you run, snowshoe, or otherwise sweat a lot outside in the winter," said Steve Graepel at Gear Junkie. "We trust the thin merino wool to regulate temp and keep us warm even when soaked with sweat."

This top is comfortable, with seams and stitches that are not felt and material that is extremely soft. This is great as a base layer and has a slim fit.

Wear it under your T-shirts and keep in mind that you should order one size up for a looser fit. The Merino wool is from Ibex and is of great quality. The material isn’t too light or too heavy and will wick away sweat, keeping odors at bay. 

The layer is cozy and light, ideal for weather between October and May. Please note that the material doesn’t breathe or wick quite as well as synthetic layers and may retain more body moisture than these. It may be best suited for cycling or hiking out in the cool weather. 

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Top-of-the-Line Hunting Layer

ULTRA Merino 125 LS Crew-T 

ultra merino kuiu hunting

The ULTRA Merino 125 is the ideal mix of Nylon and wool, offering a durable, comfortable choice for hunting in the winter. Naturally resistant to odors, moisture wicking, and free from itch, the fine 17.5 New Zealand Merino material and comfortable long sleeves take the harshness out of cold conditions. Enjoy maximum breathability with this base layer’s knit side panels. 

Optimal for offering light insulation in cold weather or wicking away moisture in warm conditions, this top will give you a multi-purpose solution for your base layer problem.

The ULTRA Merino 125 LS Crew-T offers a thermo-regulating, spandex-free stretch, Flat lock seams, anatomical shaping to provide comfort and fit, and is all-around resilient, breathable, quick drying. 

The shirt comes with raglan sleeves and side panels for reduced chafing and added comfort. Classic, traditional yarns can get itchy, while Nuyarn layers fibers for a stronger and less prickly wearing experience. These lower-density materials offer a lighter-weight top that outperforms heavier garments. 

This naturally odor-fighting fabric weighs 125g and is a 15 percent Nylon, 85 percent wool blend. This Crew-T is the fastest drying and lightest of all Merino layers offered by the brand and is the ideal base layer for active hunters.

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Premium Bottom Base Layer

Sitka Merino Core Bottom

best merino wool base layer bottoms.jpg

With similar benefits as Merino tops, these bottoms are an ideal base layer for many cold conditions and landscapes. They will keep your body temperature regulated, keeping moisture off your skin and odors at bay.

The fabric is 100 percent Merino wool with 18.9 Micron knit and 210 GM. They weight just under 8 oz. for an ultra-light wearing experience. You may even forget they are there! 

"Sitka has been a force in the hunting world for some time. These polyester blended pants will keep you warm even in the chilly winter weather," said Wadinglab in their review. "Great for the active outdoors men with four-way stitching to prevent stretching out. This stitching also enables freedom of movement."

Merino wool has been appreciated for a long time in athletic wear and for activities such as cycling, skiing, hiking, running, and hunting. Since this material naturally keeps odors away, it’s great for hunting.

For optimal regulation of body temperature with these bottoms, wear them as your first layer, against your skin. The wool will wick moisture away and offer you warmth without uncomfortable overheating.

Ideal for temperatures between the 20’s and 30’s (F), these bottoms are ideal for the stalk and the stand out in hunting. They fit excellently and are every bit as effective as tops offered by the same brand. The material is quiet and comes in camouflage for your hunting excursions. 

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One of Today's Best-rated Base Layers

Under Armour Base 3.0 Leggings

under armour leggings.jpg

Looking for leggings with minimum bulk and maximum warmth? The Under Armour Base 3.0 Leggings are all you need as your bottom base layer.

Use them for falconry, ice fishing, hunting, and more. The heavyweight, 7-oz. material will help you stay comfortable and warm, even in temperatures well below freezing and the Flat lock stitching prevents uncomfortable chafing.

The seam placement on these bottoms ensures an ergonomic fit while the performance waistband offers maximum comfort for long hours out in the snow. Rest assured that the anti-odor technology will keep you well-hidden from your prey and that the construction of these bottoms will fit in a slim, convenient manner. 

These bottoms are crafted with a smooth exterior, making them ideal for simple, easy layering. The negative grid, brushed, soft interior is designed to trap hot air inside, offering superior warmth.

The four-way stretch fabric allows maintains the shape of the bottoms while offering you greater mobility out on the trail. The fabrication is designed to dry quickly, staying comfortable and light.

They are perfect for temperatures between 0 and 40 F but you may sweat in temperatures higher than this. In colder temperatures, you need to layer accordingly, of course. If you have a job that involves going between the indoors and outdoors, these will work perfectly, keeping you cool inside and warm outside. 

These imported bottoms may be machine washed and dried and the stitching allows for a wide range of mobility free from painful chafing. Wear them out in three feet of snow or during chilly fly fishing excursions. As a base layer, you should try to go for a snug fit, so keep this in mind while ordering. 

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Tips on Staying Safe and Warm in the Cold

Base layers are important for keeping your body warm, but what else should you consider during long outdoor trips in the cold in terms of safety?

  • Visibility: One key consideration you should keep in mind is that winter gets dark, meaning low-visibility is a risk. When it comes to your outerwear, find high-visibility clothing that can be seen in snowy and foggy conditions. Along with preventing dangerous collisions in the outdoors, highly visible outerwear will help rescuers find you in the unfortunate event that you get lost while out hunting.
  • Use a Warm Middle Layer: We’ve gone over some reasons why a base layer matters, but what about a middle layer? A middle layer traps the air closest to your skin, helping it become and stay warm. Goose down, wool, and synthetic fleeces are quality materials for this and come in varying weights for your unique needs.
  • Upper Body Wear: Don’t neglect hats, face masks, winter liners, or scarves when you’re suiting up to go hunting in the snow. Heat can easily escape when your head is exposed and chilly air is harsh on noses and ears. These parts of your body will not only get cold but eventually suffer nerve damage without the proper precautions. Prevent amputations by covering these areas, but don’t forget to keep your field of vision open.
  • Lower Body Wear: Don’t neglect your lower body when layering up in the cold months. Insulating glove liners, waterproof gloves, waterproof coveralls, thermal pants and underwear, leggings, socks, and waterproof boots are all important.

You might think that this sounds like a lot of hassle to think about before going out to hunt, but even a little bit of time will go a long way to keeping you protected, healthy, and warm. Keep in mind that layering does take planning, preparation, and a bit of an investment, but an ER visit will take up even more time and money!