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Winter Gear Guide

The Best Cold Weather Baselayers for 2022

Staying warm in cold weather starts with reliable baselayers. Our experts have rounded up the best tops and bottoms to keep your core warm and dry.

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Cold weather baselayers are tasked with keeping out the chill, keeping in the warm, and wicking moisture away from the body. Humans can produce an incredible amount of heat when exercising. Even at low temps like 10°F, overheating during vigorous activities is a serious concern. Upon stopping, hypothermia very quickly takes over as a threat. 

This is why high-quality baselayers are so important in cold weather. When they do their jobs, good base layers are barely noticeable. Beyond their performance with heat regulation, they should also be comfortable, quick-drying, and at least a little stink-resistant. It helps when they don’t break the bank either. 

What Cold Weather Baselayers are Best for You?

Baselayers are no different from other high-performance gear. There is no single product that can do everything (though some come close). Logic dictates that the more you sweat, the more important fabric wicking ability is. Conversely, less strenuous activities emphasize baselayers that insulate and retain heat. 

There are baselayers for all types of activities, so the maxim “know thyself” is an important part of the process. Does your body run hot or cold? Do you like zipper vents or thin, quick-drying layers? Are you a sweaty beast or do you glisten?  What temperature range is suitable for you? Finally, are you ok with being a little bit warm or a little cold?

Our experts have rounded up a fine selection of baselayers for all types of outdoors enthusiasts and a variety of activities. Read on to find your perfect match. 

outdoor research — best winter baselayers of 2022
There isn’t much this handy baselayer from Outdoor Research can’t handle. (Photo: Courtesy)

Best All-Around

Outdoor Research Alpine Onset Quarter Zip/Half Zip

  • Price: $99
  • Weight: 8.1 oz.
  • Size: m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XXL
  • Buy Now

Working hard in frigid temps can be tricky; your layers have to walk the tightrope between breathability and warmth. On redlining skins in Colorado’s San Juans with temps around 10°F, the merino wool/ recycled polyester/elastane blend wicked sweat quick enough to keep the chills away (though it’s not very warm at these temps when you’re not working hard). When it did get wet, the material dried within an hour while still keeping moisture away from our skin. Come spring, this top was breathable and comfortable on its own as temps rose into the 40s. The high collar and zip (quarter for men, half for women) lent welcome protection and venting. Fit is medium, allowing plenty of mobility, and the Alpine Onset didn’t stretch after several days of continuous wear. Stink management is also good for a blend: Testers managed to wear this top for eight days between washes. 

columbia best winter baselayers of 2022
You get a lot for a little with this affordable baselayer from Columbia. (Photo: Courtesy)

Best Bargain

Columbia Midweight Stretch Long Sleeve Top

  • Price: $55
  • Weight: 6.6 oz.
  • Size: m’s S-XXL and LT-5XT , w’s XS-XXL and 1X-3X
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When you get right down to it, a baselayer’s job is to wick sweat away, and thereby help your layering system keep you warm. With that in mind, this simple top—the cheapest one in the test—deserves a raise. “While ascending steep trails in the Washington Cascades at 45°F, I stayed nearly dry,” says one tester who wore the Midweight Stretch on its own. Wicking power comes courtesy of the 85 percent polyester, 15 percent elastane fabric that siphons moisture to the surface and spreads it out for quicker evaporation. The Midweight Stretch kept us warm down to 20°F, aided by heat-reflecting aluminum dots on the interior. It also proved durable on the sandstone walls of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument: “I jammed, chimneyed, and crawled, but the worst damage I managed to inflict was some loose cuff threads,” one climber says.

voormi best winter baselayers of 2022
This Voormi baselayer vents sweat and heat like no other. (Photo: Courtesy)

Most Breathable

Voormi Long Sleeve Baselayer Crew

  • Price: $119
  • Weight: 13 oz.
  • Size: m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL
  • Buy Now

Our sweatiest testers did their best to swamp out this shirt with a winter’s worth of hiking and cross-country skiing (while hauling a toddler behind them), but never managed to overwhelm its wicking prowess. That’s doubly impressive for a top that’s 73 percent merino wool, which typically comes in second to synthetic fabrics in the wicking department. The secret is in the construction: The interior has an ultrathin layer of 25 percent polyester fibers that vacuum up sweat and then spread it out over the wool exterior for evaporation (the other 2 percent is Lycra). Merino wool/ polyester mesh panels running from the armpits down the sides boost breathability. “I run really hot, and this layer was perfect paired with just a fleece midlayer for high activity down to the teens,” reports one Montana tester. Ding: Durability is lacking. One sample got small holes where the material rubbed between a belt buckle and a hipbelt. 

Kuiu best winter baselayers of 2022
This hooded top from Kuiu is ready for any adventure. (Photo: Courtesy)

Most Versatile

Kuiu Ultra Merino 145 Zip-T Hoodie

  • Price: $119
  • Weight: 9.2 oz.
  • Size: m’s S-3XL
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When we rode the mercury up and down the thermometer, this trusty hooded top was right there with us. While winter camping at Alaska’s Turnagain Pass at -11°F, “it kept me cozy on its own despite the fact that I was only in a 0°F sleeping bag,” one tester says. We also reached for the Ultra Merino when we went trail running and cross-country skiing into the 40s (worn solo), thanks to its breathability and moisture movement. The secret: a midweight material made from merino wool fibers wrapped around a nylon core. The combo pairs wool’s thermoregulation with nylon’s durability and wicking. Knit panels on the sides keep air flowing. “I was happy to have this quick- dry top while carrying a 40-pound pack in the Chugach—it kept me warm all day despite below-freezing temps,” reports another tester. The Ultra Merino’s snug-fitting hood kept our ears warm, and the chest pocket stores sunblock or a snack. A deep chest zipper also dumps heat.

lebent best winter baselayers of 2022
Looking for pure comfort? You can’t do much better than this top from Le Bent. (Photo: Courtesy)


Le Bent Crew 200 and Core 200 Bottom

  • Price: $90 (top or bottom)
  • Weight: 8.3 oz. (top); 6 oz. (bottom)
  • Size: m’s S-XL, w’s XS-L
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Not only did we ski tour, cross-country ski, hike, and build snow shelters in these supremely luxe-feeling layers, but our testers also admitted to attending Zoom classes, doing yoga, and gardening in them, too. That’s how cozy the Crew and Core’s bamboo rayon (66.5 percent), merino wool (28.5 percent), and elastane (5 percent) blend proved to be. But these aren’t just glorified jammies: The material kept pace with our sweat while we skinned in the 20s in Vermont’s Green Mountains and built a quinzee in Alaska at 15°F. When we soaked them, they felt dry within 30 minutes. A stretchy, medium fit adds to the comfort factor; the Crew never restricted movement, yet layered bunch-free under other tops. The merino wool content gives this set impressive stink resistance: We wore it for five straight days of hiking and cross-country skiing without having to hold our noses. And although the Core did start to pill a bit on the pants inseam and upper thigh after months of regular use, we experienced no bagging out. The midweight fabric’s sweet spot is moderate to high activity with temps in the 20s to the 50s.

mammut best winter baselayers of 2022
This next-to-skin baselayer from Mammut has heavy material where you need it, and thinner fabric where you don’t.

Best Bodymapping

Mammut Trift Half Zip Longsleeve

  • Price: $119
  • Weight: 7.2 oz.
  • Size: m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL
  • Buy Now

Your belly button doesn’t exactly sweat like your pits do, so why dress them in the same kind of fabric? That’s the idea behind this body-mapped shirt, which strategically places a more open knit on the hot- test zones (the pits, shoulders, and mid-back in the men’s, and the lower back and midrift in the women’s) and a denser one everywhere else. Even better: Mammut employs a seamless knitting technique that transitions between the two weights without any irritating ridges. The construction whisked sweat away quickly when we started dripping on the uphills at Montana’s Blue Mountain Recreation Area. “I was worried about catching a chill on the way back down, but this layer kept me warm and dried surprisingly fast,” notes one tester. A trim fit aids in wicking, and we appreciated the chest zipper for swift heat dumps when pushing hard. The lightweight material—a blend of 59 percent nylon, 39 percent merino wool, and 2 percent elastane—kept our fires stoked into the teens as part of a layering system and felt just right on its own in the 40s and 50s. The high synthetic content boosts durability (we saw no signs of wear over a season of testing), but there’s enough merino to make stink management very good (we could wear the Trift three days in a row before we noticed any BO). Fit note: It’s a bit tight in the upper chest for both men and women.

ridge merino best winter baselayers of 2022
If you’re looking for a solid pair of bottoms, Ridge Merino has you covered (literally). (Photo: Courtesy)

Best Bottoms

Ridge Merino Aspect High Rise Base Layer Bottoms

  • Price: $75
  • Weight: 7.2 oz.
  • Size: w’s XS-3XL
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Like some trendy pants these days, these bottoms have a high waist. Unlike the typical fashion-forward wardrobe, however, this high cut serves a functional purpose. “On a windy, 10°F skate ski session, these bottoms made sure no icy breezes snuck under my shell and reached my skin,” says one Montana tester. “And the wide waistband kept them in place under a harness when hauling my young son in a sled.” The midweight, 80 percent merino wool, 14 percent nylon, 6 percent spandex fabric kept us warm into the single digits while skate skiing at Mon- tana’s Pattee Canyon; for less aerobic resort skiing, they were cozy down to the low 20s. They started feeling too toasty in the 30s with high exertion, but still whisked sweat away efficiently enough to prevent the sauna effect. The high merino wool content kept BO to a minimum after several days of intense workouts, but they did begin to lose their shape within the same period. Moderate stretch means you might want to size up for maximum mobility. Bonus: The Aspect High Rise comes in extended sizing.

Baselayer Care

It’s important to follow the washing instructions specific to your product. Good baselayers aren’t cheap and you want them to last as long as possible. The general rule is to wash baselayers in a gentle detergent and let them air dry. If you’ll be wearing them a lot, handwashing is a good option to further reduce wear and tear. 

Another good idea is to use your best baselayers exclusively for your favorite outdoor activities. Chances are that shoveling the driveway, waiting for the bus, or walking the dog won’t require high-end, super-fabrics. Generic long underwear can take care of grunt work where you won’t be outside all that long or sweating all that hard (mileage may vary on snow shoveling). 

best winter baselayers 2022
Picking the right baselayer will give you a warm start to your winter adventures. (Photo: artursfoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty)

Baselayers: Final Thoughts

Good baselayers are well worth the investment. With your core dry and warm, you can better strategize your midlayers and outer shells. While there is a significant difference of need between, say, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, a good all-around baselayer will set the stage for comfortable winter fun. 

Baselayers can last many seasons with proper care. Old-timers still wearing polypropylene underwear from the 1970s can attest to that. However, those old-timers also smell awful in their 1970s underwear because fabric technology has come a long way in the past 50 years. Blends of natural fibers such as wool and coconut combine with modern synthetics to create some truly high-tech underwear. 

Cool-to-cold weather requires a good clothing strategy. Baselayers are perhaps the most important part of that equation. Once you find a good match for your body type and preferred cold-weather fun, you’ll be well-equipped to stay outside longer and with more comfort. 

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