Base layers are crucial when combatting cold weather, and especially so when you’re skiing. When you don’t invest in quality base layers and thermals, you can kiss a great ski season goodbye and say hello to hypothermia.
To ensure you don’t put yourself in danger, make sure you get your hands on a base layers that not only offer exceptional insulation, but ones that are going to effectively wick moisture away from your body & be a dab hand are preventing odour build-up. Oh, and you want stretchy, comfortable materials too.
What is a base layer?
Where are our manners. What if you’re not sure exactly what a base layer is. Well, essentially, it’s an insulating layer of clothing that you wear close to the skin, that works by drawing moisture away from the skin to keep you dry. In doing so, you remain warm, and since you’ll be wearing base layers when the temperatures gets rather cold, they soon become a necessity.
Which base layer is best for me?
To help decide which base layer is going to be best for you, you need to learn about the different weights of base layer you can expect to find. Most manufacturers will label their base layers as either lightweight, mid-weight or heavyweight (although the criteria for each can differ from brand to brand).
Lightweight base layers are designed to be worn next to the skin. You can choose to wear a mid-weight or heavyweight layer over the top if you wish, but if you’re in slightly cooler temperatures, you can wear it on its own, with a hoodie or ski jacket over the top.
Mid-weight base layers can also be worn on their own, or over the top of a lightweight layer. They will offer slightly more warmth than a lightweight layer, and are perhaps the best option for resort skiers.
A heavyweight base layer is usually worn over the top of a lightweight layer. Their main purpose is to provide extra warmth, and don’t offer much in the way of moisture management. A heavyweight base layer over a lightweight could be a good option for après-ski, and if you’re skiing somewhere exceptionally cold, it will be a must under a ski jacket.
Though it may seem daunting, we’ve uncovered some of the brands producing incredible base layers right now, ensuring you can create a quality layering system geared to be high performing and protective.
Price: From $15
Material: 100% Cotton
Customer Reviews: “Does great base layer job. Moisture wicking and odor control all I need.”
Uniqlo is one of the most innovative winter clothing brands out there. Starting from humble beginnings, what began as a manufacturer in Yamaguchi, Japan, now has over 1000 stores globally. Uniqlo is primarily known for fusing advanced technology into its fabrics, making them an absolute staple winter brand.
Uniqlo has a range of clothing called HEATTECH, which comprises shirts of various styles (crew neck, turtleneck etc) that make a perfect base layer for skiing. They offer incredible breathability, yet also keep you exceptionally warm. Uniqlo actually offers various level of warmth, such as Extra Warm or Ultra Warm.
Uniqlo’s HEATTECH fabric technology offers an almost endless list of benefits, including, insulation, anti-microbial treatment, anti-static, moisture-wicking, moisturising, breathability, and self-deodorising properties, guaranteed to keep you comfortable at all times. Best of all, Uniqlo base layers are available in short and long sleeve options, and all are ridiculously affordable.
Price: From $105
Material: 100% Merino wool
Customer Reviews: “Super lightweight and WARM. Perfect layer for seasonal transitions.”
24-year-old Jeremy Moon founded his company Icebreaker in the mid-nineties to set out and create garments suitable for outdoor exploration. Icebreaker is well known for crafting its products out of natural merino wool. They were even one of the first companies to establish a long term partnership with merino wool growers in New Zealand, making their products incredibly eco-friendly and sustainable.
Icebreaker’s merino wool base layers are simply perfect for skiing, as they’re designed to withstand the most challenging climates, yet keep you warm and offer free and easy movement all at the same time.
Each base layer is given a weighted number, which refers to how warm it will keep you. So, if you’re just wanting a light layer for a winter frolic in slight warmer countries such as Australia, or if you’re going sub-zero in Canada, you’ll easily be able to find the perfect base layer for your needs.
Price: From $22
Material: Organic cotton, recycled polyester
Customer Reviews: “Perfect fit, great color and the fact it’s reversible, Win-Win.”
It’s hard to imagine this iconic Australian clothing brand started manufacturing Dunlop bicycle tyres back in 1893. Today, the company features apparel from famous brands including Bond, Sheridan and Berlei. Hanes is based in Melbourne but operates throughout Australia, New Zealand, China, Indonesia, and the U.K.
If you’re looking for a remarkably sturdy yet delicate base layer, check out their online store, as these tops are crafted from rich materials, promising extra durability and softness against the skin. Hanes has a wide selection of thermals that help retain body heat, wick moisture and are anti-odour. These shirts come in various colours, lengths, sizes and patterns, so you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for in an undergarment.
Price: From $50
Customer Reviews: “Really a great base layer with a lot of warmth for the weight. Its like wearing a comfy emergency blanket that keeps you nice and toasty.”
In 1938, Paul Lamfrom founded Columbia, which became one of the biggest outdoor clothing brands ever. This brand reflects its Pacific Northwest heritage while combining groundbreaking technologies into all of its products. You’ll struggle to find a brand offering higher quality and warmer designs than Columbia.
Columbia has a comprehensive collection of base layers for skiing, that will keep you toasty in the lowest temperatures. These highly comfortable tops feature Omni Heat technology, trapping body heat inside, yet not so much that you become a sweaty, clammy mess. Columbia base layers are incredibly functional due to their 4-way stretch fabrics while also helping to wick away moisture, and are available with or without a zip, depending on where to plan to wear it.
Perhaps a crew neck base layer under a hoodie and a ski jacket on the slopes, and a zipped base layer on its own for après-ski?
Price: From $50
Customer Reviews: “This long sleeve performance is perfection!”
Stormtech is one of the most reliable, high-performing winter apparel brands around, as it was founded in cold climates of Western Canada. Since its founding, Stormtech has grown to become one of the most reputable brands for cold weather gear, meaning its base layers for men are well worth considering.
Stormtech base layers make a great partner when skiing due to their moisture-wicking properties combined with “unrestricted movement and breathability.” They are a little more expensive than some others on this list, but when you can be assured of outright quality in return, they’re worth every penny.
The North Face
Price: From $45
Material: TENCEL™ Lyocell
Customer Reviews: “Very comfortable, soft and good fit.”
Since 1966, The North Face has led the outdoor clothing industry with its top-grade apparel. Aside from producing high-quality clothing, the brand is also incredibly sustainable through ethical manufacturing, which aims to improve the welfare of animals. North Face’s clothing is crafted from synthetic fabrics, ensuring no animals are subjected to unnecessary harm.
Their collection of men’s base layers come in a range of different colours, styles and lengths, regardless if you’re after a heavyweight waffle knit or a lightweight, highly breathable thermal; they have you sorted. These top-notch base layers offer optimal warmth and comfortability for even the coldest weather conditions.
Price: From $59
Customer Reviews: “Great mid weight base layer. Perfect for layering.”
Champion began as a Knitting Mills in Rochester, New York, in 1919 that quickly became known for manufacturing the best clothing for sports teams and the military. Since then, they have continued to build their legacy and pioneer the athletic wear industry with trendy yet high tech apparel.
Champion has a series of base layers that are super stretchy, flexible and lightweight, yet are tough enough to promise optimal warmth. Champion’s base layers are available in different styles, some of light activity and others for more intense activity. So all you need to ask yourself now is, how hard are you going to go on the mountain?
Price: From $110
Material: 100% Merino wool
Customer Reviews: “Overall an awesome base layer, soft, warm, breathable. A little pricey but you do get what you pay for.”
Smart Wool was established in 1994 by a team of outdoor fanatics who wanted to inspire people to get moving through their revolutionary clothing. Smart Wool began manufacturing socks from merino wool (the first to do s0) which were geared to help you ski longer, without your feet feeling the cold. And, soon after, the brand began creating a more versatile line of highly insulation, yet breathable clothing, all made from the magic of merino wool.
Smart Wool base layers, therefore, are perfect for skiing. They’re extremely warm and cosy and feature moisture-wicking capabilities, keeping you fresh and clean. What makes Smart Wool base layers so appealing, is that due to the merino wool fabric, you’re able to benefit from incredible insulation, without the weight. This means you really do get to move freely and easily, without ever feeling the chill. They’re probably some of the best layers for men available right now.
Price: From $115
Material: 100% Merino wool
Customer Reviews: “One of the nicest pieces of clothing I ever owned. Very comfortable!”
Outdoor enthusiasts Palmer West and Jonah Smith founded Aether in 2009 after becoming frustrated with the mediocre equipment available at the time. West and Smith set out to buckle this trend, creating stellar outdoor apparel guaranteed to be highly protected and performative.
Like Smart Wool, Aether uses merino wool for its collection of base layers. It’s honestly a wonder why more companies don’t use it, since it’s a natural insulator, offers high levels of breathability, can prevent odour and moisture build-up, and it’s incredibly soft against the skin. And, what Aether has done, is made them look incredibly stylish. There is only one base layer top available at present, but when it performs as good as it does, why bother with anything else?
Price: From $79
Customer Reviews: “This top is superbly made. It is very light, yet warm. It is stylish, does not restrict movement whateover, and is extremely comfortable.”
Founded on the idea “there is always a better way”, Arc’teryx have always created products pushing the boundaries of fashion and technology. The coastal mountains serve as a testing ground for Arc’teryx, enabling them to tinker and trial their equipment in the harshest environments. Additionally, Arc’teryx is also one of the only clothing manufacturers with independent manufacturing facilities, fusing advanced technology with their clothing.
Owing to the cold climate of the place they call home, Arc’teryx has developed a truly capable collection of base layers for men, that will certainly help you out come ski season. You have the choice of different fabric weights for different activities, and within this, you can choose between crew neck or a 1/4 zip.
While the entire base layer isn’t made from merino wool, Arc’teryx has employed the material in strategic places to help prevent moisture and odour build-up. Elsewhere, the company’s own Phasic AR II fabric makes an appearance, which is just as capable of offering stretch, warmth and comfort.
Price: From $52
Material: Merino wool, recycled polyester
Customer Reviews: “Amazingly soft and comfortable! Great fit. Washes well.”
Outdoor Research is an award-winning brand that literally makes it its mission to design excellent clothing for the great outdoors. After a glacier expedition went wrong, Outdoor Research founded Ron Gregg launched this company to offer ultimate protection products.
Outdoor Research has a series of merino wool base layers designed to seal out the cold in even the most challenging weather conditions, yet are durable enough to last season after season and still control moisture.
Price: From $22
Customer Reviews: “This is a warm and comfortable base layer. Seems to handle sweat well.”
For over 35 years, Trespass has been a staple international sportswear brand, specialising in ski and snowboard clothing. Founded in Glasgow, Scotland, Trespass delivers quality and stylish apparel guaranteed to be performance-enhancing and that is, above all else, affordable.
Trespass has a diverse collection of base layer tops, catering to all budgets. From merino wool thermals to quick-drying base layers, you’re sure to find what you want. If you’re searching for something with extra coverage, they have tops that come with a high neckline – so there’s no need for a scarf. Also, many of these base layers are available in sets, so you can purchase the matching thermal bottoms too.
Price: From $38
Material: Recycled polyester
Customer Reviews: “Very good underwear, it is warm, breathable and soft to touch. It is true to size. Recommend.”
This pioneering clothing brand was founded in Norway in 1948 by Odd Roar Lofterod. Initially, Lofterod began designed products for his son – a groundbreaking speed skater. Ever since its launch, Odlo has led the industry thanks to its innovative designs – they were even the first company to introduce functional sports underwear, so it’s safe to say they have known a thing or two about quality undergarments.
Their range of base layers can sustain in even harsh Norwegian weather, making them some of the most well built, durable base layers for skiing. Odlo has a vast number of base layers available in different cuts, colours and styles, from long sleeve tops with mesh venting to light, breathable short sleeve thermals.
Price: From $42
Material: Recycled polyester
Customer Reviews: “I find these surprisingly comfortable while active. They wick moisture well and keep me toasty. ”
Helly Hansen launched his eponymous label in 1877 after creating products that could better protect people from harsh Norwegian weather, and is renowned for producing some of the best and most sustainable ski wear geared to keep you warm and comfortable in the cold.
Helly Hansen has a rather large selection of thermals and base layers made from synthetic materials and cutting edge technology, including its own LIFA moisture management and insulting fabric technology. They look good, will feel good and will perform even better. They’re some of the best around.