Best Base Layers for Hunting Reviewed (2021): Wool, Cotton, Silk & Synthetic Inner Layers for Optimum Comfort & Warmth | Buyer’s Guide Included
- Robert Stevens
If the animal you’re hunting intends to keep itself safe, so are you! Whether you’re going to hunt a deer, wild boar, pheasant or duck, your hunting apparels could ensure a safe, comfortable, enjoyable, and successful hunting trip.
Hunting apparels vary depending on what you decide to hunt and the season in which you’re going to hunt. We suggest that you start a layering system with a base layer and choose something that’s relatively breathable, lightweight, and comfortable.
The RangerExpert team reviewed a number of base layers from several popular brands and then shortlisted the best base layers for hunting. Check out our reviews and buying guide to make the perfect choice for yourself!
What You Will Get Here
- Base Layers Comparison Chart (Updated 2021)
- Hunting Base Layer Comparison Chart (Updated 2021)
- Why Follow Our Lead
- Our Product Selection & Testing Procedure
- Our Top 10 Base Layers for Hunting
- 5 Base Layer Tops
- MERIWOOL Merino Wool Men's Base Layer
- Icebreaker Merino Men’s Oasis
- Smartwool Men’s Merino 250
- ColdPruf Men’s Platinum II
- Smartwool Men’s Base Layer Top Active Crew
- 5 Best Base Layer Bottoms
- Other Notable Brands & Models
- Why Use Base Layers
- Different Layers for Hunting
- Base Layers – Buyer’s Guide
- Tips on Staying Warm & Safe
- A Word from RangerExpert
Base Layers Comparison Chart (Updated 2021)
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Why Follow Our Lead
This platform was established by a group of shooting and hunting enthusiasts that love the thrill of following the game's trail and the sense of accomplishment achieved through a humane kill with a clean shot. We've been doing this since our childhood days with our fathers and grandfathers. So, you can say this is in our blood that we cannot live without.
However, we've noticed many hunting enthusiasts make so many mistakes during their expeditions while unfortunately the whole hunting community has to take the blame. This is the reason we're eager to share our hunting experience with you through this platform. We believe that we can teach you a thing or two so you can be a better hunter in no time.
In our bid to help the like-minded people understand the different pieces of the puzzle that make up a good hunter, we also review different types of hunting equipment. The very reason you're here is because of our endeavor to publish honest and unbiased reviews. Our large audience base is getting benefited by this endeavor of ours and we welcome you to join the ranks.
Our Product Selection & Testing Procedure
At first, we listed down 26 of the most popular base layers from renowned brands after a 20-hour long research online and then began testing one by one in various climatic conditions. We had to involve a volunteer group in our testing process because we ourselves could not manage all the fabrics and this took a lot of time (around 6 months)
When testing, we kept in mind the essential factors that differentiated a good product from a bad one, including comfort, fabric weight, material, breathability, fit, and odor resistance. By the time we were done, we already had a clear idea about the overall quality and performance of each base layer.
Based on our findings, we championed these 10 models that we're presenting here. Now you won't have to let discomfort come in your way when you're in the wild.
Our Top 10 Base Layers for Hunting
So, What is the best base layer? We've categorized these 10 items in two major categories - top and bottom layers - for your convenience.
5 Base Layer Tops
The Merino Wool top will be your favorite hunting garment this season. This natural fiber is from Merino sheep of Australia, so it offers plenty of natural benefits. It can wick away sweat better than any other material, helping you to stay cool on warm days and providing warmth during the winter weeks. It naturally adapts to your body temperature such that you are always comfortable despite the weather.
This Merino wool is different as it warms your body but does not create unwanted odor. It has a natural antimicrobial property that destroys the growth of bacteria while allowing you to smell fresh and clean. With this, you will feel more confident knowing that you are fresh all day.
This first layer is neither too thin nor too thick, allowing you to wear it based on your bodily needs. Besides, the diameter of the fibers is much smaller when compared to other wool types, making it more flexible and soft to touch.
The finishing and fit was excellent for us. It was not too tight nor too loose on the body. We noticed that the sleeves had extra length to accommodate users with longer arms.
The fabric is 90% wool and 10% cotton, though there is no difference in terms of quality and performance. We found that it did not provide enough cover for the neck area, but this was not a deal-breaker for us because a good hunting mask worked for us.
This Merino wool is machine washable but for better results and durability, we recommend you hand wash and dry it in the sun. It is also available in various sizes and colors.
Currently, it retails at around $60 irrespective of the size you choose, which is quite affordable despite the value it provides. This is also one of the highest rated inner layers on top eStores like Amazon. This is a tell-tale sign that other wearers were happy with their purchase.
Merino wool is what you need when looking for the best base layer for hunting. It is highly versatile such that it maintains constant body temperature in heat or extreme cold. It is affordable and we strongly encourage you to wear it for any type of outdoor activities.
The Icebreaker men’s base layer is pretty similar to our previous choice. It is made of 100% Merino wool, meaning that it possesses those natural properties like temperature regulation, fast-drying, moisture-wicking, versatility, and softness.
Its density is about 200g/m2, which means it can provide the perfect insulation when hunting during winter. However, 200g also indicates that it is a little thinner than the Meriwool product, so it will absorb less moisture and will dry faster.
This Icebreaker base layer is available in six different sizes to conform to your body shape, so you can always expect a good fit. Unlike other brands that are made of wool, this merino wool layer will hold up for as long as possible, and you can always wash it after wearing.
As expected, the Icebreaker has superior odor absorbency such that you can wear it for many days without smelling bad. Sold between $50 to $120 depending on the size you pick; this is a reasonable price point.
The Icebreaker base layer is perfect for protection and comfort against the weather elements since it is breathable, fits tight, and keeps you warm without any itch like other conventional wool. It was hard for us to spot any negative side and with this in your hunting gear arsenal, you won’t have to worry about what to wear when hunting. Though a little expensive, you will not regret trying out this top.
The Smartwool Men’s Merino 250 has an innovative design and 100% merino wool with emphasis on features to keep you comfortable during the coldest winter.
The standout feature on this item is the ¼ front zipper for easy adjustments of the head’s size and freeing of the neck area to regulate the warmth. You will notice that it provides more coverage for the neck area than our previous tops.
Much like our No. 1 model, the Smartwool Merino 250 is well-made, durable, and machine washable, making it perfect for your hunting adventures. It is thicker than the previous model and with Merino wool having better breathability than most polyester fabrics, you will always feel hot.
Priced between $90 to $200 depending on the size, it‘s relatively more expensive than other inner layers here. It is available in many color options but we recommend that you don’t bleach it.
Great for dedicated hunters, its traditional zipper design allows you to wear it all day without feeling discomfort. It is durable, breathable and itch-free. Though it costs a few more bucks, its many benefits are compensation for the price.
The ColdPruf Men’s Platinum II base layer garment is manufactured to deliver absolute comfort and warmth in cold environments whether outdoors or indoors. The interior of the fabric is 100% polyester, allowing you to feel warm even when it’s icy-cold out there. The exterior is a combination of 70% polyester and 30% merino wool, a blend that delivers superior temperature management, quick-drying, and comfort.
This brand uses the Silvadur antimicrobial Technology to protect the fabric against unwanted odor and bacteria growth. With the flat seam pattern and tagless labelling design, there is no need to worry about irritation when wearing for hours under strenuous physical activity.
However, a few users complained that the shirts were larger than advertised and you may have to size down a little if you prefer a tighter fit.
This product costs between $20 to $45, making it one of the most affordable on the list.
If you are looking for a super warm, durable, and comfortable base layer for hunting, the ColdPruf Men’s Platinum II is the perfect option for you. It is quite cheap despite the outstanding performance.
This Active Crew is also made of Merino wool to provide warmth and have moisture-wicking properties. Its only separating factor from our previous model is the lack of front zip which implies that it offers complete protection over a wide range of cold conditions.
You will appreciate the built-in shoulder panels which provide extra soft feel and comfort when carrying a backpack or rifle over a long distance. Besides, this Active Crew offers a traditional slim-fit design and breathability that allows you to stay insulated for the whole day.
It does not itch, and once you sweat, the moisture wicks away from your skin. It also does not shrink despite the number of times you wash. However, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning to prevent it from piling.
It is amazingly odor resistant, meaning you are free from bad smell irrespective of the frequency of use. Besides, the edges are laid nicely and they do not feel too tight or itchy.
The fit is tight to the body, making it an excellent base layer for any outdoor activity in the cold. It feels soft on the skin while the shoulder pads contribute to its overall comfort. Its price point is good for us considering its durability, though it lacks a zipper and turtleneck.
5 Best Base Layer Bottoms
This pair of pants from Meriwool is packed with all the features you will expect from an ideal base layer. It is made of Merino wool so that you can enjoy the benefits of a natural fabric. It feels super soft and keeps you dry and comfortable in any weather condition. This means that people with sensitive skin will not experience any issues with this bottom because of its softness.
It provides superior warmth even at temperatures of -14 to -20 degrees. Besides, it is highly versatile, enabling you to wear it on a sunny day as its thermoregulation properties keep you comfortable on both cold and hot weather conditions.
Like our No 1 choice, this Meriwool pant comes with a one year limited warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee. So, you can always get a refund when you are not satisfied with these long johns. However, when compared to other synthetic fabrics, this one takes longer to dry after wash.
This Meriwool base layer pair is a must-have and worthy of getting a spot in your backpack for winter hunting. You can expect great performance when using it with a Meriwool top. Looking at its value, we highly recommend this.
If you want to enhance your performance in the field with a solid legging that would provide maximum warmth and comfort, this Under Armour is the item to buy. It is tailored for outdoor physical activities like hunting, skiing, climbing, and fishing.
This clothing is lightweight, durable, comfortable, and dependable that makes it worth the extra cost. It has a flat-lock stitching design to prevent irritation and discomfort during your working out session.
This Under Armour base layer pair consists of 92% polyester and 8% Elastane which are entirely artificial materials, so you can expect it to last longer than the models with natural fabrics.
Besides, this product is quite hydrophobic that means it does not retain water and dries rapidly after the wash.
The introduction of the elastane into its construction allows the cloth to stretch so that it fits tight to the body while ensuring that you move effortlessly in any direction. What is more, it has an antibacterial technology that prevents the growth of microbes which often causes a terrible odor.
However, the only drawback is the poor thermoregulation that limits its versatility or makes it usable for the cold weather only. So, since the warmth will always increase when you are active, you may not use it during summer or when on extreme exertion.
It is well-made and hugely reliable for use in frigid environments. However, you should consider other options if you will want to hunt during the summer.
If you hunt under cold conditions, you will want an affordable pant to keep you warm and comfortable. So, allow us to introduce you to the ColdPruf Platinum II base layer pant.
This material is a combination of polyester and merino wool, using a dual-layer insulation system to retain air between the layers to provide warmth. It is 100% machine washable and you will not spend a lot of time cleaning it. Besides, it dries faster after a wash than our previous item.
This underwear sits just below the natural waistline while the further rise at the front and back sides allows you to feel comfortable when moving. It is available in many sizes, so you will always find the perfect fit.
However, we found that buying a size that is a little bigger than average will save you from issues of getting the right fit.
This Platinum II model comes at a price between $20 to $45, so it is a masterpiece for the money. You can always rely on it for layering during extreme cold to high activity levels.
It is almost impossible to find a hunter that will not like the ColdPruf products because of their strength, affordability, and warmth. This bottom layer is fantastic, and it might just be the game-changer you need for your next hunting season.
Once you are ready to pay, you can always expect to get the best from Smartwool. This layer's bottom is made of 100% Merino wool which means superb wicking, heat consistency, thermoregulation, and softness. This is the perfect layer to wear in the most demanding conditions.
Like our previous tops from Smartwool, this one has a density of 250g/m, meaning it is incredibly soft and provides top-notch insulation against cold. However, it is a little thicker than most models on the market, implying that you will enjoy better warmth, but you will also wait longer for it to dry.
Our only concern with this product was the replacement of waist and ankle elastics with the robes which reduced its tightness to the skin. However, you may not see it as a problem since the ropes have the advantage of limiting the pressure from the garment on the surface.
It costs between $90 to $180 - a little on the expensive side. But looking at its performance, you will always want to buy again.
Worth the cost because of quality and comfort. This layer is designed to make you feel smart and confident whenever you are hunting under extreme weather conditions.
Sold around $90, this is another excellent buy for the price. ScentLok is one of the leading designers of hunting and odor-controlling underwear. Its most significant feature is the advanced carbon alloy technology used to absorb odor in order to prevent animals from picking your scent.
This thermal base layer is made of polyester fabric that holds tightly to the skin, providing comfort and warmth all day. There are panel inserts on the thigh and rear hip that allow the material to stretch, giving you maximum comfort when walking in the woods.
Though Scent Lok did not offer many choices in terms of color and size, it is everything you need for your next hunting trip.
This ScentLok model is simply the best base layer for cold weather hunting. It is comfortable, durable, and warm, making it great for hunting and outdoor activities.
Other Notable Brands & Models
There are actually several other brands known for manufacturing quality first layers for men, women, and children, including -
Carhartt, MEETYOO, MEETWEE, MISSION, Hanes, LAPASA, EHG Elite, Prois, UNIQUEBELLA, Neleus, DAVID ARCHY, SITKA Gear, Dickies, Smartwool, RYNOSKIN, HECS, FITEXTREME, WoolX, Hawk Sports, HABIT, Minus33, M-Tac, Nomad, Terramar, 32 Degrees, and ViCherub.
The following models are also worth checking out -
- 01Icebreaker Merino Everyday Base Layer Long Sleeve Crew Neck Shirt, New Zealand Merino Wool
- 02Under Armour Mens UA Base¿ 3.0 Legging
- 03First Lite Chama Quarter Zip Black Shirt (Mtchqbl)
- 04Robinson Scent Blocker 8th Layer Long Sleeve Polyester Pant with S3 Silver
- 05SITKA Men's Merino Core 1 Long Sleeve Zip Tee
- 06First Lite - Llano 170g Merino Crew Top
- 07Yukon Gear Men's Scent Control Midweight Baselayer Bottom
- 08Ibex Merino Wool Men's Woolies 1 Crew Shirt
- 09Helly Hansen Men's HH LIFA Stripe Lightweight High Performance Long-Sleeve Crewneck Thermal Baselayer Top, 998 Black, Medium
- 10Guide Gear Men's Heavyweight Fleece Base Layer Bottoms
- 11Legendary Whitetails Mens HuntGuard Nanotec Base Layer Pants
- 12 Rocky Thermal Underwear for Women Fleece Lined Thermals Women's Base Layer Long John Set
- 13 Rocky Thermal Underwear for Girls Fleece Lined Thermals Kids Base Layer Long John Set
- 14 Mossy Oak Cotton Mill 2.0 Long Sleeve Camo Hunting Shirts for Men
- 15 Drake Waterfowl Men's LST Base Layer Pants Polyester
- 16 Duofold Men's Mid-Weight Wicking Thermal Pant
- 17 Under Armour Men's ColdGear Armour Compression Mock Long Sleeve T-Shirt
- 18 Fruit of the Loom Men's Classic Midweight Waffle Thermal Underwear Bottoms
- 19 Thermajohn Men's Ultra Soft Thermal Underwear Long Johns Set with Fleece Lined
Why Use Base Layers
You should layer up whenever you are out for hunting, skiing, mountain climbing, and other outdoor activities. Ideally, as you engage in physical activity and different types of hunting, your body heats up and produces sweat. This sweat should not remain on your skin and that is where the wicking function of the fabric applies, providing an easy path for the sweat to leave your skin.
You need base layering for safety and comfort as well. You can only enjoy the hunt and fire the shots if you feel comfortable. Exclusive fabrics like merino wool and polyester are excellent at maintaining an optimal body temperature despite the condition of the environment.
Layering allows you to adapt to various changes in temperature throughout the day. So by combining different garment’s properties, you can control the effect of the weather on your body and your overall performance as well.
Different Layers for Hunting
a) Base Layer
As mentioned earlier, this layer has direct contact with your skin, helping to expel the sweat outside and keeps the body dry. These fabrics are of materials that can only absorb the moisture but will not retain it. They must allow the transfer of heat and fluid to the next garment. The material should have high elasticity such that it fits and contacts with every part of the body.
Besides, the finishing should be smooth for other clothes to slide freely over it and to have seams on the outside to prevent chafing. The ideal base layer fabrics are polyester or wool because of their exceptional moisture-wicking abilities. You should not use a cotton material here, as it would absorb the sweat but will not allow it to evaporate quickly.
b) Middle Layer
This is the second layer of clothing after the base. It receives the heat from the body and traps it within the fibers to provide warmth. Sweaters, fleece, down coats, and sweatshirts can serve as the middle layer. Contrary to the first layer, this one should not be tight but snug.
c) Outer Layer
The third layer of garment protects the body from the harsh environmental conditions like snow, wind, and rain. It helps keep the hunter safe from the impact of cold and humidity while the exterior should have unique treatments to enhance its resistance to water. It should come with zippers and other vents in the armpit for better ventilation. The fabric should be lightweight and less bulky for easy transportation.
Base Layers – Buyer’s Guide
Base layers for sale are made of various fabrics, such as silk, bamboo, wool, cotton, and synthetic materials like polyethylene, polyester and microfiber fabrics. Since they have different properties, they work differently to deliver warmth.
A product from merino sheep and the warmest of the base layer fabrics. Wool acts as a natural temperature regulator, preventing overheating and keeps you feeling beautiful. There are small holes in the clothing that absorbs heat from the skin, storing the heat in the fibers while keeping you warm and comfortable.
Naturally, wool has antibacterial properties, meaning there will be no offensive odor in the fabric. Also, it has UV protection so that you can wear it on a hot day. It feels soft, making it the perfect underwear for people with sensitive skin.
Merino wool is resistant to stains and wrinkles but will shrink if washed wrongly. However, it is more expensive than synthetic fabric and takes longer to dry. Besides, it is prone to moth infestation if kept under poor conditions.
When looking for the cheapest base layer fabric to buy, synthetic is the ideal option. It wicks faster and dries quickly, making it the perfect material for high-sweating activities. Being lightweight and flexible, it allows you to move freely. However, it can retain body odor unless treated and does not provide enough warmth as wool, making it unsuitable for freezing weather.
Clothing made of cotton has many fibers which give it excellent moisture-wicking ability keeping your body temperature in check. It is breathable and feels quite comfortable on the skin. But there is the tendency to lose shape and appearance after regular washing.
This is one of the best hunting base layer fabrics because it is hugely smooth on the body, making it ideal for hunters with soft skin. Silk is the safest and scarcely reacts with the skin. The threads are sturdy and durable. Besides, it is not easily affected by moth and bacteria, meaning it is also odor-resistant. However, it is not safe to wash and dry with machines.
- Bamboo fabric
Made from bamboo trees and the newest of all base layer materials, bamboo has many positive features though it is scarce on the market. It fits tightly than wool and retains shape better than other fabrics. What’s more, it is environmentally friendly, dries quickly, resistant to abrasion, feels very soft, and ideal for those with highly sensitive skin.
2. Weight of Fabric
Base layer fabrics come in different weights, shapes, and sizes, so your nature of the activity will determine the right one for you.
- Lightweight fabric
Light materials dry and wick faster. They are ideal for outdoor activities as they rest tightly on the skin to draw enough moisture. You can wear a lightweight base layer if you are hunting in a mild environment and having less physical exertions.
- Midweight fabric
Serves as a second layer to lighter material. It is excellent in terms of moisture absorption and insulation. When you are not engaging in excessive physical activity, a midweight fabric offers high-quality protection against the cold weather.
- Heavyweight fabric
They are perfect for colder environments irrespective of your level of physical activities. They offer superior insulation and warmth but worn over a lighter fabric. Heavyweights are less useful for moisture-wicking but will always keep the body warm.
Top-quality base layers feel soft and fit tightly to the skin. They provide total support and can stretch to accommodate the various movements of the body. You will experience better comfort with natural fabrics than synthetics. Besides, for feeling cool on a sunny day, you can choose a heavyweight wool material. If you need more warmth on a cold day, a synthetic layer will be ideal.
Since base layers are washed frequently, the key to getting durable clothing is buying smart, not cheap. It means you should spend a few bucks to buy a material that can withstand all manner of abuse. You should inspect the quality of the stitching in areas like knees, ankles, and bottom. Synthetic base layers usually last longer than wool but you can extend their lifespan by proper use and handling.
Your needs for warmth will fluctuate with the hunting environment. You should choose a base layer that will suit the weather in the area of the hunt. Besides, you can take off a few layers whenever you are feeling hot and uncomfortable.
The fiber can pull away moisture from the body while keeping you comfortable. Being breathable means better temperature regulation. It is frustrating if the clothing is warm but lacks holes for sweat to escape. Like we said earlier, you should feel dry when wearing a thermal base layer; therefore, moisture wicking is highly essential when looking for the best hunting base layer.
Your base layer should fit tightly to your skin but this doesn’t mean that it must be so tight that it’ll hinder your ability to move. Always choose your ideal fit by taking a quick look at the size chart and reading base layers reviews from other users to know if the product is true to the size that the manufacturers claim.
8. Ease of Handling
Underwear layers should be easy to clean, stain-resistant, and quick to dry. It should not cause any discomfort like itching, abrasion, or allergies. So, once it ticks these boxes, then you are good to go.
Today’s base layers of6en come with antibacterial treatments that create a hostile environment against the growth of these microbes that otherwise causes an unpleasant smell. A few of the high-end fabrics have specialized coatings that suppress the multiplication of germs and bacteria.
10. Activity Level
With the weather in mind, you can also opt for a base layer depending on your level of exertion. If your output is low, it is ideal to choose merino wool as you will not generate much sweat. However, synthetic fabrics are great for high-level physical activities. Artificial garments will wick the moisture away quickly from the skin and keep you perfectly warm under cold conditions.
Tips on Staying Warm & Safe
- Eat well and drink well
Take enough liquid as your body dehydrates faster in the cold. Staying hydrated will keep you active by preventing dizziness, fatigue, and headache. Your choice of food during the day is crucial as your body uses it to generate heat; so we recommend you take more carbohydrates and fats.
- Wear the right garment
Always use the right layering clothes since each fabric contributes to your well-being and comfort. For example, your base layer should wick sweat away from your body, while the middle and outer layers like a hunting jacket should help keep you warm and repel the elements of weather. You can take off extra layers whenever you become too warm or sweat more but put them back once you feel cold again.
- Footwear matters
You need the right footwear with enough traction to maintain balance, especially when walking on snowy grounds.
- Stay Visible
Winter is snowy and foggy, meaning that visibility will drop, so wearing a reflective or camo outerwear will make others see you early enough to avoid a collision.
- Avoid extreme cold conditions
Do not stay outdoors for too long if the temperature becomes colder. However, it is essential to seek shelter periodically if you have no option than to stay outdoors for a long time. The few minutes of the break will restore your health while warming you up.
- Sleep and be well-rested
Hunting is a challenging activity and you need enough sleep to stay alert throughout the day.
A Word from RangerExpert
Since weather conditions vary from one region to another, your choice might also depend on the different climatic conditions. Whether you are preparing for summer or winter, there is a suitable garment for you at any time.
Picking a base layer can be harder than you think, considering its performance under specific environments. If you are still having issues with the selection, check the product with the features that will give you the most excellent comfort.
For the most versatile fabric, we recommend the MERIWOOL top and bottom because of the natural benefits that Merino wool offers. If you are cash-strapped now, you cannot go wrong with the ColdPruf top and pants.
After going through our reviews you must be ready to get your best base layer for hunting. Try to remember our safety tips and follow the rules as well.
1. Should the base layer be tight or loose?
Ans. Fitted base layers perform better than loose. You will likely feel cold if there are gaps between the fabrics and your skin. Choose only top rated base layers that are true to size; they are often smaller than regular shirts.
2. Is nylon a good base layer?
Ans. Nylon has the similar properties as polyester. So, it wicks, absorbs little water, and dries quickly. However, it is deficient in terms of breathability but more durable than other fabrics.
3. How many layers should you wear in the winter?
Ans. It is perfect to wear at least four layers of clothing. These include regular clothes, base layer, mid-layer, and outer layer. Also, you should protect your neck, ears, fingers, and toes when the weather becomes freezing.
4. Why do coats keep you warm?
Ans. Multiple layers offer more warmth than a single thick layer because the trapped air in the gaps acts as insulation to keep you warm. Also, by removing those layers, you reduce the level of insulation and will feel cold as a result.