BEST Base Layer For Backpacking
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It is essential to choose the right base layers when on the slopes or participating in outdoor activities. The best base layer for backpacking is necessary to maintain pleasant body temperature and remove moisture (often caused by sweating) from the skin to stop moisture and cold.


Best Base Layer For Backpacking
Our Pick

Our top pick for the best base layer for backpacking is the Rocky Thermals Base Layer Long John Set. With fleece-line microfibers and an elastic waistband, this thermal long john has the perfect blend of moisture protection, elasticity, warmth, and comfort.

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What is the Base Layer?

What Is A Base Layer?

The base layer is a fundamental part of your three-layer system.

  • So, your three-layer system comprises a base layer, mid-layer, and shell layer.
  • The base layer’s job is fundamentally to control and manage your temperature.
  • It keeps you warm, regulates your temperature, keeps you fresh, wicks away sweat, and makes your backpacking trip more enjoyable.

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Why is Picking the Best Base Layer Important?

While comfy long cotton briefs can keep you warm when you spend a night in the clear sky, this cannot be said during a sweaty, unpredictable multi-day trip.

  • Even the most beautiful weather moments can be made even more enjoyable if you are equipped with breathable and quick-drying materials.
  • Using a base layer suitable for warm temperatures is as important as keeping you dry, cool, and comfortable.
  • Choosing a good base layer can make the difference between a miserable misadventure and a fantastic hike.

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What to Look for?

Cotton kills a saying among outdoor enthusiasts. While the saying is a bit dramatic, cotton could cause serious trouble and very windy or extremely cold conditions. When shopping for the best base layers for backpacking, keep the following characteristics in mind.

  • Fabric
  • Fit
  • Additional features

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A) Fabric

Base layer manufacturers typically create base layers using blended synthetic Merino wool or silk fabrics.

  • Synthetic base layers are best for wet environments and warm temperatures, but they work in all conditions.
  • One downside is that odor builds up a little faster, especially when compared to Merino wool fabric.
  • Merino wool is great for most activities and conditions, but it really excels in colder temperatures.
  • Merino wool doesn’t dry out quite as fast as the synthetic fabric does, but it can hold a lot of moisture before feeling wet and clammy.

Silk is great for cooler weather outings with lower levels of physical activity. Base layers made of silk are lovely because they are very thin and add zero bulk.

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B) Fit

The second key characteristic to look for when choosing the best base layer for backpacking is fit.

  • Base layers traditionally fit relatively close to your skin.
  • Snug-fitting base layers are best for chilly temperatures because it keeps the warmth locked in next to your body.
  • Loose-fitting base layers are better for warmer temperatures where you can benefit from more air circulation and ventilation.

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C) Additional Features

Base layers can feature zippers of various lengths, allowing you to achieve different levels of ventilation. Base layers without zippers will be great for locking in the warmth, and some people find them to be more comfortable.

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Best Base Layer for Backpacking

Here are the top 10 best base layer for backpacking on the market today:

1. MERIWOOL Men’s Merino Wool Thermal Crewneck Top Base Layer

Take your warmth to the next level with thermal crewneck top base layer from MERIWOOL.

MERIWOOL Mens Base Layer 100% Merino Wool Heavyweight 400g Thermal Shirt for Men Black

  • This warm and thick base layer is perfect for cold to freezing conditions.
  • This best base layer for extreme cold is made of 100 percent Merino wool that ensures your comfort throughout the day.
  • With a UPF rating of 50+, this quick-drying base layer is perfect for your next backpacking trip.
  • Its odor-resistant and natural wicking properties keep you comfortable and dry while active in chilly weather.
  • This heavy-weight long sleeve base layer is dryer-safe and machine-washable, so it is ready whenever you are for your next backpacking adventure.

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2. Rocky Men Fleece Lined Thermals Base Layer Long John Set

Rocky Thermals Base Layer Long John Set is a two-piece set and is ideal for use underneath your clothing for a chilly day out.

Rocky Thermal Underwear for Men Midweight Fleece Lined Thermals Men's Base Layer Long John Set (Black - Midweight (Fleece) - XX-Large)

  • This base layer is designed to keep you dry.
  • With fleece-line microfibers and an elastic waistband, this thermal long john has the perfect blend of moisture protection, elasticity, warmth, and comfort.
  • Not only is this thermal underwear set comfortable to wear, but they are also stretchy.
  • These long pants and a long-sleeved shirt are made to wick sweat and other moisture away while on your backpacking trip.

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3. LAPASA Men’s Fleece Lined Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirts

The LAPASA Men’s Fleece Lined Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirts is made of 10 percent spandex and 90 percent polyester.

LAPASA Men's Lightweight Thermal Underwear Tops Fleece Lined Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirts 2 Pack M09 (Large, Grey)

  • The spandex and polyester blend makes this best base layer for skiing light for layering underneath other clothes.
  • This long-sleeve thermal shirt is made with micro-fleece material to give you the ultimate warmth during cold weather.
  • Designed to give you flexibility, this thermal underwear top hugs your body and stretches to move with you.
  • The snug fit will ensure there is no bunching around your sleeves or waistline and reduces heat loss.
  • The LAPASA Men’s Fleece Lined Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirts will keep you warm without sacrificing your comfort or range of motion.

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4. Carhartt Men’s Force Midweight Classic Thermal Base Layer

The Carhartt Men’s Force Midweight Classic Thermal Base Layer features waffle knit fabric that helps trap the body’s heat during cold weather.

Carhartt Men's Size Force Midweight Classic Thermal Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirt, Burnt Olive, 2X-Large Tall

  • Its fast dry technology helps wick sweat away, and the rugged flex fabric moves with you.
  • The tagless label and the smooth flatlock seams enhance comfort.
  • This best base layer for heavy sweating features concealed thumb loops that keep your sleeves in place when you wear another layer.
  • The Carhartt Men’s Force Midweight Classic Thermal Base Layer will keep you dry, warm, and odor-free throughout your outdoor trip.

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5. 7EVEN Clothing CO Merino Wool Hooded Base Layer

Made from 100 percent Australian Merino wool, the 7EVEN Clothing CO Hooded Base Layer will keep you feeling and looking good.

7EVEN Clothing CO Mens 100% Lightweight Merino Wool Hooded Long Sleeve Shirt 190 GSM (Large) Brown

  • Also, the wool pullover is breathable and naturally quick-drying, helping you to quickly adapt to changing weather.
  • It features smooth flatlock seams that stop the seams from harshly rubbing against your skin.
  • Additionally, the gusseted underarms and contoured elbows enhance your mobility.
  • It comes with a large arm pocket where you can keep your wallet or other small items.
  • The 7EVEN Clothing CO Hooded Base Layer is warm and lightweight, so you can wear it as a heat-trapping mid-layer or light base layer.

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6. MERIWOOOL Men’s Base Layer Thermal Pants

The MERIWOOOL Men’s Base Layer Thermal Pants is made of 100 percent Merino wool that ensures all-day comfort.

MERIWOOL Mens Base Layer 100% Merino Wool Thermal Pants Charcoal Gray

  • This thermal pant can be used as a mid-layer or base layer and won’t weigh you down.
  • It features a loop for quick drying while backpacking.
  • Its odor-resistant and natural wicking properties keep you comfortable and dry while active in frosty weather.
  • The MERIWOOOL Men’s Base Layer Thermal Pants are machine washable and safe to tumble dry.
  • It will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer, making it perfect for your next backpacking adventure.

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7. Merion.tech Men’s Base Layer Thermal T-shirt

The Merion. tech Men’s Base Layer Thermal T-shirt is non-itching, odor-resistant, and naturally moisture-wicking.

Merino.tech 100% NZ Organic Merino Wool Lightweight Thermal Base Layer Men's T-Shirt (Large, Black)

  • It is perfect for outdoor activities without the bunching, overheating, and rubbing of regular cotton fabrics.
  • This ultra-lightweight and breathable base layer shirt provides UPF 20+ protection, protecting you from the harmful sun rays.
  • This silky-soft base layer can be washed in the Wool cycle and dried in the low tumble dry.
  • Additionally, its authentic fit allows for layering without bulk.
  • The Merion. tech Men’s Base Layer Thermal T-shirt is ideal for multi-day backpacking wear with no stink, making it comfortable to wear in most climates.

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8. Little Donkey Andy Women’s Top & Bottom Base Layer

The Little Donkey Andy Women’s Top & Bottom Base Layer is a 2 piece long john set that is ultra-breathable and lightweight.

Little Donkey Andy Women's Soft Thin Thermal Underwear Long Johns Set Active Performance Top & Bottom Base Layer Black L

  • The wicking fabric helps wick moisture away, making it feel smooth against your skin.
  • Its chafe-free flatlock seam construction, gusseted crotch, and 4-way stretch will help you move comfortably.
  • This best women’s base layer features a streamlined fit, so it perfectly sits under your clothing, adding no bulk.
  • Additionally, its wide elastic waistband ensures next to skin softness.
  • This best base layer bottoms also features a back reflective logo that keeps you visible under low light conditions.
  • The Little Donkey Andy Women’s Top & Bottom Base Layer offers UV protection to keep you safe from harmful rays.

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9. Carhartt Men’s Force Classic Thermal Base Layer Union Suit

The Carhartt Men’s Force Classic Thermal Base Layer Union Suit features a poly-cotton waffle knit to retain and trap the body’s heat.

Carhartt Men's Force Classic Thermal Base Layer Union Suit, Rugged Khaki Camo, 2X-Large

  • Also, the material features rugged flex technology that ensures ease of movement.
  • It features a key split elastic waistband and smooth flatlock seams for ultimate comfort.
  • The front of this long john set features a snap button opening, which makes it easy to wear.
  • The tuck closure and elastic waistband further enhance the comfort of the Carhartt Men’s Force Classic Thermal Base Layer Union Suit.

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10. LAPASA Thermal Underwear Base Layer Top and Bottom

The LAPASA Thermal Underwear Base Layer Top and Bottom are made of 100 percent Merino wool, making it feel soft against the skin.

LAPASA Men's 100% Merino Wool Thermal Underwear Long John Set Lightweight Base Layer Top and Bottom M31 (X-Large, Black)

  • The 100 percent Merino wool offers effective warmth and insulation when the temperature drops.
  • Its lightweight design makes it great for layering as it fits snugly with no bulky feeling.
  • It features a draping tailoring that allows for freedom of movement for the shoulder.
  • Additionally, it uses 4-needle 6-thread stitching, which makes it durable.
  • The LAPASA Thermal Underwear Base Layer Top and Bottom are made to be moisture-wicking and breathable, so you need not worry about overheating while wearing it.

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Top-Rated Base Layer For Backpacking
Our Pick

Our top recommendation for the best base layer for backpacking is the Rocky Thermals Base Layer Long John Set. It features fleece-line microfibers and an elastic waistband for moisture protection, elasticity, warmth, and comfort.

To find the best base layer for backpacking, you need to identify a material that matches the versatility of your adventure.

Each of the base layers we have reviewed in this guide is a great product. So, if they are right for you, it depends on the activities you will perform and the conditions you expect.

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Key References

  • “Effects of Thermal Underwear on Thermal and Subjective Responses in Winter – PubMed”. Accessed July 08, 2020. Link.

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