Best Base Layer for Skiing

Skiing is a sport that involves constant interaction with the elements. From riding chairlifts up the side of a mountain to skiing back down in deep powder, whenever you ski you are up close and personal with mother nature. This is one of the main reasons many of us love the sport so much. You get to become a part of winter rather than trying to avoid it.

However, all of that time spent outdoors requires a good amount of gear. If you head out into any winter activity unprepared, things can go south quite quickly. You always need to make sure you have all of the necessary equipment, including your skis, clothing, and accessories. It’s all about being well-prepared.

Layers help you stay warm on the slopes. By wearing multiple layers, you’ll always be prepared for any condition or environment that might come your way. The first step in wearing the proper clothing starts with a base layer. This is the first garment that you put on your body when getting ready for skiing and it can provide you a lot of protection against the elements.

Below are some of the best skiing base layers to help you determine which will work best for you.

Quick Summary

Who Should Get This?

All skiers need to use layers. By wearing multiple clothing items while skiing you’ll be well-prepared for anything that might come your way. You will also have the ability to adapt because you can add or remove a layer if you get too hot or too cold. It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

A normal layering set up for skiing is a base layer, mid-layer, and an outer shell. This article is going to address base layers and I would always recommend wearing this layer to any skier, regardless of the conditions. You don’t need a mid-layer if it’s warm out, but a base layer adds comfort in any environment. It also feels better against your skin than a sweater.

Even though a base layer is highly recommended, it is possible to ski without one. If you ski in a warm location or in the spring when temperatures are higher, you might not need to always wear a base layer. I know some skiers who just ski with a t-shirt and a light shell during the spring.

Best Base Layer for Skiing: What to Consider in 2020

Material

A skiing base layer can be made out of different types of material. We will look at some of the best and most common materials used but first, I want to tell you what type of materials you should avoid. Cotton is a no-go for your base layer. The common fabric is great for warm weather, but it does not have the right insulation for the cold.

Merino wool is a great base layer material. Wool, in general, makes for great cold-weather gear because it offers excellent insulation and will also keep you warm when it gets wet. Merino wool is soft and comfortable, which is why so many base layers utilize the material. It can be expensive and requires some extra care, but for warmth and purpose, it’s a great choice for any skier.

Base layers are also commonly made from synthetic materials or a blend of wool and synthetic materials. That construction is cheaper and still offers plenty of warmth and moisture-wicking properties that you want while skiing. Polyester, nylon, spandex, and elastane are all common materials used in synthetic base layers. Synthetics won’t be as warm as wool but they are still high-quality.

Fit

To get the most out of a base layer, it needs a proper fit. While fit comes down to personal preference, you want your base layer to be fairly snug. I personally like a tighter base layer because it allows for direct contact on the skin and keeps out any snow flakes from getting into any loose-fitting areas of the garment.

Remember, a skin-tight fit does not have to be uncomfortable. A snug-fitting base layer will work just fine, but be sure there aren’t any really loose-fitting areas. If your base layer is too loose, it can also bunch up and cause you discomfort.

Durability

Insulation is critical when picking out a base layer, but durability is important as well. You want a base layer that’s going to hold up under a lot of use, meaning it has to be strong and durable. A lot of skiers will use the same base layer every time they go skiing. If you only go out a few times a year, it should hold up. However, if you plan on going a lot, your base layer could wear out if it doesn’t have the right construction.

Durability can be tricky because the best materials for warmth don’t aren’t always the strongest or the longest-lasting. If you get a base layer made of Merino wool, it will be comfortable and warm but it also will wear out faster than synthetic materials. That is why so many brands choose to blend wool with synthetic materials.

Moisture Wicking/Breathability

You want a base layer that can wick away moisture and keep you dry. As the base layer goes directly onto your skin, it will directly absorb any perspiration. You need something that will keep that sweat away and allow it to dissipate without holding you back. If you’re sweating, you’re going to be hot. Get a base layer that’s breathable.

Lightweight base layers typically have better moisture-wicking properties and are also more breathable than mid or outer layers. That is because there’s less material to trap in excess sweat. If you sweat a lot on the slopes, I would recommend a lightweight base layer that’s either made from 100 percent merino wool or is a blend of wool and synthetic materials.

Best Base Layer for Skiing: Our Picks in 2020

1. Best Overall Base Layer: Smartwool Base Layer Top Merino 250


If you’re searching for a complete, all-around base layer, look no further than the Smartwool Base Layer Top Merino 250. Smartwool makes excellent wool-based clothing for a variety of outdoor activities and their base layers are some of the best you’ll find anywhere in the world. The key here is the merino wool construction, which is warm, breathable, and incredibly lightweight.

This layer features a crew color with a zip-up chest that allows you to adjust the airflow to your torso based on the outside conditions. The wool also makes this model odor-resistant even for skiers who work up a sweat on cold days. It is also quite durable as well.

Pros:

  • 100 percent merino wool
  • Warm
  • Breathable
  • 1/4 zip chest
  • Durable for a wool layer
  • Odor-resistant

Cons:

  • On the expensive end
  • 100 percent wool is just not as durable as synthetic materials

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

2. Rab Merino 120


Another great base layer is the Rab Merino 120. This is a solid midweight base layer that will work well for most skiers due to its comfort and warmth. The Rab Merino 120 is made from a blend of merino wool and polyester, which enables it to offer all of the warmth and comfort of wool with a bit of extra durability. The blend is tough and will hold up through multiple skiing seasons.

This comes with a 1/4 length zipper on the front side that allows you to let in more air when it gets hot and zip up when conditions get cold. It is also breathable and has great moisture-wicking abilities. This is a solid option for skiers who don’t want or need a 100 percent wool base layer but still want a quality option.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Warm
  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable

Cons:

  • Zipper can be uncomfortable when fully zipped
  • Not as warm as all wool options

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

3. Best Women’s Base Layer: Smartwool Women’s Base Layer Top


The Smartwool Women’s Base Layer Top is a fantastic base layer for female skiers. This is another great option from Smartwool and is one of the most comfortable and warmest options that you will find anywhere. That is because the base layer is made with 100 percent merino wool to ensure warmth, comfort, and versatility. It can be worn all day under any condition.

The top’s merino wool construction is what puts it at the top of the list for women skiers, but it also has a great design that utilizes an Interlock knit to increase comfort, odor-resistance, and breathability. It has a 1/4 zipper that allows you to regulate your body temperature as needed, as well as a crew neck to add extra protection against the wind and snow. It also comes in multiple colors.

Pros:

  • 100 percent merino wool
  • Comfortable
  • Warm
  • Durable for a wool garment
  • 1/4 zip
  • Crew neck

Cons:

  • On the expensive side
  • 100 percent wool is not as durable as synthetic options

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

4. Under Armour Women’s ColdGear Authentic Mock


The Under Armour Women’s ColdGear Authentic Mock is another solid women’s base layer. Under Armour is an athletic brand that has branched out into cold-weather gear in recent years, and the company now has some great base layer options for any outdoor activity. This model has a solid fit and an affordable price tag for skiers on a budget.

This base layer is made with a blend of 87 percent polyester and 13 percent Elastane. That makes it comfortable and offers extra durability similar base layers lack. It also features a brushback knit fabric that’s intended to increase breathability. It also has excellent moisture wicking properties, which makes it great for skiers who like to go hard and fast. It is also a solid choice for those who run warm.

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • 4-way stretch fabric
  • Breathable
  • Warm

Cons:

  • Not the best option for cold skiers
  • Tight fit

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

5. Best Budget Base Layer: Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew


If you want an affordable, high-quality base layer, you should check out the Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew. Helly Hansen makes some great cold-weather gear that’s built to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable under nearly any condition. If you’ve never tried the brand before, this base layer is an easy and cheap way to see what they offer.

This is a lightweight base layer that provides tremendous comfort and breathability at a great price. The garment is fully synthetic, making it durable, while the slim, athletic fit makes it a great option for those who like their base layers snug. I had one of these base layers last me for over ten years before my dog finally thought it was a chew toy and put holes in it.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Warm
  • Lightweight
  • Trusted brand

Cons:

  • Not the warmest option
  • Can be uncomfortable for some due to tight fit

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

6. ThermaJane Ultrasoft Thermal Underwear Set


The ThermaJane Ultrasoft Underwear Set is another great option for skiers on a budget. As the name implies, this is a soft, comfortable item that almost feels more like pajamas than a skiing base layer. It comes as a set so you get a base layer top and bottom for one low price.

These thermals are made with 92 percent ultra-soft polyester and 8 percent spandex. They have a nice snug fit that’s good for skiing and that will fit underneath other layers with ease. They are also available in many color options and have thousands of great reviews. Not the highest quality option on the list, but it’s hard to beat the price-to-comfort ratio.

Pros:

  • Soft
  • Comfortable
  • Cheap

Cons:

  • Not the warmest option
  • Lacking in durability

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

7. Best Kid’s Base Layer: Rocky Thermal Underwear Set


The Rocky Thermal Underwear Set is a great choice for a kid’s base layer. This option comes as a set, so your little skiers will have both a top and a bottom base layer when they go out into the snow. This also comes with an elastic waistband on the bottom and utilizes a moisture-wicking fiber design throughout both garments.

The 92 percent ultra-soft polyester and 8 percent spandex blend make this option both comfortable and durable. They will last a few ski seasons and should stick around until your kids outgrow them. They also come available in a variety of fun colors and fabric designs, which kids always love. If you want to keep your children warm on the slopes and let them have fun while doing it, the Rocky Thermal Set is a great way to go.

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Fun designs and colors
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Your kids might outgrow them quickly

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

8. Best Cold Weather Base Layer: WoolX Glacier Heavyweight


If you plan on skiing in severe conditions, you need tough clothing that can repel the wind and snow. The WoolX Glacier Heavyweight Base Layer Top is a great cold-weather base layer that’s sure to keep you warm, even on the nastiest ski days. What makes this option so warm is the 100 percent Australian merino wool construction.

The heavy construction and weight mean this is a large base layer that might feel more like a sweater to some skiers. The added bulk is not needed in every situation, but when the temperature starts to drop, you’ll be glad you invested in such a great garment. This base layer is soft, warm, durable, and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Pros:

  • Warm
  • Durable for 100 percent wool
  • Comfortable
  • Lifetime Guarantee

Cons:

  • Bulky
  • Only for really cold situations

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Useful Tips & Resources

The best way to combat cold conditions is to be prepared. Layers are one of the best ways to do that. I touched on the need to wear a base layer, mid-layer, and outer shell on any ski day. Though most skiers know that combination if you’re just learning to ski or want some more tips on how to dress for the activity, take a look at this informative article.

Although there are numerous base layer options out there, if you’re serious about staying warm and want the best option, you want to get one that’s made out of merino wool. We have talked a lot about this material, but you may want more information. If you do and want to know what makes it better for base layers than other types of wool, check out this link.

It’s also good to remember that a base layer doesn’t just keep you warm, it keeps you cool as you sweat. By keeping moisture away from your body, a base layer acts to keep you comfortable and dry when your body builds up a sweat to cool down. A good base layer is more than just a warm, small piece of clothing. It will help regulate your body temperature in varying conditions.

Final Thoughts

On any given ski day, I’d much rather be too hot than too cold. You can always shed layers when you get too hot, but being too cold can ruin a day in on time. Staying warm is all about layering, as I’ve mentioned, and layering always starts with a base layer.

Even though you can get away without a base layer, that’s never recommended unless it’s quite warm out. If it’s cold, any of the options listed here are sure to help your skiing experience by keeping you warm, comfortable, and dry no matter how long you ski.

Do you wear a base layer while skiing? What material is it made of? Let us know in the comments below!

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