Last Updated on 27/08/2023
In this guide to the best hooded base layer, we share the warmest, most breathable, and the comfiest base layer hoodies for camping and working outdoors. You will learn which base layer tops with hoods are best and the reasons why they are one of the best foundations for layering other clothes on top. Find out whether synthetic or merino wool base layer hoodies perform better.
Hooded base layers are perfect for outdoor activities in freezing temperatures, but they also work great at night when you’re trying to keep warm in your tent. We checked out every base layer with a hood and whittled it down to just 7 of the best hooded base layers that are available for both men and women.
If you aren’t sure what you should be looking for or whether you even need a hooded base layer in the first place, then you can check out our first-time buyer’s guide further down the page.
7 Best Hooded Base Layers
Fjallraven Bergtagen Thinwool Hoodie
- MATERIAL: 95% wool, 5% elastane body, 52% wool, 35% polyester, 13% polyamide panels
- WEIGHT: 10.9 oz / 310 g medium
- WOMEN’S: Fjallraven Bergtagen Woolterry Women’s Hoodie
The Fjallraven Bergtagen Woolterry Hoodie is an amazing hooded base layer that you will want to wear all the time. It can be worn next to the skin and is super soft or as a mid-layer hoodie over a t-shirt. It is the perfect weight to keep you warm when layered or provide just enough warmth on those late summer nights.
Made from 95% merino wool, you get all the benefits that the New Zealand mountain sheep get, such as warmth, moisture-wicking, odor resistance, cool in the sun, UV protection, and the list of benefits goes on. While it is very breathable and regulates temperature well, it is great to have the half-length zip to cool down if you are hiking or chopping firewood.
It has a high neck that comes right up to your chin and traps in all your body heat when you have the hood up. The hood is amazing for keeping your head and neck warm and can be worn underneath a hat or balaclava. The terry knit is especially soft for when you pull your hood up in your sleeping bag and settle in for the night. The way the material is knit means that it doesn’t stick to your body when you are sweating and feels similar to how some Nike Dry-fit shirts feel.
The ribbed side panels provide extra stretch, which means that even if you wear the base layer tight, you don’t feel restricted. The cuffs on the sleeves stay where they are even when you stretch up so this is a great choice for climbers. All the trims are reinforced, and the stitching is as secure as you will ever see and you can just tell this is an especially high-quality product, made in Sweden.
VERDICT: The Fjallraven Bergtagen Woolterry Hoodie is available in both men’s and women’s and is our number-one pick for hooded base layer tops. Super soft, warm, breathable, and durable – you won’t want to take it off. You can sleep with it on and wake up and wear it to climb Mont Blanc in the morning.
Smartwool Merino 250 Plant-Based Dye Base Layer Hoodie
- MATERIAL: 100% Merino Wool
- WOMEN’S: Smartwool Merino 250 Plant-Based Dye Women’s Base Layer Hoodie
The Smartwool Merino 250 Plant-Based Dye Base Layer Hoodie is a very close second behind the Fjallraven Bergtagen and is a much more simple design. It doesn’t feature the zip, wrist cuffs, or side panels, but it is just as effective at keeping you warm with a hood. The designs are really cool, and if you click on the image above, you can see there are two almost tie-dye style baselayers that look great as a mid-layer.
We really like the hood and neck buff to trap in all the heat when you sleep or are outdoors in an icy wind. You can literally just pull this on, and you feel the warmth building up instantly, but you never seem to overheat. The shoulder panels on this top give a really nice fit that almost makes you look more athletic than you are. These panels make a big difference to the whole garment and really improve the fit, comfort, and freedom to move without the bottom/sleeves rolling up.
VERDICT: I love this hooded base layer. If you don’t want a zip or any fancy features, just a well-fitted base layer that has a hood – then this is the one for you. The only thing I wish it didn’t have was the big logo on the left for no reason other than I don’t like big logos.
First Lite Kiln Hoody
- MATERIAL: 250 weight 96% merino wool, 4% spandex
- WEIGHT: 15 oz / 425 g medium
- WOMEN’S: First Lite Women’s Kiln Hoody
The First Lite Kiln Hoody is designed for hunters and outdoorsmen who want a camo base layer with a hood that blends into the environment. There are three different camo variations, including Cipher, Fusion, and Specter, as well as four neutral colors if you don’t need the camouflage. Aside from the camo pattern prints, there are lots of features that make this a good choice for hikers and campers as well as hunters.
For starters, it is 96% merino wool with some added spandex for extra stretch. This makes the shirt super comfortable to wear next to the skin and perfect for being active, as it lets you move freely without feeling the fabric pull. There are thumb loops on each sleeve which helps keep your sleeves rolled down, stops snow from getting down your sleeve when wearing gloves, and helps to keep your wrists warm. There is a half-length zip and chest pocket, too, which are perfect for venting when hot and keeping something small close to the heart.
VERDICT: The First Lite Kiln Hoody is an easy winner in this category because they are the only ones making hooded camo base layers from merino wool.
Woolly Clothing Merino Pro-Knit Wool Pullover Hoodie
- MATERIAL: 250 weight 100% merino wool
- WOMEN’S: Woolly Clothing Women’s Merino Pro-Knit Wool Pullover Hoodie
The Woolly Clothing Merino Pro-Knit Wool Pullover Hoodie is one of our favorite hoodie base layers because it has the ever-useful kangaroo pouch front pocket. In most cases, we think that base layers don’t need pockets, and they are often so lightweight they don’t have the strength to hold anything too heavy. With this hooded thermal top, you can put your phone in the pouch instead of having to tuck it in your waistband or hold it.
The stone blue color is nice and neutral and looks great with jeans as well as on a 14-day thru-hike in North America. The fit is athletic but not too tight, which is really comfortable and maximizes warmth when you need it. There are other options in the Woolly Clothing Pro-Knit range, including one with a zip and a base layer without a hood. The material is smooth against the skin and naturally stretchy but is 100% merino wool with no synthetic fibers added.
VERDICT: The Woolly Clothing Merino Pro-Knit Wool Pullover Hoodie is a top performer when camping and looks great as a mid-layer in summer too. The fit is great, the hood is warm and not too floppy, and the pouch pocket always comes in handy to keep your phone or your hands warm.
Helly-Hansen LIFA Merino Midweight Hoodie Baselayer
- MATERIAL: 100% merino wool exterior and 100% LIFA Stay Warm Technology interior
- WEIGHT: 7.9 oz / 225 g
- WOMEN’S: Helly-Hansen LIFA Merino Midweight Hoodie Women’s Baselayer
The Helly-Hansen LIFA Merino Midweight Hoodie Baselayer uses a two-layer construction, unlike all other hooded base layers we have reviewed so far. The outer layer is 100% merino wool which has lots of amazing properties for warmth, breathability, odor resistance, etc… And the inner layer is made from LIFA Stay Warm fabric which is super soft on your skin and wicks moisture even better than merino wool.
We have a couple of different Helly Hansen base layer tops that we use for skiing and snowboarding, and it is remarkable just how warm they keep you. The problem is more often overheating than getting cold, which is why the LIFA material is so important to keep you dry and comfortable outdoors. The fit is nice and athletic with intuitive seems that doesn’t crease when you are bending, stretching, or active. The hood is well-shaped and has a nice neck warmer that helps to keep your body heat inside,
VERDICT: Don’t underestimate Helly-Hansen LIFA Merino Midweight Hoodie Baselayer because it is actually one of the warmest out there. The combination of merino and LIFA works amazingly well together to keep you warm and comfortable. If merino wool still feels itchy to you, then this might be a good pick.
TSLA Thermal Compression Shirts Hoodie with Mask
- MATERIAL: 90% Polyester, 10% Elastane
- WEIGHT: 8.7 oz / 247 g
- WOMEN’S: Available as a sun protection hoodie but not as a thermal
The TSLA Thermal Compression Shirts Hoodie with Mask is the best value hooded base layer for hiking, camping, and outdoor recreation. This is because instead of using expensive merino wool like the Smartwool hoodie or other options, the TSLA top is 100% synthetic using polyester and elastane. It is a tighter fitting than your average base layer because it is actually designed to be a compression shirt.
One of the coolest features of this thermal shirt with a hood is that it also has a mask that will cover your nose and look like a balaclava. This is especially useful post covid as you can just slide it over your face when entering shops etc.. Above that, though, it is just incredibly warm to cover your face with the mask and your head with the hood.
VERDICT: The TSLA Thermal Hoodie is ok if you have an athletic build or just like the mask feature, but it is a bit tight fitting. If this bothers you, then maybe order a size or two above what you normally wear.
MERIWOOL Base Layer Hoodie Merino Wool Thermal
- MATERIAL: 100% merino wool
- WEIGHT: 13.6 oz / 385 g
- WOMEN’S: MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer Hoodie
The MERIWOOL Base Layer Hoodie Merino Wool Thermal is a slightly looser-fitting hooded base layer because it doesn’t have any added stretchy fibers like elastane or spandex. While we say it is looser fitting, it isn’t baggy by any means and is designed to be worn next to the skin as well as a mid-layer thermal top with a hood. There is a half-length zip to cool off when you need it, and thumb loops on each sleeve to keep the warmth in.
One nice feature we haven’t seen on merino wool base layers before is the reflective strips on the zip and as a small patch on the center of the back. This helps you stay visible if your base layer isn’t underneath 3 or 4 jackets. You might think that merino wool might be itchy if you wear it next to your skin, but it is really soft, and any itch you feel when you put it on disappears after a short period of wearing or one trip through the washing machine.
VERDICT: The MERIWOOL Base Layer Hoodie is a super warm hooded base layer top that is ideal as a breathable warmth trapper. When you sleep in it with the hood up, it doesn’t matter how cold it is outside, you always feel cozy and warm inside your merino hoodie.
Synthetic Vs Merino Hooded Base Layers
You may notice that most of the best hooded base layers are made from merino wool or merino wool blend. This is for very good reason.
Synthetic Hooded Thermal Top
Synthetic hooded base layers are undoubtedly more comfortable to wear next to the skin (when worn from clean). Synthetic tops can also be made to fit much tighter than merino tops so much as to provide compression. They are also much cheaper than merino and can keep you just as warm if not warmer (with added weight).
Merino Thermal Tops with Hoods
Nothing works better than merino wool for hooded thermal tops. It keeps you warmer per weight, cooler when hot, and is lighter and more compactable than synthetic fibers. It is odor-resistant and antibacterial, sustainable, moisture-wicking, fast drying, and long-lasting. Why wouldn’t you choose merino wool?
Benefits of Base Layer Hoods
Base layers have lots of benefits, but base layer tops with hoods have even more. Here are some of the benefits you get from the extra hood component:
Prevents Cool Breeze Getting Down Your Back
If it is windy and cold at the same time, then you had better wrap up warm because that stuff will freeze you to the core quite rapidly. If you put the hood on your base layer, it extends your protection to cover your head and prevents cold wind from blowing down the back of your neck. The benefit of base layer hoods is that they aren’t baggy, so they won’t flap about or let in the cold wind when you are facing head-on into the wind.
Keeps Your Ears Warm Like a Hat
I’m sure most people have been in the situation of not having a hat when it’s cold out but finding that a hood is almost as good. Hoods are great for blocking icy wind and cold air from your ears, and just having that thin bit of fabric is enough to provide enough insulation. The upside of hoods is that they don’t mess up your hair as a beanie does.
Keeps Your Neck Warm Like a Scarf
As well as your ears and your head, hooded base layers also keep your neck warm. Most have at least a small rise at the front, which holds its shape when the hood is up and sits flat when the hood is down. As well as working like a scarf to keep your neck warm, the hood on a base layer is a no-sunscreen way to protect your neck from the sun, which can burn you even in winter if you are high enough. One property of merino wool is that it offers UPF 50+ level protection as well as insulates better than standard wool.
Traps in Body Heat
When you wear any kind of top, warm air escapes out of the neck, arms, and bottom holes, and there is nothing you can do about it, or is there? Wearing a hood traps your body heat around your head instead of allowing it to evaporate into the sky. If you wear a hat or another hood over the top of your base layer hood, then you get double the warmth.
If you are wearing your base layer to hike in during the day, then you will no doubt start to perspire at some point if you exert yourself enough. This can build up and start to get in your eyes if you don’t have a hat or sweatband to stop it. A hooded base layer sits quite close to your head and so when you sweat, the fabric will wick it away before it has a chance to get in your eyes.
Downsides of Base Base Layers With Hoods
There are some downsides to base layers having hoods like they can get in the way or be too hot when hiking, so let’s see what we can learn.
Hood Can Get in the Way When Not in Use
When your hood is down, it just kind of sits there at the top of your back, not really doing anything and often getting in the way. If you are wearing a backpack, for example, you may find yourself having to strategically hold your hood back when you put your bag on to stop it from getting pinned. If you pin your hood between yourself and any kind of pressure, it feels quite uncomfortable, like if you are leaning against the back of a chair or lying down. Sometimes it just gets annoying when you don’t need it.
Can Be Too Hot When You Are Active
Wearing a base layer hood traps body heat which can be a good thing if you are sitting or lying still, but when you are moving, you should avoid sweating when the temperature is low. Of course, you can always remove your hood, but then you’re faced with the problem above of it just being in the way.
Wearing the Hood can Pull the Bottom Up
While none of the hooded base layer tops we have tested have suffered from this, I have had tight-fitting hoodies that pull up when you put your hood on or stretch/extend your arms. You then have to roll it back down or tuck it into your pants to stop it from happening again. Again, this is just something to keep an eye out for and not something we have seen here.
What to Look for in a Hooded Base Layer Top
Some basic features you can look for when buying a base layer hoodie are the fit, sizing, weight, and type of material.
The fit is important and comes down to your body shape and how the top was designed. Most base layers are incredibly stretchy so that they can be worn next to the skin, and so as long as all the seems are in the right place and you order the correct size, you should be fine. The hood should be a fairly close fit that is elasticated around the rim to provide a snug fit.
The first thing you need to do is establish the correct size shirt to order.
When it comes to hooded base layers, you will never go wrong by ordering a size larger than you need, as they do have a tendency to shrink over time.
If you are ordering your clothes online like most people these days, then you lose the ability to try things on. It is well worth getting professionally measured by a tailor or doing it yourself following a Youtube video. Once you know your measurements, you can easily pick the correct size hooded thermal top to buy.
The weight of a baselayer can mean two things., It can mean the actual weight in ounces or grams. It can also mean the thickness of the material and is an especially important unit of measurement when the material is merino wool. This is because even a small increase in thickness can have a dramatic effect on the warmth of the long-sleeve base layer with a hood.
All of the hooded base layers we have seen have either been made from merino wool, merino wool blend, or synthetic fibers. We have not seen any bamboo hooded base layers, and there is only one company that makes one with interesting patterns (number 2 in the guide). Merino wool is a premium material for baselayers because it has the most beneficial qualities over any other fabric.
How is a Base Layer Hood Supposed to Fit?
The aim of a base layer is to trap warm air while remaining breathable. To do this effectively, hooded thermal shirts should be fairly close-fitting without feeling restrictive in any way. The hood should fit just the same and enclose your head instead of just sitting on top of your head like a regular coat hood. We have an entire article about how tight a base layer should be, which you can read if you want more detail.
Are Hooded Base Layers Worth it?
Hooded base layers are 100% worth it, even though they can be annoying or get in the way when you aren’t wearing the hood up. Because it is going to be sitting next to your skin, we only recommend using the best hooded base layers that fit well and are comfortable enough to wear all the time. Thanks for reading all the way to the end. You’re a legend!