Last Updated on 27/08/2023
In this guide, we share the 11 Best Women’s Base Layer Tops to keep you warm in cold weather (and dry when the sun comes out). You will learn which type of base layer top works best to keep you warm and which is best for layering. We also share some advice on what to avoid and how to get the right fit for your body.
What are the Best Base Layer Tops for Women?
If you’re a woman who loves the outdoors – following your wanderlust up mountains, across glaciers, and through forests – you need one of these Best Women’s Base Layer Tops to maintain a comfortable body temperature while you’re out adventuring. Unlike men’s base layers, these performance underlayers are designed for curves!
Base layers might look flimsy, but they’re not to be underestimated and should be considered as functional outdoor gear rather than a fashion statement. These smart little garments are designed to keep your body functioning optimally in varying heats and environments. So if you’re wondering whether or not to grab some base layer tops to stay warm, check out all these top-rated Women’s Base Layer Tops or jump over to our guide for hooded base layers.
Best Women’s Base Layer Tops Reviewed
Icebreaker Women’s Oasis Long Sleeve Crew Top
- MATERIAL: 100% Merino wool
- WEIGHT: 6.52 oz / 185 g
The Oasis long-sleeved top is one of their most popular models for both men and women thanks to its comfort, performance, and value for money.
Icebreaker is well known as one of the leading merino wool brands around the world, with consistently high-quality products and materials sourced directly from New Zealand. Merino has some incredible benefits which make it a top choice for all kinds of outdoor activities as well as wearing around the house or to work. Layer up to get the temperature just right, or wear it on its own as a stylish long-sleeve tee.
North Face Warm L S Crew Neck Women’s Base Layer Top
- MATERIAL: 57% polyester, 43% Repreve® recycled polyester, FlashDry™ Eco and anti-odor, high mechanical stretch double knit
- WEIGHT: 6.7 oz / 190 g
The North Face Warm Crew base layer top is an essential piece of gear for backpacking in cold conditions. The versatile blend of eco-conscious synthetic materials provides a balance of warmth, comfort, wicking, and stretch with a super-fast drying time. Very cozy and easy to wear under other layers, this mid-weight top has a next-to-the-skin fit for an improved range of movements.
WoolX Peyton Women’s Merino Wool Base Layer Turtleneck
- MATERIAL: 100% Australian Merino Wool
- WEIGHT: 9.6 ounces / 260 g
The WoolX Peyton turtleneck base layer is a midweight made from 100 % Australian merino wool, making it extremely warm and soft. Merino Wool is very breathable, moisture-wicking doesn’t itch or hold any odor. Merino wool also has some incredible insulating properties, which make the WoolX Peyton ideal for skiing, hiking, and camping as a base layer or mid-layer. The turtleneck keeps your neck extra warm on cold days as well as feels silky smooth against your skin.
Ibex Women’s Woolies 1 Crew Long Sleeve Base Layer
- MATERIAL: 100% Merino Woo
- WEIGHT: 4.29 oz / 122 g
The Ibex Woolies 1 base layer tops are a favorite amongst adventurous humans who adopt it as their go-to insulation choice. Warm, super-soft, breathable, lightweight, and tough, the Ibex Woolies 1 are backpacker-friendly and ideal for all outdoor pursuits. All the fibers and fabric are sourced from New Zealand and made in Canada so you know you are getting the best quality. Stylish stripes or plain colors look great as a stand-alone shirt, and Woolies are also available with a 1/4 zip.
Under Armour Women’s Base 3.0 Crew Top
- MATERIAL: 93% Polyester / 7% Elastane
- WEIGHT: 7 oz / 198 g
The Under Armour Women’s Base 3.0 is designed for use in extreme cold and is sure to keep you warm you dry. Slim fitting without feeling too tight, the synthetic material feels light, stretchy, and breathable. Thumbholes are always a nice touch and help stop snow from going up your sleeves when you use them in the snow with gloves on. Quick Dry construction wicks moisture away and also dries fast if it gets wet, which makes it a good base layer for skiing and snowboarding.
Smartwool Women’s NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew
- MATERIAL: 100% Merino Wool
- WEIGHT: 7.05 oz / 200 g
Smartwool’s NTS 250 midweight crew top is very popular among hikers and climbers because it is just so warm and fits so well. Working tirelessly as a base layer, mid-layer, or stand-alone top makes it truly versatile.
Flatlock seams and panels are completely chafe-free and work with the curves of your body without being too loose or too clingy. UPF 50+ protection from the sun is another benefit of pure merino wool. Even though this top will never hold body odor and start to smell, you can wash and tumble dry on low heat with your other clothes.
ColdPruf Women’s Quest Performance Base Layer
- MATERIAL: 85% Polyester / 15% Spandex
- WEIGHT: 6.5 oz / 184 g
The ColdPruf Quest Performance Base Layer has perhaps the most athletic fit of all the tops on this list which makes it perfect for climbing and other activities where you are stretching your limbs.
The synthetic material is brushed on the inside for extra comfort and has Silvadur Intelligent freshness fabric to prevent odor and aid in wicking moisture. Thumbhole cuffs and the drop tail cut give you extra protection from the wind, snow, and cold spots, allowing you to tuck the shirt into other items of clothing easily.
Rab MeCo 120 Long Sleeve Tee Base Layer
- MATERIAL: 65% Australian merino wool / 35% Polyester with 37.5 Technology
- WEIGHT: 132 g / 4.9 oz
The Women’s Rab MeCo 120 Long Sleeve Tee is a lightweight baselayer with quick-drying and anti-odor properties, for multi-day use. The superfine merino wool offers performance thermoregulation, softness, breathability, and the 37.5 technology helps increase durability and dry time. Ideal for milder conditions or multiple layering, you can also get this in a short sleeve for use with a regular t-shirt.
Arc’teryx Women’s Phase AR Crew Top
- MATERIAL: Phasic™ 100% polyester
- WEIGHT: 4.6 oz / 130 g
The Arc’teryx Phase AR Crew top is a base layer designed for labor-intensive activities in cold weather. The lightweight material offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, is fast drying, and will stretch like elastic.
This helps you feel unrestricted when extending your arms for things like climbing and also stops it from riding up to reveal bare skin. The thinner panels under the arm improve thermal regulation and reduce the overall weight/bulk to make this great for lightweight packing.
Burton Women’s Midweight Crew Base Layer
- MATERIAL: 93% Polyester / 7% Spandex
- WEIGHT: 9.6 oz / 272 g
The Women’s Burton Midweight crew is made with DRYRIDE ultra-wick fabric that focuses on pulling sweat away from your skin and out of your outer layers. This, in turn, helps you stay warmer and more comfortable for longer.
This particular design is called the Coral Flynn Glitch and certainly looks amazing as a stand-alone top. The extra-long body is easy to tuck in, and the thumbhole loops keep your sleeves pulled down to keep the heat in.
- MATERIAL: 100% Merino Wool
- WEIGHT: 8.32 oz / 235 g
The Minus33 Ossipee is a midweight base layer for women who wear their gear hard but still want that cozy feeling of being warm and comfortable. At an affordable price point, this merino top has a looser fit than some others on this list but will easily layer underneath other garments.
The Minus33 Osippee is a cheap and cheerful base layer for someone who wants the benefits of merino wool but doesn’t want to pay for the absolute premium.
Layering up is by far the best way to go in cold weather, especially if you are doing activities where you might be active one minute and stationary the next. Layering allows you to remove and add clothing as your body temperature rises and falls, controlling your comfort level much like a central heating thermostat. If you rely on just a few key items to keep you warm, like a down jacket, then you will often have to decide between being too hot or too cold during outdoor activities.
To give you another analogy, base layers are like the foundations of a house. If you start with the best base layers and then build up your clothing layers from there, you are giving yourself a great start to staying warm and dry in the wild. And because base layer tops are designed to be worn close to the skin, they are incredibly soft and flexible to ensure you stay comfortable and are not restricted in your movements.
Base layers help your body maintain its ideal temperature by keeping you warm when it’s cold outside and cool when it’s warm.
How Do Base Layers Work?
Base layers trap warm pockets of air next to the skin when worn underneath other layers of clothing as well as wick moisture away to keep you dry. They are an easy way to add warmth to your arsenal of outdoor clothing without adding much weight or taking up space in your backpack. With superior wicking qualities, perspiration is transported away from your body and keeps the fabric light and breathable.
Stretchy fabrics are often blended with insulating materials to give unlimited freedom of movement alongside thermoregulation. Base layer tops that have thumb loops can be worn underneath ski/snowboard gloves to trap heat and prevent snow from getting down your sleeve.
How Should They Fit?
Unlike other outdoor gear, base layers are designed to fit snugly against the skin and provide a close fit, covering the whole torso. This means air is trapped next to the skin and insulates your body. They’re thin-knit, so you can layer them with other items and even double or triple up your base layers.
How Do You Wear Them?
Base layers can be worn solo and are available in long and short sleeves. But the best way to wear them is by layering them. In fact, they’re sometimes known as “undergarments” as people tend to wear them underneath other tops. When you layer them, it creates pockets of warm air between the layers, which is much more effective than just one thick layer. The ideal layering system is a base layer, a mid-layer (fleece or jumper), and an outer layer (outerwear).
Synthetic Base Layer Tops
Synthetic base layers are generally made of polyester or polyester blends. They’re designed for temperatures as low as -10 degrees in combination with other layers and outerwear.
PROS: They’re often used for sports in colder weather, as they have excellent wicking properties, and are extremely lightweight and quick-drying, which makes them ideal for active pursuits. They’re relatively cheap compared to other types of base layers and are generally machine washable.
CONS: They’re not so good in extremely cold environments, and they’re not antibacterial.
Merino Wool Base Layer Tops
Merino wool comes from Merino sheep, who have survived in very harsh conditions for centuries thanks to their special coat. Evolution has made their wool an excellent material for outdoor clothing, and I have written about the benefits here.
PROS: Like the sheep, you’ll benefit from a regulated body temperature, retaining heat and staying cool. This makes them perfect for outdoor pursuits in the extreme cold (down to -20) and for changeable weather. They’re also naturally UV-resistant, wicking, and anti-bacterial (less smelly). What’s more, they retain their thermal ability even if they get wet.
CONS: Unfortunately, this plethora of benefits means they cost more and can be hard to find in your average outdoor store.
Bamboo Blend Base Layer Tops
This relatively new offering to the base layer world is made of bamboo extracts and blends such as bamboo merino.
PROS: They provide a tighter fit than merino and hold their shape well. They’re ideal for those who get skin irritations from wool. They’re quick-drying, very hard-wearing, anti-bacterial, anti-static, and cheaper than merino.
CONS: However, as they’re pretty new to the scene, they’re not widely available at the moment, and some brands are performing much better than others under testing.
Thanks for reading our Top 11 Best Women’s Base Layer Tops for staying warm and comfortable outdoors. Subscribe or stay tuned for our list of the best base layer bottoms coming soon.