Open main menu

Base Layers for the coldest climates

As a guide I am often ask what my favourite brand is  when buying a new piece of gear. I tell them brand come in at #4 in my decision making. 
So I am looking for new base layers and I am looking for some suggestions

Following my parameters 

# 1 What do I want it for 

To be fairly heavy for active - 35 days - tops and bottoms  

#2 What do I want it to do

To be hard wearing ( I‘ m it from Nov - Apr )

Mostly polyester for wicking and drying. 

Easy to get in and out of for nature breaks 

#3 What am I willing to pay for it 

$25 -$35 pr piece 

#4 What Brand 

Not that many to choose from.

I know most of you are going to through  out marina wool  . Sorry most of it is too thin and lasts me only a few months.There  is the challenge 


I have had good experience with Patagonia's synthetic base layers, and I tested an Outdoor Research top that is a merino wool/polyester blend.  I also wear smartwool and ibex merino wool base layers.  Ignore the wool, you say you don't want those, and the others are outside your price range.

try 32 Degrees:

or, under armour or nike cold weather/thermal weight layers are OK - durable, reasonably functional.  

Think, What do Finns, Danes, Aleuts, Inuit, and the like wear?

Thanks for the advice for the 32 degrees. What I was looking for. Except they don’t ship to Canada. 
Amazon has there regular %500 markup so that won’t work. For 10 pieces. 

What  do Fins  and Danes wear? To avoid shrinkage.

My standard winter layers are pretty simple---always a long sleeve silk top against the skin---SILK is the way to go for comfort.

Afterwhich you have two choices---capilene or merino.  I go thru phases and currently (and for my next trip in December) my torso layers will be---

**Silk baselayer (with hiking t-shirt over it as this combo often becomes what I actually backpack in during cool weather).  Here's a pic from a recent trip---


 **Over these layers I usually put one or two merino tops---and Smartwool has some nice long sleeve merino tops---


Me wearing my smartwool top---with Patman.

 **Over the merino I really like the Patagonia Thermal weight hoody with the zip neck---


Patagonia Thermal Hoody

 **Over this I slap on my reconfigured 1980s North Face down vest for in-camp warmth---I cut apart a busted Exped Downmat and filled the vest up with several extra ozs of premium goose down.


This baby is Hot!!


Wool.  It does not need to be Merino or Angora or Cashmere. 

Artificial fabrics smell after awhile.  If you live and work outdoors, instead of going out for the weekend.  It makes a big difference. 

Standard wool sweaters were all I ever used for backpacking in the 1970s--80s---but wool generally sucks against the skin unless it's merino and even then it can itch.  This is why I recommend a silk baselayer top and bottom.

But I wear merino leggings all the time for both hiking and as sleeping pajamas.

Synthetic baselayers like polypropylene and capilene itch too much and aren't comfortable for me.

I think that, as Skurka has mentioned, the thinnest is best. A baselayer's goal is to wick sweat. To this end, I'be found that the original mesh Brynje set is the best, followed by Patagucci's Cap 4 (now Expedition weight) is best if in truly cold conditions with sporadic rest breaks. If I don't know the exact conditions to expect, but I know it's gonna be really cold, I go with Cap 4 pants and a hoody. They are much warmer than the Brynje set, and dry almost as quickly. My two cents...

Working in Alaska was a challenge.  Even in summer the first thing I put on was a union suit of Stanfield wool made in Canada.  Just the thing for cold rain, wet brush and wading rivers.  I smelled like a wet sheep sometimes, but never like a rank human. 

I have a couple of those . Just a pain getting in and out of when your heavily layered up. But yes I believe  the best there is. 

I like my "polar weight" this polyester base layer for the coldest weather.

** If you buy a thick top that has tiny "squares" of fleece in a grid pattern on the inside it may make marks to the pattern on your skin and cause irritation. In that case just wear it inside-out.

May 28, 2022
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply