The 5 Best Base Layers For Cold Weather Hunting Reviewed in 2021

When it comes to choosing the right under layer for the insulation portion of your outerwear during your hunting trip, there are a lot of brands to sift through. Some of the more well known are, for example, Sitka, Under Armour, IBEX, and Helly Hansen.

Many under layer shirts are designed to wick moisture, as well as to provide comfort when exposed to the elements. They also have an antibacterial effect, and thus offer good odor control.

Base layer shirts make a great combo with leggings or base layer pants to keep you warm and dry in the bush.

Here are our top five base layers for hunting to give you a good foundation for your search for the perfect hunting base layer.

Here's The Best Base Layers For Cold Weather For Hunting, Backed By 24+ Hours Of Research

Smartwool Men’s Nts Mid 250

Why is it better?

Smartwool Men’s Nts Mid 250 Zip T

5 Best Base Layers

With that in mind, let’s now take a closer look at our top picks.

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Let’s dive into the specifics and review each base layer individually. You can use the list below to jump and review specific models, or you can read along and go through all the information.

Best Overall: Smartwool Men’s Nts Mid 250

The Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Zip T is our top pick for base layers for hunting due to its innovative design and high-quality all-natural fabric.

Made out of meriwool, this undershirt keeps you warm on even the coldest of days and features an interlock knit pattern to increase heat retention on the field.

The Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Zip T emphasizes comfort as its main feature, and with specially designed shoulder panels, you won’t have to worry about potentially damaging the shoulder seams.

With flatlock seam construction included as part of the standard design, featured in all of Smartwool’s undershirts, this base layer is less likely to cause irritation when worn for a longer period of time and during strenuous activity.

The Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Zip T is a skin-tight undershirt option that can help provide warmth and comfort without causing irritation or restriction and is perfect for hunting trips.

With a center front zipper allowing for various levels of adjustment to help vent extra heat if necessary and avoid stretching the neck area of the shirt, the Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Zip T is easily one of the most user-friendly and durable base layers on the market.

This undershirt can be machine-washed and air-dried, and due to the 100% meriwool base, it’s much more moisture-friendly than most other natural fibers.

If you are looking for a comfortable and durable undershirt to add to your hunting gear kit, the Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Zip T is one of the best options on the market for the dedicated hunter.

PROS

  • Excellent temperature regulation
  • Comfy
  • Among the warmest
  • Has a zipper

CONS

  • As with all merino products, you have to treat them delicately

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Waterproof to 10m without a case
  • GPS
  • 2-inch touchscreen display
  • RAW photography and Wide Dynamic Range

PRODUCT INFORMATION

  • Made In: Vietnam
  • Material: 100% Merino Wool
  • Machine Washable: Yes

First Lite Chama Qz Top

This hunting base layer is also a merino wool base layer, comes in a superfine knit weight to act as a lightweight base layer that can be worn under any form of clothing, from a hunting jacket for a week-long hunting trip toa hoodie for added warmth at a college football game.

The main perk of this underlayer option is its lightweight, jersey-knit style that is nearly indistinguishable in texture from your favorite t-shirt.

With a flatlock seam design and an easy-to-access left arm pocket perfect for storing additional supplies for your hunting trip or your phone during a run, the shirt can work well under your clothing or on its own.

Offered in both brown and hunter’s camo, during the more temperate months of the year you can get away with the First Lite Chama Qz Top as your main layer without worrying about being cold.

This hunting under layer is a bit on the looser side compared to most other designs on the market, making it perfect for individuals with longer torsos or those who need more space in the shoulder area.

Much like our number one option, the First Lite Chama Qz Top is machine washable but should be air-dried to ensure the longest possible life for the fabric itself.

Since this top is made of natural fabrics, it is less moisture-wicking than some synthetic options, but the extra durability and warmth of the meriwool knit are worth a slightly heavier base layer, especially for late fall and winter hunting trips. The versatile design makes it perfect for other outdoor activities as well, such as skiing, snowboarding, and hiking.

PROS

  • 100% other fibers
  • Made in the USA
  • Machine washable
  • 18.5 micron, Superfine, Pure 100% Merino wool
  • Lightweight, jersey-knit fabric

CONS

  • No noticable cons

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Covered by First Lite’s Warranty
  • Ergo cuff with thumb loops
  • Flat lock seams for next-to-skin comfort
  • Interlock knit

PRODUCT INFORMATION

  • Made In: USA and Imported
  • Material: 100% Other Fibers
  • Machine Washable: Yes

Icebreaker Merino Mens Oasis Year-Round Base Layer

The Icebreaker Merino Men’s Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe is the most t-shirt-like option on our hunting base layer list.

Cut in a traditional crewneck design that resembles a henley shirt cut, this undershirt is perfect for wearing under hunting gear, as well for any other casual activities that could use some added warmth.

Made of 100% imported meriwool, this top is as durable as our other options and is perfect for everyday use.

Its relaxed design doesn’t make you choose between fashionable shirt choices and warmth, allowing you to get away with wearing this base layer as a normal top on a daily basis.

The Icebreaker Merino Men’s Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe features a drop-tail hem that allows it to be tucked in easier and a larger range of motion due to the additional length.

The flatlock seam design eliminates the potential for chafing and the off-set shoulder seams reduce backpack friction on long hunting trips and hiking excursions.

This special seam design also features a raglan back for more mobility, so you won’t feel restricted by an otherwise tight shirt.

While Merino is more breathable than most cotton or polyester fabrics on the market, it does offer sufficient heat, making it more suitable for colder temperatures.

While still functional in more humid situations, the top is not necessarily made for high temperatures, although the natural fiber weave does allow for some moisture transfer away from the skin.

If you are looking for a good base layer for a hunting trip, the Icebreaker Merino Men’s Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe is our recommended choice for someone looking for flexibility with their base layer, as it can be used for situations that are not exclusively related to hunting.

PROS

  • Most versatile base layer
  • Offset shoulder seams
  • Flatlock seams prevent chafing
  • Drop tail hem for added coverage
  • Icebreaker heat transfer logo

CONS

  • Fabric is little itchy

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Very warm
  • Well made

PRODUCT INFORMATION

  • Made In: Imported
  • Material: 100% Wool
  • Machine Washable: Yes

Ibex Merino Wool Men's Woolies 1 Crew Shirt

The Ibex Merino Wool Men’s Woolies 1 Crew Shirt is a rib-knit base layer top that is not necessarily marketed towards being an incredibly insulating layer for hunting, but rather a good mid-range insulated option for early season hunting adventures.

Made of Merino wool and nylon, this lightweight undershirt is ideal for more humid climates due to the wicking property of the nylon base.

For added comfort in strenuous situations, the Ibex Merino Wool Men’s Woolies 1 Crew Shirt is designed with flatlock seams and a tag-free design to prevent irritation from backpacks or rifle case shoulder straps.

With a wide range of looser undershirt designs and sizes, this base layer is perfect for the hunter who is looking for a bit of a relaxed fit.

The light, durable fabric is similar to many other shirts on this list, but the nylon fiber blend does raise the potential risk for skin irritations during periods of longer wear.

Bear in mind, this undershirt design also has longer sleeves than other options, which can be a bonus for individuals with longer arms, or for people who like having some extra give to their sleeves for easier movement.

The main reason that the product is at number four on our list is the slightly oversized design, which may be uncomfortable for some individuals, as well as the mixed fabric design that can lead to shrinkage if cared for incorrectly.

However, if you are looking for a layer that works well for a wide range of activities, including hunting, fishing, and hiking, the Ibex Merino Wool Men’s Woolies 1 Crew Shirt is a good-quality undershirt that will help provide comfort and support for most athletic activities.

PROS

  • Very soft due to fiber diameter
  • Does a good job of wicking moisture
  • Keeps you warm and dry
  • A good stretch to the material
  • Semi-tight fit

CONS

  • Fabric could be a bit scratchy for some

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Machine washable
  • Naturally odor resistant
  • Superfine wool yarn
  • Rib-knit construction

PRODUCT INFORMATION

  • Made In: Imported
  • Material: 86% Merino Wool/14% Nylon
  • Machine Washable: Yes

Helly Hansen Men's Lifa Stripe Crew Baselayer Top

The Helly Hansen Men’s Dry Stripe Crew is a good example of a hunting base layer that’s on the lower end cost-wise.

Made of a polypropylene synthetic fabric, the top is more likely to cause irritations for individuals with sensitive skin.

However, it offers moisture-wicking and lightweight protection from both hot and cold environments.

For a hunter who is looking for a good backup base layer for hunting trips, this shirt is a perfect option.

Made with flatlock stitching to allow for flexible movement and less irritation, as well as boasting an overall shirt design that is tailored to fit most sports activities and seasons, this shirt is the ideal layer for someone looking for versatility.

For the huntsman who is active during all seasons, it can act as a standalone shirt or an added layer to keep you warm in the colder months and is easy to care for.

Boasting HH Dry fabric that allows it to wick moisture from the skin faster than most other natural fiber-based layer options, this top is perfect for hunters and fishermen that like to enjoy the great outdoors despite the weather conditions.

The drying fabric in the HH Dry Stripe Crew is also perfect for perspiration control and can help prevent other skin irritations, especially in individuals who may be unable to use natural fabrics due to allergies.

Though the Helly Hansen Men’s HH Dry Stripe Base Layer Crew sits at the bottom of our recommended list, this shirt is a good starting layer for someone looking for a flexible underlayer to keep them dry in wet weather, cool in hot weather, and warm during the colder days.

This top is ideal for hunting in all conditions due to its flexibility, loose fit, and athletic design, and should be a must-have in any hunter’s kit.

PROS

  • Extremely breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Dries fast
  • Super affordable
  • Low bulk cuffs

CONS

  • Not very warm

EXTRA FEATURES

  • LIFA stay dry tech
  • Offers light insulation
  • Flat lock stitching
  • Casual fit

PRODUCT INFORMATION

  • Dimensions: 3.25in, D: 6.25in, 1 liter volume
  • Weight: 14.5lbs
  • Material: Non-toxic anodized aluminum, wood and BPA free plastic
  • No of pieces in a set: 10
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Table of Contents

All About Hunting Base Layers

Wearing Hunting Base Layer

The right under layer for cold weather hunting should provide both comfort and warmth in situations that need it, as well as not be too bulky. We are talking about the first layer of clothing nearest to your skin—a second skin of sorts.

When being outside for long periods of time, it is important to make sure that your body is able to thermoregulate itself in order to avoid things like heat stroke and hypothermia. For this, you really need to develop a good layering system.

That is where having an under layer for your clothing comes in handy, especially for hunting and fishing, where you may find yourself sitting for long periods of time in cold conditions without a chance to really retain your body heat. This is why breathability is very important for your base layer clothing, both for the shirt and the leggings or base layer pants.

Having multiple layers of clothing when you are out in the woods allows you to stay in one position in a discomforting climate longer, making it easier for you to stalk your prey.

Additionally, many base layers are also antibacterial, which helps with odor control as well as with avoiding that itchy and yucky skin feel. On top of their antimicrobial effect, most are also quick-drying, so you can just hang them out on a branch for a quarter of an hour and you’ll be ready to continue your adventure.

Multiple layers also allow you to adjust the layering of your clothing to the environment and can help prevent you from becoming soaked in situations that are not necessarily ideal, such as a rainy or foggy day, a light snowfall, or anything in between.

When picking the right one for your hunting cold gear, the material that makes up the underlayer is important, as certain kinds of fabric can be less conducive to long-term wear and moisture prevention than others.

The material also determines their weight. For example, it is best to avoid cotton fabrics, as they can trap moisture, and are much heavier than some natural fabrics, such as Merino wool or some synthetic base layers. Synthetics (e.g. spandex/lycra) typically range from being lightweight to midweight, while meriwool ranges from being middleweight to heavyweight.

A synthetic that is made to resist water while also drawing from the moisture away from the body may be best while hunting or during outdoor activities that may cause you to perspire more than you would on an average day, but they can be irritating to some people with more sensitive skin.

Looking into undergarments that are specifically tailored towards individuals who hunt may be best in the long-term, as these shirts usually feature fabrics that are specially tested to make sure that they stand against unique wear and tear found on a hunting trip, and are often tested to make sure that they last for a long period of time.

A good hunting base layer will help provide comfort on Long hunting trips without leaving a rash or other forms of irritation on the skin.

When shopping for a hunting base layer, there are a few key things to keep in mind. As mentioned earlier, the fabric that makes up your base layer is crucial.

However, making sure that the base layer is the correct size for you is also key to ensuring your comfort and the best performance of the base layer.

Even the best-made base layer can cause irritation and discomfort if worn too tightly against the skin.

With this in mind, most base layers are meant to be fairly form-fitting, and as such, having an overly large base layer may interfere with its moisture wicking technology.

Like a good business suit, a good hunting base layer should be form-fitting, but not restricting.

If you find that you feel restricted in the shoulder or chest area by your undershirt, it might be time to invest in a new base layer.

Importance Of A Hunting Base Layer

Here is a YouTube video outlining the importance of a good base layer for staying warm while hunting in the extreme cold:

Here is a YouTube video outlining the importance of a good base layer for staying warm while hunting in the extreme cold:

Make sure to follow instructions closely when it comes to maintaining your base layer.

While most base layers can be washed much like any other article of clothing, is important to maintain your hunting undershirt in order to avoid long-term damage, such as pulls, runs, uneven fabric wearing, and other issues that can befall an improperly cared for piece of clothing.

A good base layer is as much of a good investment as a high-quality hunting knife, and as such, should be cared for appropriately.

In some cases, your base layer cannot be dried like normal clothing and may need to be hung up after washing to preserve its shape and structural integrity.

In the case of some forms of synthetic fabrics, the heat of the dryer may cause shrinkage and even melt the fabric.

It’s important to check the care instructions ahead of time before cleaning your undershirt after a long hunting trip.

Base layers are best used in situations where you need a bit of a buffer between your primary clothing and your skin, such as in situations where you may find yourself in a humid environment, or a cold, damp environment, where long-term exposure to the elements may cause your everyday clothing to cling and stick to your skin.

This can also lead to uncomfortable rubbing, which can cause rashes and blisters.

Making sure you have a good top base layer, as well as possible additional layers for your legs and your feet, can increase your productivity on your hunting trip, as well as ensure your comfort for the long term.

In incredibly cold environments, such as fall hunting season, an undershirt may help increase the duration of your hunting trip, as you can spend more time searching for your prey and less time praying for a warm bed.

The right base layer can help you be on your best game possible.

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