The 9 Best Women's Base Layers For Warmth Without The Weight

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best women's base layers

Whether you’re hitting the slopes, cold-weather camping, or just out and about when temperatures drop, a base layer is key for keeping you warm and dry. The best women’s base layers are made from warm, soft, and moisture-wicking fabric like merino wool or polyester, and they fit snugly against the skin to pull sweat away from the body to keep you dry. Base layers also come in various styles and weights, so you can choose the right amount of warmth for your needs.

The best base layers for cold weather are made from merino wool or polyester, and while both fabrics wick away moisture, there are pros and cons to each:

  • Merino wool is super soft without the itchy feeling you might associate with wool. It’s temperature-regulating and highly resistant to odors, so it’ll stay fresh for longer between washes. However, wool does retain a bit more moisture than synthetics, so it may not feel as dry as polyester. It’s also usually more expensive and less durable than synthetic layers.
  • Polyester is durable, quick-drying, and excellent at wicking away moisture, but it does tend to retain odor. And while some polyester isn’t as soft to the touch as merino wool, brushed polyester or fleece will still provide a plush feel (and usually at a fraction of the price).

Depending on how chilly it is outside, you’ll want to choose between lightweight, mid-weight, and heavyweight styles. The best base layer for extreme cold will be a heavyweight one (and you may want to wear additional formfitting layers underneath, too), while lightweight and mid-weight layers are suitable for moderately cool to cold weather.

Before you head out for your next cold-weather activity, scroll on for the best women’s base layers on Amazon that’ll keep you toasty and comfortable through it all. Whichever fabric and weight work best for you, each of these tops and bottoms is designed to fit snugly against the skin to wick moisture and keep you warm and dry, without adding bulk.

1. A Temperature-Regulating Merino Wool Base Layer

A merino wool base layer is super soft to the touch, and it wicks moisture well and resists odor-causing bacteria — so it’s no surprise that wool is a top pick when layering for cold weather. Wool is also temperature-regulating, so it’ll keep you warm when you step outside, but it won't overheat you once you’re active. This mid-weight thermal top is made from 100% merino wool and features a comfy crew neck, and you can pick up a pair of matching pants too (sold separately). Also great: There’s a loop for hang-drying while you’re camping.

  • Available sizes: X-Small - Large
  • Available colors: 9

According to a fan: “This is the softest, coziest base layer ever. Was great even at 4 degrees on a ski trip. Didn’t feel heavy and laundered well.”

2. An Inexpensive Polyester Mid-Weight Layer

Polyester is excellent at wicking moisture and keeping you dry, and this mid-weight top is made with soft, brushed polyester fleece that's blended with spandex for four-way stretch, so it'll fit snugly and comfortably against your body. Plus, the crew neck top features seams that are positioned to prevent chafing, so it's ultra-comfortable, even when you're active.

  • Available sizes: XX-Small - 3X-Large
  • Available colors: 11

According to a fan: “I love to wear these in the winter under my sweaters and shirts. They are light enough to not add too much extra layers. They have just enough of a lining that makes them very warm and cozy!"

3. A Heavyweight Base Layer Top

The best base layer for extreme cold, this Carhartt top is made from a blend of polyester and wool, so it’s soft, moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating, and resistant to odor. The shirt features a comfy crew neck and concealed thumb loops that help keep the top in place when layered with other clothing. You can also pick up a pair of matching heavyweight thermal pants (sold separately).

  • Available sizes: X-Small - XX-Large
  • Available colors: 3

According to a fan: “Didn’t get warm/sweaty when being active and stayed cozy warm when less active.”

4. A Pair Of Heavyweight Thermal Pants

These double-layer thermal leggings are perfect for super-cold days. They’re made from a blend of polyester and spandex to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable, and for even more comfort, the pants have a tag-free waist with a drawcord so you can adjust for the perfect fit.

  • Available sizes: Small - X-Large
  • Available colors: 1 (black)

According to a fan: “I wore a pair every day as my base layer and sometimes alone while I was in Iceland during the winter and stayed warm! They were also great and performed well in the snow and on several hikes. Loved them!”

5. A Highly Rated Thermal Set That's Budget-Friendly

If you want some budget-friendly winter gear for moderately cold weather, this affordable thermal set is highly rated with more than 2,000 reviews. The breathable top and pants are made from polyester and spandex and create a lightweight, moisture-wicking base layer with four-way stretch. The soft fleece lining makes this set feel super cozy too.

  • Available sizes: Small - XX-Large
  • Available colors: 7

According to a fan: “I purchased this thermal underwear for a trip to Scotland. They fit like thermal underwear should, close to the body. My street clothes glide over them, including my snug fitting jeans. The fleece lining is soft and warm, but not bulky.”

6. A Cozy Thermal Set

Made from polyester and spandex with a soft fleece lining, this thermal base layer set keeps you warm, dry, and comfy. The lightweight set includes a long-sleeve crew neck top and matching bottoms, giving you a layer of warmth that won’t feel bulky underneath your other cold-weather gear.

  • Available sizes: 16 Plus - 28 Plus
  • Available colors: 7

According to a fan: “These were great! Soft, warm, and thin, which was great for wearing as a base layer in very cold weather!”

7. A Compression Mock Turtleneck

Boasting impressively high ratings, this mock turtleneck base layer is great if you want a little move coverage than you’d get with a crew neck. The compression design means it'll fit super snugly against the body, making it perfect for layering. It's made from 100% polyester with four-way stretch, and the soft knit fabric feels cozy against the skin. The top also features anti-odor technology to keep it smelling fresh for longer. Also great: You can complete the look with leggings (sold separately).

  • Available sizes: X-Small - XX-Large
  • Available colors: 9

According to a fan: “This should be a staple for anyone who needs a good base layer for winter sports. Will last you years and keep you warm!

8. This Half-Zip Top That Comes In Fun Patterns

Have a little fun with your base layer in this patterned half-zip base layer top. It’s made from moisture-wicking polyester with a brushed interior that feels soft against the skin, and it has four-way stretch to allow for full range of movement. You can zip the pullover top all the way up for full coverage and warmth and unzip when you need a little more ventilation. Plus, there are matching bottoms (sold separately) to complete the look.

  • Available sizes: X-Small - X-Large
  • Available colors: 6

According to a fan: “Nice light weight fabric to provide some warmth but not get too hot when working on the slopes. Fun pattern is a bonus.”

9. A Stretchy Hoodie With Thumbholes

This soft and stretchy hoodie is a versatile piece that works equally well on its own or layered. It’s made from a blend of warm and moisture-wicking polyester and spandex and features accent stitching and thumbholes to help keep it in place under your top layers. Reviewers rave about this top’s lightweight, soft, buttery feel.

  • Available sizes: X-Small - XX-Large
  • Available colors: 7

According to a fan: “This shirt is super soft and a great as a base layer or by itself.”