Layering correctly allows your body to maintain an appropriate temperature while out in the field. If your internal thermostat is adjusted to its sweet spot you’re comfortable, but more importantly you’re able to focus on your surroundings properly.
Picking out a good base layer for hunting involves a bit more thought than one might expect. That being said, it isn’t overly complex and you should still make sure to dress in the appropriate gear for different climate types.
Our team at Outdoor Nomad has carefully researched the ideal base layering technique for a variety of weather conditions. We’ve assembled a short list of what we believe to be the best of the best, depending on a user’s needs.
Before we get into our list, let’s expand a bit on why thoughtful base layering matters.
Keeping the Engine Cool (or Warm)
Hunting has been in humankind’s blood for countless millennia. Even the earliest hunters understood the importance of temperature control during long stretches of exposure to the elements, no matter how primitive their understanding of the human body.
An obvious reason for base layering properly is to ensure that you stay safe. I’m unsure of how many of our readers have experienced heat stroke or hypothermia, but if you haven’t, believe me when I say they don’t make for much of a fun time.
Safety is only one branch of the base layering benefit tree. Another big factor to consider is your comfort. Some of you ultra-tough guys and gals out there will shrug this off as irrelevant, but for most of us, being comfortable during the hunt makes it much easier to enjoy.
As I mentioned above, being comfortable offers more of a benefit than allowing you to better enjoy yourself. Optimal performance is something that every hunter cares about (or should care about). When your body is kept appropriately cool or warm you’re much more likely to be firing on all cylinders.
Why Material Weight is Important
Ryan Callaghan over at First Lite gives a fantastic overview of the thought process he uses when choosing the best base layer for a day of hunting. He summarizes the strategic concept perfectly, stating “there is no set way to base layer.”
A simple Merino t-shirt is recommended for days when it’s relatively warm, or for days when you’ll be exerting yourself more than usual. “I’ll put my insulating layer on over the top of that when I stop,” adds Ryan.
Everyone has a different definition of cold, but our expert defines cold as any day the temperature is sure not to go above freezing. He recommends roughly a 230 g/m2 Merino “next to skin,” followed by the insulating layer over top.
The layers really start to add up for later season excursions when you’re likely to be mostly stationary. Ryan recommends starting with a heavier weight Merino, 330 g/m2 or so, followed by a light insulation layer and a “big, heavy, high-insulation, cold weather piece,” to tie it all together.
Even in these ultra-cold weather situations, Ryan emphasizes that there’s nothing wrong with using a thinner Merino t-shirt in conjunction with your heavier, high-insulation gear. You shouldn’t feel obligated to follow any one step-by-step guide to the letter.
There truly is no exact science to layer; the best hunting base layer is simply a matter of preference. If you aren’t developing frost bite or baking like a potato, it’s safe to say you’ve done a good job.
You can, however, go wrong in selecting low-quality pieces for your base layer set.
Best Base Layers for Hunting – Our Picks
The primary criteria used to compile this list include base layer material quality and performance. Let’s go ahead and get started.
Best Standalone Base Layer (Top) – First Lite Llano Merino Quarter Zip
On some occasions you’ll find that only one layer is necessary. This quarter zip by First Lite is hands down the way to go in such a situation.
The 170 g/m2 weight makes the Llano suitable for wear across a broad spectrum of temperatures. It’s a unique statistic, something you won’t come across easily with competing brands.
First Lite has also produced their quarter zip in a wide variety of camos, as well as several solid colors to choose from.
Unlike several other brands, First Lite uses 100% Merino wool instead of a blend that features polyester or other materials. This is especially important considering it enhances the durability of the top, as well as its odor resistance.
You may find that the Llano is a bit pricey compared to some other base layer top options. Fortunately, those who take the plunge will be rewarded with a professional-grade piece that was specifically designed with hunters in mind.
A list comparing the best hunting base layers would be incomplete without First Lite. The Llano quarter zip is perfect if you’re looking for a top-quality option that serves a specialized purpose.
Best Overall Base Layer (Bottom) – First Lite Allegheny Merino Bottom
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Once again, First Lite has put forth a spectacular base layer bottom that sets the standard for the entire product category.
The Allegheny lineup comes in various weights, with this specific item listed at 230 g/m2. The Allegheny bottoms are suitable for a wide range of temperatures; First Lite even suggests wearing them as outerwear on particularly warm days.
True to First Lite form, the Allegheny is made of 100% Merino wool. You won’t have to worry about any odor development or discomfort even if the bottoms are worn for multiple days.
Unfortunately, you can still expect to pay a premium price for such a premium product. It should be reassuring to know that you’re likely to recoup your investment; the Allegheny bottoms will not need to be replaced nearly as frequently as a cheaper pair.
I absolutely recommend you give these bottoms a try if your budget allows for it. First Lite should be a top choice for anyone who considers themselves a serious hunter.
Best Affordable Base Layer (Top) – MERIWOOL Men’s Merino Midweight Base Layer Crew
If you’re looking for an exceptionally versatile base layer, look no further. MERIWOOL offers what may be the perfect base layer for multi-season use.
For me, soft is important when it comes to any type of clothing. There’s just something evil about itchy wool and spending all day scratching like a mad person does not make for much productivity.
Fortunately, this piece is amazingly soft. I’m skeptical towards the relevance of micron measurements of wool threads, but this crew’s Merino wool is what dreams are made of, however many “microns” it may be. It’s what I wish my sheets were made of if I’m being completely honest.
Now, I’m not sure exactly how much I agree with MERIWOOL’s statement that the shirt will keep you cool during summer given its 250 g/m2 weight. I don’t outright disagree but, depending on what summer is like for you, this may not be a prime choice compared to something lighter.
That doesn’t disqualify it from multi-season use; I meant that when I said it. You’ll be snug as a bug if the weather isn’t pushing triple digits. Also, you’ll obviously need to add something a bit heavier over top as it gets colder.
The MERIWOOL Midweight Crew is verifiably a top-quality piece as far as base layers for hunting are concerned. Even if you aren’t considering bringing it with you hunting, I’d strongly encourage you to at least wear it around your house!
Best Affordable Base Layer (Bottom) – MERIWOOL Men’s Merino Base Layer Bottom
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I want to wright MERIWOOL a thank you letter for not neglecting to add peanut butter to their crew top’s jelly.
As much as itchy wool bothers me in a shirt, itchy wool anywhere on my lower half? It would be simply unacceptable.
It’s a shame that all my clothing isn’t made from the same wool that MERIWOOL uses for this line of base layering. Every single statement I made about the luxurious softness of the crew top remains true for these bottoms. You’d be forgiven for wearing these as pajamas.
Alas, my skepticism about the MERIWOOL crew’s usefulness on exceptionally warm days is applicable to the bottoms as well. They weigh the same 250 g/m2 which could very well leave you roasting under intense heat.
MERIWOOL’s Merino bottoms are still downright excellent. They pair harmoniously with the crew top and will leave you feeling cozy. If you’re skeptical about just how comfortable they are, try on a pair and watch the skepticism melt away.
Best Mild Cold Base Layer (Top) – Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Crew
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While this crew from Smartwool has the same material weight (on paper) as our previous two listings, I find it more specifically tailored for warmth. I’m not sure if this comes down to measurements of the actual threading, but you’ll likely find the NTS more appropriate for colder climates.
Just to be clear, when I say colder climates I’m not referring to glacial climates. Still, Smartwool’s crew will do just fine as your go-to base layer for a wide range of cold weather.
The NTS crew feels every bit as soft as you’d expect from Merino wool and is surprisingly breathable considering how well it keeps you insulated.
Another interesting feature built into the NTS are low-profile shoulder pads intended to provide added comfort when carrying a rucksack, backpack, rifle or other equipment for long distances. It’s one of those things you never knew you wanted but will cherish dearly once you try it.
Smartwool’s products have a premium feel to them. They focus on a narrower field of applications but execute their design with near perfection. If you don’t mind wearing a different piece in your collection when the temperature rises, the Smartwool NTS crew is a definite must-have.
Best Extreme Cold Base Layer (Bottom) – Woolx Men’s Merino Base Layer Bottoms
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If you frequently hunt for Yetis in frigid, glacier-like conditions, you obviously value keeping warm. Heavy-duty warmth is critical when you’re surrounded by ice and snow (even if hunting Yetis isn’t really your thing).
For anyone who has been struggling to find an adequate extreme-cold base layer for hunting, allow me to introduce you to Woolx.
These material weight of the Merino wool used in these bottoms is a whopping 400 g/m2! I still wouldn’t go as far as saying you wouldn’t still need an insulation layer over top, but this is just about as close as you’ll ever get.
As heavy as these Woolx bottoms are they still breath exceptionally well and have been carefully designed to move moisture away from the body as effectively as possible.
It get’s even better though! Woolx’s team has managed to create one of the warmest pieces of base layer in existence that don’t itch in the slightest. You don’t have to sacrifice your comfort to stay warm!
I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to list this as a con, but it should be noted that these bottoms tip the scales at a full pound of butt-warming goodness. I bring this up because the Woolx extreme cold bottoms should be used as a base layer for hunting in… you guessed it! Extreme cold, and only extreme cold.
Also, these Woolx bottoms carry a hefty price tag. This isn’t surprising considering the massive quantity of material they’re made of.
Woolx’s offering is by far the best choice for those who find themselves hunting in temperatures near or even below zero. Finally, you can stop shivering for long enough to take an accurate look through your spotting scope!
Best High-Tech Base Layer – HECS (Human Energy Conceal Suit)
- Same technology, new design: HECStyle is an all-new base layer hunting suit with the same ultra-lightweight, breathable...
- Suitable for all-day wear: Our base layer hunting men's suit is extremely comfortable, flexible, and highly functional...
- Complete set: Our high performance semi-thermal hunting base layer comes with one long-sleeved top, one pair of long...
Intelligence is what placed humans firmly at the top of the food chain; the apex predator of apex predators. Unfortunately, the working concept of a true invisibility cloak has eluded humans despite our intelligence. On the bright side, HECS has come darn close.
If dominating the hunt using science sounds interesting to you, keep reading. HECS uses a “carbon fiber conductive grid to block your electrical energy field.”
The conductivity of the grid absorbs the electricity given off by the body and disburses it evenly throughout the material. This is apparently the same way the interior grid of a microwave door functions.
Why does this all matter? The game you’re hunting can detect this electrical energy given off by your body. When you conceal that field, you effectively become invisible. You won’t be able to reach literal point-blank range, but you will be able to get dramatically closer without detection.
The material the HECS is cut from makes it less form fitting than other more traditional options. It is certainly still usable as a base layer, but you’ll want to keep this in mind.
This is also the first item on this list that comes as a complete three-piece bodysuit, including a headcover, top and bottoms.
For those who value utilizing high-tech solutions to enhance their hunting productivity, the HECS will deliver a ton of value.
Best Extreme Heat Base Layer – OLIVERS Apparel Men’s Merino Terminal T-Shirt
- Made with 54% merino, 46% polyester. Dri-fit style, quick drying material, won't shrink when washed.
- Built for an Active Lifestyle - Odor resistant, moisture wicking, & temperature regulating.
- Breathable - 18.5 micron merino blend is feather light and the mesh gives the fabric superior breathability and airflow.
The item’s we’ve covered thus far have all been quality pieces, but for the most part you wouldn’t choose them far a particularly hot day. You will surely want a cool, light, breathable base layer for hunting in intense sunshine.
I’m a huge fan of short sleeve tees as well as all things ultra-soft. There must be others like me because OLIVERS clearly took notice and produced a base layer piece that fits my preference to a T (pun intended).
Like our buddy Ryan said, a tee like this is ideal for warm weather or days involving more exertion than usual. It treats sweat like the enemy and works hard to keep you dry and cool no matter the intensity of the heat.
Unfortunately, anyone who’s looking for a more high-tech, specialized shirt may be somewhat disappointed. The Terminal tee doesn’t come with shoulder pads, and it won’t make you invisible either.
It does do one thing incredibly well, and that’s serving its purpose as a comfortable T-shirt that will leave you feeling like a million bucks on the warmest of days.
Feeling like a million bucks may just be the first step to bagging a million bucks (pun intended, again). You’ll have to try the shirt on to find out!
Safety Tips for Cold Weather Hunting
If you’re reading this guide, chances are you’re looking for a way to stay warm and safe during cold hunting trips. Here are a few ways to hunt safely and successfully in freezing temperatures:
Prepare for the Unexpected
No one expects something to go wrong during a day of hunting, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In reality, accidents happen all the time.
The best thing you can do to stay safe is be prepared. Always pack a survival kit in your bag; fire-starting materials, a thermal blanket, and a compass should be the bare minimum.
This goes without saying, but hypothermia is your biggest enemy when hunting in freezing environments. A cheap, simple fire starting kit could potentially save your life, even if you’re only stranded overnight.
Tell Someone Else Where You’re Hunting
I know, I know…
Giving up your secret spot would be crazy, right? Not when it can potentially save you’re life.
Make sure you let a trusted love one know where you will be hunting, when you’re leaving, and when you plan to return. If they don’t hear from you by the agreed upon time, tell them to contact local authorities.
This may seem a bit unnecessary, but giving a search team a head start and an idea of where to look can dramatically increase your chances of being found.
Dress Warmer than Required
Cold weather can really sneak up on you, especially if you get caught in a rain or snowstorm. Obviously, once you’re out on the field you can’t magically conjure up more clothing.
Make sure to always wear (or even better, pack) warmer clothes than you think you’ll need. You can always take off a layer and throw it in your bag.
Thermal blankets are also a great way to retain body heat. They only cost a few dollars and are extremely light, so you wont even notice its there. In addition, the’r reflective material acts as a great signaling tool.
Picking out the ideal base layer for your next hunting trip really depends on the expected weather conditions. Whether you’re venturing into freezing temperatures or the scorching heat, our list has something comfortable to offer.
No matter what you decide, remember to always follow our safety tips and practice the basic rules of hunting.
Last update on 2021-10-24 at 18:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API