Weren’t you always told as a child that the best way to keep warm when it’s cold is not by putting on one monstrous jumper but instead layering clothing?
There’s good reason for that (which is backed by science), as doing so creates spaces between each layer that traps warm air whilst also transporting moisture away from the body.
When it comes to keeping warm whilst skiing, this layering theory is more important than ever. And, like a building’s foundations, success starts in the base.
A base layer has the important role of moisture-wicking, cooling you down when you’re heading down the piste and preventing a chill when you come to a stop.
When you’re considering which thermals to buy, the most important thing to look at is the fabric. Cotton holds in perspiration, leaving you feeling cold, so instead you should opt for materials like merino and polyester which have that breathability factor.
Here’s our list of the top base layers to keep you toasty up the mountain.
Icebreaker 15.5 merino long-sleeve roll-neck thermal top
As you probably know by now, merino is a great fabric when it comes to baselayers due to its superior ability to regulate temperature and resist odours. But this gorgeously soft baselayer goes above and beyond in terms of cosiness, thanks to its ultrafine 15.5-micron merino fibres – trust me, it’s unlike any thermal you’ve ever worn.
For added comfort factor, the high neck is the cherry on top that you never knew you needed, keeping cool air out but without the tight restriction of other roll-necks. To prevent friction, it has forward-set side and flatlock seams, and the drop-tail hem offers maximum coverage.
The men’s design has all of the features of the women’s style, including the softness and smell-repellence that merino offers, flatlock seams and a drop tail, as well as the bonus high-neck. It also has gusseted underarms for enhanced mobility.
Buy now £170.00, Icebreaker
Bam perform bamboo baselayer
For major sustainability points, head to Bam. The company is on a mission to be impact positive, meaning it doesn’t harm the environment, which is why they make their clothing from bamboo.
Why bamboo? That’s simple. Bamboo absorbs five times more carbon than hardwood trees and it also needs half the land that cotton does to produce the same amount of fibre without irrigation or pesticides.
As a material, bamboo is an excellent performance material. Not only is it super soft (seriously, try it), it’s also three times more absorbent than cotton, meaning you stay dry. As well as this, bamboo also stays fresher for longer and is great at controlling temperature.
Bam has a huge range of activewear available but we couldn’t recommend their iconic perform base layer more. The set-in sleeves and flatlock stitching means it stays in place and is really comfortable, with none of that irritating friction, and it’s also hypoallergenic, which is great for skin prone to itching.
For men, the Trekennick base layer offers similar sweat-wicking absorbency and breathability and is available in a funky orange spice trace print. What’s more, it also has a high-rise neck and thumb holes in the sleeves to keep you warm.
Buy now £39.00, Bamboo Clothing
Picture militia top and Xina PT bottoms
Another great brand on the sustainability scale is Picture. This brand is well known in the skiwear sector and they receive rave reviews for mastering high-quality and effective ecowear – and their baselayers are no exception.
For women, the Militia top and Xina PT bottoms – which are both made from 93 per cent recycled polyester and 7 per cent spandex – are the basic but efficient baselayer combo that everyone needs. Available in four stylish designs, they have chafe-free flatlock seams and the top also has thumbhole cuffs to keep it in place. Both also feature Dry Now for fast drying, as well as Dry Feel to neutralise odours.
If you’re really looking for that extra level of warmth, the Pila high top is the one for you, with a fleece-lined high collar to keep out drafts.
For men, the Nangha top is the way to go. It’s available in four designs – the activist and map are our personal top picks – and has all the features of the women’s design, including flatlock seams, thumbhole cuffs and Dry Now and Dry Feel technology. The top comes with matching bottoms in the form of the Lhotse PT, which are full length, or for those who tend to get hotter under the collar, the three-quarter length Isac is your new BFF.
Buy now £60.71, Alpine Trek
Sweaty Betty half zip base layer top and leggings
Sweaty Betty has a whole host of stylish, stretchy and seamless baselayers that are perfect for hitting the slopes.
Our favourite is the half zip base layer top in navy blue geometric print, which is sure to make you the envy of everyone. This high-performance top is sweat-wicking and has an anti-bacterial finish to keep odours at bay.
But the real plus point comes in the design. Not only does the seamless form cut chafing to ensure comfort, the zip-up polo neck means that it will keep even those who feel the cold nice and warm.
Pair it with the matching leggings, which come in full length or 7/8 depending on how you like to wear them and come up to the waist to keep heat in and stop any breezes down your nether areas!
Top tip, if you bundle baselayers together you can save £20.
Buy now £75.00, Sweaty Betty
Helly Hansen Lifa merino mid-weight hoodie
As men’s core temperatures tend to run higher than women’s, thermal options tend to be (literally) thinner on the ground. But for those who are after something that’s a little more heavy-duty, Helly Hansen’s Lifa hoodie is just the ticket.
Lifa is their own polypropylene yarn which, when combined with merino, removes moisture and is antibacterial and hard-wearing. If you’ve worn merino in the past, you’ll know how heat-saving it is and this is only enhanced by the double-layer and hoodie, which keeps your neck dry and warm.
When the white-out hits, you’ll be having the last laugh tucked up in a bubble of heat while everyone else is complaining about the cold.
Buy now £65.44, Amazon
Dare2B exchange thermal base layer set
For some of the most affordable base layers out there, it’s got to be Dare2B. For women, their thermal base layer sets come in a mix of colours, so there’s sure to be something for everyone. The nifty combo is made with Q-Wic knit fabric which moves moisture quickly away from the skin and absorbs any odour, to keep you warm and fresh on the slopes. And all for the cool price of £50.
For men, the exchange base layer set offers the same benefits as the women’s (Q-Wic, fast-absorption fabric that repels smell) – basically, all you’d expect of a quality thermal. Or, if three-quarter leggings are more your speed, tops and bottoms are available separately.
Most of the men’s range is currently on sale so snap yours up quickly!
Buy now £24.95, Dare2B
Ortovox women’s competition short pants
Boot chafing sound familiar? Or maybe you’re someone who doesn’t feel the cold? Whatever the problem, there’s a baselayer for you.
Ortovox is one of only a few companies we’ve seen that offers three-quarter length leggings for women. Their merino competition range is made in different thicknesses depending on your preferences – these are made from thin 190g merino. With breathable net inserts at heat spots to ensure maximum ventilation and 240g merino for sensitive zones, these leggings have got you well and truly covered.
The company offers a similar style for men, as well as in full length, and the whole range is made with fair wear certification for extra eco factor.
Buy now £71.96, Alpine Trek
Smartwool Intraknit merino 200 crew
Don’t let the minimalist style of this top deceive you – it’s a powerhouse when it comes to trapping heat. Available in a selection of colours, the Intraknit is lightweight and tightly fitted to give you maximum movement whilst keeping you snug as a bug.
Smartwool’s merino sports yarn combines the warning benefits of the wool with the quick-dry nature of polyester. The knit structure helps enhance performance, lending it a lighter weight and cleaner finish, whilst the thicker elbows add all-important durability.
These features are common to both the men’s and women’s top, with the only main difference between them being ventilation in gender-specific zones – a great innovation that has the edge over other brands.
One thing’s for sure, thanks to the considered and high-tech design, this is a baselayer that’s designed to last.
Buy now £99.18, Amazon
Mons Royale cascade merino flex 200
For one of the widest selection of baselayers out there, it’s got to be Mons Royale. This company offers a huge selection of products in every style imaginable – it would be a challenge to find something that doesn’t work for you.
If you’re stuck for choice, I’d recommend the cascade merino flex 200. The basic but high-functioning thermal comes in four designs (for women, the winter leopard is a particular favourite and men, the rosin motion), with flatlock seams to prevent friction and thumb loops to keep it in place. The merino guarantees you’ll stay warm and with a four-way stretch, it’s designed to keep its shape and last longer.
For an extra layer of warmth, opt for the cascade with 1/4 zip – which is available for both men and women – to protect your neck from exposure. Pair both of these with the matching cascade leggings which are available in three-quarter or full length.
Buy now £88.95, Alpine Trek
Montane dart zip neck t-shirt
Montane’s long-sleeved, high-neck thermal top is a fantastic all-rounder base layer. Not only is it very lightweight, it scores top marks on the sustainability scale as it is made from 100 per cent recycled polyester fabric which combines breathability, quick-drying and warmth to cover all of your bases.
It’s then finished off with polygiene to minimise odour for all-day freshness. The flatlock seams also stop chafing and adds long-lasting to this top’s list of achievements.
Buy now £28.50, Go Outdoors
If judging on comfort alone, Icebreaker’s 15.5 merino top is sure to keep even the most reptilian out there warm (plus, it is so soft it feels like being wrapped in a blanket – what’s not to love?). But if you’re looking for both top and bottoms, Picture’s militia set for women or nangha for men offer all you could want in a baselayer in the best-looking designs and at a decent price.