Best Women’s Base Layers of 2024

Best Women's Base Layers: Female forest hiker in ultralight hiking baselayer

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Finding the best women’s base layer for hiking can be a daunting task with so many fabrics and options to choose from.

Proper base layer clothing is crucial for keeping you comfortable during your outdoor adventures.

We have researched and reviewed the top-rated and recommended women’s base layers to provide you with our top picks for the best women’s hiking base layers available.

Let’s get started on finding the perfect lightweight hiking base layer for your needs.

What Are the Best Women’s Base Layers?

  1. Most Ultralight: Montane Women’s Dart Lite Long Sleeve T-Shirt (3.17oz/90g)
  2. Best Overall: Icebreaker Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Top (6.45oz/183g)
  3. Best Value: Rab Women’s Sonic LS Zip (3.7oz/105g)
  4. Slim Fit Option: Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew (7.69oz/218g)
  5. Budget Option: REI Midweight Base Layer Half-Zip Top (7.37oz/209g)

1. Most Ultralight
Montane Women’s Dart Lite Long Sleeve T-Shirt

Montane Women’s Dart Lite Long Sleeve T-Shirt

Key Specs


Weight: 3.17 ounces (90 grams)
Material: 100% Polyester (recycled)
Price: $

PROS


✅ Ultralight

✅ Relatively affordable

CONS


❌ Only three colors available

When it comes to finding the best women’s base layer for hiking and outdoor activities, the Montane Women’s Dart Lite Long Sleeve T-Shirt checks all the boxes.

This versatile shirt is lightweight yet provides warmth, breathability, and odor control – everything you need to stay comfortable on the trail.

Made from a eco-friendly blended fabric, the Dart Lite wicks moisture exceptionally well and dries quickly to keep you feeling fresh. The fabric is also treated with odor control to prevent bacterial growth and bad smells, even after long days of wear.

The shirt fits snugly without constriction thanks to its athletic cut and flatlock stitching that prevents chafing. The long sleeves provide protection from the sun and insects, and the overall lightweight design makes it perfect for layering and warm weather hiking.

For women seeking the ideal balance of breathability, temperature regulation, and odor resistance, the Montane Dart Lite Long Sleeve T-Shirt is an excellent choice.


2. Best Overall
Icebreaker Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Top

Icebreaker Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Top

Key Specs


Weight: 6.45 ounces (183 grams)
Material: 100% merino
Price: $$

PROS


✅ 100% merino

✅ Resists odor

CONS


❌ A bit heavy

❌ Runs small

For hikers looking for a stellar merino wool base layer, the Icebreaker Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crew is a top contender.

This versatile top is crafted from 200gm merino wool that excels at regulating body temperature during varying conditions on the trail.

The super-soft merino wool construction provides excellent warmth while also being highly breathable and moisture wicking. Even during aerobic activity, the fabric helps maintain comfort by wicking sweat away from the body and dispersing excess heat.

Also the natural odor resistance of the wool helps keep smelling fresh after long days on the trail.

Thoughtful design features make the Oasis Long Sleeve optimized for hiking:

  • Gusseted underarms allow a full range of motion and mobility.
  • Offset shoulder seams help prevent backpack straps from causing chafing and friction.
  • The long length offers extra coverage around the waist.

As an added bonus, the sustainable merino wool is lightweight and quick-drying. It’s also machine washable, making post-hike care simple.

The only downside is that the slim athletic fit runs small, so we recommend sizing up if you prefer a looser feel. Overall, the Oasis Long Sleeve is our top choice.


3. Best Value
Rab Women’s Sonic LS Zip

Rab Women’s Sonic LS Zip

Key Specs


Weight: 3.7 ounces (105 grams)
Material: 100% Polyester
Price: $$

PROS


✅ Good for hot weather

✅ Fast drying

CONS


❌ Not the warmest option

As avid trail runners and hikers, we demand a lot from our base layers. After testing the RAB Sonic LS Zip, we can confidently say it lives up to our high performance expectations.

The quick-drying fabric perfectly regulates our temperature whether we’re running uphill in the heat or hiking in brisk conditions. We appreciate the 1/2 zip design which lets us customize ventilation on the go.

The athletic fit hugs close without ever feeling restrictive. While the arms run slightly long, the thumb loops come in handy for keeping the sleeves in place.

For dynamic mountain activities like trail running and fast hiking, the Sonic offers the ideal blend of moisture wicking, breathability, and protective coverage. We also love how lightweight and packable it is.

To put it briefly, it has quickly become a staple piece of gear for us whenever we hit the trails.


4. Slim Fit Option
Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew

Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew

Key Specs


Weight: 7.69 ounces (218 grams)
Material: 100% merino
Price: $$$

PROS


✅ 100% merino

✅ Warm option

CONS


❌ A bit heavy

❌ The merino feels a bit scratchy

As outdoor enthusiasts, we’re always on the lookout for versatile merino wool base layers that can handle our active lifestyles.

After testing the Smartwool Women’s Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew, we can say it delivers on breathability, and odor resistance.

We appreciate the updated fit accommodating different body types. The added shoulder panels prevent backpack straps from causing friction.

While the wool does shrink substantially after washing, the colors remain vibrant and beautiful. We do wish the fabric was a bit softer, as competitor merino layers like Icebreaker seem less scratchy.

Overall, the Smartwool Women’s Classic Thermal Crew proves to be a solid merino base layer choice for outdoor enthusiasts seeking temperature regulation, and odor control.

The slim fit also makes it a great option for those who prefer a compressed base layer.


5. Budget Option
REI Midweight Base Layer Half-Zip Top

REI Midweight Base Layer Half-Zip Top

Key Specs


Weight: 7.37 ounces (209 grams)
Material: 92% polyester (recycled), 8% spandex
Price: $

PROS


✅ Affordable

✅ Comfortable

CONS


❌ A bit heavy

❌ Runs small

After testing the REI Co-op Women’s Midweight Base Layer Half-Zip, we were impressed by its capabilities as both a cold-weather hiking layer and a standalone top.

The midweight polyester fabric provides ample warmth and insulation for chilly treks, yet the half-zip design allows easy ventilation when temperatures climb.

We got a lot of use out of this piece as a sleep shirt while camping thanks to its cozy warmth. But it also works great as an extra layer under a jacket when the wind picks up on the water.

Design details like flatlock seams and armpit diamond texturing prevent chafing and make for comfortable extended wear.

While the fit does seem to run small, the stretchy material moves with you and retains its shape after washing.

Considering its versatility and functionality across various activities, the value is unbeatable.

For women seeking a midweight base layer that pulls double duty as a hiking companion and standalone shirt, the REI Co-op Half-Zip deserves a spot in your cold-weather rotation.

How to Choose the Best Base Layer for Hiking

Choosing the right hiking base layer is your initial step in creating a comfortable layering system for outdoor adventures. This is the layer closest to your skin, crucial for overall comfort. When picking a base layer, consider three key factors:

  1. Material Matters: You must choose a fabric that’s good at wicking away moisture from your skin, whether it’s synthetic or natural.
  2. Weighty Decisions: Base layers come in “lightweight,” “midweight,” or “heavyweight,” and your choice depends on the temperature and your activity level.
  3. Fit Factors: A snug fit is important to effectively wick away sweat; it ensures the fabric contacts your skin properly.

Base layers come in different fabric options, each with unique qualities:

  • Synthetics: Materials like polyester, nylon, polypropylene, or spandex blends are good at wicking and can resist odors.
  • Merino Wool: Soft and eco-friendly, merino wool wicks moisture, cools in warm weather, and naturally resists odors.
  • Silk: Silk is supple and great for low-key activities, but it needs more frequent washing due to its moderate wicking and lack of odor resistance.
  • Ceramic/Wool: This newer technology blends wool with ceramic particles for cooling in hot weather.

The weight of your base layer should match your metabolism and activity level: “lightweight” for moderate to cool temperatures, “midweight” for cold temps, and “heavyweight” for freezing conditions or high exertion.

Keep in mind that your primary source of warmth is your insulating midlayer, not your base layer. To become an expert in choosing the right midlayer, explore our detailed guide here.

FAQ

Are there specific features to look for in women’s base layers?

When choosing a women’s base layer for hiking, look for moisture-wicking tops, bottoms, and long-sleeve undergarments. Key features include breathable, fast-drying fabrics like polyester, nylon, and merino wool blends that keep skin dry. A form-fitting design wicks sweat away from the body for maximum comfort and protection against changing weather. Both lightweight and midweight styles offer versatility forLayering depending on temperature and exertion level. Prioritizing breathability, odor-resistance and thermal regulation abilities will ensure an optimal base is chosen to start comfortable adventure.

Which women’s base layers are suitable for cold weather?

When getting ready for mountaineering, winter hiking, or other cold adventures, choose warm women’s base layer tops. Look for midweight or heavyweight merino wool, fleece, or spandex tops that keep your torso and arms warm without feeling too bulky. These fabrics let your body breathe, even in freezing weather. Synthetic polyester fleece blends are also good because they wick away moisture while keeping you warm. Stretchy materials that move with your body are great for activities like mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, and winter hiking. Pick breathable tops designed to keep you warm and with stretch panels for easy movement.

How do I know if a women’s base layer is moisture-wicking?

Optimal women’s base layers for outdoor adventures are moisture-wicking. To check for this key feature, review the fabric composition – look for blends including polyester, merino wool, spandex or polypropylene. These materials pull moisture away from the skin towards the outer layers for evaporation. You can also perform hands-on tests by wearing a layer and checking for sweat buildup. An effective layer will feel dry to the touch as sweat is transported out of direct contact with your body. Proper wicking keeps you comfortable through changing temperatures or exertion levels.

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