Insulate and Regulate: Women’s Base Layers

Words by John Caldwell 

Base layers. Definitely not the most flashy or exciting items in your mountain action quiver, but always highly important. When facing the elements for an epic all-day lap fest or sneaking out of the office early for a few sweet runs before the lifts close, you always need long underwear that will help keep you at that optimum temperature. It’s all about pieces that fit, insulate, and breathe well in equal measure. It’s also all about being able to wear athletic clothing built for performance in extreme conditions while simultaneously feeling like you’re wearing super comfy pajamas that can handle as much après action as ski action. Base Layer technology has certainly come a long way over the course of mountain sports history. Below are our picks for the best men’s and women’s base layers currently on the market from six of our favorite brands. Hey Marty McFly, the future is now.

1. Corbeaux Silkyway Long Sleeve + Amie Ankle Pant

Coming out of Colorado, Corbeaux was founded in 2014 by dynamic husband-and-wife duo Adam Moszynski and Darcy Conover. Being sponsored skiers and mountaineers themselves, Adam and Darcy created a company that focuses only on producing the best base layers possible with the knowledge and testing that only professional mountain athletes can bring to the table. The Silkweight material is 88% recycled polyester, 7% elastane, and 5% polyester. The result is a light, silky-smooth feel, seamless movement, and incredible breathability to keep you dry. Unlike most base layers, the fit of this top is looser and more on the drapey side. The Silkyway is truly versatile and will have you covered for everything from skiing and trail running to travelling and lounging. The Amie Ankle Pant is also billed as a year-round part of your mountain quiver. It uses the same Silkweight material technology as the Silkyway Long Sleeve and comes in a variety of colors. Corbeaux is bringing a welcome change-up to the base layer game. The proof is in the product. $88 + $80 MSRP  Click here for more info

2. Helly Hansen Warm Freeze ½ Zip + Warm Pant

For 100% merino wool, the HH Warm Freeze ½ Zip and Pant are remarkably lightweight. The folks at Helly Hansen utilize a two-layer construction technology which combines their signature Lifa® Stay Dry mesh cut material with merino for the ultimate in keeping you warm AND dry during any cold weather activity. The Lifa layer contacts directly with the skin to ensure instant drying while sweating and the outer merino layer provides supreme insulation. Yes, this is truly the best of both worlds. Helly Hansen also designed the newest edition of the Warm Freeze top in a variety of sharp-looking patterns and colors so you can rock this as an outer piece when the moment strikes you. The warm pant offers more of the same with the Lifa® and 100% merino combination, flatlock stitching, ultimate next-to-skin comfort, and a variety of patterns and colors to choose from. Started in Norway way back in 1877, Helly Hansen has been at the forefront in inventing base layer fibers and technologies for ages. With their Warm line, they continue to be at the top of the game. $95 + $85 MSRP  Click here for more info

3. Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Pattern Zip Top + NTS Mid 250 Pattern Bottoms

Smartwool’s Mid 250 line is the warmest of all of their current base layer models. The 100% merino wool material is astonishingly light, soft, and stretchy. The latest version of these pieces is even more refined with a new chafe-free seam construction and panels that add support when you’re out there with a pack on your back. The top has a nifty 10-inch front zipper for excellent temperature regulation in changing conditions and the collar runs high on the neck for keeping the chill out. The Mid 250 bottoms also feature flatlock stitching for seamless movement. Both the top and bottoms come in an impressive variety of patterns and colors making them easily wearable as stylish outerwear on a warmer day. Also good to know is that this top and bottom combination is one of the most breathable all-merino offerings on the market. Impressive indeed. $110 + $100 MSRP  Click here for more info

4. Icebreaker Everyday Long Sleeve Half Zip + Vertex Leggings Icon Fairisle

Icebreaker offers up an impressive array of models and volume levels (lightweight, midweight, etc.) to choose from. The Everyday Long Sleeve is a lighter offering that is made for year-round comfort in any weather you may find yourself in. Its makeup is 200-gram merino rib fabric that cools in hot weather and insulates in the cold when under a top or shell. Set-in sleeves make this garment perfect for any kind of movement while wearing a pack and the natural odor resistance is good news if you can’t get to a washing machine. And note the half zip which allows for superb on-the-fly thermal regulation. The Vertex Leggings Icon Fairisle feature a gusseted design for unrestricted freedom of movement. They are made of 260 gram 100% merino wool jacquard fabric that feels great on the skin, breathes exceptionally well, and fits perfectly under outer snow pants. These leggings also earn major style points with a great alpine-inspired design pattern that comes in white, dark grey, or blue. $80 + $130 MSRP  Click here for more info

5. Stio Basis Power Dry Zip Neck + Basis Power Dry Tight

The Power Dry Zip Neck top combines the warmth and wicking of wool by blending it with the comfort and durability of polyester. The result is an exceptionally breathable midweight base layer that will stand the test of time with ease. You can wear this on its own while producing an all-out sprint on the skate ski track or with an outer layer for doing laps at your favorite section of the mountain. Optional thumb holes allow for versatility when going for chilly slack season runs and the MaxVent zipper has you covered for regulating body temperature in changing conditions. The Basis Power Dry Tight pairs perfectly with this top because of its wool-polyester blend and midweight volume making it truly versatile. These tights are extremely cozy, stretchy, and durable. $76.30 + $62.30 MSRP  Click here for more info

6. Voormi Thermal II Baselayer + Thermal II Bottoms Full Length

Voormi describes the Thermal II Baselayer as a must-have piece for the four-season quiver, and with good reason. This top features DUAL SURFACE Precision Blended Wool and is made in the U.S. exclusively from Rocky Mountain Highcountry Merino wool. Basically, this is a base layer top constructed with absolutely zero compromises. You can easily rock this as an outerwear piece during those intense aerobic efforts or use it as your only layer under a puffy or parka during a cold day on the hill. The fit is slim yet comfortable and the quarter zip allows for excellent temperature modulation. The Thermal II Bottoms are a go-to for any winter escapade you may find yourself taking part in. These leggings feature the same blend of wool materials that the Thermal II top is made of. This means the ultimate in warmth, breathability, movement, and durability. The Thermal II Bottoms come in an assortment of several stylish colors. A notable mention for year-round pursuits is the River Run Hoodie. This piece comes in a more relaxed fit and can easily be worn as an outer layer. Voormi utilizes their Dual Surface Precision Blended Wool to set new standards in lightness and breathability. Merino wool blends with a razor thin layer of moisture wicking synthetic fibers underneath to create a go-to top for both summer and winter conditions. BigLife’s Jenny Walton (photo below) claims she wore this top every day while on a horseback trek in Botswana and it performed wonderfully. $129 + $119 MSRP  Click here for more info