Back to Basics: The Best Base Layer for Extreme Cold!

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Best Base Layers for Cold Weather 

 

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Best Base Layer for Extreme Cold

The one word you’ll always hear when planning a cold weather outfit

Layering. 

Layering, layering, layering. 

When temperatures are low and your body needs warmth, the base layer automatically retains as much warmth as possible, compounding the insulation your outer and any mid-layers provide. 

If you become active and work up a sweat (which is easier than it sounds, as anyone who lives through cold winters can tell you!), the base layer’s unique moisture-wicking properties will allow your sweat to escape.

Without a good base layer, sweat will dampen your clothes and slowly freeze your body as your activity level (and therefore body temperature) inevitably drops. 

Maintaining this equilibrium is an important part of staying safe and comfortable during winter, especially if you’ll be skiing or snowboarding.

If you’re looking for the best base layers for extreme cold, keep reading!

 

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Best Base Layers for Women

Base layers can be expensive, but they are an essential element of any cold weather expedition.

Here are our favorite base layers for cold weather that provide the best value, protection, and performance.

Keep reading for reviews of each!

 

 Read more:  What to Pack for New York City in Winter

 

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The Best Base Layer for Extreme Cold

But what does layering – and particularly the base layer – really mean? 

The most obvious and basic purpose of a base layer – which typically refers to a long-sleeve top and long john-style pant worn directly against your skin – is to provide additional defense against extremely cold temperatures. 

This defense takes the obvious form of additional insulation, but also includes a fail safe element as well. If you trip and fall into a snowbank, dousing your outer layer in wet snow, your base layer can offer the warmth you need while cleaning and drying your outer layer. 

More importantly, however, the base layer acts offers the a heat retention-and-release mechanism that is critical for maintaining adequate body temperature in the bitter cold. 

 

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Best Overall Base Layer: Smartwool

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Merino wool is the ideal base layer fabric, as the organic fabric is safe for your skin, naturally anti-microbial, and ridiculously comfortable! 

Smartwool is the leading brand for merino wool performance clothing, and their base layer crew is the perfect centerpiece of any cold weather outfit! 

Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer Crew

Sold on Zappos, Smartwool, Backcountry, Moosejaw & Amazon

Check the latest reviews and see all color options here

 

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Best Crew Neck Base Layer: Hot Chillys 

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While merino wool offers attractive qualities for the best base layers for extreme cold, the reality is synthetic fabrics wick moisture better. 

This element, along with the impressive “chamois-like” touch of the Hot Chillys crew neck, makes this a leading choice among polyester base layers! 

Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois 8K Crew Neck

Sold on Zappos & Amazon

Check the latest reviews and see all color options here

 

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Best Zip Neck Base Layer: Arc’teryx

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Arc’teryx is probably my favorite and most respected winter apparel brand. The technology, aesthetic, and durability are always on point. 

What I love most about this piece is the subtle versatility offered by the zip neck.

Everyone eventually dresses for blizzards only to encounter shockingly mild weather, so the zip neck adds that extra bit of ventilation perfect for surprisingly balmy days! 

Arc'teryx Rho AR Zip Neck

Sold on Zappos, Arc'teryx, Backcountry, Moosejaw & Amazon

Check the latest reviews and see all color options here

 

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Best Patterned Base Layer: Kari Traa

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Hey, you might as well get some flair as long as you’re spending this kind of money, right? 

Famous among Scandinavians for its authentic design craftsmanship, Kari Traa provides a visually refreshing twist among the traditionally all-black base layer options. 

When we visited Norway in winter, it seemed like every stylish woman was sporting Kari Traa baselayers!

I love their subtle winter prints and have two sets from the brand. Sooo cozy!

Kari Traa Lune Half Zip 

Sold on Zappos, Backcountry, Moosejaw & Amazon

Check the latest reviews and see all color options here

 

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Best Base Layer Pant: Icebreaker

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Don’t forget about the buns! 

I typically reserve base layer pants for only the most brutal winter days, but they are absolutely indispensable during these cold snaps. 

With a slim fit and merino wool construction, the Icebreaker base layer pants will regulate your body temperature without disrupting the shape of your overall outfit! 

Icebreaker Oasis Legless

Sold on Zappos, Backcountry, Moosejaw & Amazon

Check the latest reviews and see all color options here

 

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Best Heavyweight Base Layer: Burton

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Looking for a sustainably made base layer set?

Then check out Burton, a certified B corp whose fabrics are made in facilities that have safe work environments and minimize their environmental impact.

This 1/4 zip fleece is incredibly soft and has automatic climate control. I love the pale lavender color but it comes in lots of colors and patterns.

It’s also quick drying and has cute raglan sleeves!

Burton 1/2 Zip Base Layer

Sold on Zappos, Burton, Backcountry, Moosejaw & Amazon

Check the latest reviews and see all color options here

 

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Best Base Layer Sweater: Dale of Norway

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For something a little non traditional, consider this Dale of Norway base layer.

It’s more like a thin merino wool sweater, made from super soft merino wool.

The stand up collar provides tons of additional warmth (or can be unzipped for a relaxed look apres ski) and the pretty knit pattern looks super eye catching under a ski bib!

Dale of Norway Sweater Base Layer

Sold on Zappos & Amazon

Check the latest reviews and see all color options here

 

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Shop Women’s Base Layers 


 

Amazon Ski Fashion

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I also did a livestream on Amazon Live chatting all about dressing for the cold.

I talk about winter fashion essentials, ski gear and cute (but affordable) ski clothes that you can shop on Amazon! Watch a recap of the video here.

Make sure to follow my Amazon shop page to join future livestreams!

 

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 Read More:  in our ski style series:

 

Ski Trip Packing Essentials

What to Wear Skiing: Packing List Must Have's

The Best Ski Pants for Women (Stylish & Functional)

The Best Men's Ski Pants

I Found the CUTEST Women's Ski Pants (Video)

Are Designer Ski Pants Worth It? (Try-On Haul)

The Best Ski Clothes on Amazon (Livestream)

The Best Ski Sweaters for Apres-Ski 

The Most Festive Christmas Sweaters

The Cutest Christmas Socks for the Entire Family

 

Ski Trips

10 Tips to Plan the Ultimate Ski Trip to Stowe

What to Know Before Skiing in Vermont for the First Time

5 Things to Know Before Skiing at Bellaeyre Mountain, in the Catskills

Skiing in Stowe, Vermont (Youtube Vlog)

Skiing in the Catskills VLOG (Beginner Friendly Resort!)

 

Cold Weather Tips

What to Pack for NYC in Winter

8 Winter Skincare Tips You Should Follow

How to Plan the Perfect Winter Picnic

3 Benefits of Adding a Wet Skin Moisturizer

 

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