Our guide to the best Merino wool base layers features bestselling products from top outdoor apparel brands that specialize in Merino wool gear for athletes and people who spend significant time outdoors.
Sports and activities where Merino clothing is popular include trail running, hiking, mountain biking, and snowsports.
It’s also great for layering when you’re simply being active outdoors or working in cold or changeable weather conditions.
What makes Merino wool base layers so popular
Merino base layers are ideal for many sports and activities where you need a durable, thermal-regulating layer of clothing that provides insulation and UV protection while still being breathable and sweat-wicking.
Merino wool has these properties naturally, and it can be worn comfortably next to your skin, as it does not itch in the same way as materials such as apparel made from regular sheep wool can.
Merino apparel is also chosen by people looking for tops, leggings, socks, and underwear that is made from naturally odor-resistant material.
For example, many of the socks on our best ski socks and running socks buyer’s guides are made with Merino or Merino blends, for this reason.
The anti-stink properties of the wool’s natural fibers mean that if you’re going traveling or on a multi-day camping or backpacking adventure then your Merino base layer should stay stink-free for significantly longer than other clothing, without washing.
Another advantage of Merino wool for use in base layers, socks, and other clothing like underwear is that it is a natural, renewable and biodegradable material.
You can learn more about how Merino Wool yarn is obtained from these special sheep in this Wikipedia article.
Icebreaker 200 Oasis Crew | Best 100% Merino Base Layer
These long-sleeve 100 % Merino tees are bestselling Icebreaker Merino wool tops.
They’re classed as midweight (200gsm), making them well-suited for wearing in cold weather and for winter sports.
We love the attention to detail that was paid in creating these shirts, such as the offset seams that sit away from where your backpack straps rest, eliminating the potential for seam-related irritation.
These Icebreaker base layers are available in men’s and women’s fits and colors, and in a short-sleeved version.
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Kora Outdoor Yushu Crew Baselayers | Best Everyday Winter Base Layer
Kora Outdoor is unique in that the brand specializes in creating clothing with blends of Himalayan yak and Merino wools.
Clothes and base layers made with these blends offer premium warmth and durability for outdoor adventures, especially in the mountains and colder weather conditions.
Their popular Yushu range of baselayers are medium weight (240gsm), and created using 60% yak wool and 40% Merino.
The fit of this base layer is excellent as it comfortably hugs your body, with the long top and sleeve length meaning it stays put and doesn’t ride up like shorter-cut clothing can.
It also features attractive details on the right cuff.
Smartwool Classic All-Season | Best Lightweight Merino Base Layer
These lightweight (150gsm) men’s and women’s Merino tees are indeed a classic, and Smartwool’s bestselling base layers for year-round wear.
These tops are available in a crew as well as quarter-zip at the neck, in men’s and women’s sizes and colors, with both short and long-sleeve options, and have no shoulder seams, eliminating the chances of pack-strap chafe on your shoulders.
Plus, if you need base layers for your bottom half, they offer matching pants, too.
The primary fabric used to make these Smartwool baselayers is Merino Wool (87%). The wool is blended with nylon, which provides added durability and a softer touch to the material.
Smartwool also sells a warmer thermal midweight version of these classic Merino tees, which is better suited for use when layering clothes for cold weather activities such as winter hikes and skiing.
Showers Pass Apex Merino Tech Tees | Best Merino Tee For Cycling
These Apex Merino tech t-shirts from Portland-based Showers Pass offer more of a relaxed fit in both men’s and women’s sizes, with either short or long sleeves.
This feature appeals to people wanting a Merino base layer for everyday wear and not necessarily for sports where a close-fitting tee is desirable.
The longer length at the back is great for cycling (reducing the potential for exposing your lower back to the elements as you ride), and also for people who find that wearing a backpack can make their top ride up while hiking.
With a similar lightweight Merino-Nylon blend to the Smartwool top above (87% Merino), this Showers Pass shirt is well suited to biking or any other sweaty pursuit, year-round.
Ibex Performance Apparel – ’24 Hour’ 100% Merino Tops
Ibex’s ’24 Hour’ Merino tops are available in men’s and women’s sizes, with short and long sleeves.
Like the Icebreaker merino top above, these Ibex Merino base layers are made with 100% Merino, but are lighter in weight (150gsm), making them most suitable for wearing and layering in all seasons.
Ibex uses a proprietary steaming process that makes the material feel cooler to the touch, increasing its versatility in various climates, and like other Merino apparel, it’s odor-resistant and doesn’t need frequent washing to stay fresh.
They come in the widest range of men’s and women’s colors out of all the Merino clothing brands featured on this list, including various brights and pastel colors, as well as the more usual blacks, blues and greys.