The best hiking and running base layers for men | Patagonia, Brooks, Lululemon, Soar

Set yourself up for success with the perfect base layer for your running or hiking
Best men's hiking and running base layers

When it comes to besting the elements while running and hiking, a quality base layer is the ultimate ally. That’s especially true when you’re heading out in cold weather, but don’t sleep on the benefits of a base layer when it’s sunny out, because the right kind of material can help you keep you cool even as the mercury rises.

The main choice to make with your base layer is whether you want a synthetic one or one made with a natural fabric like merino wool. The former are usually cheaper, dry rapidly and can be designed for hot or cold weather, but often tend to smell after one use, though there are now odour-resistant synthetic fabrics.

For its part, merino wool naturally resists odours, offers good temperature regulation in both hot and cold conditions depending on the weight of the material, and is more comfortable to wear, but takes longer to dry and will hit your wallet harder.

If you’re looking to buy a running base layer you’ll want a lightweight, fitted layer that will wick sweat away so you don’t get clammy during exercise. For hiking the fit can be a little looser and you’ll probably value more warmth and odour resistance so you can use the top for several days in a row.

Below you’ll find a range of base layers to suit both runners and hikers in all conditions.

The best all-round running base layer

Brook Dash 1/2 Zip

The best hiking and running base layers for men | Patagonia, Berghaus, Lululemon, Soar

This long-sleeved number from Brooks is a great all-rounder option that excels in one important area: comfort. The fabric feels instantly soft against the skin from the first time you wear it, something that's surprising considering the technical nature of the top.

The DriLayer fabric manages to be both breathable and sweat-wicking, whilst still feeling rich and cottony to the touch. Brooks has also included underarm mesh panels to help keep air circulation going when you pick up the pace and things start to heat up.

There's a slightly relaxed fit to the Dash 1/2 Zip that makes it a nice option if you're not into tight garments, and the material is thick enough to offer a good level of protection from the weather in the spring/autumn.

Soar Mid-temperature Top 3.0

The best hiking and running base layers

The detail that Soar puts into its kit is impressive to say the least and this colder-month long sleeve option is a testament to that.

Made from a beautifully soft three-yarn knitted fabric, it's an incredibly nice-to-touch running top that feels a long way off the rough technical fabrics you often find in fitness gear. That design also incorporates a fast-wicking layer on the inside, an anti-bacterial treatment and as elastane to hold the slim fit of the overall shape.

Soar has removed rubber from high movement areas like the sleeves and underarms to ensure a comfortable and fluid motion when running and there's also reflective edges and logos for when training at night.

For those runners that still get hot and sweaty, regardless of the temperature, there's a low cut front zip to quickly cool down when you're well into your mileage.

We've been using the Mid-temperature Top 3.0 for marathon training through the winter months and it has very quickly become a staple piece of our kit, especially when you're not sure if it's cold enough to lug a jacket around with you. As with the majority of Soar kit, it does have a slim fit. So it may not be an option if you're looking for something with a looser, more relaxed feel.

The best running base layers for the cold

Gore Windstopper Base Layer Long Sleeve

The best hiking and running base layers

Nothing ruins a run quite as effectively as a freezing headwind – that is unless you’re wearing this base layer, which has wind-resistant fabric all over the front along plus over your kidneys to protect your core and keep you warm even as you face down a gale.

The Windstopper base layer is particularly great for runners who fear overheating by putting on a running jacket during winter, because it’s lightweight and breathable despite offering water resistance alongside its wind-blocking properties. Pop it on under a t-shirt and you’ll feel confident tackling runs even as the temperature drops to low single digits.

Unsurprisingly, it's not so good in warmer weather and we reckon Gore’s temperature range of 5-15° is a little out of whack on the high end – you’ll likely find yourself overheating if you wear this base layer when it’s above 10 degrees. For runs in sub-10° conditions, however, it’s a godsend, especially when you’re trying to convince yourself to run into the wind.

Gore also makes a turtleneck version of the Windstopper base layer, and for those who fancy less fabric, there are t-shirt and sleeveless options as well.

Lululemon Keep the Heat Thermal Long Sleeve

The best hiking and running base layers

When it comes to technical gear that looks good enough to wear day-to-day, Lululemon is one of the best options out there. Its Keep the Heat Thermal Long Sleeve is no exception, offering a beautifully designed piece of kit that has a host of technical features for running in the cold.

Made using Lululemon's SenseKnit technology, this top incorporates insulation and breathability in the areas where you most need it. The result is an incredibly soft and comfortable to wear product that keeps you warm at the start of the run but stops you overheating as you put the effort in.

Although it's a tight fit, the soft wool blend means that it doesn't feel uncomfortable and clingy, especially when you start sweating. The only issue we have is that it doesn't come in enough color options.

Zone3 Soft Touch Technical Top

The best hiking and running base layers

Although Zone3 is a brand largely associated with technical swimming kit, its range of running options are well worth a look if you're after some well-made gear with a heap of nice features.

The Soft Touch Technical Top is so named because it's made with an extremely light and comfortable material, making it a good option if you're not so keen on the tighter technical baselayers out there. That material also has a high level of breathability and incorporates ventilation holes on the back to keep you fresh as you tick off the miles.

As well as thumb holes, a front zip and a heat bonded collar to avoid exposed stitching, it also features reflective taping and logos to keep you visible as you run through the winter nights. One of our favorite pieces of kit for training runs when you're not sure how far you're going to push yourself.

The best hiking base layers

Icebreaker 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe

The best hiking and running base layers

Kiwi brand Icebreaker offers a tremendous range of merino wool base layers, which are divided up by the weight of the wool used. The website even has a matchmaker service that pairs you with the ideal base layer based on the activity you’ll be using it for and the climate you’ll be using it in.

However, for most of us the conditions you’ll be using the top in are likely to vary, so if you’re looking for a hiking base layer that will suit in a variety of situations, opt for the 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe. The top is lightweight enough that you won’t overheat on fast hikes, but has enough heft to it that you’ll stay snug on stately saunters as well.

The top is made from 100% merino wool, which means it’s beautifully soft on the skin and boasts excellent odour resistance – you’ll have no need to pack any other base layers for multi-day hikes.

Berghaus Thermal Tech Tee

The best hiking and running base layers

We know it’s not really the point of a base layer, but we love the look of this top, and the looser fit it has means that you can wear as a tee as well as under mid layers and jackets. The soft fabric and flat lock seams on the tee ensure complete comfort next to the skin, and the odour resistance means you can wear it for several days of hiking in a row.

It’s the kind of top you’ll want to more or less live in throughout a hiking trip, essentially, though some of the other options on this list might be better if you’re heading for extremely cold pastures. However, part of the Berghaus Thermal Tech Tee’s appeal is its versatility, in that you won’t overheat while wearing it in mild conditions, while it is also provides a warm base for your outfit when the temperature is around zero.

Patagonia Capilene Air Crew

The best hiking and running base layers

This versatile base layer has a loose fit that means you can also use it as a mid layer or jumper, or wear it by itself if conditions suit. The fabric is a mix of 51% merino wool and 49% recycled polyester, which you’ll be pleased to hear results in you getting the benefits of both, rather than the opposite.

By that we mean the top is lightweight and dries rapidly, but it retains the softness of merino, along with some of its natural odour-resistance, though will need washing more regularly than a 100% merino top if you want to avoid your hiking buddies giving you funny looks.

The mix of polyester with a lightweight 190g merino wool means that the Air Crew is great in milder conditions, but it’s still warm enough for frosty expeditions, and it has an entirely seam-free design, which cuts the risk of you suffering any chafing on long hikes.

Montane PRIMINO 220 Long Sleeve T-Shirt

The best hiking and running base layers

There’s all sorts of fancy stuff going on the fabric for this base layer, but just in case you’re not the kind of person who enjoys in-depth discussions of proprietary fabric tech, we’ll first just say that this is a supremely warm option that’s also sweat-wicking and odour-resistant.

The Primino fabric is a mix of 50% merino wool, 25% PrimaLoft yarns and 25% polyester, and it’s treated with Polygiene’s anti-odour tech to add to the merino’s natural smell resistance. PrimaLoft is primarily known for making terrific lightweight insulation for things like down jackets and sleeping bags, but its yarn is almost as impressive, with excellent moisture-management properties and a soft feel that’s a pleasure to wear next to the skin.

It’s winning combo for a base layer that’ll be the first thing you put on and last thing you’ll take off on hikes in cold conditions, and it also works as a top you can wear by itself when the weather is milder.

BAM Force Bamboo Base Layer

The best hiking and running base layers

While the many qualities of merino wool are well-known among outdoor activity enthusiasts, bamboo fabric is not so established. That’s a situation that’s likely to change, however, because bamboo clothing offers many of the same benefits as merino while being even softer, so those who might find that even the finest wools irritate their skin should give bamboo a go.

Bamboo fabric is sweat-wicking, odour-resistant and breathable, making it great for hiking, and there’s an added bonus in its sustainability, because bamboo grows ridiculously quickly and doesn’t require much water or any pesticides or fertilisers. As long as pandas don’t suddenly overrun the earth, and given their apparent disinterest in procreation that seems unlikely, bamboo is far more sustainable than materials like cotton.

The Force Bamboo top is smart enough to wear without any other layers over it, but excels as a base in cold conditions, with the thumb loops on the sleeves helping to make you feel extra cozy. However, although it is odour-resistant it might not be the best pick for multi-day hiking, especially in wet spots, because it doesn’t dry that quickly and no-one likes to pull on a damp top first thing in the morning.

Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Crew

The best hiking and running base layers

If you're after an incredibly snug and comfortable base layer for when you head out into the cold then this 100% merino wool offering from Smartwool is at the top of the pile.

Unlike many base layers that are designed to offer a level of protection whilst being incredibly light, the 250 Baselayer Crew is all about warmth when you need it. The material is by far one of the thickest options you'll find out there whilst still managing to maintain a high level of technical functionality for treks and hikes.

That functionality means that as well as being extremely soft and cozy it will do a good job in offering breathability and temperature regulation when you need it most. Being made with merino wool also gives it the added benefit of staving off odor, even when you've put in a few days of hard graft in the mountains.

That high level of comfort makes it a great option if you want a nice looking piece of kit that you can wear whether you're on a tough hike or you just want something to throw on for day-to-day wear.

Best budget hiking base layer

Wedz 500 Ski Men's Base Layer Top

The best hiking and running base layers

It may lack some of the technical features that you'll find in more advanced outdoorwear, but if you're after an incredibly cheap and good value piece of kit to keep you warm whilst training in the winter months this is a great option.

Designed specifically with skiers and snowboarders in mind, this top is best suited to colder conditions where sweat and mobility is limited. It does offer a level of breathability and sweat wicking but isn't going to make the cut if you're planning on using it for fitness, running or even climbing.

Features include a stretchable, lightweight fabric, a high neck for warmth a secure fit on the arms and a minimal level of anti-odor protection. For $16.99 it's a bargain.

Tags:    Running    Trekking
Tagged    Running    Trekking