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

[UPDATED FOR 2022] 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 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 layers

BAM Black Rocks Zip Neck Bamboo Base Layer

BAM Black Rocks Zip Neck Bamboo Base Layer

Technical base layers aren't always the softest items to wear, but the BAM Bamboo Base Layer feels like you're putting on a silky smooth pyjama top. What's even more surprising is the level of performance features the top includes, making it one of our favourite options for activewear that you'll want to throw on all the time.

Made from sustainable bamboo, it offers moisture-absorbing properties that make it easier to regulate your temperature when you're training hard or help to keep you warm during winter sessions. For the latter, there are also handy thumb holes for extra protection – especially useful at the start of a chilly run.

The other thing we like about the BAM Base Layer is the stretchy design. Not only does it offer a more comfortable, looser-feeling fit, but helps with mobility, whether you're swinging your arms during the last 100m sprint of a race or strength training in the gym.

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.

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 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 from 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.

BAM Novea Crew Neck Base Layer

BAM Novea Crew Neck Base Layer

The Novea Base Layer is the perfect example of how sustainable design doesn't have to skimp on performance. A combination of bamboo viscose and Naia, a fibre made from responsibly sourced wood pulp, produces an impressively soft and comfortable base layer that can be worn with layers or on its own in the winter months.

The sign of a good base layer is that you're happy to wear it when you're not even doing any sort of activity, and we've been wearing the sleek black version of the Novea Base Layer for anything from Zoom meetings to trips to the pub.

As well as handy thumbholes to help keep your hands warm – an essential for winter running – the material is designed to wick away moisture. That not only helps to keep you cool on the run but also means it doesn't become pongy like cheaper alternatives. There's also a forgiving fit to the design which means it doesn't cling to your chest and stomach when you start to sweat.

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, divided 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 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.

Patagonia Capilene Air Crew

The best hiking and running base layers

This versatile base layer has a loose fit which 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.

Best budget hiking base layer

Wed'ze Ski Base Layer Top

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

It may lack some of the technical features that you'll find in more advanced outdoor wear, 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 and a secure fit on the arms. For $6 it's a bargain.

Tags:    Running    Trekking
Tagged    Running    Trekking