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Updated August 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best men’s base layers

Are you looking for ways to stay warm without wearing several layers of clothing? You can pare down the bulky getup by wearing men’s base layers instead.

As the name implies, base layers are thin, insulating garments that help regulate the body’s temperature. Given their lightweight designs, they are practical and comfortable options for commuting, sports, athletic training, travel, and work. Many base layers are also seamless for comfort and remain virtually undetectable beneath other clothing like T-shirts or sweatpants.  

If you’re thinking of investing in men’s base layers, some of the main features you’ll want to compare include weight, neckline, and materials, just to name a few.

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A few men’s base layers have reflective details to make the wearer more visible to pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, particularly in low-light conditions. 

How to buy the best men’s base layers

What are base layers?

When dressing in layers, base layers are special garments, namely tops and leggings, that are worn closest to the body. They’re made of soft materials that help retain body heat, and many of these garments are breathable to prevent overheating. Base layers are thin enough to fit easily under T-shirts, dress shirts, athletic or hiking pants, jeans, or dress slacks.

Sizing

Most base layers for men are available in sizes S through XXL, and there are a few manufacturers that offer 3XL and larger. Some brands now offer big and tall sizes for base tops and bottoms as well.

Like most men’s clothing with progressive sizing, wearers often discover that finding the right size can be hit-or-miss. Some people, for example, might need to size up or down to find the ideal fit. Others might discover that sleeves and inseams are longer than usual for their regular size. As a result, it’s recommended that you try on more than one size, brand, and style to find the base layers that fit you best. 

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Staff Tip
Several performance base layers have compressive qualities that hug the body to promote circulation to minimize fatigue and speed up recovery after intense
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What features should I look for in men’s base layers? 

Material

Most men’s base layers are made of blends that almost always include stretchy materials. The most common fabrics include polyester, acrylic, rayon, spandex, Lycra, nylon, and polypropylene. There are a few base layers that contain cotton.

Some base layers have special properties, such as wicking away moisture or trapping odors. Wick-away materials pull sweat and moisture away from the body, which in turn keeps you both dry and cool. Odor-trapping materials are treated with chemicals that lock in odors, such as those caused by sweat and flatulence, and neutralize them until the garments can be washed. As expected, many athletic and performance base layers have one or both of these qualities. 

Weight 

Although men’s base layers are lightweight and thin compared to other types of garments, they’re available in more than one weight, just like cotton T-shirts and sweatshirts. For instance, lightweight layers offer a modest amount of insulation, while heavyweight layers are the warmest. Mid-weight base layers fall in between with breathable warmth, making them a popular choice for cool weather.

Cuffs

Base layers often have fitted cuffs, which serve a few purposes. They fit snugly against wrists and ankles to prevent body heat from escaping. They also prevent cold air from seeping inside sleeves and pant legs. Depending on their design, fitted cuffs may secure sleeves or pant legs in place by preventing them from rolling up or shifting. These cuffs also tuck easily into gloves and boots.

Collars

Base layer tops typically have collars that lie flat, meaning they sit flush against the chest. The low profile makes the tops fit better beneath most mid-layers like classic T-shirts. More often than not, base layer tops have a crew neckline or V-neck. There are some styles that have a mock turtleneck, which provides an extra layer of warmth around the neck. 

If you’re looking for a breathable base layer, opt for a style that has mesh panels or ventilation holes. 

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What to wear with men’s base layers

Mid-layers

It’s easy to identify a base layer, though many people find it challenging to pick suitable mid-layers. Short- and long-sleeve T-shirts are popular choices. Many people wear fleece pullovers, flannel shirts, sweatshirts, or hoodies as mid-layers as well. 

Wool socks

When staying warm is the main goal, particularly during outdoor activities, wool socks are the warmest option. While they aren’t the cheapest socks, they have many qualities to recommend them. Besides being naturally hypoallergenic, they offer breathable warmth and wick moisture away from the feet. 

Hat

Keeping your head warm is just as important as keeping your body warm. Some of the warmest hats include knitted or insulated options, particularly those styles that cover the ears. If you want more coverage overall, you can opt for a balaclava. 

How much do men’s base layers cost?

Inexpensive 

The most affordable base layers cost up to $20 per piece. These garments usually have high polyester content in their blends. The quality can be hit-or-miss, and you’ll need to look for pieces at the top of this price range to find the most durable options.

Mid-range

These base layers, many of which are made by premium athletic or outdoor brands, cost between $30 and $50 per piece. They are well made and hold up to considerable wear. Some pieces also have premium features such as moisture-wicking material.

Expensive 

Most performance base layers cost $60 and more per piece. These are geared toward athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, and people who have to work outdoors in all types of weather. Besides their high-quality construction, they are more effective at temperature regulation than lower-priced options.  

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Did You Know?
A growing number of base layers are tagless. The size information and care instructions are printed on the fabric instead. These styles are especially popular with people who have sensitive skin.
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Tips

  • Opt for base layer bottoms with a fly. While many base layer bottoms look like regular leggings, there are several styles with an open or button fly. As expected, they make trips to the bathroom much easier.
  • Pack base layers properly. Instead of folding these garments and packing them on top of other folded garments, you can optimize space in your luggage by rolling them tightly. The small bundles fit easily in small spaces like inside shoes or external compartments.
  • Wear invisible deodorant. Because base layers are made of smooth, dark materials, they tend to show deodorant stains. To keep streaks to a minimum, wear invisible or clear deodorant or antiperspirant.
  • Try on base layers with clothing. When you compare the fit of base layer pieces, try them on beneath the other layers you intend to wear, such as a hooded sweatshirt or jogger leggings, to find the best-fitting options.
  • Buy a set and save big. If you wear the same size on the top and bottom, you can save money by investing in two-piece sets. 

 

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Many base layers advertise a “second skin” fit, which refers to a form-fitting cut that still allows you full range of motion.

FAQ

Q. How do I wash men’s base layers?

A. Before you wash any base layer garment, it’s best to refer to its care tag for instructions. Generally speaking, because these garments are made of stretchy materials, they require special care. For instance, most pieces need to be washed in cold water with gentle, bleach-free detergent. Fabric softeners aren’t recommended because they may cause elastic fibers to deteriorate more quickly. It’s recommended that you let base layers air-dry on a hanger or drying rack to prevent damage to the fibers. 

Q. Do men’s base layers only come in black, white, and gray?

A. Although these neutrals are the most common colors of base layers, they’re far from the only ones. Several brands manufacture these garments in bright colors, including blue, yellow, and orange. These colors might be worth exploring if you wear base layers partially exposed and are looking for ways to boost your visibility, such as to drivers on the road if you’re a runner. Conversely, a handful of outdoor brands offer base layers in camouflage- and forest-inspired patterns that help conceal your body during activities like nature watching or hunting. 

Q. How long do men’s base layers last?

A. Like most garments with stretchy material blends, men’s base layers may last up to three years when worn on a regular basis. After that, you might begin to notice signs of wear, such as thinning or overstretched material. Base layers that are only worn occasionally may last for five years or longer. 

Q. Can I repair men’s base layers that get holes or rips in them?

A. It’s easy, worthwhile, and affordable to sew holes and rips on many garments, but unfortunately, base layers aren’t among them. Once a base layer top or bottom sustains damage to this degree, its insulating properties are compromised. Additionally, holes and rips will only get larger as time goes on, which means any stitches or patches are temporary solutions at best. It’s better to invest in a new garment instead. 
 

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