The Base Layer: 5 + 5 Best Thermal Shirts for Cross-Country Skiing

Your base layer is your best friend – it stays close to you providing you with the comfort you need and at the same time amplifying the fun you get while you ski. No one can enjoy skiing while shivering, and there can be times when you over-dress yourself and end up getting sweaty while you ski. Your baser layer provides you with moisture-wicking abilities and keeps you comfortable, cozy, and dry, saving you from feeling too chilly or worse – getting hypothermia.

Top 5 Thermal Shirts for Men

Here are our most recommended top 5 base layers for men:

1. Under Armour Men’s ColdGear Armour Compression Mock

Under Armour Men's ColdGear Armour Compression Mock Long-Sleeve T-Shirt , Black (001)/Steel , Medium

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The Under Armour Mock Long Sleeve Base Layer is made of 87% polyester and 13% elastane. The dual-layered fabric is quite warm and has a smooth feel from inside and has a quick-drying and comfortable exterior. Since the base layer is quite stretchy, you will love moving your body in all directions.

The ColdGear Under Armour base layer is made using anti-odor technology that keeps the smell causing microbes at bay. The top can be machine washed and is great for all kinds of exercises and fitness routines.

These long-sleeved base layers are available in a wide range of colors: white, midnight navy, black & steel, navy blue & steel, royal blue & steel, charcoal light & black, midnight navy & steel, white & steel, and black & steel. Available in an array of different sizes from X-small to 4X Large to the Large Tall sizes, they are available from $21.89 to $59.48.

  • Dual-layer fabric with an ultra-warm, brushed interior & a smooth, fast-drying exterior
  • 4-way stretch construction moves better in every direction
  • Material wicks sweat & dries really fast
  • Anti-odor technology is a superlative innovation which helps prevents odor
  • Smooth, chafe-free flatlock seam construction …

2. DEVOPS Men’s (Pack of 2) Thermal Long Sleeve Compression Shirts Base Layer

DEVOPS 2 Pack Men's Thermal Long Sleeve Compression Shirts (Medium, Black/Charcoal)

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The number one bestseller DEVOPS Men’s Thermal Underwear Shirt Compression Base Layer is super soft, warm, stretchy, and durable. The pack of two shirts is great for all kinds of indoors, outdoors, and other recreational sports and activities. They are made with 90% polyester and 10% spandex, where the spandex provides great stretch and maintains the original shape of the base layer in addition to keeping you warm by retaining your body’s natural heat.

These soft and comfortable compression shirts are full-sleeved and you can wash them in your machine – just make sure you do not bleach them. Order your usual size – sizes are available from Small to XX-Large.

You can go for the color you like – black/ charcoal, black/ navy, black/ black, black/ olive, black/ wine, black/ red, and black/ white. For just $21.98 you can get yourself a pair of these great DEVOPS thermal base layers – you would not want to miss this opportunity.

  • 90% Polyester, 10% Spandex
  • 【Ultra Soft & Warm】 Thermal tech fleece fabric of the baselayer caresses the skin so naturally providing maximum comfort and softness.
  • 【Stretchy & Durable】 Spandex added for extra stretch and shape retention; close-fitting style does better in retaining body heat to keep you warm …

3. MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer – 100% Merino Wool Lightweight Form Fit

MERIWOOL Mens Base Layer Form Fit 100% Merino Wool Lightweight Fitted Top Thermal Shirt Charcoal Gray

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Made with 100% merino wool, the MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer is extremely soft, comfortable, and breathable. It is available in different sizes from Small to XXL and since it is true to size, you must order your usual size.

It has odor resistance and sweat-wicking features that keep you dry, odor-free, and comfortable while you enjoy hours of skiing. It is ideal for other outdoor sports as well including camping, mountaineering, ice fishing, snowboarding, hiking, hunting, and all kinds of outdoor sports that require you to protect yourself from the cold weather.

The super stretchy merino wool gives you the flexibility to move your body freely while still retaining the original shape of the garment. It comes with a year’s warranty, and if you are not happy with your purchase (which won’t be the case), you can return it within 3 months. The MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer is available in charcoal gray color for $44.99.

  • INCLUDES: 1 – Raglan Sleeve Crewneck Base-layer Next to Skin Underlayer. MATERIAL: 17.5 Micron, 100% Merino wool, 180g/m2. SIZE: S to XXL
  • SUPER SOFT & BREATHABLE: 17.5micron rib knit construction is comfortable on your skin while raglan sleeves give you greater freedom of movement for an active lifestyle. All-natural Merino wool's permeability prevents you from overheating during outdoor activities by letting your skin breathe. Garment fibers stretch when you are active while still recovering and retaining their original shape …

4. MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer – 100% Merino Wool Midweight

MERIWOOL Mens Base Layer - 100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt Charcoal Gray

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The MERIWOOL Men’s 100% Merino Wool Midweight Base Layer is made of 18.5-micron merino wool super natural fibers that guarantee comfort, breathability, and zero itch! This machine-washable and dryer- safe base layer is easy to maintain and gives you complete protection against the cold weather.

Merino wool’s natural odor resistance and sweat-wicking properties are ideal for hours of your outdoor activities – the base layer keeps you warm in winters and cool in summers. It comes with a great one-year manufacturer’s warranty and if you are not satisfied with it, you can return it within a month – no questions asked!

This breathable mid-weight base layer is available in different sizes and a wide array of colors – forest green, army green, black, charcoal gray, royal blue, blue sea stripe, denim blue, navy, and gray heather. Get yours for only $59.99 – it is worth the practicality and comfort!

  • Package Includes: 1 - Men’s 250g/m² merino wool thermal crewneck top
  • SUPER SOFT: 100% all natural superfine 18.5-micron Merino wool ensures comfort all day – no itch! EASY CARE: Mid-weight long sleeve crew top shirt is machine-washable and dryer-safe, so it’s ready when you are for your next adventure. MEN’S SIZE OPTIONS: XS to 3XL …

5. Carhartt Mens Force Midweight Classic Thermal Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirt

Carhartt Men's Force Midweight Classic Henley Thermal Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirt, Navy, Medium

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The Carhartt Men’s Force Midweight Classic Thermal Base Layer is a long-sleeved shirt made with 100% polyester. It can be easily machine washed and comes in a huge variety of sizes for you to choose from – from Small to 4X Large. It is available in black, burnt olive, navy, shadow, and Carhartt black shades.

Your Carhartt Men’s Force Midweight Classic Base Layer keeps you dry and comfortable by wicking the sweat and preventing odor. The fabric is durable and flexible that facilitates your moves no matter which outdoor sport or activity you are going for. It is especially great for your cross country skiing and keeps your arms as well as the entire upper body cozy, comfortable, and dry. You can get your long-sleeved base layer for $26.41 to $39.99.

  • Henley collar with three-snap front
  • Classic waffle knit traps heat and smooth flat lock seams and tag less label enhance comfort
  • Fast dry wicks away sweat and rugged flex technology for ease of movement
  • Concealed thumb loops
  • Fights odor; for cold weather

Top 5 Thermal Shirts for Women

Here are our top 5 recommendations for thermal base layers for women:

1. Under Armour Women’s Coldgear Authentics Compression Mock

Under Armour Women's ColdGear Authentics Compression Mock , Midnight Navy (410)/Metal , Small

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Made with 100% polyester, the Under Armour Women’s Cold Gear Authentic Compression Mock is super stretchy, comfortable, warm, and breathable. Its fabric keeps sweat away by drying it fast and keeping the odor off. Since this base layer is very flexible, you can enjoy a long list of outdoor activities including cross country skiing, without worrying about the base layer losing its shape.

The Under Armour Women’s Base Layer is available in multiple sizes ranging from X-Small to XX-Large. You can choose from a variety of colors including black & metal, carbon heather & metal, midnight navy & metal, red & metal, white & metal, and royal blue & metal. It is available for $29.85 to $49.99.

  • Updated brushback knit fabric maximizes comfort, breathability & maintains warmth
  • Material wicks sweat & dries really fast
  • 4-way stretch construction moves better in every direction
  • Anti-odor technology prevents the growth of odor-causing microbes
  • Smooth flatlock seams prevent chafing

2. MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer – 100% Merino Wool Midweight

MERIWOOL Womens Base Layer 100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt Charcoal Gray

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This long-sleeved crewneck top midweight base layer is made with 100% natural merino wool fibers which are breathable and comfortable, to say the least. It has a loop for quick drying that you can use for hanging in when you are on your outdoor adventures. The MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer is ideal for cross-country skiing, as well as for all the winter sports and activities like snowboarding, hunting, hiking, and camping, etc.

Since the fabric is breathable, you can use this base layer to keep you warm in winters and cool in warmer months. Merino wool’s natural sweat-resistance properties keep your base layer nice and dry without a hint of smell. That is exactly what you need while you spend hours in your base layer enjoying the outdoors.

It is available in sizes ranging from X-small to Large, that come in attractive colors and patterns – camel stripe, charcoal gray, black, khaki, pink heather, sky blue heather, gray heather, wine, and teal. You can get your MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer for $59.99.

  • Package Includes: 1 - Women’s 250g/m² merino wool thermal crewneck top
  • SUPER SOFT: 100% all natural superfine 18.5-micron Merino wool ensures comfort all day long - no itch! COMFORTABLE & CONVENIENT: Quick-drying shirt with flattering fit features a loop for hang drying while camping, hiking, hunting, working, playing sports, skiing, snowboarding, or partaking in any outdoors activity …

3. MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer – 100% Merino Wool Lightweight Form Fit

MERIWOOL Womens Base Layer Form Fit 100% Merino Wool Lightweight Fitted Top Thermal Shirt Black

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With a crew-neck collar to seal in the body warmth and raglan sleeves for unrestricted flexibility, the MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer is ideal for cross country skiing as well as for all your outdoor activities.

It is made with 100% merino wool that gives you the qualities of odor resistance, comfort, and warmth that the fabric promises. Your base layer is breathable and keeps your sweat away from your skin. The lightweight form fit shirt comes with MERIWOOL’s unmatched customer service that offers a year warranty and you can return it in 3 months if you do not like the base layer.

This black MERIWOOL Base Layer is available in multiple sizes ranging from X-Small to Large and is fairly priced at $44.99.

  • INCLUDES: 1 – Raglan Sleeve Crewneck Base-layer Next to Skin Underlayer. MATERIAL: 17.5 Micron, 100% Merino wool, 180g/m2. SIZE: S to XXL
  • SUPER SOFT & BREATHABLE: Superfine 17.5-micron rib knit Merino wool ensures next-to-skin comfort all day long. This crewneck long-sleeve is perfect for keeping you warm and dry in cold weather while preventing you from overheating. Can be worn as a form-fitting thermal base layer beneath mid-layers and outer-layers …

4. DEVOPS Women’s 2 Pack Thermal Turtleneck Long Sleeve Shirts Base Layer

DEVOPS Women's 2 Pack Thermal Turtle Long Sleeve Shirts Compression Baselayer Tops (Small, Black/Red)

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Beautifully constructed with 90% polyester and 10% spandex, the DEVOPS Women’s Turtleneck Thermal Base Layer comes in a pack of 2. It provides you with the softness, warmth, and breathability factors that you look for in a base layer. Not only that, its super stretchy fabric is ideal for all kinds of indoors and outdoors sports and activities.

It can be conveniently washed in the washing machine – make sure you do not bleach it though. Your turtleneck base layer is available in a range of sizes from X-Small to X-Large. You can pick the colors from black, charcoal, navy, red, white, light gray, and heather flower, and get your pair of base layers for only $21.98.

  • 【Micro Fleece Lined】 90% Polyester, 10% Spandex.
  • 【Ultra Soft & Warm】 Thermal tech fleece fabric of the baselayer caresses the skin so naturally providing maximum comfort and softness.
  • 【Stretchy & Durable】 Spandex added for extra stretch and shape retention; close-fitting style does better in retaining body heat to keep you warm …

5. Icebreaker Merino Women’s 175 Everyday Merino Wool Base Layer Long Sleeve Half Zip

Icebreaker Merino Women's WMNS 175 Everyday Ls Half Zip, Black, M

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When quality meets style, you get the Icebreaker Merino Women’s 175 Everyday Base Layer. Made with 100% merino wool, your long-sleeved base layer boasts a half-zip neck collar style that is elegant and practical at the same time.

This base layer is comfortable, soft, and warm, and keeps you dry while you enjoy your skiing or other outdoor activities. The unmatched quality of this base layer does not let the fabric lose its shape no matter how much stretching you do.

It is machine washable and comes in black and lotus colors. You can choose from a variety of sizes from X-Small to X-Large and get your Icebreaker Merino Women’s Everyday Base Layer for $79.58 – $95.00.

  • Updated design
  • Rib fabric provides stretch and comfort
  • Zip neck collar for temperature regulation
  • Center back length: 66.5cm/261/4"- size M
  • Icebreaker tonal embroidered logo

Considerations for Choosing a Comfortable Base Layer

The art of layering your thermal shirts and jackets is crucial in cross country skiing. As you feel a little hot, you can take off a layer to feel comfortable. With your base layer on – which is your next to skin thermal layer – your skin does not get affected by your perspiration and the body stays dry.

While choosing your base layer, you need to understand the purpose and functionality of different layers. Your base layer is often referred to as your underwear layer (the layer of clothing you wear underneath your actual ski clothes) and its job is to keep the sweat off your skin. Your middle layer is the insulating layer that retains your body’s heat in order to protect it from the outside cold. The outer layer is the shell layer that provides a shield against the weather – wind, rain, and snow, etc.

Consider the following factors while choosing a comfortable base layer:

Fabric

Make sure the fabric of your base layer is either synthetic or wool that wicks moisture away. Polyester and merino wool are known for their moisture-wicking powers and make excellent base layers. Avoid cotton as your base layer material as cotton has the tendency to absorb moisture (sweat) and holds onto this moisture, making you feel cold.

If a garment is designed to be a base layer, chances are it uses synthetic, merino, or merino wool that will keep your body warm and dry. If you are given options for the type of fabric to choose from, go for polyester, nylon, and natural fibers (merino wool and even silk). Although these fabrics may have different characteristics when it comes to drying, odor retention, and durability, they all make good materials for your base layer. For this reason, choosing the right fabric is crucial for your cross country skiing experience.

Synthetic

This includes nylon, rayon, polypropylene, or blends of these synthetic fabrics. Here are some of the characteristics of synthetics as base layers:

  • Synthetic fabrics are great at wicking sweat and therefore give you a super dry feeling.
  • These fabrics are long-lasting. Every fabric may go through wear and tear but synthetic fabrics are very durable.
  • Most synthetic fabrics are great in preventing the growth of odor-causing bacteria. This means that even if you go lazy and skip washing for a couple of days, you can still use your base layer without the smell.
Photo Product Material Weight Sizes Anti-Odor
Under Armour Men's ColdGear Armour Compression Mock Long-Sleeve T-Shirt , Black (001)/Steel , Medium Under Armour Men's ColdGear 87% Polyester, 13% Elastane Lightweight XS - 5XL Check Latest Price
DEVOPS 2 Pack Men's Thermal Long Sleeve Compression Shirts (Medium, Black/Charcoal) DEVOPS Men's Shirts (2 Pack) 90% Polyester, 10% Spandex Lightweight S - XXL Check Latest Price
MERIWOOL Mens Base Layer Form Fit 100% Merino Wool Lightweight Fitted Top Thermal Shirt Charcoal Gray MERIWOOL Men's Shirt Light 100% Merino Wool Lightweight S - XXL Check Latest Price
MERIWOOL Mens Base Layer - 100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt Charcoal Gray MERIWOOL Men's Shirt Mid 100% Merino Wool Midweight XS - 3XL Check Latest Price
Carhartt Men's Force Midweight Classic Henley Thermal Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirt, Navy, Medium Carhartt Men's Force Thermal Shirt 100% Polyester Midweight S - 4XL Check Latest Price
Under Armour Women's ColdGear Authentics Compression Mock , Midnight Navy (410)/Metal , Small Under Armour Women's ColdGear Authentics 87% Polyester, 13% Elastane Lightweight XS - XXL Check Latest Price
MERIWOOL Womens Base Layer 100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt Charcoal Gray MERIWOOL Women's Shirt Midweight 100% Merino Wool Midweight XS - XL Check Latest Price
MERIWOOL Womens Base Layer Form Fit 100% Merino Wool Lightweight Fitted Top Thermal Shirt Black MERIWOOL Women's Top Light 100% Merino Wool Lightweight S - XXL Check Latest Price
DEVOPS Women's 2 Pack Thermal Turtle Long Sleeve Shirts Compression Baselayer Tops (Small, Black/Red) DEVOPS Women's Turtleneck (2 Pack) 90% Polyester, 10% Spandex Lightweight XS - XL Check Latest Price
Icebreaker Merino Women's WMNS 175 Everyday Ls Half Zip, Black, M Icebreaker Women's 175 Everyday Top 100% Merino Wool Lightweight XS - XL Check Latest Price

Merino Wool

Merino wool is not like the traditional itchy wool, it is soft and has very fine fibers that make sure your base layer is as comfortable as possible. Merino wool is often blended with other fabrics, for instance, spandex to add the flexibility factor. It has some of these characteristics that make it a great option to be used as a base layer:

  • Merino wool is quite resistant to bacteria that cause odor, leaving you with an almost no stinky feeling.
  • Although it may not be as durable as many synthetic-based fabrics, you can put it on under other clothing layers to have a feeling of warmth and comfort. Since merino wool is made of soft fibers, constant rubbing can weaken down the fabric. There are many base layer pieces of clothing that mix wool with synthetics to come up with a perfect base layer.
  • Merino wool absorbs a little bit of moisture which is not too much to make you shiver but you may not feel as dry as when you put on a synthetic base layer. This is the reason why it takes a longer time to dry off if it gets wet.

Long or Short Sleeve Cut

Whether you should go for a long-sleeved base layer or a short-sleeved one depends upon the winter temperature, your metabolism, as well as your comfort level. Many skiers want their arms less covered for a better movement, while others prefer a full-sleeved shirt. Similarly, many skiers get sweaty too quickly while skiing and want a sleeve that will be according to their preference.

Long sleeves will give you better coverage against cold winters. If you feel the temperature is not too cold, you can put on a short-sleeved or sleeveless base inner layer and wear a long-sleeved middle layer and jacket.

Your long sleeves can have many options: lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight. You can put on lightweight for moderate to cool temperatures, mid-weight for cold temperatures, and heavyweight long sleeves for when the temperature is touching the minus mark and goes below the freezing temperature.

It is important to remember that the main job of your base layer is to keep you dry and not add too much warmth. If you feel your arms get too sweaty when you ski, it is better to go for a long-sleeved base layer so the entire upper body stays dry and comfortable. If your metabolism and external temperature do not get you much sweaty, you can go for a short cut sleeved base layer.

Flexibility and Comfort

A golden rule of thumb is to put on your ski clothing in a way that when you start skiing, you feel a bit cold (not too cold as this cold level still has to be bearable) because as soon as you start skiing, your body will start to heat up and you will feel fine. Over-clothing yourself with a heavy base, inner and outer layers will only make yourself hotter and sweatier than you would want to feel.

Many base layers use a mix of spandex to give you the fit and flexibility you are looking for. Your base layer needs to have a wicking fabric that is directly touching your skin to give you a comfortable fit. If you want your base layer to dry you off, it must be as comfortably close to the skin as possible.

You will find many athletes who prefer a relatively loose base layer than what their actual fit is. They do so to facilitate the air circulation and cooling while they sweat out. This logic may work for warmer weather as the sweat evaporates due to the passing air.