Best base layer shirts

Quite a while after we had it planned it’s time for our review of the best base layer shirts for hiking in 2014. We’re really excited about this list as it’s probably the longest one we’ve made so far and hopefully you’ll enjoy it just like you seem to enjoy each and every one of our other reviews so far. With 7 contenders from 5 different brands one of these base layer shirts is definitely going to suite your needs and keep you warm and dry in the cold morning hiking trips or the outdoor experiences in the Northern parts of the World. Good for a number of other activities besides for hiking, these base layer shirts are going to work great for you if you like things like Kayaking, Skiing, Snowboarding, running in the cold weather or even surfing. We’ve selected some really awesome base layer shirts for you so without taking any more of your time, we’ll jump right into it starting with one of our first contenders.

Like always we’ve decided to start with the cheapest hiking base layer which in our opinion provides the best value as well. The review of the Patagonia Capilene 3 is below

Best value hiking base layer 2014

Patagonia capilene 3 midweight base layer shirt

If value is what you’re after, then there simply isn’t any other contender that even comes close to the value you’ll get out of the Patagonia Capilene 3. This base layer shirt could be found at a price as low as 34$ and if you live in a distant place where you can’t shop from Amazon for example, it could mean that you’ll have to part with up to 55 of your hard earned dollars. That being said this is the cheapest model on our list with the best base layer shirts for hiking. Here at the HikingGearGuru we don’t hide anything from you and although most of you know that the website runs on affiliate commissions, which would be insignificant if you decide to go with this exact shirt, we still really like it and suggest it to everyone who’s looking to save a few bucks. With a really comfortable fit this particular shirt will keep you warm even if you decide to take it skiing instead of hiking and you obviously should, as it will work just as well. With it’s comfortable fit and more than a few color schemes, this base layer is definitely a pick to consider. Although it’s a model from last year this product from Patagonia definitely deserves the spot in our list.

Here are some of it’s main features along with a list of the pros and cons.


  • Increased breathability
  • The durable fabrici it’s made of lasts season after season
  • It’s stretchy and moves as your body does
  • Designed to dry fast


  • Cheap compared to the rest on the list
  • Looks great
  • Offers wide choice when it comes to colors
  • Could be used for skiing and snowboarding as well as hiking


  • It’s short and can’t be tucked in
  • Could smell funky once you get sweaty in it because of the synthetic fabrics
  • It doesn’t keep you as warm as a wool base layer would

As a conclusion, ths base layer shirt is definitely a purchase worth your money. It’s the best value you’ll get at least from our list of the best base layer shirts. As we said, it’s a 2013 model, but is easily one of the best models in 2014 just as easily.


Best wool lightweight base layer shirt for the money

Smartwool NTS Microweight Base layer

The second contender we’ve got for you is from another brand and more specifically – Smartwool. The Smartwool Microweight Crew is something way different from the Patagonia shirt, not only because it’s made of different materials, but because it it could be used for other purposes as well. The best implementation for this base layer shirt is to use it to retain body heat as wool is perfect for this purpose, as is the Smartwool Microweight Crew. As it’s name suggests this base layer piece of clothing will get you warm and keep you that way. If you aren’t going somewhere where you need to preserve your body heath though, I wouldn’t recommend it as it just keeps everything there and you could get overheated, something really unpleasant during a hiking trip. It could work great as a pajama if you go camping too and the fact that it doesn’t smell bad because it simply takes the sweat in makes it that much better. It does cost a bit more money than the Patagonia model, but the fact that it’s made out of wool pretty much explains this price tag.

Here are some of the things we really like and dislike about this piece of clothing equipment from Smartwool described as features, pros and cons below:


  • All wool made, no synthetic fabric
  • perfect comfort and really
  • Crew neck with set-in long sleeves
  • Breathes well


  • Really lightweight as it’s name would suggest
  • Highly breathable
  • Absorbs sweat
  • Doesn’t smell bad at all
  • Doesn’t cost over 100$
  • Long enough to be tucked in


  • There aren’t any color variations to chose from
  • Works great, but not in extremely cold weathers

After using this base layer shirt for a couple of hiking trips, each one long about 5 hours, we could easily establish that this base layer shirt is good enough for moderate temperatures only. You wouldn’t love how it handles extremely cold weather and be better of using it only if you’re going hiking in the late autumn or early spring, in the mornings before the weather is warm enough. The shirt works great for such occasions, but we wouldn’t recommend it if you’re gonna go on an Antarctic expedition.

The most durable base layer shirt – reviewed

Smartwool midweight crew base layer shirt 2014

Again from Smartwool, this time we’ve got the Smartwool Midweight – a shirt which weights a bit more, but will withstand colder conditions and we could easily suggest for use if you’re going climbing where winds will blow you left and right. This shirt will prevent the wind to reach your body which is probably going to be sweaty underneath and will also make sure that you preserve the heat as it’s pretty much the perfect insulator, but if you’re hiking or backpacking in a hotter weather, you might have to look elsewhere.  Although this Midweight base layer shirt is good at absorbing sweat for example it’s wicking capabilities weren’t that great. To be quite honest this particular base layer is actually more of a mid layer than anything else. We personally used it as an only layer in our hiking trip when it was tested and on an altitude of about 3000 feet and about 70 degrees, it was really great. The best thing about this shirt though was not how it performed in wicking, absorbing sweat or keeping your body heat preserved as it only really excels in one thing and this is durability. You’ll really appreciate this particular shirt if you decide to use it for climbing as it just simply isn’t bothered being dragged on rocks and granite. It’s simply the most durable base layer we’ve reviewed on this list and it goes without saying that it deserves the title – the most durable base layer shirt in 2014. We’re yet to get the newer model by Smartwool, but this one was so impressive that we can’t wait to see what the people from Smartwool come up with next.

Below you will find some of the features, pros and cons about this particular base layer shirt made out of wool.


  • Great price still under 100$
  • Made out of all wool


  • Durable beyond belief
  • Preserves body heat in moderate temperature


  • It’s sleeves run a little short
  • All of it’s metrics come in the mid-range really
  • It’s a bit expensive considering that it’s not going to be as good as the more versatile models below, which are just a bit more expensive

As a conclusion we’d say that this base layer shirt will only pay for itself if you really put it through some serious work. It’s durability is really staggering, but if you’re not going to push this particular thing that much, you’ll be better off with one of the base layer shirts we’ve got for you below. They all have better overall value and metrics and some of them cost just 10$ more, which is nothing when you’re spending about 100$ for such a backpacking shirt.

Best base layer under 100 dollars

Ibex Zepher Zip Base layer shirt

The Ibex Zepher is one of the best shirts we had to review. It definitely deserves a top 3 spot out of the 6 contenders we’ve got on this list as it just packs so many features that make it stand out from the rest and it only costs about 70$ at different vendors. This base layer hiking shirt has many benefits compared to the Smartwool Midweight which is in the same price category and if you’re willing to part with about 70 dollars or roughly 50 pounds if you live in the UK, then this is another worthy shirt, which deserves your consideration. Here’s a bit more we’ve learned after wearing this piece of equipment from Ibex. Made out of wool this base layer shirt definitely represents the best of living in 2014. Although it’s made of wool as it’s main fabric and makes you feel as worm as a sweater will, it’s sleek, thin and extremely comfortable. Just a wee bit itchy the Ibex Zepher has the best feel and texture out of the bunch. It is comfy, but just a little bit on the expensive side as it costs no less then 65$ when if found on sale. Compared to the Capilene 3 for example, this particular shirt will definitely give you a broader and more versatile usability as you could easily go kayaking or hiking in the winter months with it, but compared to our favorite Icebreaker GT model it just lacks a few features. Still for a base layer shirt for under 100 dollars this base layer could be used as a standalone layer and will keep you warm in almost any weather or part of the year.  It might not wick things as good as some of the other shirts on the list, this is something to be expected as this shirt from Ibex is kind of thick and the fact that it’s made of wool doesn’t help with that either. Apart from that there’s no question that the roughly 70 dollars you would have to spend will be money well spent. The only thing that might make you feel bad about owning this base layer product is that there are cheaper alternatives to it, some of which we’ve already reviewed above and there are a couple more including our favorite reviewed below. So you could see the features and most important pros and cons of the Ibex Zepher below if you want to get the most important things in a nutshell.


  • Loose fit
  • Wool made
  • Great for kayaking and other outdoor activities as well


  • Feels great on your body as a base shirt
  • Has long enough sleeves
  • Fits perfectly and doesn’t itch
  • You will have a shirt that you can wear in the coldest months in any weather condition


  •  It costs a bit more than you would expect
  • That’s pretty much it

Concluding this review of the Ibex Zepher there’s not much more to say. It’s a wonderful shirt, but it just costs a bit more than some of it’s direct rivals from Icebreaker for example, which offer the same features at a slightly better price. There’s are three color variations, with Red, Black and Alpine Meadow(Green) as colors which isn’t exactly the widest range of colors you could find, but most people would go for the black one anyway.

The best Icebreaker hiking base layer shirts

Icebreaker men's sprint long crew

There are two models from Icebreaker that really grab the attention when it comes to base layer shirts and their names are the Icebreaker Oasis and the Icebreaker Sprint Crew shirts. Both shirts cost roughly around 60-80 dollars and are slightly better then the rest of the shirts we’ve reviewed in a few of their features. For example the Icebreaker Sprint which is actually the winner in this review hands down, offers thumb holes for better wind protection for your hands. Although there are some base layer shirts even from Nike which offer this feature, none of the shirts we’ve reviewed above really has this and it’s an awesome feature that we think all hiking shirts need to have. The other cool things about the Icebreaker series are that they are all made for moving. If you’re doing any type of outdoor activity such as Kayaking, hill climbing, snowboarding, skiing or anything else really which requires you to move a lot, this skin fit base layer will provide this extra comfort that you’re looking for. The Zepher reviewed above does offer more if you’re looking for a cozy shirt, but if you’re an active athlete who needs a proper base layer shirt to move and provide great comfort and keep him dry at all times then the Icebreaker Sprint Crew is the choice you’d want to make. It just blows away the competitors in terms of flexibility and variety of sports that you could use it for.

We’ve determined both the Oasis and Sprint Crew to be wonderful shirts that fit great and offer exceptional comfort. This being said there are reasons why you would chose the other shirts for a base layer instead of the Icebreaker shirts. If you go hiking, these might offer great comfort and all, but mountain climbing with a base layer which has a zipper is far easier, especially when you need to take of the shirt. If you don’t have a zipper you’d have to remove your helmet and this is just something uncomfortable when you’re high in the mountain hanging from a cliff. In terms of wicking the Icebreaker Spring offers pretty good moisture absorbing considering it’s a wool base layer. It definitely doesn’t compare to the Capilene shirt by Patagonia, but it is a shirt for warmer weather anyway, so the comparison isn’t really fair.

Just like with any other shirt we decided to write something about the Icebreaker shirts and because we love the Sprint Crew GT so much, that’s the one we’ll write about here. The features of the Oasis Baselayer by Icebreaker could be seen here.


  • Thumbloops / Thumbholes
  • Awesome skin fit
  • Wool made
  • Perfect for all round outdoor usage


  • Keeps you warm
  • Absorbs moisture really well for a wool shirt
  • The thumb holes we already mentioned – what can we say they really appeal to us
  • Will last really long if you use it as it’s intended (as a base layer shirt)


  • It’s a bit on the expensive side, but hey you pay for exceptional quality

So hopefully at this point you’ve seen enough about this shirt to make you consider it as it really deserves at least that. It offers really awesome value and although it’s not the best value or the top pick it is the preferred shirt for us. We really think that it deserves some special recognition and that’s why here at the HikingGearGuru we’ve named the Icebreaker Sprint Crew GT – the best hiking base layer shirt in 2014. It thoroughly deserves this title and hopefully the people from Icebreaker won’t stop making awesome products as this one.

Below you can find the winners in the other categories such as Top Picks and Best value shirts

Best buy base layer 2014

Here we’ll have to go with the Smartwool Midgweight as it has all the right features and is at a really decent price.

Top Pick hiking base layer

This title would have to go to the Patagonia Capiler as it is just way cheaper then the rest of the shirts on the list. It is almost 30% cheaper and we’ve actually bought such shirts for our next hiking trip in the early autumn – this September 2014. Hopefully a lot of you people would like the tens of color variations of this shirt and buy one themselves as it’s an awesome product at a price none of it’s competitors even remotely come close to.

Final words

We’ll love to hear what you think about our guide to picking the best base layer shirts as a lot of time went into creating this extensive list. It’s packed with a lot of personal opinions, but we’re sure you’ll agree with most of them. The team of the HikingGearGuru has done a lot to make this the best place to pick a base layer shirt from and a lot of testing went to deciding which would be the top picks of 2014.

Disclaimer : This article has affiliate links in it and we are obligated to tell you about them. All of our links come at no extra cost to you and the final price you pay and the online retailer you pick is completely up to you.

Best hiking base layer shirts 2014