Women's Hiking Guide

      Best Wool Base Layers of 2022

      Updated on December 31, 2020

      A wool base layer is a key piece of gear for many outdoor adventures, as it wicks away moisture to keep you dry, warm, and comfortable even in adverse conditions. Merino is the wool of choice for base layers, since it is superfine and soft without being itchy like traditional wool, and it absorbs sweat without starting to smell. If you’re overwhelmed by your base layer options, don’t worry! We’ll help you choose the best wool base layers for your next hike or backpacking trip.

      For more of our top hiking apparel recommendations, check out the Best Base Layers. 


      Quick Answer The Best Wool Base Layers

      Smartwool Merino 250View at REIIcebreaker 200 OasisView at REIKari Traa TikseView at AmazonREI Co-op MerinoView at REIRidge Merino InversionView at Amazon


      Comparison Table Best Wool Base Layer

      For the best experience turn your device horizontally

      Name Weight UPF Price Rating Review
      Smartwool Merino 250 Midweight 50+ $$$ 4.8 Read Review
      Icebreaker 200 Oasis Lightweight 20 $$$ 4.7 Read Review
      Kari Traa Tikse Lightweight None $ 4.6 Read Review
      REI Co-op Merino Midweight None $ 4.3 Read Review
      Ridge Merino Inversion Heavyweight 50+ $$ 4.9 Read Review
      Name Weight UPF Price Rating Review

      Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

      Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

      Reviews The Best Wool Base Layers for Hiking

      Smartwool Merino 250

      View Women’s Version


      Weight: MidweightUPF: 50+


      Paneled Construction Provides a Comfortable & Flattering FitFlatlock Stitching on the Seams Prevents ScratchingSun Protection with a UPF 50+ Rating


      The Smartwool Merino 250 is an excellent base layer choice for wearing underneath other layers on cold adventures or simply wearing on its own around town or for a quick trail run on cooler days. Constructed from panels with flatlock stitching, the long-sleeve crewneck features a flattering fit with seams that stay out of the way under the straps of a pack.

      If you’re wearing this base layer on its own, the UPF 50+ sun protection will prevent damage from UV rays. This base layer can be machine washed without worry about shrinking, yet it also can be worn on long adventures without starting to stink.

      View at REIView at Backcountry

      Icebreaker 200 Oasis

      View Women’s Version


      Weight: LightweightUPF: 20


      Underarm Gussets Enhance MobilityOffset Shoulder Seams Keep from Rubbing Under a PackDroptail Hem Offers Additional Coverage


      The Icebreaker Oasis 200 is a lightweight base layer that is made to handle all the variations in weather conditions you can find in the outdoors. It’ll be your go-to warm layer from early spring to late fall, and will even keep you warm in cooler winter conditions. Plus, it also offers some UPF protection for those sunny days as well. This top is easy and comfortable to move in, thanks to underarm gusseting, and the offset seams at the shoulders won’t get irritated under a heavy pack.

      Despite its droptail hem, the Icebreaker 200 Oasis tends to run short through the torso and arms, so it might not be the best choice for taller people.

      View at REIView at Backcountry

      Kari Traa Tikse


      Weight: LightweightUPF: None


      4-Way Stretch for Full MobilitySlim Fit is Flattering and Layers WellMesh Panels Provide Ventilation


      Kari Traa is a signature European brand that makes base layers for adventurous, outdoorsy women, and its Tikse wool base layer is an excellent women’s option for both style and comfort. The Tikse features 4-way stretch, providing full range of movement without restriction, so you’ll hardly notice you’re wearing this base layer.

      Mesh panels provide ventilation where you need it to complement the moisture-wicking capabilities of the merino wool. The strategically placed seams and the slim fit contribute to making the Tikse very flattering if you want to wear it on its own, and it comes in fun colors, too.

      View at Amazon

      REI Co-op Merino

      View Women’s Version


      Weight: MidweightUPF: None


      Droptail Hem Fits Well Under the Hip Belt of a PackFlat Seams Won’t Scratch or ChafeBody-Hugging Fit Helps Wick Moisture Efficiently


      The REI Co-op Merino is a midweight base layer that performs well without breaking the bank. It’s designed to fit fairly snugly, in order to effectively wick away sweat and moisture, yet the gusseted underarm construction doesn’t restrict movement. This base layer features flat seams to avoid chafing and scratching, and the merino wool fabric is soft and not itchy. The drop tail hem is designed to fit comfortably under the hip belt of your pack.

      The REI Co-op Merino is not the most durable wool base layer, but the price point is good, and as long as you wear it under other outer layers, it should still hold up for many adventures.

      View at REI

      Ridge Merino Inversion

      View Women’s Version


      Weight: HeavyweightUPF: 50+


      Longer Cut to Stay Tucked in When LayeringThumbholes Keep Sleeves in PlaceRaglan Seam Construction is Comfortable Under a Pack


      When your alpine adventures bring you outdoors in wintery conditions, the Ridge Merino Inversion is an ideal heavyweight wool base layer to keep you cozy in the cold. The longer cut is designed to provide extra coverage and stay tucked in under outer layers, and the raglan construction with flat seams is extremely comfortable under a pack, since the seams stay out of the way of the shoulder straps so they don’t rub on your skin. The Inversion also has thumb holes to keep your wrists warm and the sleeves in place.

      Ridge Merino is a small business that sustainably sources its materials, so you can feel good about where the wool that keeps you warm comes from.

      View at Amazon




      Wool base layers are almost exclusively made of merino wool, which is much softer than traditional wool, and not itchy at all. It also wicks moisture away from your skin, and because it retains a small amount of that moisture in its fibers, it can actually cool you down when you get warm. Merino wool is also extremely resistant to odor, so you can wear it for days on end if you’re backpacking or on a long adventure.

      REI has a great guide on how to choose a base layer, as well as when to wear your base layers.


      Wool base layers range from lightweight to mid-weight to heavyweight, and what you need depends on what activities you plan to do the most – and what climate those take place in. Midweight is the most versatile, since it can stand on its own even in somewhat chilly conditions, yet can also be paired with heavier outer layers for colder excursions. Heavyweight is what you want if you spend a lot of time in the alpine, and lightweight base layers are a good choice if you don’t do a lot of winter sports.



      As with any article of clothing, fit is important for comfort, but with wool base layers, it is also important for performance. To take advantage of the moisture-wicking capabilities of wool, the base layer needs to be snug-fitting and lay close to your skin. Of course, you still want full range of movement when you’re exploring outside, so look for incorporated stretch and gusseted seams that won’t restrict motion.



      If you’re planning to wear your wool base layer on its own, sun protection is a nice feature to protect your skin. Some base layers are rated as high as UPF 50+, while others have no sun protection. If you’re always going to be wearing your wool base layer under outer layers, then the lack of sun protection won’t be as big of a factor for you.

      For more information, check out our guide on how to wash merino wool. 





      Seams created without overlapping the fabric, so they are less bulky and not prone to scratch or chafe.


      A triangular piece of fabric is sewn into the underarm to provide more mobility and less stress on the seams.


      Sewn holes in the sleeves for your thumbs which provide additional wrist coverage and keep the sleeves from shifting or rolling up under other layers.


      Waist hem where the back is longer than the front.


      For more of our top hiking & backpacking gear recommendations, check out these popular buyer’s guides:

      Best Hiking Backpacks

      Best Backpacking Tents

      Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags

      Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

      Best Backpacking Stoves

      Best Hiking Boots For Men (and Women)

      Best Hiking Shoes For Men (and Women)

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