A good base layer is essential for every snowboarder. This is the first layer of protection against your skin and the cold winter weather outside. It can really help you keep warm and comfortable when you are out riding.
I’ve been snowboarding for most of my life. I’ve used dozens of different models and varieties of base layers over the years, so I know what to look for in a high-quality option.
The Smartwool Merino 250 is my pick for the best base layer for snowboarding. This top is made out of soft Merino wool that gives you excellent insulation and moisture-wicking properties.
There is a wide range of base layers out there to choose from. In this post, I’ll show you a number of my favorites so you can make an informed choice to meet your needs.
Let’s bundle up and get going.
Who Should Get This
A base layer is a warm layer worn next to your skin. They can come in different forms: loose-fitting t-shirts, tight compression leggings, and thermals. It’s a personal choice of picking which type suits you the best.
Most of the options here are tops. A lot of riders don’t always wear base layer bottoms. This is also a personal choice that depends on how cold you get when you ride or how much added insulation you want.
If you want a bottom layer as well, most of these options have a matching set. Just make sure you get one that fits well.
Top Base Layer for Snowboarding
Here are my top picks for the best base layer for snowboarding.
1. Smartwool Merino 250
- Best for: Overall
- Key features: 100% Merino wool, comfortable, warm, durable, moisture-wicking, slim fit
- Material: Merino wool
- Cost: $$$
The Smartwool Merino 250 is my pick for the best overall base layer for snowboarding. This is a high-quality option that is going to give you reliable performance in all types of conditions.
Featuring a 100% Merino wool construction, this base layer will give you outstanding insulation while also being exceptionally comfortable. Merino has natural antimicrobial abilities, so it will cut down on odors as well.
The 250 is also very good at wicking moisture away from your body. This will prevent you from getting cold if you build up a sweat and is another benefit of the material.
It has a slim fit that adds a bit of compression. This helps to keep blood circulating throughout your upper layers. It also won’t bunch up or slide around as you ride.
The only bad thing I have to say about this option is that it’s expensive. Completely worth it, though.
2. Arc’teryx Rho LT Zip
- Best for: Backcountry
- Key features: Warm, breathable, lightweight, thermally efficient, zip neck, comfortable
- Material: Synthetic
- Cost: $$$
The Arc’teryx Rho LT Zip is a solid option to choose if you venture into the backcountry often. It has a lightweight design that still offers plenty of warmth and comfort.
A moisture-wicking construction helps keep you dry when you are on long ascents outside of the resort. This is a critical consideration for any backcountry rider.
It has a next-to-skin fit that is comfortable and effective. It won’t bunch up, and the sleeves will stay in place when you are hiking or riding.
The zip collar is another nice touch that can help you dial in customized comfort. You can bundle up when conditions are cold or open up the zipper for a little extra airflow.
It has a chest pocket, which can be a little uncomfortable if you are not used to this type of design against your skin.
3. Burton Women’s Heavyweight X
- Best for: Women’s
- Key features: Zipper closure, warm, chafe-free chin guard, Living lining,
- Material: DryRide
- Cost: $$$
If you want an added layer of comfort and protection against the cold, the Burton Women’s Heavyweight X is a recommended option.
This base layer is extra thick to keep body heat in when conditions turn cold. It’s an effective option for anyone who runs cold or just wants added insulation.
Made from Burton’s DryRide fabric, this material does a great job of wicking away moisture and keeping you dry when you ride.
It also has a very comfortable fit that is loose-fitting and cozy. This can be worn as pajamas at the lodge after a day on the slopes.
It might be too warm for some riders, and the loose fit can bunch up.
4. Burton Midweight Crew
- Best for: Midweight
- Key features: Comfortable, breathable, thumbhole cuffs, odor control
- Material: DryRide Ultrawick
- Cost: $$
The Burton Midweight Crew is a go-to option for any rider who wants an effective all-around base layer.
The weight of this one is in the sweet spot. It’s not too tight or too loose and will give you adequate warmth without being too tight.
DryRide Ultrawick fabric helps wick away moisture and keeps you dry while you are riding tough. It’s very efficient and effective at doing its job.
This one also features a four-way stretch fabric to give you increased mobility and comfort. It will move with you, not against you. It also has natural odor control properties built-in.
Thumbhole cuffs are another nice touch that keeps the sleeves from bunching up underneath your jacket.
This has a somewhat loose fit, so it isn’t the option if you like things tight.
5. Thermajohn Thermal Shirt
- Best for: Budget
- Key features: Affordable, warm, comfortable, retains heat, four-way stretch
- Material: Fleece
- Cost: $
The Thermajohn Thermal Shirt is my recommended pick for a budget base layer option. It will give you quality performance at a very affordable price.
The top is made of a high-performance fabric that uses ultra-soft polyester and spandex to give you 4-way stretch properties. This results in a lot of comfort and mobility that won’t restrict your movements when you ride.
It’s also very lightweight, which is how the ideal base layer should feel. It sits close to your skin without being too tight.
Strategically placed seams help reduce the chance for friction and chafing and result in extra comfort.
This isn’t the best option for moisture-wicking properties and can be uncomfortable when it gets wet.
6. MERIWOOL Kids Long Sleeve Thermal
- Best for: Kids
- Key features: Warm, comfortable, unisex, non-itchy, fast drying
- Material: Merino wool
- Cost: $$
If you want to help keep your kids warm when they ride, the MERIWOOL Kids Long Sleeve Thermal comes highly recommended.
This is a 100% Merino base layer for kids. That means it will be exceptionally warm and comfortable to keep the little groms cozy and dry when they ride.
It is very quick-drying if they do get wet while also being highly breathable to help wick away any moisture that builds up from sweat or condensation.
It’s also a durable layer that will last for a long time, so long as your kids don’t outgrow it! For an all Merino wool option, it’s very affordable as well.
This one comes in a few different colors but doesn’t offer any fun prints for kids – they all are basic.
==> You can also get it on Walmart.
How to Choose Snowboard Base Layer: Buying Guide
Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a good base layer for snowboarding.
Most snowboarding base tops and leggings are composed of synthetic fabrics (like polyester, nylon), merino wool, or a mix of the two.
However, both fabrics tend to draw the sweat away and transfer them out to the outer surface so you won’t lose your body heat when it evaporates.
Long underwear made with synthetic fabrics like polyester are often cheaper, more durable, and easier to take care of but aren’t as comfortable or resistant to odor as those made with Merino wool.
Base layers made up of Merino wool are often very soft and warm, provide better performance in wicking away sweat, and naturally have antibacterial properties. However, they are also more expensive and not as light as synthetic fabric.
Tips: Do Not get a set of cotton long underwear for snowboarding because cotton tends to absorb and retain moisture. When your sweat evaporates, it’s going to suck up your body heat too.
Warmth (Weight of fabric)
Base layers are divided into three classes: light, mid, and heavyweight (fabrics’ weight / sq meter). Typically a heavyweight base layer is thicker than a lightweight one and offers more warmth.
- Lightweight – usually made of thin fabric, so it wicks and dries fastest while at the same
time providing minimum insulation. They are mainly used as the first next-to-skin option.
- Midweight – can serve as the first next-to-skin layer and the second layer. These provide a combination of insulation and moisture-wicking.
- Heavyweight – always worn over a lighter weight layer, designed for cold weather, and focuses on providing a lot of insulation. A heavyweight layer is thick and normally falls loosely on the body. Some people consider this as a middle layer.
There is no fixed rule when it comes to layer combination. I prefer a lightweight compression next-to-skin layer covered with a midweight second layer than my snowboarding jacket for average riding days.
On a backcountry day, I will switch my second layer to a heavy layer for more insulation.
The fabric of a base layer wicks the best when it’s just lying against your skin. You should get a relatively snug next-to-skin layer while the second layer can fit a little looser. Fit is a preference, but a tighter fit generally leads to better moisture-wicking.
Additional Tech and Features
Some next-to-skin options, such as compression layers, are specially designed to provide more protection and functions on your snowboarding day. Like snowboarding socks, the most common types of special tech are compression and battery-heated base layers.
- Compression Base Layer – a specially designed layer for regulating body temperature and reduce muscle soreness by compressing the muscle groups during and after exercise.
These base layers are really tight because they compress your muscle groups during and after exercise. However, they work well to offer more support and protection to muscles and improve your performance.
- Heated Base Layer – same as the heated snowboard socks, these base layers come with a rechargeable battery system, and you can control their heat level. You may be able to choose which zones to heat up for some options.
It’s great for those who are very keen on keeping themselves warm, such as backcountry riders.
Money-saving golden rule no. 1 — always buy your base layer before heading to the mountain. Buying online can save you loads of money!
Get more than one type of base layer because mountain conditions are changing every day. You may need a heavyweight base layer on a cold and windy day while a lightweight synthetic layer on a lovely sunny day.
To increase the performance of your base layer, wash them every time you use them. The dirt and sweat hanging around on your tops or tights will lower wickability.
And for personal hygiene, please wash them every day!
If you are wondering how to wash a Merino wool base layer, here are a few tips:
- Use warm or cool machine wash on a regular cycle. Never use a hot wash, this contributes to shrinkage.
- Use regular powder, liquid, or wool detergent.
- Better use a normal wash cycle to ensure the full rinse out of the detergent.
- Avoid softeners and bleach.
- A normal wash cycle is used rather than delicate to ensure the full rinse out of the detergent.
- Avoid tumble dry. Just line dry them.
How to wash a synthetic base layer? We’ve got some tips for you too:
- Use warm or cool wash only.
- Use mild or specific base layer detergent like Nikwax, depending on the type of material.
- Avoid softeners, bleach.
- Avoid dry wash.
- Line dry your base layer, avoid tumble dry.
- Avoid ironing.
My pick for the best base layer for snowboarding is the Smartwool Merino 250. This is a soft and comfortable option that will give you excellent insulating and moisture-wicking capabilities to keep you warm.
Having a good base layer is very important. It’s your first layer of defense against the cold, and it will help keep you dry if you build up a sweat. All of the options you’ll see in this list come highly recommended and will have your back when it’s time to ride in the cold.About Lorraine