Hunting Base Layers: What to Look for Before Buying + Best Product on The Market Overview

Hunting is a skill that anyone serious about survival should consider learning. To be able to feed the family from the land around is not only useful, but it could one day be essential. Aside from the survival aspect, it’s an enjoyable hobby and one that never grows boring.

There’s always something new to learn and there are many different types of hunting, requiring different approaches and skills. No matter what one is hunting or how, the personal comfort should be taken into consideration. Nothing can ruin a hunt quicker than being too cold or too hot or damp and sweaty. It is hard to concentrate when you’re shivering.

Comfort should not be an issue with proper planning. With the right clothing, one should stay warm and dry no matter the conditions. When out, hunting base layers play a huge role in keeping you sweat free and dry. They can also help to avoid overheating, becoming too cold, change body odor. It’s a good idea to invest in a set of base layers specifically for hunting.

Man wearing a black arctic base layer

Certain features ensure that the best base layers for hunting differ from ordinary base layers. With this in mind, we will take a look at the types of base layers available and the features to look out for. Finally, we’ll review seven great base layers. Before all that though, let’s take a look at why it’s useful to wear base layers when hunting.

Why bother with base layers?

As mentioned previously, there are many types of hunting. However, they all involve patience and a certain amount of waiting. Hunting can be both a physical activity and a sedentary one. For example, some hunters like to set up a stand and will go as far as constructing it from scratch at the beginning of a hunt.

The building of the stand takes a lot of energy, but once it is completed, there is little to do but wait patiently. The clothing a hunter chooses needs to be as versatile as the actions of the hunter. You will need something that is capable of keeping you cool when you’re feeling too warm, and warm when you start to feel cold.

See also: Warmest Base Layer: Searching For The Ultimate Product

On top of that, you’ll want clothes that don’t encourage sweating. Strong body odor is a dead giveaway and your potential prey will smell you a mile away. Comfort can make or break a hunt and your choice of clothing directly reflects on this.

Clothes that stay wet and cold will soon make you shiver, especially if the temperature drops. Sitting waiting for prey when you’re cold and soggy is awful and it is unlikely that you’ll bring anything home for the table.

With this in mind, it is worth considering what base layers can offer you. Anyone experienced in outdoor activities knows that wearing layers is essential to maintaining comfort and avoiding dangerous changes in body temperature. It all starts with the base layer, the layer that is closest to your skin. This layer is required to perform many functions, especially when out hunting.

  • Moisture wicking – a good base layer will be capable of transferring moisture, i.e. sweat, away from your skin, through the material and onto the other side, where it will either be wicked away further by other layers or evaporated. This is essential for comfort and will help avoid chafing. The moisture should not be absorbed and held in the material, as this will soon become cold and soggy.
  • Odor control – base layers for hunting need to be especially good at reducing odor. Aside from being socially awkward, strong body odor will give your position away to your prey, something every hunter wants to avoid. Antimicrobial systems and treatments are often used to prevent the growth of odor-causing
  • Comfort – it is important that a base layer feels good against the skin. Often these garments are fairly tight, to encourage moisture wicking from the skin. As such they shouldn’t have thick seams that can dig into the skin. Mobility is also an important factor and good base layers don’t restrict movement.
  • Temperature control – finally, base layers are responsible for maintaining a comfortable temperature. They should keep you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. Garments should not trap heat in between your skin and the base layer, rather they should be breathable and encourage good air flow.

What to look for?

Now that we have a good idea as to why wearing layers is a good idea, it helps to look at which materials and features to look out for when choosing the best base layers for your hunt. On first sight, it looks as if all base layers offer the same things, but when you take a closer look you begin to see the subtle differences. First, let’s look at the materials we can choose from.

Two hunters wearing base layers looking into the camera


Base layers are available in several different types of materials. Some work very well, while others should be avoided as they are completely unsuitable.

  • Cotton – this is a very poor material to use for a base layer. While it does wick moisture away, it also absorbs it and holds it. This is really not very good while out and about. For instance, the start of the hunt may involve a bit of a hike. This activity will make you sweat and the cotton base layer will absorb all of that sweat. You probably won’t notice too much when you’re hiking, but later when you’re in the stand, or in a blind or just resting, the sweat will soon cool down and become very cold against the skin. It will then be very difficult to get warm again, no matter how many additional layers you put on. The bottom line is that cotton should be avoided as a base layer.
  • Wool – wonderful, natural wool is the traditional base layer. It has excellent moisture wicking capabilities and it doesn’t hold moisture. It will not feel damp against your skin even if you’ve been sweating for hours. It is also capable of reducing odors naturally. However, it is an itchy material to wear against your skin and thus is not ideal.
  • Merino wool – sharing all the qualities of normal wool but without the itching, Merino wool is an ideal material to use for a base layer.
  • Synthetic materials – the most common synthetic material for base layers is polyester. This material can be made so that it wicks moisture very well – even better than wool in some cases. Polyester does not hold moisture either. The downside is that the material can soon start to smell. In fact, the moisture wicking can be so good that fatty acids responsible for body odor can be wicked away. On the plus side, a good polyester base layer will have been treated to reduce odor and to destroy the bacteria responsible. A properly treated polyester base layer can be fantastic.

Blends of the above materials are also common in base layers. Typically, a Merino wool garment will be strengthened with polyester to improve durability.

Other features

With an idea of which materials to choose, it’s time to look into the features that make your base layers perfect for hunting.

Hunter holding a bow and wearing a base-layer

Good base layers will focus on being both practical and comfortable.

  • Zips – on a base shirt, the zip can be used as a vent to aid with airflow when it’s getting a little warm. On pants, a front zip can be very useful when nature calls.
  • Stretch pads/gussets – normally found on pants in the hip and thigh section, these pads allow normal movement without restraint. This is essential when hunting as sometimes you will be required to act in an instant. A poor base layer will limit your movement and you may miss your shot because of this. Some base layers will be made entirely from stretchy material to achieve full mobility.
  • Flatlock stitching – this almost seamless style of stitching garments together ensures a comfortable fit when worn close to the skin. Even a small seam can become annoying after a few hours, but that problem is eliminated with flatlock stitching.
  • Smooth surface – the outer side of a base layer should be smooth to allow easy layering of clothes.
  • Weight – the weight of a base layer refers mostly to its thickness. A heavyweight base layer will be more suitable for the extremely cold weather, while a lightweight layer will be more suitable for warmer weather.
  • Odor management – polyester base layers will often be treated to absorb and reduce odor. They can also be treated to destroy the bacteria that create body odor. This is essential for a hunter. Merino wool naturally fights odor.

Having had a look at what makes a good base layer for hunting, it’s worth looking at seven of the best on the market at the moment.

A review of seven brilliant base layers for hunting

Browning Hell’s Canyon Base Layer 1/4 Zip ShirtBrowning Hell's Canyon Base Layer 1-4 Zip Shirt

Material: 100% polyester

Weight: Midweight

Type: Shirt (long sleeved)

Specific Features: Fleece inner layer, OdorSmart antimicrobial technology, ¼ zip, camouflage pattern

Best use: Excellent for colder weather

Description: Browning’s midweight base layer is ideal for use on a cold day. It is suitable for any type of hunting and offers comfort as well as practicality. The fleece inner traps air between your skin and the base layer and is designed to keep you warm on cold days.

The zip allows for ventilation if the weather, or indeed the hunter, warms up. It’s available in a number of camouflage patterns and will keep you hidden if needs be. This base layer features flatlock stitching, ensuring a comfortable fit against the skin.

OdorSmart technology is incorporated to help reduce body odor smells, preventing your prey from getting a whiff of you. This is a largely popular base and as such it enjoys positive feedback. The material doesn’t rustle, ensuring silence when stalking and has kept many hunters warm and dry on cold days.

The only criticism with this product is that the size seems to run a little bit small. Many hunters opt to buy a size larger than normal. For the majority, this seems to resolve the issue and the layer fits very well.

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Browning Hell’s Canyon Midweight Base Layer PantBrowning Hell's Canyon Midweight Base Layer Pant

Material: 100% polyester

Weight: Midweight

Type: Pants

Specific Features: Fleece inner layer, OdorSmart antimicrobial technology, camouflage pattern, flatlock stitching

Best use: Excellent for colder weather

Description: These pants match the previous shirt and follow much the same style. They are a midweight, fleece lined base layer that is excellent for keeping you warm in cold weather. The material is moisture wicking ensuring that sweat doesn’t bother you and the the flatlock stitching is not only comfortable, but it also prevents chafing.

Browning Hell’s Base Layer Pant feature the same OdorSmart technology as the shirt and again reduce body odor smells. Aside from keeping you smelling nice, this also means your prey is less likely to catch your scent. The waistline is elasticated allowing flexibility and comfort, both of which are essential on a hunt.

Overall, these warm, breathable, odor controlled pants are popular and are worn by many hunters. Some have had an issue with the cut of the waist, claiming it is too low. Finally, they are available in a range of camouflage patterns, ensuring you remain hidden even if the base layer is showing.

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Badlands Men’s Ovis  Base Layer  ShirtBadlands Men's Ovis  Base Layer  Shirt

Material: Merino wool blend

Weight: Midweight

Type: Shirt (long sleeved)

Specific Features: Natural odor management, temperature regulation, blended with polyester for durability

Best use: An excellent all season shirt

Description: This Merino wool blend – 260g wool – makes for a superb, year round base layer. The natural moisture wicking properties of the wool ensure that you will stay sweat free no matter how active you are.

The shirt has a ¼ zip, allowing you to control the ventilation and temperature further. When not so active, laying in wait for example, the base layer will aid in keeping you warm. Sweat is wicked away and the shirt will remain dry. As a midweight shirt, it will keep you warm in colder weather when worn with an insulating layer on top.

Badlands Men’s Base Layer Shirt is blended with polyester in order to improve durability and strength, allowing many years of use. The natural antibacterial properties of Merino wool ensure odor management and prevent pungent body odor, keeping you hidden from the noses of your prey. Finally, the wool will feel great against your skin, making this not only a very practical shirt but also an extremely comfortable one.

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Scent-Lok Men’s Baseslayer Lightweight PantScent-Lok Men's Baseslayer Lightweight Pant

Material: 100% polyester

Weight: Lightweight

Type: Pants

Specific Features: Carbon alloy odor management, wicking treatment, hidden waistband, snap fly

Best use: Excellent for early season hunts and warmer weather

Description: These are some of the lightest base pants on the market and as such, they are ideal for those warmer days. They are specially treated to excel in all the most important areas; odor control, moisture wicking, and comfort. Scent-Lok’s unique Carbon alloy odor management system ensures that a large spectrum of odors are absorbed before they can give you away.

Scent-Lok Men’s Pant also feature an antimicrobial treatment, designed to prevent the growth of the bacteria responsible for odors found in synthetic clothing. This combination vastly reduces the chance of being betrayed by your smell while out hunting. The pants have been designed with comfort in mind, featuring flatlock stitching to reduce chafing and allow easier layering.

The thighs and hips feature stretch panels for improved movement and flexibility, while the pants themselves are well fitting, with long, tapered legs. They are soft and feel good against the skin no matter how active you are. They have been treated for improved moisture wicking and will keep you sweat-free and dry despite hiking or climbing.

All in all, these are excellent pants for warmer weather, early season hunting that offer everything a hunter needs. They will work well in colder weather also and will keep you warm as long as a good insulating layer is worn.

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Badlands Men’s Ovis  Base Layer PantsBadlands Men's Ovis  Base Layer Pants

Material: Merino wool blend

Weight: Midweight

Type: Pants

Specific Features: Natural odor management, temperature regulation, blended with polyester for durability

Best use: Excellent all season pants

Description: A great pair of comfortable and practical hunting base pants. Made from Merino wool (260g), blended with polyester for improved durability, these pants are breathable and offer excellent moisture wicking.

Badlands Men’s Ovis Pants will keep you warm when it’s cold and there’s not much action and cool when the pace picks up. Sweat is quickly wicked away, preventing chafing and odor.

The Merino wool provides excellent natural odor management and the antibacterial nature of it prevents odor causing bacteria from thriving. They are suitable for use year round but come into their own during colder weather. They will certainly help keep you warm when waiting out in a blind or slowly stalking big game.

Best of all, they will not retain any sweat that may occur when hiking or climbing and will remain dry and warm all day. They are comfortable and feel good against the skin and have kept many hunters happy while out and about.

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Drake Men’s LST Base Layer PantsDrake Men's LST Base Layer Pants

Material: 100% polyester

Weight: Heavyweight

Type: Pants

Specific Features: 10oz fleece, smooth finish, four-way stretch material

Best use: Ideal for cold weather hunting and wearing with waders

Description: These heavy duty, 10oz fleece lined base pants are just what the doctor ordered for late season, cold weather hunting. They were initially designed with duck hunting in mind, however, they can be used for many types of hunting.

The fleece is on the inside of the pants, leaving the outside smooth, allowing easy layering of clothes. They trap the warm air between the fleece layer and your skin, keeping you warm even when stationary. While the pants feature excellent insulating properties, they are still breathable and capable of wicking moisture.

This ensures that if you’re active you won’t feel sweaty and uncomfortable. The material is sufficiently stretchy and allows easy, normal movement, ensuring you’ll feel comfortable moving around quickly if needs be.

Drake Men’s Base Layer Pants are comfortable to wear and enjoy great reviews and very little criticism. Many hunters prefer to use these as a base layer when it’s very cold, but they can be worn alone in more mild weather. A popular item and one that is sure to keep you comfortable in the colder months.

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ColdPruf Men’s Platinum Dual Layer BottomColdPruf Men's Platinum Dual Layer Bottom

Material: 100% polyester inside, 70% polyester and 30% Merino wool outside

Weight: Heavyweight

Type: Pants

Specific Features: Dual layers, flatlock stitching, stretch panels, odor management system

Best use: Ideal for cold weather, semi-active hunting

Description: ColdPruf Men’s  double layer base pants are excellent at providing warmth while out hunting. They are recommended to be used while semi-active, so they may not be ideal for stand hunting.

However, some hunters use them in this way and are happy with the warmth provided. The pants are designed to trap air between their two layers, ensuring warmth throughout the hunt. They are treated to enable moisture wicking, keeping your skin sweat free.

The use of Merino wool also aids in this, as well as reducing odor. An additional odor management system ensures that the pants remain fresh day after day. The pants are comfortable against the skin and the gussets allow normal mobility. The majority of reviews are positive, with people happy with the comfort offered, the moisture wicking action and the ability of the pants to keep them warm in freezing temperatures.

The largest criticism is that the pants are poorly cut and do not fit very well, often being a little loose. In particular, the crotch area seems to sag somewhat. Many people are happy to live with this but others have sent the pants back.

Another criticism is that the material is a little itchy. This is by no means the overwhelming consensus. Indeed many people have commented on how good the material feels against the skin.

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Wrapping up

Having had a look at some excellent examples of base layers for hunting, there’s nothing left to do but to get yours and get out there. A good base layer can make or break a hunt. Without one, it doesn’t take much to spoil your hunt entirely.

Hunter taking a break

Cold and shivering in a cotton vest while waiting for your prey does not sound like fun. Having your prey smell you before you’ve even caught a glimpse of it is also not ideal. Be sure to select a base layer made from a suitable and effective material such as treated polyester or Merino wool. For the top merino wool base layer, see our concise reviews to find out more.

Seek out features that will make it comfortable and practical, such as stretch pads in pants and seamless stitching. Finally, select the correct weight for the conditions you expect to hunt in. It’s no use buying heavyweight base layers if you’re hunting in a warm climate. To find out how to effectively layer for winter to be snug, check out our earlier piece on this topic.


Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.