It’s about that time of year to gear up for hunting season. And if you want to bag that trophy buck finally, you’ll need gear that pushes you the extra mile or helps you wait the extra hour. For the latter, that means a good base layer. And the warmest, best base layers for hunting are made from our favorite fabric: Merino wool!
The key to Merino wool’s success as a base layer is its temperature regulation. Not only will it keep you warm in subzero conditions, but it will also keep you cool when you’re trekking through the backcountry.
And, since it’s so soft, Merino wool feels silky smooth against your skin. That’s why it makes the perfect base layer! Nobody said you couldn’t hunt in comfort, right?
Although not all of these Merino wool base layers are equal – that’s where we come in.
As lovers of Merino Wool Gear, we want to help you find your perfect hunting base layer. So, I’ll provide a technical buying guide for you. Then, I’ll give you the best lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight Merino wool base layers for hunting so you can find the best style for you.
Who knows? These Merino wool base layers may help you hit your bag limit this year!
Technical Guide: Merino Wool Hunting Base Layers
If you want to stay warm and dry up in the treestand, Merino wool is a must, especially as a base layer. However, as mentioned, finding the optimal base layer for you can be challenging. You must find the right size, style, pattern, and attributes. There are just so many options! It’s tricky adjusting your sights on one!
Luckily, I’ve compiled a quick guide to aid you in the hunt for your perfect hunting base layer. We’ll go over wool-specific factors like composition and fabric weight and cover performance aspects like style, camouflage, and extra features.
Let’s get to it!
Merino Wool Composition
As you may know by now, Merino wool is a soft, warm, and odor-proof material. However, one thing it lacks is durability. And, if you’re trudging through the thicket in your hunting gear, pure Merino wool clothing may snag and tear.
So, several of the base layers you’ll read about have synthetics like nylon, polyester, or spandex blended into the fabric for added strength while maintaining the beneficial properties of Merino wool. However, if you only wear your base layer underneath with something else on top, pure Merino wool does better, as it’s softer and more temperature-regulating.
It comes down to personal preference, but it’s still important to understand the performance level of each.
Merino wool is a fantastic temperature regulator (sheep face many harsh outdoor conditions). Although, when that wool is spun into a base layer, its thickness, or fabric weight, determines the level of warmth.
For example, ultralight and lightweight base layers (<160 gsm) work best in mild conditions or high-intensity activities, like stalking a herd. Yet if you’re sitting in a treestand in a blizzard, you may need a heavier next-to-skin later. If you need help deciding which fabric weight works best, see the helpful chart below from Minus33.
And since you’re trying to find your best Merino wool base layers for hunting, when we cover our favorite ones, I’ll separate them into three categories: lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight. I’ll give you more buying tips for each section and fabric weight specifics. That way, you can ignore the fluff and set your sights on the needed gear.
Style & Fit
Do you like your shirts baggy? What about an athletic fit with a longer hem you can tuck in? Or do you want a standard, basic shirt?
I can’t tell you which style or fit suits you; just understand that sizing across brands can vary. So, consult each brand’s sizing charts if you want a base layer. That way, you won’t have to return it when hunting season is underway!
If you’re wearing you’re Merino wool as an outer layer, you’re going to need the proper camo for your environment. Only some of the Merino hunting layers have a camo option, but some go above and beyond with digitally printed patterns designed by animal vision experts.
It’s your choice, but it could make or break your hunt.
Many brands add extra features to their base layers to stand apart from the herd. Check out some of the typical features of Merino wool hunting base layers.
If you like one of these shirts but it lacks a desired feature, don’t worry! Most Merino wool companies will release multiple designs varying in style and features. And if you want a specific or obscure feature and need help finding it, contact me! All I want is for you to find your perfect Merino wool gear!
3 Best Lightweight Merino Base Layers For Hunting
Lightweight base layers work best in mild conditions or during high-movement activities. They are thin (less than the thickness of two sheets of paper), so they better manage your next-to-skin moisture levels. Wool-synthetic blends are standard, as 100% Merino fabric is delicate. They’ll add ~10-15 °F of warmth to your setup in colder conditions.
Pros: Ultralight outdoor performance | 50+ UPF Protection | Awesome color & pattern options
Cons: Sizing discrepancies | May not feel soft at first
If you’re a hunter, you’re probably familiar with Kuiu. They make some of the high-quality hunting gear available, and one of their bestsellers – the Ultra Merino 120 LT LS crew – kicks off our top three lightweight Merino wool base layers for hunting. At 120 gsm, the blended Merino wool fabric is nearly the lightest on the market. It only weighs 5.8 oz but is highly durable. The additional nylon strengthens the delicate Merino wool fibers, so you don’t have to worry about tearing or snagging on branches.
Since this Merino wool hunting shirt is lightweight and breathable, you can use it on hot, sunny days (50+ UPF) or when trailing an animal covered in nervous sweat. And, if you’re hunting in cold weather, it makes an excellent layer that will add a few degrees of warmth while shivering in the tree stand. Either way, this Kuiu base layer will regulate your temperature no matter the temperature.
I like how this shirt fits; it is standard and not restrictive. However, some users have reported sizing discrepancies (typical for some Merino wool clothing). It’s not an issue, but give yourself enough before hunting season to exchange it if you’re hesitant.
Finally, this base layer is relatively affordable compared to the more expensive options you’ll see later. Still, this lightweight hunting base layer – and Kuiu’s other creations – have “high price” quality. So, you get a great shirt for less. I’ll take that deal any day.
Pros: Best camo patterns | Industry-leading breathability | 3XL sizes available
Cons: Potential manufacturing defects | Sizing inconsistencies
If you’re looking for more of a pullover base layer than a crew, consider a Merino wool ½-zip. You get the natural temperature regulation properties from Merino wool, and you can quickly zip up and down for extra venting or warmth. And in terms of Merino wool ½-zips for hunting, the Sitka Merino Core ½-zip is my top choice.
The close-to-body performance fit makes this Sitka Gear half-zip a bunch-free base layer for chillier conditions, but it truly shines as a standalone layer. This is due to Sitka’s specialized concealment system designs. Three unique patterns – Open Country, Optifade Elevated II, & Optifade Subalpine – are engineered for specific terrain. Take a closer look at each one below.
- Open Country: Neutral patterns camouflage among rocks, brush, and trees in open wilderness. Best for stalking herds of elk, mule deer, and more. 40-yard engagement.
- Optifade Elevated II: Best for hunting whitetail as high contrast patterns conceal among foliage. 80-yard-or-under engagement (undetectable in a tree stand up to 15 ft.)
- Optifade Subalpine: Designed by animal vision experts, this digitally rendered camouflage works best for stalking herds from ground level. 50-yard engagement or less.
Whatever design you choose, you can’t go wrong with Sitka Gear. Still, some users have noticed manufacturing defects within their shirts. So, if you get one, inspect it before embarking on your first trip of the season. Contact Sitka Gear for a return or exchange if there are any issues. They are always willing to help; just as much as you want incredible gear, they want to provide incredible gear!
Pros: Designed with mobility in mind | Soft next-to-skin feel | Front chest pocket
Cons: Sizing inconsistencies | Zipper issues
Rounding out the top three lightweight Merino wool base layers for hunting comes a unique shirt with features that punch above its weight. The Skre Gear Kaibab 150 ¼ Zip is a stretchy, comfortable Merino wool blend suitable for the most extended treks. The natural stretch and recovery of the fabric provide mobility in every direction, which is especially useful for archers.
Although lightweight (150 gsm), this ¼-zip works best for cold-weather hunting- anything down to 20 °F. If anything is colder, you should get a heavier layer. But if you’re in the Northeast in November, you’ll be OK with this and a hunting jacket.
Forget about the performance and warmth; this base layer has some cool features that are hard to find in the industry. For one, there is a usable chest zipper pocket, which is unheard of for base layers of this weight. Moreover, there are thumb loops, good ventilation, and a bulk-free fit. It’s everything you want for your next hunting trip.
The Skre Gear Kaibab 150 ¼ Zip is a top choice for anyone willing to do anything to stay on the trail. It’s got the power of Merino wool with many unique features. It’s a resilient layer for a resilient hunter. So, if that sounds like you, head over to SKRE Gear to get one!
3 Best Midweight Merino Base Layers For Hunting
Midweight base layers are the perfect balance of warmth and breathability. The extra thickness traps more hot air, creating a barrier against the cold, but still allows for airflow and moisture management. At this fabric weight (180-250 gsm), you’ll get a wide range of styles, designs, and uses. Some can be worn underneath, overtop, or as a midlayer. Whichever way you wear it is up to you!
Pros: The “classic” Merino wool base layer | Updated fit improves functionality | Trusted Merino brand
Cons: Long-term durability concerns | Potential manufacturing defects
In the world of Merino wool base layers, Smartwool is a master hunter. Their years of experience and expertise in their craft have helped so many people with theirs. They are the benchmark for other Merino wool brands, and their classic thermal base layer is, truthfully, “The Classic” midweight hunting base layer.
Yet, even the classics need updating with the times. And Smartwool knows that! That’s why this edition of their classic base layer has a more modern fit and design. The shoulder panels reduce strap rash, as no seams can dig against your skin.
The updated design is an improvement, although some prefer the old style. And, while some users complain about durability (holes, laundry issues, etc.), that’s the case with all Merino wool clothing. And, if you properly care for it, you won’t have any problems! Trust me, the guy whose laundry is about 15% Smartwool gear at the moment.
So, if you’re interested in Smartwool’s Classic Thermal Base Layer, I don’t blame you! I love mine. There are 15 colors, so you can choose whichever design you want. Get whatever color you want! It’s not like the deer will see under your jacket anyway!
Pros: Strong, durable material | Versatile fabric weight | Extremely affordable
Cons: Limited color options | May shrink or warp with improper care
Our technical guide mentioned that understanding fabric weight can be tricky. A lighter midweight base layer (~200 gsm) works well in all conditions. It’s heavy enough to keep you warm and toasty but thin enough to breathe and manage moisture in your microclimate. You can’t get much better at this fabric weight for hunting base layers than the BlackOvis Tuscarora Merino Wool Long Sleeve Crew.
One thing we love about BlackOvis is that they genuinely take customer feedback to heart. Their Tuscarora crew is an update on their old NWT 200 base layer, with the improvements coming from what customers said. They changed the fit from athletic to standard for better flow and movement. Also, the fabric formula shifted from wool-spandex to wool-nylon, which is much stronger.
Finally, this Merino wool hunting base layer is super affordable. As opposed to the triple-digit prices of the other options, you’ll get the Tuscarora for nearly half the price. And while only two colors are available, seasonal releases and new colors are posted regularly. Outside the crew, you can also grab all of BlackOvis’s Tuscarora hunting line, including tees, gaiters, underwear, and more! You won’t get a better deal anywhere else!
Pros: Fantastic warmth-to-weight ratio | Improved fabric durability | Longer hem stays tucked
Cons: Limited availability | No camo option available
OK, I guess this Ridge Merino Aspect base layer is more lightweight than midweight, but as I said before, fabric weights can be tricky. This 180-gsm ¼-zip punches above its weight in the warmth department. It’s another one of those “Goldilocks” fabric weights; it’s not too hot or cold but just right!
The fabric itself is unique due to its industry-leading strength. Ridge Merino uses their (m)Force Technology for this base layer, which is 50% more durable than similar products. They spin Merino wool fibers around a nylon core, strengthening the material while maintaining the beneficial natural properties of Merino wool. Now, that’s fabric engineering at its finest!
Another unique feature of this midweight base layer is its longer hem. In other words, the shirt should be – and stay – tucked. Plus, with the athletic fit and hidden thumb loops, the Aspect ¼-zip will stay put no matter the adventure, keeping you comfortable and warm the entire time.
And, if the ¼-zip style is not for you, Ridge Merino offers their Aspect material in different styles and colors, like their Aspect long underwear. Check out this midweight base layer – and the rest of Ridge Merino’s base layer collection – below!
3 Best Heavyweight Merino Base Layers For Hunting
These heavyweight Merino wool base layers are the warmest of the warm. They are what you need during the chilly late-season or long alpine hunts. The 300+ gsm thickness creates a barrier against even the most Arctic conditions. Still, you may sweat if you decide to wear it above freezing.
Pros: Slight loft for insulation | Cuffs & thumb loops for layering | Versatile henley design
Cons: Snap button issues | Not as soft as other base layers
As First Lite says, go “punch that tag in cold weather” with their Furnace 350 Henley. With a heavyweight interlocking knit, this base layer has a slight insulating loft, trapping warm air in the empty pockets within the fabric. This unique design makes it the best base layer for cold stationary hunts or late-season excursions.
The secret to this heavyweight henley’s warmth is the high-quality fabric. First Lite uses their Merino-X blend of 95% Merino wool and 5% Spandex – to add structure, as lofted knits often lose shape. Moreover, the fabric has no sheen or sound. The result is a stretchy, comfy, warm, and quiet hunting layer to help you finally get that trophy buck.
Outside the temperature regulation properties and well-engineered fabric, the Furnace 350 Henley has all the features hunters love. The Raglan sleeves eliminate chafing from backpack or rifle straps, which is nice. Moreover, the articulated fit and flatlock seams provide extra comfort. So, you’ll always feel cozy and warm, even if it’s freezing and you’re cramped for hours in a tree stand.
So, if you plan to post up when it’s chilly, the Furnace 350 Henley will be your go-to later. It’s a must-have for hunts, where staying warm is imperative to mark your tag. Get yours before the cold creeps in, and keep putting in the time all winter.
Pros: The warmest ‘shirt’ you’ll ever buy | Surprisingly breathable | Big & tall sizes available
Cons: Only should be used in cold conditions | Must launder with care
No frills. No bells or whistles. Just warmth! The Minus33 Yukon Expedition Weight Base Layer is the warmest “shirt” you’ll ever try. Aptly named after a cold-weather wonderland, this Yukon shirt is ready for any conditions. At 400 gsm, it’s one of the heaviest interlocking knit shirts on the market. It’s one of my favorite heavyweight Merino wool base layers; if I’m going to be outside in subzero temperatures – no matter the activity – you better believe I’m wearing mine.
Yet, even with a thicker fabric, the Yukon base layer is surprisingly breathable. It’s just one of the many beneficial natural properties of Merino wool. And since this shirt is 100% Merino wool, you get the best. It manages moisture by wicking it away from your body, keeping you cool when bushwacking and warm when you’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
Finally, the Yukon Expedition Weight Crew is an ultra-cold weather base layer, which will do you no good in mild conditions. If you want to be more technical, Minus33 recommends temperature ranges of 0-30 for sedentary activities, but if you’re on the move, you’ll be toasty into the negatives.
Pros: Top-notch versatility | A seasonal bessteller | 100% sourced & made in USA
Cons: Wish there could be more wool | Expensive
When I’m out in the cold, I like extra warmth around my head (mainly because I’m bald). So, I prefer a hoody as a heavyweight base layer, and the one I use – and love ever so much – is the Duckworth Powder Hoody.
The main reason I love this Merino wool hoodie is its versatility. The construction is relaxed and warm yet lightweight compared to your average hoodie. And with a fabric weight of 300 gsm, you get plenty of warmth and breathability. No wonder it continues to be one of Duckworth’s most popular products year after year!
Yet, what sets the Powder Hoody apart is the wool. Unlike the softer, less hardy sheep of Australia & New Zealand, Duckworth sources their from Helle Rambouillet sheep – a close cousin of the Merino – at their ranch in Montana. As the sheep live in the drastic conditions of the Rockies, their wool is a lot more rugged and weatherproof while maintaining the same soft properties. Moreover, all the material – not just the wool – is sourced and manufactured in the USA!
Still, all this high-quality American-made hoodie comes at a steep price tag. But as a happy wearer of the Powder Hoody, I can tell you it’s absolutely worth it. If you’re interested, check it out below!
Final Note On Merino Wool Base Layers For Hunting
Hopefully, you zeroed in on a base layer to accompany you on your next hunt. But if you’re still undecided or can’t find that perfect gear, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re always here to help you find your perfect Merino wool gear. Obviously, it’s the name of our site!
And, as Merino wool is such a versatile material, you don’t have to wait for hunting season to wear it. There are tons of shoes, hoodies, socks, and more. So, poke around our site, follow us on the socials below, or sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news, deals, and discounts on the best fabric: Merino wool!