One of the most vital parts of an active wardrobe is the right base layer. In fact, you probably want at least two – one for warm-weather training and one for the cold.
It’s easy to grasp how base layers can help in the winter – they sit tight against the skin to help keep you toasty warm while also wicking away sweat so you don’t end up a sticky mess 20 paces into a run. You might be more sceptical of their benefits come summer, but adding another layer can actually be just the ticket to avoiding overheating, because lightweight base layers with sweat-wicking tech that dry quickly have a cooling effect on the body.
Here are the best base layers for both hot and cold training.
Warm Weather Base Layers
Craft Cool Intensity
This featherlight base layer vest has just one aim in life, and that is to wick moisture away from your skin as fast as possible. You’d probably not even notice you were sweating at all if it weren’t for the parts of your body not covered by the Craft Cool Intensity. The vest sits snugly against the skin and has mesh panels running down the sides and back to help keep you cool. £38, buy on craftsportswear.co.uk
CEP Ultralight Shirt
When you first take this shirt out of the box you will probably assume that CEP has mistakenly sent you a child’s top, because it looks absolutely tiny. Rest assured, however, that the Ultralight shirt stretches to fit tightly, but comfortably, so that it’ll slip under any other running top you want to wear. The extremely lightweight fabric wicks sweat and dries rapidly to help chill you out on hot runs. £39.99, buy on cepsports.co.uk
Odlo Ceramicool Seamless
At last, a running top that harnesses the incredible cooling power of ceramics. If you’ve ever spent an hour looking at pottery while cursing the fact you couldn’t wear it on a run – and who hasn’t? – this is the base layer for you. Odlo claims its CeramiCool fabric cools the skin by 1°C to keep you comfortable during warm weather training. £40, buy on odlo.com
Men’s UA HeatGear Armour Short Sleeve Compression Shirt
The exceedingly tight fit of these tops ensures that sweat doesn’t get even a second to linger on your skin before it is whisked away to evaporate. Even more exciting is that for a mere £9 more you can get versions of these shirts emblazoned with the logo of your favourite superhero. As long as your favourite superhero isn’t something niche like Aquaman. No-one is making Aquaman compression tops yet. £26, buy on underarmour.co.uk
Adidas Alphaskin Tech
The Climachill tech in these compression tops (which come in T-shirt or tank top form, depending on how proud of your biceps you are) helps keeps you cool in two ways. One is the mesh-style fabric, the other is a series of aluminium-silver dots on the back that conduct heat away from the body, which sounds space-age enough to make us sit up and take note. The top also has ultra-soft seams to avoid irritation, and who doesn’t love a soft seam? £39.95, buy on adidas.co.uk
Cold Weather Base Layers
Craft Active Intensity
You might be sceptical of the warmth-retaining properties of this base layer when you first handle it because it feels far too thin and lightweight to face down winter weather, but one run will be enough to dispel your doubts. The Intensity base layer traps the heat you need next to your skin, while wicking away sweat so it doesn’t cool against your body. The top also has a long fit so you can tuck it into your shorts comfortably and help trap warm air against your torso. £34, buy on wiggle.co.uk
Runderwear Long Sleeve Base Layer
Having mastered the world of chafe-free running pants, Runderwear has turned its attention to your top half. It uses the same seamless tech as the underwear, which means the base layer is exceptionally comfortable next to the skin and it dries so quickly after exercise you’ll be happy to sit around in it all day. We were, anyway (don’t judge). One other feature we especially liked was the wrap-around mittens on the end of the sleeves. Unfurl them to cover your entire hand – perfect for the days you forget your running gloves. £45, buy on runderwear.co.uk
dhb Merino Long Sleeve Zip Neck Base Layer
Whatever your preferred style of base layer is – high-neck long-sleeve, low-neck long-sleeve, short sleeve, NO SLEEVES AT ALL – dhb has a warm, merino wool option for you. For our part, we like as much skin covered as possible, so this zip-neck long-sleeve top is our preferred pick, especially since it also works as an option to wear by itself when the weather turns milder. All of dhb’s merino tops are sweat-wicking, breathable and naturally resistant to bad smells, which is always nice. £44.99, buy on wiggle.co.uk
New Balance Seasonless Long Sleeve
This top works equally well as a base layer or as your only top if the weather isn’t quite cold enough for two layers, but too chilly for a standard one. The fabric wicks sweat away quickly, and the thumb loops are sewn on inside the sleeve, so most of your hand is covered and kept cosy. There are also reflective details on all sides if you opt to wear the Seasonless solo for runs at night. £35, buy on newbalance.co.uk
Icebreaker BodyfitZONE Long Sleeve Half Zip
Like the New Balance Seasonless top, this shirt works well beneath other layers or worn by itself. In fact, it’s smart enough to be worn just about anywhere, which is not something you say very often with base layers. The merino wool fabric keeps you dry and comfortable, and ensures the top stays odour-free even after multiple uses. £85, buy on icebreaker.com
Iffley Road Dartmoor Base Layer
This top is soft – oh so soft – and seamless so it’s exceptionally comfortable to wear next to skin. The Dartmoor base layer is made from merino wool and quite fitted, though it’s not so tight that you’ll feel like you’re revealing too much if you don’t wear another top over it. £95, buy on iffleyroad.com
Odlo Evolution Warm Base Layer
This feature-filled top goes out of its way to reduce the amount of stitching involved to reduce any potential points of irritation on your skin. It’s warm enough for all climes, but also has ventilation in key areas to stop overheating.
Furthermore, it’s made with a silver-based fabric and not just because that sounds cool. It has antibacterial properties to keep the top smelling fresh after use. Well, as fresh as possible. £50, buy on odlo.com/uk
BAM Bamboo Contrast Stitch Base Layer
Bamboo fabric is, somewhat surprisingly, absolutely ideal for winter activities. It’s incredibly soft and comfortable, yet wicks away sweat like a champ and doesn’t get too smelly as bacteria don’t enjoy living in it.
This base layer is about as snug as it gets and yet avoids getting too sweaty during runs and cycles. It’s also less aggressively fitted than most base layers, so you can wear it by itself without a top layer at milder times of the year. £38, buy on bambooclothing.co.uk