Welcome to our mass review of a round dozen of the best winter baselayer tops out there. They’re a varied bunch with a mix of features and fabrics, but the chances are that one of them will be right for you, from the super-technical Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hoodie at one end of the spectrum through to the light, but reflectively shiny Columbia OmniHeat at the other.
Here are a few general pointers: we like long sleeves, collars and zip-necks which allow for some venting. Hoods and thumb-loops come on some tops and you take or leave them based on your personal tastes, all we ask of thumb-loops is that they’re unobtrusive when not in use. A snug cut not only feels warmer, but is more efficient for wicking and layering.
Fabrics is the big question. There’s now a big choice from traditional high-wicking polyester at one end to 100% merino wool at the other. They all have pros and cons, but we’ve tried to help by rating each top out of five for wicking, next to skin comfort, warmth and drying time.
The hotter and sweatier you run, the less warmth you’ll want in most conditions, but the faster wicking and drying you’ll need. If you run slower and cooler, look for warmth and comfort first and don’t fret over wicking so much. The good news is that there are now fabrics out there that mix different fibres and pretty much do it all. But you get the idea.
We tested the tops simply by using them lots in cold weather for walking, biking, running, scrambling, trekking and general mountaineering. There are no lab figures because ultimately what matters is how they work in real life.
Check out the base layers by scrolling down the page or jumping to your favourite brand following the links below.