The best merino wool base layer is the one that takes you everywhere. From sailing all year round, to dog sledding in the arctic circle, to walking the grandkids around a frozen winter wonderland in Harrogate. It's the most versatile and essential basic item to have in anyone's wardrobe. It's also eco friendly, so you can feel snug and smug all at the same time.

The ubiquitous costume of form fitting all black that make us look like we’re on an adventure to secretly deliver a box of chocolates, via an open window and a zip wire, like a svelte undercover agent. Alternatively, those of us who love food may resemble something entirely less elegant and more walrussy instead. You’ll know which category you fall into, but nobody is judging because you wear this stuff under your clothes and foul weather gear. The best merino wool base layer is the one nobody but our significant other gets to see.  It’s our little secret.

Now then, hands up all those who enjoy feeling warm and snug? Now hands up if you’ve had a smelly experience with synthetic base layers? Yes, I’m sure there’s a few of us who have had to endure the indignity of the BO-baselayer on a multiday passage. I thought this was just how things were, until one day a friend lent me her merino wool base layer from her kit bag. She had used the merino kit on the Round World Clipper Race, to keep warm on those bitterly cold nights in the north Pacific under a dry suit. What a revelation! Not only can you wear this stuff repeatedly and not itch, you don’t stink either. Win Win. I was a convert.

If not itching and not smelling, despite living in this stuff for days at a time isn’t reason enough to go for a full outfit, how about the eco credentials? Merino wool is a natural fibre and is biodegradable. No plastic here thank you very much.

best merino wool base layer balaclava

Ice Breaker Balaclava

Ever try wearing a balaclava and end up feeling smothered and with a wet face? Try this one. You’ll be able to breath more easily and the moisture wicks away fast.

Made with 200gm merino jersey fabric, the Oasis Merino wool Balaclava provides soft, breathable, odor-resistant performance and protection in icy cold conditions.

Ventilation flap that form fits for your nose and mouth.

  • 200gm wool weight
  • 100% Merino wool

Price £27

Buy Merino Wool Balaclava from

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merino wool base layer neck tube

Wiggle – Buff

The buff is one of the staple items all sailors have in their kit bag, I have a variety of them, for headwear, neck wear and in different thicknesses. The merino one is quite simply the best you can get (IMHO) and they do it in a couple of different thicknesses.

Perfect for being on and around water all day every day or simply out for a hike to the shops, it can be worn as a neckerchief, headband, wristband, mask, hairband, balaclava, scarf, beanie or bandana.

The lightweight buff is such a versatile neck tube, facemask, pull it up, push it down thing. You can breath into it for hours and not curse your own stinky breath. There’s different thickness options too if you go to the main Buff website. Combining two buffs of different thickness at the same time gives a really great versatile option for cold weather.

  • 125gm lightweight buff
  • 500gm heavy weight buff
  • 100% Merino Wool

Price from £19

Buy 100% Merino Light Wool Buff from

Buy 100% Merino Thick Wool Buff directly from

merino wool base layer women's long sleeve top

Go Outdoors North Ridge Merino Wool Long Sleeve Top

A soft, lightweight Merino baselayer that will naturally keep you feeling warm, dry and fresh. This North Ridge top has a nice little zip to make pulling it on over your head in a tight space easy. The high collar keeps out drafts and helps seal in the warm when coupled with a neck tube. The merrow stitch seams are low profile and reduce chafing. Classic contoured styling to fit the average female form. Women’s sizes go from UK 8 up to UK 18 and S to XL for the Men.

Designed for adventurous travel and outdoor activity, North Ridge’s Convect-200 Merino LSZ Top uses the wool’s natural antibacterial and thermo-regulating properties to keep you cool in summer, warm in winter, and feeling fresh all year round.

  • 200gm wool weight
  • 100% Merino Wool

Price £42

Buy WOMEN’S North Ridge 100% Merino top from

Buy MEN’S North Ridge 100% Merino top from


Altura Merino wool blend base layer unisex top

Go Outdoors Unisex Altura Merino Wool long sleeve top

Now bear in mind a little advise about unisex base layers. If you’re a muscular woman with solid shoulders then it will fit you well, but it’s not contoured for a narrower or curvier female form. It will fit most men though just fine. It’s a slinky one from Altura and feels really nice to the touch. Beware of snagging though, don’t wash it with garments that have open zips or other snagging points.

Flatlock seams and smart paneling keep chafe away and it’s got a handy zipped key pocket too. Comes in three sizes XS-S, M-L, XL-XXL. Watch out though as it comes up quite small. Go up a size for best fit.

  • wool weight unknown
  • 50% Merino / 50% polyester

Price £45

Buy Altura Merino blend base layer from

A more female shaped alternative to the crew neck style merino wool base layer is the ODLO

Buy ODLO 100% Merino Wool top from

best merino wool gloves

Decathlon Adult Merino Wool Liner Glove

Both of these gloves are in our best merino wool base layer buyers guide because they’re both excellent, but offer different levels of thermal.
You’ve probably already got outer, waterproof gloves or winter mitts, but if you add these Decathlon liners inside them, you’ll improve your thermal level by an extra 3°C degrees or so, even when it’s freezing balls off brass monkeys.

  • 200gm wool weight
  • 86% Merino wool

Price £9.99 (Decathlon liner gloves)

Buy Adult Merino Wool Liner Glove from

Icebreaker Quantum Merino Wool Glove

The Icebreaker glove has a thicker wool with a grippy palm. These are more likely to be worn without an outer glove. They also clip together so you don’t lose one of them to the recesses of a dark kit bag.
On both pairs of gloves shown here, the thumb and index finger are touch screen compatible so you can scroll around your navionics app with ease.

  • 260gm wool weight
  • 98% Merino wool, 2% elastane

Price £32.66 (Icebreaker gloves)

Buy Icebreaker mid weight Merino Wool Glove from

For more Icebreaker Merino Wool thermal baselayer products you can buy them at

best merino base layer womens pant

Go Outdoors Odlo Women’s Pant

Don’t give up comfort for warmth, the Odlo Women’s Merino Pants are constructed from 100% Merino wool for an ultra-soft feel. Odlo’s Warm technology wicks away moisture whilst retaining heat, accompanied by natural odour resistance.

  • 17.5 micron wool (Premium softness)
  • 100% Merino wool

Price £60

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best merino base layer mens pant

Go Outdoors – North Ridge Convect-200 Men’s 100% Merino Pant

Designed to keep you cool in summer, warm in winter this simple base layer could be your constant kit bag companion. They’ll be just as good under a pair of old jeans as you potter about doing a bit of winter maintenance as well as in action under foul weather gear during a “British Summer”. Pocket /overlay fly opening, merrow stitch flat locked seams to reduce chafe points.

  • 200gm
  • 100% Merino Wool

Price £32

Buy North Ridge Merino Men’s Pant from

Best merino wool base layer helly hansen pant

Wiggle – Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Wool Base Layer Pant

I’m a sucker for a bit of yellow, especially in winter. The Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Lightweight Pant Base layer combines  merino wool with technical Lifa fabric.

Lightweight, breathable and durable, they feature a two-layer construction with a 100% Merino wool exterior, combined with Lifa Stay Warm Technology. Both layers work together to keep you cool when it is warm and warm when it is cold, as well as absorbing excess moisture. What the heck is Lifa? It’s a form of polyester, it’s 40% lighter with a 60% better insulation to weight ratio than regular polyester.  It has  anti-bacterial properties, it’s 100% hypo-allergenic and is also 100% recyclable, so not at all bad then for a base layer.

  • 160gm Wool weight
  • 100% Merino (in one of two layers)

Price £65

Buy Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Wool Base Layer Pant from

best merino wool base layer mix of mens and womens knee high socks

Sock Shop –  Pantherella Classic Merino Wool Ribbed Knee High Socks

Nothing says lady sock than one modelled on tippy toes and elegant calves, because I always like to wear thermal socks when I’ve got some heels on. Oh but for you chaps out there, your socks are modelled on Cuban heels so you’re not let off the dancing duties either. Most of us will be wearing sturdy boots with these, be that winter wellies or sailing boots, you’ll be stuffing these socks in the kit bag as part of your basic packing ritual. Their merino wool content will help keep the stinking feet at bay too.

  • 70% Merino Wool 30% Nylon

Price £12.99

Buy Women’s Pantherella Classic Merino Wool Ribbed Knee Sock at

Buy Men’s Pantherella Classic Merino Wool Ribbed Knee High Sock at

Merino Wool knee high sock woolpower trekking

Alpine Trek Woolpower Merino Wool Knee High Socks

These knee high  socks made of soft merino wool and polyamide are ideal for wearing inside your winter boots, on land and on the water.  Blended material wicks body moisture outwards so you’ll avoid a touch of the trench foot if you are prone to damp feet.  They’re non-itchy and odor neutral.  The ribbed leg cuffs are useful to help them stop slipping down inside your boot too.

  • 400gm wool weight
  • 65% Merino wool, 33% polyamide, 2% elastane

Price £25.95

Buy Woolpower Merino Wool Socks at

Merino wool one piece suit

Alpine Trek – Aclima overall one piece suit

If you really want to up your Basildon Bond game,  then here’s your chance! A form fitting full merino wool one piece with hood. No waistband means a comfortable fit and no riding up or awkward tucking in under other layers. What about going to the toilet you ask? Ah, these have an unzippable seat so you can stay classy despite the thermal layering. Thumb holes in the sleeves mean pulling on other layers is a doddle.

  • 200gm wool weight
  • 100% Merino wool

Price from £163.35

Buy Aclima MENS One-Piece Merino Wool Suit from

Buy Aclima WOMENS One-Piece Merino Woll Suit from

What we look for in a merino wool base layer

  • Thickness – the weight of the merino tells you the thickness. You can have thin semi translucent fine knit 125gm or a chunkier knit 500gmfor arctic conditions. The finer knitted Merino base layers fit easily under clothes.
  • Form fit – are they cut for a specific gendered body shape or unisex? If you’re a woman, then unisex invariably means a straighter cut so might be less form fitting than something specifically designed for your body shape.
  • Seams – flatlock are essential for a smooth chafe free fit. Base layer leggings are often paneled around the crotch area. You want  flat seams here to avoid awkward chafe points.
  • Waistband and hems – we don’t want a tight waistband digging in nor to we want tight ankles stopping us from fitting a base sock underneath or cutting off circulation.
  • 100% or a blend? – There’s different grades of merino and different percentage mixes. Added elastane can make a better form fitting structure. Adding nylon can reduce the pilling and price. A 100% merino is comfortable and shouldn’t itch at all as it is a smooth non allergenic knitted fine fabric.
merino wool base layers bobbling or pilling effect

Merino wool bobbling after 8 years of use – Best Merino Wool Base Layers |

There’s a couple of minor downsides to the merino wool base layer, as they are made of a natural fibre, they are prone to pilling, ie the bobbling we get on woolly jumpers. The other downside, as these are a knitted, if you pierce them or rip them, you’ll need to get that darned and repaired, else you’ll find the hole will grow quickly. Be careful what you launder your merino wool base layers with, avoid sharp snagging objects.

merino wool knit pattern

the fine knit of Merino wool base layer clothing – Best Merino Wool Base Layer |

You can  read more winter sailing tips at Yachting Monthly

For non merino base layers,  see more at the Yachting World base layers buyers guide

If you’re looking for a  small heater to keep onboard you can read more about those at

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.