The Best Women’s Base and Midlayers of 2021
Keeping your body temperature at a happy equilibrium starts with the right layers
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Norrøna Equalizer Merino Zip Neck Top ($89)
When the dawn-patrol alarm rings at 5:30 a.m., you want a top you know will get the job done without having to cross-reference your outfit with your phone’s weather app. Made from a midweight blend of stink-resistant wicking merino and abrasion-resistant polyester, the Equalizer Zip Neck is a reliable basic that’s just right for all but the hottest and coldest of days. Bonus: the long hem stays put under shell pants.
Terramar Ultra Merino Pants ($65)
We turn to these full-length bottoms when seriously cold temps threaten to freeze our butts on the chairlift. They’re made from a dual-layer fabric—polyester on the inside to pull moisture from the skin and merino on the outside for its ability to both breathe and insulate. The air between those two layers of fabric further helps trap heat for exceptional warmth that doesn’t stifle. They’re like comfy sweatpants minus the bulk (and the slow-drying cotton).
Columbia Alpine Crux Jacket ($300)
Built with a maximal warmth-to-weight ratio in mind, the Alpine Crux is everything we want in a technical puffy coat. Responsibly sourced 800-fill down insulation gets a boost from Columbia’s heat-reflective aluminum lining, and a water-resistant shell fabric fends off light precipitation. No-sew baffle construction eliminates stitch holes and keeps the fill in place to maintain warmth.
Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody ($165)
This ultralight softshell saves on weight but doesn’t skimp on protection: Nanosphere® Technology repels water and stretch-woven fabric breathes for when things get cruxy. It packs neatly into a chest pocket and clips easily onto your harness—but odds are you’ll just leave it on because its gusseted construction offers unrestricted freedom of movement.
Burton AK Baker Power Wool Tights ($140)
You could spend Friday night stressing over how to dress the next day; or you could just wear these Power Wool bottoms. The Polartec fabric—a durable polyester face with a soft, wicking merino grid on the inside—is light and breathable but warmer than you’d expect, so it works on a wide range of days. The thigh pocket keeps your credit card safe during yard sales, so you can ski straight to the bar.
Kari Traa Smekker Half-Zip Top ($120)
If your winter usually involves just as much sledding and bonfire-hanging as it does hard charging, you need a thick, cozy underlayer in your wardrobe—the kind that’s perfect for slow-going in cold temps. The Smekker delivers, with its hefty 100 percent merino wool fabric and wide cuffs, hem, and neckline that mimic the look and feel of your favorite sweater. The seams are all sewn with flat stitching to minimize chafing.
Black Diamond CoEfficient Hoodie ($179)
There’s a reason the CoEfficient has been one of Black Diamond’s bestsellers for years: it balances breathability and comfort better than most other midlayer fleeces we’ve tried. This year’s update keeps the long cut that tucks under a harness and Polartec’s low-profile grid pattern. It traps just enough heat for working hard in cold conditions but not so much that you’ll be removing layers the minute the sun hits. What’s new? The face now incorporates nylon for increased durability.