June 10, 2019 8 min read

If you are an outdoor sports enthusiast base layers will be a key piece in your wardrobe. Worn as a first layer, next to your skin they need to find a critical balance between keeping you warm, whilst at the same time also wicking away sweat. There are a huge range of base layers on the market and our series of guides looks to help you understand both the features and benefits of this essential piece of kit. 

In this article we are going to be discussing Women's Merino base layers. We're going to kick off with explaining the jargon and then hopefully cover pretty much everything you need to know about Merino base layers, but if you still have any questions at the end or have any other feedback, we'd love to hear from you at hi@thelatitude.life. If you would like to read more about other types of base layers including synthetic base layers check out our Ultimate Guide to Women's Base Layers!

 Here's what we are going to cover in this article:

Women's Merino Base Layers vs Women's Merino Thermals - what's the difference?

In short, none! The word base layer is used more often, but brands and websites often use the word interchangeably. The word base layer is indicative of the product being your first layer, next to your skin whilst thermal highlights the products ability to keep you warm. 

What is Merino?

Merino wool is a natural fibre produced by Merino sheep and is great for making clothes because it is finer and softer than regular wool. This also makes it the perfect fabric to wear next to the skin, as a base layer. We talk more about the benefits of Merino base layers later in the article. Merino wool can come in different diameters from strong (broad) wool to ultrafine wool and can be blended with other fabrics such as Tencel, Silk or even Polyester or Nylon. It's worth keeping an eye out for where the Merino has been sourced from as different suppliers have different standards of animal welfare, we have highlighted this where possible below, and many outdoor brands are going to great lengths to ensure the best animal welfare and also transparency in their practices. 


The Benefits of Merino Base Layers

  • It helps to regulate body temperature, this means Merino helps you keep your body temperature stable in both hot and cold conditions. Merino does this by trapping air particularly effectively in its fibres, keeping you warm when its cold.
  • The Merino wool fibres are also able to wick away sweat when you get hot, to keep your body cool. Merino wool is able to do this because it is so porous meaning that the moisture is held within the fibres and away from your body. In fact, Merino wool is able to hold approximately 30% of its weight in water
  • Merino wool base layers have also been found to control odours and smell less than other fabrics. There seems to be a couple of theories about why this is, firstly because the fibres actually retain a small amount of oil called Lanolin which repels dirt and secondly due to its ability to control moisture, bacteria are less able to grow. Either way, the consensus is Merino will keep you smelling fresher for longer. So, if you just don't like laundry or are going on a long trip then this is definitely the base layer for you!
  • Unlike other wool products Merino wool is very soft, so none of that itchy, scratchy feeling you would normally associate with wool clothing.
  • Merino wool performs well when you layer up. So, pop your ladies Merino base layer over your Merino bra (Mons Royale do some fabulous ones - check them out here) and pop a Merino mid-layer over the top. The Merino layers will work together to help you maintain an optimum temperature.
  • Its quick drying. The jury is out as to whether it is as fast drying as polyester base layers, and this would depend on whether the garment is 100% Merino, or a Merino blend as well as the weight of the Merino, but is definitely a lot quicker than cotton!
  • This is why Merino wool is a great fabric for a base layer or thermal and perfect for skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking or well just about any active, outdoor activity! Don your Merino base layer under your Ski or Snowboard Jacket and pair it with some thermal leggings for Winter!

Ladies base layer worn under ski jacket


Women's Base Layer Brands

We've reviewed 6 Merino base layer tops from 6 different outdoor brands below, whilst the list includes some big brands there are also many smaller brands selling Merino wool thermals in the marketplace. We have focused on tops in this article but most of these brands also sell good quality women's base layer bottoms too.  

Mons Royale Women's Base Layer

Mons Royale - Bella Tech Hooded Top £99.99

Mons Royale has to be our favourite Merino base layer brand out there, there are many reasons why we stock this brand, we even wrote a blog post about it! Mons Royale is an outdoor brand with its heritage firmly rooted in the hills and mountains of New Zealand. The brand delivers both technical performance and style bringing a more versatile approach to Merino - wear your Mons Royale women's base layers on the hill whether skiing, snowboarding or mountain biking and in the bar afterwards, this is not the kind of kit you leave in your drawer! The company has a transparent approach to sustainability, detailing its approach on their website. Latitude's Mons Royale range includes Merino wool tops, Merino wool bra's and Merino wool mid-layers

patagonia womens-capilene-air-crew base layer top


Patagonia - Women's Capilene Air Crew £110

Patagonia have been making base layer's since the 1980's, back in the day when it was called underwear, and mostly made of cotton, Patagonia were revolutionary in changing both the product and outdoor apparel industry. They were one of the first brands to really define the performance base layer and grow the market. 

So, strictly speaking the product above is a Merino / Polyester blend of 51% Merino Wool and 49% Polyester. What makes this product special (and at over £100 it had better be!) is an innovative 3D knit structure, and seamless design means extra comfort, stretch, no chafing, sweat-wicking, odour-free and fast drying base layer. In fact Patagonia love this product so much they have even made a video about it! It comes in pretty classic, single colours but we're excited. Are you?



icebreaker - Women's Mid-Weight Merino Base Layer £90

Founded by Jeremy Moon in 1994 icebreaker designs Merino apparel based on 6 main principals; simplicity, longevity, versatility, purpose, natural and sustainability. Their product range is simple and considered with the focus on quality products in classic colours and designs. Their range includes ladies merino underwear, base layers, mid layers and outer layers. Their impressive website documents their supply chain and sourcing in a very honest and transparent way and as a business they set high standards of reporting to ensure they are treating their stakeholders in line with their business values. You can even download their transparency report here.

Findra ORONSAY MERINO womens top

FINRA Oronsay Merino Lite 3/4 Sleeve £65

FINDRA are a Scottish company producing outdoor and active lifestyle clothing. The Oronsay is a 150g lightweight technical top made from 87% Merino Wool and 13% Nylon. The attention to detail is really shown in this product both from a design and performance point of view, including flat lock seams, forward shaped seams for a flattering look and a reflective FINDRA circles print. We're also enjoying their blog at the moment, with regular updates on everything adventure, travel and food, check it out here.


Airblaster ninja suit womens

Airblaster Ninja Suit Women's £199.99

We couldn't write a post about Ladies Merino Wool Base Layers without including an all in one! Yes, there is such a thing and before you ask it includes an "easy pee-zy" 350 degree zip if you get what we mean. Again, this is a Merino blend, called "Woolverino" and made from 55% Merino / 37% Tencel / 8% Spandex. It has a hood, thumb loops, 4-way stretch, Airblaster claims it dries 2x faster than just Merino Wool AND you get to look like a ninja. In addition to the more classic colours Airblaster also do a "Wild Tribe" and "Far Out" print, which are out of stock, so you will have to be fast out of the blocks if you want to get one for next season. What are you waiting for?


 Finisterre Women's Pali base layer

Finisterre Pali Ladies Merino Base layer

Finisterre, the British cold water surf brand have used an innovative mix of 50% superfine Merino wool and 50% Tencel® natural fibres to contruct this ladies base layer. Its soft, warm and lightweight and contains no synthetic fibres. We love the colour shown above which they have called Aloe, but Finisterre also produce this as a black base layer top too. 

Is Merino Wool Eco-Friendly?

Being a natural fibre, Merino Wool is a very environmentally friendly fabric meaning that the brands listed above are producing some of the most environmentally friendly clothing there is! The natural fibres in Merino Wool break down easily and the infographic below shows how the Mons Royale ZQ Merino Fabric breaks down completely upon composting or burying in just 12 months. 

As synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon cannot breakdown naturally in the environment it has been argued that Merino is a more environmentally friendly fabric.

Mons Royale Merino Base Layers Biodegradable

It is worth ensuring that your Merino base layer brand's suppliers do not use sheep that have been exposed to the controversial practice of Muelsing, which is the removal of strips of a lamb or sheep's skin. Brands such as Mons Royale and icebreaker have committed to using Merino which is 100% Muelsing free.


How to care for your ladies merino wool base layer

  • As highlighted above your Merino top or bottoms might not need as much washing as your usual polyester base layers, so first try giving it an air, it might not need a wash!
  • Always follow your brands instructions, but generally wash on a delicate or short cycle at 30 degrees and reshape your clothes whilst damp.
  • As Merino absorbs water well it gets heavy when wet, so it can lose some shape if you dry it on a hanger or line
  • We would also suggest you don't ring out your merino clothes as this can stretch the fibres which give it such great properties

Merino Innovation

Icebreaker women's nature dye merino t-shirt

icebreaker women's nature dye t-shirt £80

 In line with their design sustainability principles, icebreaker's nature dye collection uses just one glass of water to dye every t-shirt, which they claim is 80% less water than used to dye a synthetic t-shirt.

Are Merino Base Layers worth the cost?

You might have noticed that Merino wool thermal tops and bottoms can be more expensive than your average polyester top. By caring for your garment, and by picking brands that offer a design that you can wear for lots of activities, we think it is well worth the investment. Alternatively, outdoor brands typically hold sale periods in March/April and August, try searching for “merino wool base layer womens sale” during these periods and see if you can grab a bargain from remaining stock,


In Conclusion

We hope you’ve found our guide informative, here at Latitude we absolutely love Merino wool's ability to perform as a fabric, making it ideal for many outdoor sports. 

There are several brands making innovative steps in both design and sustainability, and we are excited to see what the future holds for this awesome product perform as a fabric, making it ideal for many outdoor sports

Click here to shop our collection of Womens Merino Base Layers

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