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.
In the winter a good base layer will sit tight to the skin and help keep you toasty warm while also wicking away sweat so you don’t end up a sticky mess 20 paces into a run. And come the summer, adding another top can actually keep you cooler if you get a base layer with the right tech woven into the fabric. Here are the best skin-tight tops for hot and cold training.
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Cold Weather Base Layers
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
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Adidas Techfit Base Long Sleeve Tee
This Adidas compression top is ideal for more up-tempo winter training, as its material sheds sweat like nobody’s business to keep you dry no matter how hard you’re pushing.
Despite being lightweight it also has the chops to keep you warm in all conditions too, something we confirmed by running up some of the modest peaks of Scotland’s Pentland Hills on a frosty January morning wearing just this and a T-shirt. And shorts, obviously. £24.95, buy on adidas.co.uk
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dhb Aeron Merino Base Layer
When it comes to base layers, you can’t really go wrong with merino wool, which naturally stays odour free and keeps you warm in cold weather and cooler when it’s mild. dhb’s 37.5 tech aims to make it more exact than that, by keeping you at 37.5 degrees, which they say is the optimal temperature for perfect performance.
We’d be surprised if the effect is that precise, but this top does a fine job of keeping you warm at the start of winter bike rides, and then ensuring you don’t overheat once you have got up to speed. £35, buy on wiggle.co.uk
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Warm Weather Base Layers
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 £10 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. £25, buy on underarmour.co.uk
Adidas Techfit Chill
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? £32.95, buy on adidas.co.uk