Mom Goes Camping

Best Base Layers for Babies and Young Toddlers

best base layers for babies and toddlers

If you want to take your baby or toddler outdoors in cold weather, they need to be dressed in layers – starting with the right base layer. Here I will go over the best options for baby and toddler base layers, including budget picks and how to save money.


Quick Picks:

Also read: Best Snow Suits for Crawling Babies and Young Toddlers


What Material Is Best for Baby Base Layers?

Merino Wool is by far the best material for base layers because it:

  • Wicks moisture and retains heat even when wet. These properties are particularly important for children in diapers.  Even small leak can leave them feeling COLD and unable to regulate body temperature. and is soft against the skin.
  • Doesn’t get stinky: So your little one can wear the base layers multiple times before they need to be washed.
  • Is soft: Because babies have such sensitive skin, some brands blend their Merino base layers with silk to make it even softer.

The downside is that Merino wool base layers are EXPENSIVE.  They also shouldn’t be put in the dryer if you want them to last.  Synthetic base layers are a cheaper alternative and are more durable.

Whatever you do, avoid cotton and bamboo base layers. These materials absorb water and will leave your baby feeling cold.

Also read: Is Merino wool worth it?


Base Layers Should Be a THIN Material

Avoid the urge to get thick base layers for your baby. Unless you are taking your baby or toddler out in very cold weather, your child’s base layer should be made from a THIN material.   Keep in mind that experts advise against taking toddlers and babies outdoors at all if the wind chill is 10F or below.

It’s easier to regulate your child’s body temperature with thin base layers.  If you are worried about them being warm enough, then get a thicker mid layer.


Saving Money on Base Layers

I’m lucky and find most of my kids’ base layers in secondhand stores (but I don’t mind buying ones with holes or stains).  You can sometimes find good deals on new base layers in the REI Outlet section.  REI has also recently started a used section.

If you are on a tight budget, spend it on the base layers.  You can get away with a cheap mid and shell layer if your base layers are good. Plus, you can use the base layers are pajamas for your child through multiple seasons.


Can I Size Up Base Layers?

I size up pretty much all of my kids’ clothing so they can get more use out of them.  But base layers should NOT be sized up.  For them to wick moisture well and keep your child warm, they need to sit close against the skin.

On a positive note, I’ve found that wool base layers get stretched out a bit so they still fit my kids the next season.  Stretchy synthetics (like ones with more spandex content or made from thinner materials) also get stretched, so your child may be able to wear them longer too.

Base layers should be a thin material which sits snuggly against the body.


Important: Lots of “Base Layers” Aren’t Really Base Layers

It used to be that only outdoorsy people used the term “base layers.”  Now the term is mainstream.  Because of this, a lot of brands advertise their clothing as base layers –even when they clearly are NOT base layers.

For example, you’ll see a lot of cotton thermals advertised as base layers.  These are okay to wear as pajamas.  But cotton doesn’t wick moisture, so shouldn’t be worn as a base layer.  Likewise, fleece is too thick to be worn as a base layer.  It’s better off as a mid layer.


Best Baby and Toddler Base Layers

1. North Face One-Piece Waffle Base Layer

north face toddler waffle base layer

Verdict: Best overall but a pricy 

This onesie base layer by The North Face is super cute and comes in several designs.  The fabric is ultra-soft and stretchy, so great for babies or active toddlers.   The stretch means your child may be able to wear it for a few seasons, though the hands/legs could end up too short. The main reason you’ll love it though is because diaper changes are easy with the snaps. There are also snaps to make it easier to get over your child’s head.


  • Sizes: 0-24 months
  • Material: Polyester waffle knit
  • FlashDry technology
  • Made with 100% recycled materials
  • Snaps for diaper changes
  • Machine washable
  • Available at Amazon,


2. Ecoable Thermal Footed Romper

Verdict: Best for babies and for sensitive skin

merino wool footed base layer for babies and toddlers

Ecoable makes really high-quality Merino wool clothing.  A lot of their baby clothing (including this romper) is made from a wool-silk blend.  It is extra soft on the skin while still having great wicking and warmth properties.  However, it does mean that you should only hand-wash this romper and the price is higher.

If you don’t want a romper, Ecoable also makes this onesie top (infant to 3 year old sizes), these tights (sizes 12 months to 8 years) and these bottoms (3 months to 3 years sizes).


  • Sizes: 0-24 months
  • Material: Organic wool-silk blend (70%/30%)
  • Footed
  • Snaps for diaper changes
  • Hand wash only
  • Get it here


3. Helly Hansen LIFA Merino Base Layer Set

helly hansen toddler base layer set

Verdict: Best for skiing or very active toddlers in very cold weather

Helly Hansen clothing is expensive but use great fabric technology.  These base layers have a Merino wool exterior.  The inner lining is the brand’s synthetic “LIFA” fabric which has excellent wicking properties.

The combination of the two fabrics make these base layers more durable.  The seams are also well-made and flat so they won’t itch.  You can also see the quality in the cut of the garments: there’s a crotch gusset and reinforced elbows to allow for extra movement.

At 215g/m2, these are thick base layers. They are probably overkill for babies and really little toddlers. However, they are great for skiing or very active toddlers who get sweaty and need base layers with a flexible fit.


  • Sizes: 1-9
  • Material: 57% Merino, 43% synthetic
  • Reinforced knees and elbows
  • Flat lock seams
  • Machine washable
  • Available at Amazon,


4. Terramar 2.0 Free Ride Heritage Toddlers Base Layer Set

terramar base layer set for toddlers

Verdict: Affordable base layer for toddlers

These synthetic base layers are really affordable and yet still good quality. Don’t expect any fancy features like reinforced knees though at this price!

The material is thin but does a good job of wicking moisture.  They are softer and more flexible than the REI base layer material, so your child may be able to wear them longer. The calves are pretty tight and ankle holes fairly small, so you may need to size up if you have a chubby toddler.   It’s too bad they don’t come in baby sizes.



5. Mini-T Base Layers

MiNi-K Toddler Fleece Lined Base Layer


Verdict: Good budget pick in sizes from 1 year old

These are one of the cheapest base layers you’ll find for little kids which are still made from decent material. They surprisingly withstand washings without the seams unraveling too. The brand says that there is a microfleece lining, but it’s more of a soft material inside than a true microfleece.


  • Sizes: 12 months to 12 years
  • Material: 88% Polyester, 12% Polyurethane
  • Machine washable
  • Get them here


6. REI Toddler Lightweight Base Layers

REI toddler base layers

Verdict: Best for breathability

These base layers are really breathable, lightweight and soft. They’ve got a lot of spandex in them, so do get a bit sweaty and stinky, but the stretch is nice for active toddlers.  It also helps that there are two cute designs.  The price also isn’t bad for the quality.


  • Sizes: 12 months to 12 years
  • Material: 82% polyester, 18% spandex
  • UPF 50 rating
  • Machine washable
  • Get them here

Image credits:

Ski Baby” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by B.K. Dewey,
Danish wool products airing out” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Scandinavian Living USA,

About the author /

Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

Related Articles

Post your comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *