Best thermals for women: We've tested the best layering pieces to help you stay warm

Looking for a stylish way to beat the chill? These are the best thermals for women to invest in

best thermals for women: Hannah Hughes wearing thermals from Lands' End and Damart, Damart model in the center
(Image credit: Hannah Hughes / Future / Damart)

The best thermals for women might not be the sexiest items in your wardrobe but great thermals are one of the speediest ways to get warm without cranking up the heating this season.

Previously seen as something practical, for sporting activity only, the best thermals for women have seen increasing popularity as winter and early spring seem to feel colder and more prolonged than ever before. Often referred to as base layers, the best thermals are usually associated with ski or hiking scenarios but as the technology in thermal clothing becomes more widely available and finer, we're seeing base layers and thermals creep into fashion scenarios, allowing you to be warm and stylish. 

The best thermals for women are breathable and work hard to regulate your body temperature, conserving your body heat through close-fitting fabrics that trap air close to your skin, whilst simultaneously wicking away any sweat - keeping you both warm and dry and solving what to wear in the snow or cold weather with ease. 

How we tested the best thermals for women

Why you can trust Woman & Home Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Putting a range of base layers and thermals to the test, woman&home fashion editor, Hannah Hughes reviews the best thermals for women to invest in this year. 

Using two different scenarios to test the best thermals for women, Hannah, first of all, checked the thermals for their everyday practicality, wearing them at home (heating off), making sure they'd work for day-to-day warmth and wear.

Next Hannah took the thermals to their more natural habitat - a ski resort, to put them to work in sub-zero temperatures. Checking for comfort, performance and style. Here are her findings.

Best thermals for women - as tested by a fashion editor

HeatTech round neck long sleeve top

(Image credit: Uniqlo)

1. HEATTECH SCOOP NECK LONG SLEEVED THERMAL TOP

Specifications

RRP: $24.90 / £14.90
Sizes: XXS-XXL

Reasons to buy

+
Thin enough to layer with no bulk
+
Soft fabric-feels like cotton
+
Large range of stylish colors available

Reasons to avoid

-
No plus sizes

Uniqlo's HeatTech range is a favorite amongst fashion editors, and a must for many a capsule wardrobe due to its extensive range of stylish thermals that slip easily under the best dresses and sweaters - securing warmth, without disrupting your outfit. The range encompasses round-neck tops, vests, leggings, and even trousers, so you can be kitted out in some of the best thermals for women every day and no one will be any the wiser.

Our tested said:

"I’ve worn Uniqlo HeatTech for years so I already know they stand the test of time in terms of lasting wash after wash. I was fully prepared to find a better product, however, HeatTech still wins overall for me, in terms of style, comfort and fit - there really is something for everyone, plus the price can’t be beaten. 

This scoop neck top is universally flattering for everyone and they're stylish enough to wear alone (I wear mine all the time with jeans and boots) yet thin enough to layer under a jumper with no added bulk. They feel like a second skin and although the fabric is synthetic it feels like wearing a cotton stretch top.  

In terms of heat, they keep out the chill, particularly well when layered, and when worn alone it does just feel like wearing a snug top, so warm and comfortable but not overly toasty. For something more toasty try Uniqlo's HEATTECH Ultra Warm range from £24.90 (opens in new tab) which is 2.25 times warmer than regular HeatTech, however, the fabric does feel slightly bulkier and personally, I don’t find the crew neck as universally flattering."  


next long sleeve beige v neck thermal top

(Image credit: Next)

2. Next Elements Thermal Fleece Lined Long Sleeve Top

Specifications

RRP: $53 / £33
Sizes: S-L

Reasons to buy

+
Luxurious thick fleece lining
+
Flattering V-neck
+
Washes well, doesn’t lose shape

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as stylish as other choices

The best fleeces for women have found a home in the latest fashion trends and this Next thermal draws on our love of the Gorpcore trend, infusing fleece lining for one of the coziest looks on the block. Ideal for heading out, or staying in, this set is also a great update to your best loungewear looks.

Our tester said: 

"I’ve already recommended Next’s Thermal fleece range to so many friends and colleagues who work from home as I’ve felt wonderfully toasty, even, with my heating off. I chose to wear the top and the matching leggings (opens in new tab), which are now some of the warmest leggings I own and it makes for a wonderful WFH co-ord. The luxurious lining feels like a thick velour and it's incredibly cozy and soft to wear. These are the kind of thermals you put on and feel instantly snug. Even my mum swears by them and uses them to get warm after her winter sea wild swimming excursions.

The downside is that they do feel (and look) bulkier than some thermals and although the top has a flattering lace-trimmed V-neck, it does still look slightly more practical than stylish, especially in white. Meaning that if you have a Zoom meeting you might want to layer one of the best sweaters over the top for added polish. 

I did enjoy wearing the leggings at home, however, they are thick and definitely add bulk to your lower half. So if you're looking for the best thermals for women that can layer, the leggings are too thick to wear under jeans. Having said all this I still think they're fantastic as a loungewear or standalone piece, and the fabric is really warm."


black thermal leggings

(Image credit: M&S)

3. Marks & Spencer 2pk Heatgen™ Thermal Leggings

Specifications

RRP: $43.99 / £25
Sizes: US: / UK: 6-22

Reasons to buy

+
Thin enough to layer under jeans
+
Handy pack of 2
+
Responsibly sourced viscous

Reasons to avoid

-
Too thin to wear alone as leggings

British clothing brand Marks & Spencer is known for its wardrobe essentials and having already secured a spot in our hearts for the best underwear and best bras, you won't be surprised to learn that they do some pretty brilliant thermals too.

Our tester said

"I'm a big fan of these M&S thermal leggings and love the fact that they come in a handy pack of two - particularly as it means you can have one in the wash and one on the go. Crafted from the brand's fine HeatGen fabric, the leggings are easily layered under your best jeans for added warmth on cold-weather days. A great addition to your winter capsule wardrobe, they feel gorgeous against the skin and are lightweight, so you'll forget you're wearing them. The biggest and only drawback to the M&S thermal leggings is because they're so fine, it does mean that they won't work as standalone leggings, as they're too sheer, although you could slip them on with longer, tunic-length hemlines. However, when layered they do certainly keep you warm."


Hannah Hughes posing in the Lands' End thermals

(Image credit: Lands' End / Hannah Hughes / Future)

4. Lands' End Women's Stretch Thermaskin Crew Neck Thermal Top

Specifications

RRP: $29.99 / £30
Sizes: US: XS-3X / UK: 8-30

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent range of sizes including petite and plus size
+
Invisible flatlock seams for a second skin feel
+
Matching bottoms available

Reasons to avoid

-
High neckline, could be tricky under some items

Lands' End is an American clothing brand that stocks timeless classics, with an emphasis on casual attire. With a great sizing range, the brand caters for plus sizes, with many items stocked up to a size 30. Covering all the basics, Lands' End is not only great for thermals, but the brand also has a solid range of casual separates that will mix and match into your existing closet.

 Our tester said: 

"This certainly felt like the most luxurious of the thermals I tested, the fabric is silky soft and the invisible seams ensured it laid flat, making it feel like a second skin without being too clingy. Part of the brand's Thermaskin range, the fit was great and the arms are long and keep out the chill. I love the flattering scoop neck which means it can be invisibly layered with jumpers or dresses.

Lands' End also has a 100% silk range which is naturally breathable - so its great at regulating body temperature, however, the collection is also double the price of many other thermals and requires a special delicates wash cycle, I was really happy with the more cost-effective Thermaskin range."


thermal top in black

(Image credit: Columbia)

5. Columbia Sportswear Women's Omni-Heat™ Infinity Knit Baselayer Crew

Specifications

RRP: $75 / £65
Sizes: XS-XXL

Reasons to buy

+
Advanced high-tech fabric
+
Excellent for sub zero temperatures
+
Sweat wicking, dries quickly
+
Captures and neutralises Odour

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks practical over stylish
-
Limited range of colors

Known for its performance clothing, Columbia is the brand we turn to when we need technical fashion items that will stand the test of time and keep us protected, such as the best waterproof jackets, so putting its thermals for women to the test was a must and we weren't disappointed. While the look of Columbia might be more substance over style, if you need items that are really going to step up to beating tough weather conditions, this is one of the best places to shop.

Our tester said: 

"This was certainly the most high-tech feeling fabric of all the thermals I tested and for how thin the material was it was definitely the warmest. The clever Omni heat range contains a layer of tiny reflective gold dots inside each garment that literally reflects your body heat back to you. Although the fabric feels quite synthetic it was breathable and really did regulate my heat during a day skiing in -7 temperatures. I wore it with the Columbia Omni Heat Ski Jacket (opens in new tab) and Columbia Bugaboo Omni Heat Trousers (opens in new tab) and I was snug all day without having to wear lots of bulky layers. I would definitely recommend this as a fantastic hard-working thermal for all winter sports, hiking, or even running during the cold months. Just remember not to wash it on a hot wash."


lace trimmed thermal camisole

(Image credit: Damart)

6. Damart Vest top Thermolactyl Medium 3

Specifications

RRP: $30.80 / £25
Sizes: S-XXL

Reasons to buy

+
Adjustable straps
+
Pretty lace detailing
+
Varying levels of warmth available

Reasons to avoid

-
US shoppers can't order online (phone orders available)

Damart has been crafting thermal wear for over 60 years, so if anyone was going to understand your cold-weather needs this is a great place to start. With varying levels of thermal strength, Damart makes some of the best thermals for women, with the company founded on the brand's creation of its patented Thermolactyl fabric. Damart's best thermals for women offer 4 degrees of protection and sustainable warmth. Among some of the original synthetic fiber thermal technologies, the brand's fabric is thin, soft, and breathable for a lightweight, comfortable, and warming fit. The brand also now retails other separates and dresses for a range of occasions alongside thermal wear.

Our tester said: 

"Sometimes you just need or want a vest for layering purposes and Damart's pretty camisoles do the job perfectly, making them ideal for everyday wear. Looking more like a fashionable under top than underwear, they can also be worn alone, slipping into a capsule wardrobe with ease. Little details such as the adjustable straps ensure a more personalized fit and the lace trim makes it feel a bit more special than a plain cami. I tried a 'Medium 3 Strength' and it's now my go-to to under everything from midi dresses to Breton tops for thermal wear that really works."


Hannah Hughes posing in Damart thermal top

(Image credit: Damart / Hannah Hughes / Future)

7. Damart Thermolactyl Long Sleeve Base Layer

Specifications

RRP: from $38 / £39
Sizes: XS-XXL

Reasons to buy

+
Perfect for outdoor sports in UK winter temperatures
+
Soft fleecy interior without feeling bulky
+
Sweat-wicking keeps you dry and warm whilst exercising outside

Reasons to avoid

-
Fairly high neckline

Continuing our hunt for the best thermals for women, our tester put another Damart piece to the test. A brilliant brand to invest in, the thermals come in different strengths, so you can select the level of heat help you need depending on activity. Thermals are a great option for outdoor activities during the winter months. Paired with the best leggings and sneakers you've got a great base outfit for running, hiking or simply walking the dog.  

Our tester said:

"If you’re exercising outside all year long you’ll want to invest in the best thermal top, with breathability to see you through cold spells, and in my opinion, you can’t beat this style. I really dislike wearing too many layers when I’m running so I wore this with just a thin raincoat over the top. The fabric has good stretch with a thin fleece lining that feels soft and snug but still breathable. It speedily wicks away sweat, keeping you dry and odor free. The fit is quite tight (so maybe size up if you are unsure) and the arms are full-length, with tight cuffs and a high neck to keep the cold at bay. But it's not just for working out, I’d wear this to keep warm at home too and thanks to its light and breathable feel you could even wear it to bed on a really cold night. Due to the high neck, I do find it slightly less suitable for wearing day to day under smart casual outfits, as it lends itself to sportier and loungewear get-ups."


Hannah Hughes
Group Fashion Editor

Hannah Hughes is Group Fashion Editor at Future Publishing. Her work appears in woman&home, Woman, Woman's Own, and Woman's Weekly magazines.

She is a fashion creative with over fifteen years of solid experience in editorial, commercial, and celebrity styling. She has an in-depth knowledge of the luxury, mid and high-street fashion sectors, which she developed over a decade spent as Fashion Director at some of the UK's most widely read women's magazines, including You Magazine and Look Magazine.