Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Breathes, comfortable fit.
Cons: Smells, not as warm as wool.
Best Uses: Hiking, skiing, surfing, climbing, backpacking.
The Patagonia Capilene 3 shirt is part of a series. These synthetic shirts range from No. 1, designed for more moderate temperatures and increased breathability, to No. 4, expedition-weight baselayers. While all the members of the Capilene series are useful in some respect, we found the Capilene 3 to be the most comfortable and the most versatile over the widest range of temperatures. The Capilene 3 wicks well and stays warm well into colder temperatures. It's significantly cheaper than any of the wool baselayers we tested, which earned it our Best Buy award.
If you are looking for a baselayer on a budget, the Capilene 3 will serve you well. If you prefer wool, or if you are looking for something that will handle the coldest temperatures, try the Icebreaker Sprint Crew or the Ibex Zepher, respectively or in conjunction.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Capilene 3 has a looser fit than many other baselayers we tested. It's looser than the Smartwool Midweight Crew, and about equal to the Ibex Zepher. The looser fit makes it more comfortable for long-term wear than tighter shirts like the Icebreaker Sprint, but it also reduces the insulating ability. The sleeves were a good length for all our testers. Not too short, not too long.
In terms of texture, the Capilene was quite comfortable. The interior fabric is "brushed" which makes the lining quite pleasant to the touch. Overall, it has a much friendlier texture than other synthetic baselayers, such as the Capilene 1. We definitely prefer wool in this metric, but the Capilene 3 did suprisingly well.
The Capilene 3 had some stiff competition in this category. The wool baselayers were all very warm, and we had our doubts about how the thin capilene would stand up to the opposition.
Quite well, it turned out. The Capilene worked well as stand-alone layer, and handled a wide range of temperatures comfortably. While many baselayers became uncomfortable as the temperatures reached 60 or 70 degrees, the Capilene 3 stayed cool, wicking and breathable well into these temperatures. This was one of the Capilene 3's greatest advantages. On the opposite end, we were comfortable wearing it (as part of a layering system) in temperatures down to 15 degrees. Any colder and we switched to the Icebreaker Sprint.
The Capilene 3 wasn't as wind resistant as top-performing wool baselayers like the Icebreaker Sprint.
This is where the Capilene 3 really excelled. The Capilene 3 was one of the few baselayers that we found truly wicked, rather than simply absorbing sweat. It functioned perfectly within a three-layer system with one insulating layer and a Gore-Tex shell. For warmer weather, nothing beats it. It breathes nicely (particularly with a light breeze), and regulates moisture perfectly through the middle range of temperatures.
The Capilene 3 worked great while we were active and sweating, but as we cooled down the synthetic started to feel a bit clammy. The effect was not nearly as bad as with the smoother fabrics like the Capilene 1, but it was still not as comfortable as a wool baselayer like the Icebreaker Sprint.
The Capilene 3 makes great activewear. We loved it as our morning layer on chilly, high-mileage days of hiking or backpacking. We could wear it until midday, stow it for the afternoon and put it on in the evening. It's an ideal layer for fall or spring when huge temperature fluctuations between noon and midnight make layering complicated.
The loose fit and brushed fabric make movement effortless. Try running and climbing in this layer in cooler temperatures.
Overall, we found that the Capilene 3 was better suited as a breathable, wicking baselayer for moderate temperatures. For colder temperatures, we preferred a tighter-fitting wool layer, like the Icebreaker GT or similar.
The Capilene 3 is cheaper than most other baselayers we tested, and half the price of our Editors' Choice, the Icebreaker Sprint. At $50, this shirt is a steal. We gave it our Best Buy award.
The fabric is a bit thicker than the Sprint, so we expect that it may last longer. Synthetic layers tend to stand up to wear a bit better than the wool, which can catch threads trees and rock. A Capilene 3 shirt should last a long while. We've been abusing ours for nearly a year and it has no visible signs of wear. Do yourself a favor, and invest in a Capilene 3.
Patagonia Footprint Chronicles: Capilene® Fabric R & D
Patagonia Video: "Recycle Your Underwear"
The Patagonia Capilene 3 Crew - Women's, $55, is the women's version.
If you're looking for something lighter, consider the Capilene 2 Zip, $55, which is a lighter version and is zip-neck.
If you need something a bit warmer, the Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody, $120, is one of our favorite layers for high output activities like backpacking and winter climbing.
— Atherton Phleger
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Most recent review: January 12, 2015
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