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Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Good temperature regulation, versatile, comfortable, affordable, quick to dry
Cons: Observed wear and tear, boxy and short fit
Best Uses: Cool weather running, winter skiing, hiking, climbing, wear around town
The Patagonia Capilene 3 is a tried and true base layer that has won our Best Buy Award two reviews in a row! The main author has owned this piece for five years and loves it for its functionality, affordable price, and versatility. Our team of testers agreed - over the course of our three-month testing period they wore it for everything from skiing to rock climbing. As a midweight 100% polyester baselayer, it regulates a wide range of temperatures keeping you warm in temperatures down to 0 degrees F when integrated into a layering system. As a stand-alone top, the Capilene 3 has great lines and looks cute too! What's more is it shows good overall durability; in three months, we didn't notice any holes or fly away stitches, although there was a little pilling observed.
Overall, this was a functionally awesome layer, but there are still a few things we would change. We'd give it a less boxy fit and use stretchier fabrics like our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip - Women's. We would also fit it with more solid thumb loops like those found on the REI Space Dye Zip-T. Finally, we'd find a way to make it more odor-resistant - instead, we found that it got stinky after one or two uses.
Aside from those few wishes, we thought that for only $55.00, this top was worth its weight in gold. The Capilene 3's top competitor, the Smartwool NTS 250 Crew - Women's, was a little cozier, but far more expensive ($95) and delicate. If you're in the market for an affordable synthetic base layer that will dry quickly, take you where you want to go, and won't drain your wallet, this may be for you. If you're looking for an affordable merino wool option, check out the Minus33 Ossipee.
RELATED: Our complete review of long underwear - women's
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
A classic all-around midweight synthetic, the Patagonia Capilene 3 is affordable, quick to dry, and a perfect temperature regulator. This long underwear top won our Best Buy Award and is loaded with great features for a low price of $55.00.
In both a layered system and as a stand-alone top, the 100% polyester Patagonia Capilene 3 did a great job keeping us warm and comfortable in all sorts of weather.
Patagonia has a numbering system that represents the different weights of their fabric; "1" is ultra lightweight while "4" is heavy weight. The Capilene 3 represents a midweight layer good for 3 seasons (as a stand-alone top) and will do well on colder adventures in a layering system. Keep the Capilene 4 for expeditions where you will constantly be exposed to wind and nasty conditions. Wear the Capilene 1 for your most aerobic pursuits.
We tested our Capilene 3 on many cold skiing adventures and found that it provided ample warmth, similar to the Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Crew - Women's. The tightly knit fabric provides a bit of wind protection, keeping you warmer in windy weather than the Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Crew or REI Space Dye Zip. If you are seeking an even warmer synthetic, check out the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip or if you prefer a merino wool layer, check out the Minus33 Ossipee. If you plan on spending time in sub zero conditions, we would highly recommend looking at a thicker layer like the Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody.
Not only does the Capilene 3 keep you toasty, but it also gets rid of unwanted heat when you need it. This makes it a great temperature regulating baselayer. When we took it running on winter mornings and backcountry skiing on warm spring days, we learned that it provides good overall breathability, wicking sweat away from the skin and keeping our testers dry and comfortable. That said, it wasn't quite as breezy as say the Under Armour Base 2.0 Crew - Women's. We usually layered a tank top underneath and shed the Capilene 3 when the mercury rose above 70 degrees F. That said though, if you are looking for a more aerobic purposes, check out our Performance Shirt Review that outlines some ultra light options. Also check out the Capilene 1/4 zip option that allows you to zip or unzip the collar whenever you might need it.
We thought that layering with the Capilene 3 was a breeze. Unlike the Smartwool NTS Mid Crew, the Cap 3 didn't bunch, grab, or twist our layers. We did find though that the fabric wasn't the stretchiest which didn't make it as easy to layer as the REI Space Dye. If the fabric had been a bit stretchier, we would have awarded it with a higher layering capability score. However, the hidden thumb loop did help to anchor the sleeve when pulling things one and off - BONUS!
This Patagonia base layer has a smooth face fabric and interior that doesn't bunch, grab, or twist. This helps make it a perfect piece to wear in a functional layering system.
Comfort & Fit
The Capilene 3 Crew has a long enough torso, is true-to-size, and just feels comfortable. Its flat seam stitching, found in all the base layers we tested, prevent chafing, while the hidden thumb loops add a little versatility. The fabric is not itchy or uncomfortable, but the fit is a bit boxy. Some of our testers thought that the length could have been longer for better comfort, with a tad more stretch and a burlier thumb loop. We also noticed that this piece got stinky fast, despite the Polygiene odor blocker in the fabric. It washed out easily, but if you are planning a multi-day trip where you can't wash your layers, a merino wool option may be a better option. If that's the case, then check out the affordable Minus 33 for only $60.00.
Even though the Patagonia Capilene 3 couldn't dry as quickly as the porous fabric of the Under Armour Crew, it was tied for second with the Arc'teryx Rho and Micro-Elite Crewneck during our drying competitions. Feel free to take this on any trip where you might get wet and need to dry out quickly. Over the last 5 years the author has worn this layer on many fishing and river trips on the Colorado, San Juan, and Green Rivers.
The author has had a Capilene layer for over 5 years now and has really put it through the wringer on many climbing, backpacking, and boating adventures. Despite some pilling and a couple of thread fly aways, we can vouch for its great durability. The synthetic fibers make this more durable than most merino competitors like the Minus 33 Ossipee and the face fabric weave is nice and tight. We did observe that after a month of use, the Capilene 3's face fabric was pilling pretty badly and we did notice a tiny bit of shrinkage (length wise) after the first wash and dry.
Expect to keep and wear this layer for many years to come. And don't be afraid to really get dirty - it will hold up!
Take the Patagonia Capilene 3 Crew on your next vacation or mission to the mountains. It has great all-around use, ranging from cold morning runs to rafting down the Grand Canyon. Because of its decent and fairly high scores over most categories, it is versatile and ready for anything that you throw at it. For ultra cold weather, we would recommend the Patagonia Capilene 4 - expedition weight hoody, which won a Top Pick for Versatility in the men's review. This is a heavier and more versatile option suited for sub 0 degree F weather.
At only $55.00, you get a synthetic base layer that will last years and perform well throughout. The Capilene 3 is a tried and tested piece that saw multiple mountain summits, trail runs, and riverside views during the course of our review. It's a bomber shirt for a bomber price. The Smartwool NTS had a similar overall score to the Capilene 3, but the biggest difference was the price tag of $95.00. If you are looking for a more affordable merino, check out the Minus 33. If not, the Capilene 3 has the best value of all our pieces tested.
Our Best Buy Award winner scores high points in all the major categories with a low price tag of only $55.00. This classic is perfect addition for you next big adventure, wherever the wind may blow.
Capilene 3 Zip Neck- Women's
⁃ Weight- Mid-weight (same as the Capilene 3)
⁃ Cost- $65.00 ($10 more than the Capilene 3)
⁃ 1/4 zip for more versatility
⁃ Weight- Expedition weight (heavier than the Capilene 3)
⁃ Cost- $99.00 ($44 more than the Capilene 3)
⁃ 1/4 zip for more versatility
If you are looking for a great pair of long underwear bottoms to go with the Capilene 3, check out the Capilene 3 bottoms.
Capilene 3 Bottoms- Women's
⁃ Weight- Mid-weight (same as the Capilene 3)
⁃ Cost- $65.00 (same as the Capilene 3)
⁃ Flat mesh-backed waistband for increased comfort
Also check out the men's version, the Patagonia Capilene 3 Crew.
— Amber King
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: May 10, 2015
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