Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Versatile, high quality and dependable, great temperature regulation
Cons: Synthetic material is not soft, can shrink in length when washed, very tight around the neck, nothing “special” about the design, very basic
Best Uses: Camping, climbing, bouldering, hiking, skiing, winter sports, backpacking, horseback riding, kayaking, rowing, sailing, trail running
If you want a brand name with a lot of history and a good reputation, you can't get much better than Patagonia. The Women's Patagonia Capilene 3 Crew is a well-priced, high quality base layer for cooler-weather activities. It is lightweight and an eco-conscious choice if you participate in Patagonia's recycling program. However, if softness is imperative, I would recommend the Smartwool Midweight Crew - Women's or Icebreaker Oasis - Women's base layers over this top. While more expensive, they offer comparable warmth, quality, and versatility.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Patagonia base layers are a perennial favorite for outdoor enthusiasts, and there is a reason why. Offered in different weights, you can really get a custom top for your planned activity. The Capilene 3 is on the heavier side, one that I choose for cold, slower trail runs and hiking, camping, and skiing. While it does a good job of providing warmth, it also dries quickly and breathes well, so that you also don't get too chilled when your heart rate falls.
The design is such that it is easy to push up the sleeves and for someone like me with broad shoulders, it didn't pull or bunch up around the neck. It also has a shirt hem which keeps my torso covered when stretched out, making it a good choice for such activities as climbing or kayaking. Patagonia designs their base layers for business, with no frills. I can appreciate this. The Capilene 3 has a slim fit, but it is definitely not tight like the Arc'teryx RHO LT Zip - Women's or Smartwool, and there is some looseness to the arms. This adds to the versatility of the top, for layering and for application. I had ease of movement with it directly next to my skin, with another layer over it, or, in the case of a hike with a change in weather, with a light tank underneath it for when it got warm. Really, the Capilene 3 is not only a base layer but simply, a layer, to be worn based on the demands of the activity.
A big part of Patagonia is the history, manufacturing process, and philosophy behind their gear that is told in Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard. Highly recommended reading.
The trade-off of this good temperature regulation and versatility is that Capilene is not the softest or coziest material out there. This is a baselayer that I like to take off after activities, rather than hang around in for the day. The material can be a bit stiff, and tends to shrink up in length when washed. The neck started out a bit tight and felt restrictive during activities. Unfortunately, this did not improve when the top was "broken-in". However, in fairness, I did notice a dramatic improvement in shrinkage and overall design compared to the older models of these tops. It is a fair price for such a quality top, but if you can spend a bit more, I would suggest the Smartwool or Icebreaker base layers, as these are made with a natural fiber and therefore much softer against the skin.
The Capilene 3 is best for cool weather activities and to be worn in conjunction with other layers. It is lightweight and versatile, therefore a great piece to pack when space is limited.
The Capilene 3 is a durable base layer, but not the best choice if the weather warms up. Invest in it if you do a lot of cooler weather activities, or if you are planning a trip that requires light packing. In those instances, it is well worth the price tag. Do not purchase this top if you want something to just hang out in made of a softer, natural fiber.
Patagonia Footprint Chronicles: Capilene® Fabric R & D
==Patagonia Video: "Recycle Your Underwear"
Patagonia Capilene 3 Midweight Zip-Neck - Women's
— Emily Zell
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: September 21, 2010
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