Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Durable, breathable and quick-drying, ease of movement.
Cons: Not stylish, limited to warmer temps, expensive.
Best Uses: Hiking, exercise/aerobic classes, gym workouts, backpacking, horseback riding, running, tennis, cross-training, climbing, warm weather camping, road cycling, surfing, sailing, kayaking, water sports.
The Patagonia Capilene 1 really is a great, basic, lightweight base layer. It is an active top for adventurers and athletes to put it through the paces and have it come out strong in the end. It will hold up to almost anything, as Patagonia tops usually do. It was one of our favorites for layering, or for sun protection and breathability on warmer days.
However, the Capilene 1 is also fairly expensive for just how basic it is, which might be a deterrent for some. For $5 less you could get the Nike Miler UV T-Shirt which has a higher UPF rating, a more stylish athletic top with the same warmth (or lack of), and breathability. Or, for the same price, you could get the Asics Favorite Short Sleeve and have a far cooler looking, more versatile, and higher UPF active base layer. Here is how the competition breaks down: the Patagonia edges out the North Face Ruckus Short Sleeve based on drying speed (far superior), breathability, and durability (both just a bit better in the case of Patagonia). The North Face offers far more style, a slightly better fit, and a bit more warmth. The Asics Favorite trumps them both, being the same cost as the Patagonia, but scoring equally or higher in all categories. I would recommend the Patagonia Capilene 1 over the Favorite only in cases of needing a truly featherweight, completely smooth, impossibly lightweight top. Like if you are Gerry Lopez.
Check out our complete men's performance shirt review to see how this performed against other top shirts.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Like the Nike Dri-Fit Miler top, the Capilene 1 had to grow on me a bit. When I first started testing we were going through a cold spell and I immediately felt that this was a base layer that had to be just that: layered. Which is fine, but leaves something to be desired in the versatility department. (All the tops we tested got higher scores when they could be worn alone as an active top.) Below is a video testimonial by their sponsored athlete, Gerry Lopez, touting the Capilene 1 and its benefits. Mind you, he is surfing in some tropical location in the video, and his testimonial dwells on the Capilene 1 in the capacity of a quick-drying sun barrier. What are we to do when the temperature drops and we need something warmer? Either be prepared to layer, or look elsewhere.
That said, the Patagonia Capilene 1 is not on a mission to be your warmest top. And in all fairness, it was quite warm when layered under other tops. For more aerobic pursuits, such as cycling, running, or boot camp, I found the top to be a great temperature regulator – extremely breathable and it wicked away sweat in a heartbeat. Plus, for all of those sports done in the sun, the Capilene 1 has built in sun protection of UPF 15. So really Lopez had it right: the Capilene 1 is perfect for water sports when you need just a bit of warmth, good sun protection, and a top that will dry in lightening speed.
The Capilene 1 started out with a much looser fit than I had anticipated, but with a couple washings it seemed to slim down, and, like the Nike base layer, didn't lose anything in the torso or sleeve length. In fact, the similarities with the Miler top are plenty, with the Patagonia being the faster drier and the Nike taking the style points. Both quickly became easy to move in, without all the draping, extra fabric that can get in the way during most athletic activities.
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.
For how great this top is in warm weather, I have to say it really lacks any kind of style. The fit is fine, with long enough arms and slimmer lines, but other than that, the top is…boring. It is thin, with a plain scoop neckline and basic narrow seams. I really never wanted to wear this top out and about, unless it was layered under more interesting tee shirt. That said, the top is limited to warmer temperatures if you do not want to layer it with others. The price, while not exorbitant, is still a lot for such a basic, thin base layer.
The Patagonia Capilene 1 is a great choice for warm weather pursuits, or if you are looking for a top to wear under other layers. It is ideal for water sports and good for higher heart rate activities
Patagonia tops tend to be more expensive than similar ones on the market, but they are also some of the most durable and dependable out there. The Capilene 1 is worth the price if you will be in warmer weather most of the time and style is not an issue.
There is a lighter version of this shirt called the Patagonia Capilene 1 Silkweight Shirt ($29). And of course there are thicker versions: Capilene 2, Capilene 3. Once you get to Capilene 3, it is pretty thick and not great for high-heart rate activities unless you are in very cold temps. The Patagonia Capilene 3 Crew is in our Best Men's Long Underwear Review.
Patagonia Footprint Chronicles: Capilene® Fabric R & D
Patagonia Video: "Recycle Your Underwear"
— Chris McNamara and Emily Zell
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: May 1, 2013
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