As our highest scoring synthetic layer, the Arc'teryx Phase AR Crew LS is a midweight base layer that is made of 100% polyester. It offers great warmth, superior durability, and a purposefully built quality fit. With an impressively stretchy material and a thoughtful design, this top is extremely mobile and encourages movement. This layer struggles in all the traditional areas a synthetic base layer does: not nearly as comfortable against the skin as a merino and not as breathable, but a competitive price and supreme durability. It is significantly more durable, low profile, and has a much better fit, but is not as soft next to the skin as its synthetic cohort, The North Face Warm Crew.
Arc'teryx Phase AR Crew LS Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Super durable, warm, wind resistant, stretchy, good fit, quality construction, good price
Cons: Not comfortable next to skin, not the best breathability, gets stinky over time
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Made with a super durable, stretchy, and wind resistant synthetic fabric that Arc'teryx calls their Phasic AR, this base layer offers a midweight option that transports moisture and dries quickly for cooler temps. We liked this layer for its great fit, durable fabric, and stretch that was built for movement.
The thickness of this layer seems to fall in between a lightweight and mid-weight, though the warmth that it offers is comparable to other midweights that we tested. We were comfortable wearing this in cold temperatures but wouldn't suggest it for super cold conditions.
The tight weave paired with the synthetic fabric makes this by far the most wind resistant base layer that we tested. So it does really great as a stand-alone layer in cool temps and doesn't allow a chilly breeze to cut through it. We did notice, though, that synthetic fabrics feel cold on your skin in low temps whereas merino layers always feel warm and cozy next to skin, even in freezing temps. It does a really great job at trapping heat once you're moving but the fabric feels cold against your skin when the temps are low and you're not moving.
The Phase AR tied with the other synthetic layer, The North Face Warm Crew for the lowest breathability score. Synthetic fabrics just don't breathe as well as natural fibers do. They tend to have a tighter knit or weave which typically allows them to be more wind resistant and significantly more durable.
For a synthetic fabric, this top breathes extremely well. It does a great job of wicking sweat and drying quickly but doesn't stack up when compared to merino wool layers. Because it doesn't breathe as well, it's more likely to build up moisture on the inside in conditions where you are cranking out the body heat and because it's a synthetic material, it holds onto stink. If breathability is a top priority for you, we'd suggest a top that scored higher in that category, but if you need a top to have decent breathability but can benefit from the durability and warmth, then this is a good choice.
Comfort and Fit
This top stands up to Arc'teryx reputation when it comes to quality of construction and sleek design. It is very purposefully designed with a full-length underarm gusset and thinner material in the armpit to help dump heat and improve breathability.
A sleek fitting torso, drop tail hem, with tapered sleeves give this a great fit. It fits snug against the body like a traditional base layer. The low profile neck collar is loose and comfortable. It may run a little tight thru the shoulders or biceps if you frequent the gym. The synthetic fabric is SUPER stretchy and paired with a nice length thru the torso and arms makes for excellent mobility. The stiffer feeling material is a bit limiting but stretchiness counteracts this well.
The unique fabric is not the coziest next to the skin. This was one the biggest downfalls in this layer for us. You just don't want to live in this baselayer day and night like you do in others that we tested, but the fit and quality of construction are superb. The stretchiest base layer material next to the Patagonia Capilene Air..
As we've stated before, the drying speed of a base layer differs depending on whether it is being worn next to your skin or not. In the case of this layer, it dried quickly when next to skin but took significantly longer when flat drying.
This was #8/9 for dry times, which means there was only one layer that took longer to flat dry after being completely saturated and three times longer than the fastest drying tops. Don't let the poor flat dry time dissuade you because it actually dries quickly in situations where the fabric is wet from sweat. Still not as efficient as a merino layer.
Here's the shining star for the Arc'teryx Phase AR. This thing is bulletproof when it comes to base layers. Durability is generally a weak point of base layers but this thing is built tough. Dragging base layers up rough climbs and through canyons is almost always a quick path to destruction for a base layer but the Phase AR thrives. The tight-knit polyester is super tough, not easy to tear, resists abrasion, and is wind resistant compared to other base layers. This thing is like base layer armor, the downside is that it kind of feels like armor, not the comfiest directly on your skin.
This top is unphased by washing and drying cycles and doesn't lose shape or stretch out. A huge leg up on merino layers in that sense. Our abrasion test in the lab blew holes straight through a few tops but just scratched the surface of this one. We gave this a top score for durability. If you beat the hell out of your gear, this is a great layer for you.
The obsessive design and fit of this top allow it to layer really well. The tight fit through the torso, tapered sleeves and smooth outer fabric make easy work of sliding layers over top of it without it bunching or pulling anywhere. Because of the stiffer fabric and tight fit, layering this over a t-shirt felt bulky and restrictive. Works great as a stand-alone layer, providing warmth in cool temperatures as well as some wind resistance.
It does well sliding smoothly under a tight, sticky fleece mid layer like a Patagonia R1. It doesn't build up static electricity as easy as the merino wool layers when layered with a fleece. Overall a smooth ability to layer but not versatile as far as being worn over top of anything. Because it is a stiffer feeling fabric, it can feel a bit bulky if layered under too many things.
This base layer is best used in situations where warmth is important, but breathability isn't the main concern. Also, any situation where you need a layer that can be dragged, kicked, smeared, scraped, or there will be any chimneying or groveling of any kind going on.
At $79, it sits right in the middle of the road for typical base layer prices. It's a great value for the quality and durability of the piece and quite possibly the most affordable Arc'teryx product we've ever seen. Again, if durability is the main concern but breathability and cozy factor are not, we think it's a good value.
A bulletproof base layer meant for being put to the test in some the roughest and toughest situations around. Warmth to get you through the cold seasons comfortably. Meticulous and detailed design and fit made with a durable and super stretchy synthetic fabric. Downsides are ok breathability and a not-so-cozy feeling next-to-skin.
— Roland Mott