What's in a Name: "Capilene Thermal Weight Zip-Neck Hoody" vs. "Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody"?
The Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody was renamed the Capilene Thermal Weight Zip-Neck Hoody. Patagonia has informed us that the Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody is functionally identical to the Capilene Thermal Weight Zip-Neck Hoody, just now with a new name and minus the chest pocket. It remains one of our very favorite base layers.
You can consider the product by either name to be the same thing. If you are looking to buy the product, don't hesitate to buy the older name if you find it on clearance sale somewhere, or if the new name is cheaper, buy that.
We've updated our price check links to use the new name, Capilene Thermal Weight Zip-Neck Hoody, since it appears that the Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody is being phased out of retail inventories.
Check out the side-by-side comparison photos below, with the Capilene Thermal Weight Zip-Neck Hoody pictured on the left and the Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody shown on the right.
The ultimate in technical long underwear design, this is a versatile piece with the goods to keep you comfortable in a range of conditions. The fashion conscious may scoff at the attached hood while functional shoppers will appreciate the warmth it provides.
Patagonia's R1 hoody has long been popular with serious climbers. Now with the Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody they have made the same beloved design features available in a lighter weight, more casual piece (that still climbs well).
Photo: Drew Smith
We consider this base layer to be the warmest of all tested. This is despite weighing over an ounce less than the thicker The North Face Expedition Long Sleeve Zip Neck. Certainly the TNF is made with warmer fabric, but it lacks features, like a hood and thumb loops, that help the Cap 4 cover more skin and trap more heat. Additionally, the Cap 4 waist is longer to keep it tucked in and the zipper extends up to the nose to create a functional balaclava should things get really gnarly.
The hood closure on the Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody covers to just below the mouth. This lets you stay warm without getting a moist or frozen shirt.
Photo: Drew Smith
We really like these additions for technical uses, but they do diminish its attractiveness for casual occasions. They also add bulk and weight, which may be unnecessary if your insulating or shell layers also include these features. Many of the other base layers reviewed, although not tested here as such, come in versions that include a hood or venting zipper. If you like these features, but there is a particular fabric or brand you prefer, check to see if these versions are available
Although this top is warm, it accomplishes this by increasing surface coverage instead of fabric thickness, so it is still able to maintain breathability. It is the second highest performing synthetic in this category, only placing behind the 30% lighter Under Armour Base 2.0. The inner waffled fleece wicks moisture, while the smooth outer surface has enough space between fibers to allow air to pass through.
The same zipper that we like for its high, heat-trapping closure aids in breathability as well by opening up to below the heart. When working hard, this sizeable opening lets lots of excess heat escape. On the sleeves, the cuff is appropriately elastic to keep them rolled up without being too tight.
The comfy inner fleece pattern on the Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody. It is designed to increase moisture wicking and breathability, which it may, but the merino wool layers still performed better in these categories during testing.
Photo: Jack Cramer
This long underwear disappointed in our air dry test. It finished towards the back of the field; taking 60% longer to dry than the fastest top. There is a logical explanation for this. The Cap 4 is one of only two expedition weight tops included in this review, and dried significantly quicker than the other. Expedition weight tops are by definition heavier and thicker than mid and light weight shirts. Therefore, they can reasonably be expected to absorb more water and, consequently, take longer to dry. This is just a consequence of the material; if you choose expedition weight clothing, it will not dry quickly.
Patagonia markets the Cap 4 as a classic base layer, and as a next-to-skin layer it certainly performs well, but it works equally well when layered over another top. Taking this versatility into account, it scores better than any other long underwear. The stretchy fabric helps make this possible, along with the venting option provided by the elongated zipper.
This capability is particularly great for activities that include wild temperature swings, which could be anything from car camping in the desert on a clear night, to alpine starts on equatorial peaks. If it's hot, wear a thinner base layer; mild, the Capt 4 alone; or cold, the Cap 4 on top of that thinner base layer. The hood, quarter-length zipper, and thumb loops all let you further refine your warmth.
When this shirt is employed as the next-to-skin layer, the ability to wear other shirts on top is hampered by the attached hood. While the Cap 4 fits well on top of the Editors' Choice Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer, it is less comfortable with the layers reversed. With larger fitted insulating layers on top, this is not as much of a problem and the smooth face on the Polartec® Power Dry® fabric helps it slide nicely beneath.
We expected outstanding durability from the highest priced base layer reviewed, but we were somewhat disappointed. Although the stitching and zippers are built to last, it is the fabric itself that showed signs of wear. Trouble spots on the sleeves and shoulders were beginning to pill after rubbing along rocks and trees during testing. This weakness to abrasion is no worse than that seen on the merino wool pieces, but our initial impressions suggested better performance.
The exterior fabric of the Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody beginning to pill after heavy use.
Photo: Jack Cramer
The contrasting zippers of The North Face Expedition Long Sleeve Zip Neck (grey) and the Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody (blue). The Patagonia zipper is much more burly.
Photo: Jack Cramer
Nevertheless, the Cap 4 will last a long time as long as you avoid scrapes or keep it protected with an over layer. If you like this top and all its features but need durability, then consider the Patagonia R1 Hoody
, which has a similar design but in a robust, insulating layer construction.
Comfort and Fit
In comfort and fit the Cap 4 Hoody excels; we scored it the highest of any synthetic long underwear. The waffled interior fabric feels great on your skin and softer than the thinner Patagonia Capilene Midweight. To guard against the chill of cold metal, there is a fleece backing on the zipper. During movements, the elongated waist helps it stay tucked in and the generous sleeve length is appreciated by our taller testers. The hood that we like a lot for moderate intensity activities could get obnoxious during the fast, bouncing, movements of trail running or horseback riding.
Climbing winter mixed terrain while testing the Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight 1/4 Zip Hoody. Ouray, CO.
Photo: Lance Sullins
The advantages in versatility suggest this top is best used in activities with a variety of demands. Experienced users know one of the greatest challenges of being outdoors is trying to stay comfortable across a broad range of temps. One minute you're exercising in the sun, the next you've moved to the shade for a break when the wind picks up. To stay comfortable in these conditions you often have to keep taking your pack off and on while you adjust layers. It gets inconvenient and annoying. The attached hood, long zipper, and thumb loops alleviate this problem by allowing you to regulate your insulation by adjusting these features instead. For this reason, we recommend it for adventures with unpredictable conditions or lots of stops and starts, like backcountry skiing, overnight backpacking, or alpine climbing.
It is hard to justify the current $119 price for a single 9 oz shirt, but we're going to try. The Cap 4's lead in temperature regulation and comfort while moving separate it from the field. These attributes may not be appreciated by an urban shopper, but they will be understood by those who spend a great deal of time outside. It is for these dedicated users that the substantial benefits outweigh the one-time cost, and this top actually becomes a bargain.
If you've made it this far we hope you've been convinced of the advantages of dorky hoods and extended zippers. The Cap 4, while not classically stylish, offers a functional beauty from its practical design and features. It is expensive and somewhat delicate, but gives you more options than any other long underwear top tested. For this reason, it is awarded the Top Pick for Versatility and we believe it should be considered by all base layer shoppers.
Gear testers discussing their next move during the first winter ascent of the north face of Peak 13,134 outside Ridgway, CO. Jack Cramer (orange) was impressed with the Cap 4 Hoody throughout their ordeal.
Photo: Drew Smith