The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Patagonia Capilene Air Crew - Women's Review

Utilizing a knit-technology design this unique construction offers an unbeatable level of comfort and breathability.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $129 List | $129.00 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Immensely comfortable, quick to dry, lightweight, huge range of thermoregulation, no smell
Cons:  Lacks durability, expensive, harder to layer
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 14, 2018
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 10
  • Warmth - 20% 7
  • Breathability - 20% 10
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 9
  • Layering Ability - 15% 6
  • Drying Speed - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 6

Our Verdict

Patagonia is revolutionizing the base layer industry with this hard-to-believe-it's-so-cozy top. The unique 3D knit design of the women's Patagonia Capilene Air Crew performs well through all four seasons, while the materials are super cozy and comfortable on the skin. The porosity of the fabric paves the way to a Top Pick for Breathability for its affinity to offload heat as sweat starts to build. Also, the warm and cozy Merino wool fibers provide a large amount of warmth, offering a huge level of thermoregulation that extends for use on a breezy summer night and cold winter days. The blend of 51% merino wool and 49% recycled polyester provides the best of both worlds. The wool offers a high level of warmth while the polyester provides amazing wicking and drying power. Overall, one of the most comfortable and breathable pieces that we've tested thus far. We are elated with gratitude to have worn this for the last few months while tackling the climbing crags, trails, and campgrounds. Not only does it perform well, but it got lots of compliments too!

It did not beat out the Editors' Choice Award winner because the Smartwool Merino 250 offers more warmth and a higher level of comfort. The Smartwool also wears better as a stand-alone layer with better wind resistance. The Capilene Air provides a faster drying speed and a cozier feel next-to-skin. Both wick well, though the Capilene Air delivers a touch more, utilizing the synthetic fibers built into the fabric. Overall, this is a versatile option that offers a unique knit design that we haven't seen on the market yet. It's an excellent option for all four seasons. Wear it while charging uphill on your next ski tour or while hanging out around a campfire.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

This unique base layer offers a 3D knit design that is ridiculously cozy and comfortable. It earns a Top Pick for its fantastical level of breathability and warmth. This top will have you wrapped up in comfort…so much so that it's hard to take off.

Performance Comparison


This Top Pick is super comfortable and stylish. It has an amazing affinity to offload heat while keeping you warm...even after you sweat.
This Top Pick is super comfortable and stylish. It has an amazing affinity to offload heat while keeping you warm...even after you sweat.

Warmth


Sporting a nifty knit design with a merino and synthetic blend, this top is surprisingly warm for its level of breathability. With a blend that infuses Merino wool with the recycled polyester material, this shirt is really great at capturing heat and keeping it close to your body when temperatures drop into the deep negatives.


The loft of the yarn in addition to the numerous layers of knitting provides a 3-D shape that encapsulates air molecules. When worn with a layer overtop, warmth stays bundled between the layers of knitting; in addition, the Merino wool helps to generate even more warmth with movement. The synthetic infusion increases the performance, wicking away moisture well, adding to the overall warmth of this piece.

The 3D knit design is unique and warm  providing toasty feels as a base layer top.
The 3D knit design is unique and warm, providing toasty feels as a base layer top.

When wearing this piece as a stand-alone item, it didn't provide as much overall warmth as other continuous design base layers because the knit isn't wind resistant. However, when worn underneath a sweater or jacket, it's one of the warmest base layers we've tested thus far. Wear it through all four seasons as a warm base layer or a breezy top in the summertime.

We tested the crew cut top, but there is a full hoody available that can offer even more warmth and insulation around the neck and head for super cold days.

Breathability


Wow! For such a warm piece we are astounded not only by the breathability of this base layer top but its wicking power. While wool provides a great level of warmth and thermal regulation, the recycled polyester fibers that make up 49% of its construction do a great job transferring moisture from the skin to the outside of the fabric. The knit design overlays through several layers, providing some space and air pockets that allow the easy transfer of moisture from the inside to the outside of the shirt. Also, because there is porosity to the design, it therefore allows efficient and effective breathability.


We took this top with us on a variety of adventures including rock climbing in the canyons, hiking through the mountains, trail running through the desert, camping, and casually around town. In all conditions, we noted a high level of breathability of the fabric. While running on a warm day in October, we were surprised how long we were able to keep it on, even after hiking uphill in the hot sun. The fabric did an amazing job of breathing and wicking, despite the amount of heat it simultaneously trapped. As a result of its fantastical breathability and wicking power, a shirt that simply stands above the rest, it receives a Top Pick!

The porosity of the fabric provides great airflow while you sweat your way uphill and through the backcountry.
The porosity of the fabric provides great airflow while you sweat your way uphill and through the backcountry.

Comfort & Fit


The unique knit design of this shirt is one of the only options on the market. The fabric is soft and comfortable, even when you work up a sweat. The 3D knit design certainly does feel lightweight and "airy," hence the name. Even after using for a few months, this shirt retained a good smell and never got "gross" after wearing and not washing it for days on end.


Regarding fit, it is true to size. The arms and torso are a comfortable size, offering length for both tall and short women. The fabric has a bit of stretch to it, and it doesn't deform after a few washes in the laundry. Not only that, but it's got a super cute style and fashion appeal that got a lot of compliments from men and other women alike.


That said, the crew cut feels a little tight around the neck and we would love to see a zip neck option. There is a hooded option available if you seek that feature in your base layer.

If you aren't prepared to buy it  don't try on the Capilene Air. It's very difficult to remove due to the happy-cozy-feels.

Layering Ability


While this base layer excels in many different categories, it is not the easiest to layer. Given the stretchy and airy feel of the fabric, you can easily fit a camisole or t-shirt underneath. Layering a jacket overtop is a breeze as well. However, if trying to layer a tighter insulated layer, you may have a problem.


The knit design of the fabric makes the face of it "grabby." As a result, it can stick to tighter layers that might also have a "grabbier" insulated layer inside. That said, this is just a minor annoyance and didn't affect its performance at all. This layer didn't ride up at all while in action. You just have to be cognizant that it might come up with pulling off your favorite Patagonia R1 Sweater. Overall layering is fine with this top, but its a little grabbier than most.

Layer it nicely underneath other layers. Slippery fabrics provide a little more ease slipping on and off.
Layer it nicely underneath other layers. Slippery fabrics provide a little more ease slipping on and off.

Drying Speed


Even though this is one of the most breathable tops, it is not the fastest to dry, taking about 80 minutes to dry. This is largely attributed to the fact that the knit fabric absorbs quite a bit of water — a whopping 15.5 oz to be exact! That's the most that any of the tops absorbed in this review by far. That said, it lost 15.5 oz of moisture in just 80 minutes, proving to have one of the fastest drying speeds out there.


This is also reflected in our field tests where the top would get super sweaty and then dry out extremely quickly. When encountering precipitation, it didn't prove to be anywhere near waterproof or even water resistant. However, when the rain stopped, and the sun came out, we were feeling pretty warm and dry quickly.

While super lightweight when dry  this top absorbs a lot of water when wet. That said  it proves to have a lightning-fast drying speed  doing well in all sorts of crazy gross conditions.
While super lightweight when dry, this top absorbs a lot of water when wet. That said, it proves to have a lightning-fast drying speed, doing well in all sorts of crazy gross conditions.

Durability


Our first thought with this top was that it simply wouldn't hold up to hard abrasion. We wore it scrambling and shimmied our way through canyons. We were surprised by the 18.5-micron gauge fibers when they proved to be stronger than expected. Unlike 100% Merino wool options, the infusion of the polyester fabric adds to the level of durability of the fabric. Therefore, it proves to be a fairly durable base layer option, but not as durable as continuous face options like the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip Neck that stands out for its durability.


After our testing period, we noticed only a few fly-aways in the fabric and some minor pilling. That said, if not worn under another layer, it is prone to snags on branches or twigs, noticeably more so than most tops in this review. Therefore, it's not our top choice for bushwacking or tackling a slot canyon, but it stands up as a reasonable base layer option, especially when protected by another layer on top of it. Aside from the level of durability with the fabric, we are happy to announce that this top doesn't stink even if worn for days on end! This adds to its long list of applications.

Best Applications


As a well-rounded base layer top, this unique knit-design offers ample amounts of breathability, wicking power, warmth, and comfort. Its cute knit design offers a certain level of flair that is wonderful to wear out to a casual dinner or the climbing crag. Given its versatility as a stand-alone piece or base layer, it's a great option for wear throughout all four seasons. Wear it while ski-touring in the winter under a comfortable and breathable jacket. Or wear it as a stand-alone top on cooler summer camping trips. Just avoid it for activities that might require high levels of abrasion like battling a serious bushwack through the woods. The fabric won't hold up.

We love taking this base layer top running  hiking  climbing and more! It's a favorite among our testers for its versatility  breathability  and cute look.
We love taking this base layer top running, hiking, climbing and more! It's a favorite among our testers for its versatility, breathability, and cute look.

Value


The price on this piece is higher than most ($129 for the crew cut and $149 for the hoody) options in this review. That said, it offers a unique construction and an amazing level of combined breathability and warmth. If you are in search of a synthetic-merino blend that offers the best of both worlds, this is it. For some, it might be worth paying a few extra bucks, while others might be more interested in lower priced options. Overall, we think that value is there for the price. Also, it is backed by Patagonia's 100% money back lifetime guarantee.

Our main tester is psyched on the comfort and warmth provided by this base layer top while belaying on a cold day in Boulder Canyon.
Our main tester is psyched on the comfort and warmth provided by this base layer top while belaying on a cold day in Boulder Canyon.

Conclusion


This Top Pick offers an amazing range of thermoregulation and a wonderful balance of warmth and breathability. It's a great option for all four seasons, whether you're hanging out in a snow cave or going for a trail run on a cool Fall day.


Amber King