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 offers amazing breathability while the warm and cozy Merino wool fibers offer ample warmth. This is one of the most comfortable and breathable pieces that 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!
Patagonia Capilene Air Crew - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Immensely comfortable, quick to dry, lightweight, huge range of thermoregulation, no smell
Cons: Lacks durability, expensive, harder to layer
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Capilene Air is a unique base layer top that offers a 3D knit design that is ridiculously cozy and comfortable. It is breathability and warmth. It will have you wrapped up in comfort, so much that you'll never want to take it off.
Sporting a nifty knit design with 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 over top, the warmth stays bundled between the layers of knitting. 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.
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.
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 the design is porous, it 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.
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.
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. 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 aware that it might come up while pulling off your favorite mid-layer top. Overall, layering is fine with this top, but its a little grabbier than most.
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.
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.
The price on this piece is higher than most 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.
The Patagonia Capilene Air Crew offers an amazing range of thermoregulation and a wonderful balance of warmth and breathability. It's a great option for most of the year, whether you're hanging out in a snow cave or going for a trail run on a cool Fall day.
— Amber King