The Patagonia Capilene is a 100% synthetic base layer with an affordable price tag and exceptional performance. With an update that we appreciate, it has regained its award-winning status as our Best Buy Award winner. A wonderful option to wear on its own in cool to warm weather, or in a layered system in the Winter.
The Capilene Midweight Crew features exceptional breathability and a fast drying speed, wrapped into a lightweight and durable product. It'll last you for many years with a low overhead cost.
Packed with 149-grams of recycled 100% polyester material, this midweight base layer is warm to wear on its own or in a layered system. However, in comparison to other Merino wool contenders, and the thicker synthetic options, it's at the lower end of the warmth metric.
We primarily tested this shirt while running on cool Fall days and as apart of a layered system when the snow fell in the San Juan mountains. Constructed of hollow-filament polyester fibers, it warms up with your body but also cools quickly. These fibers work by filling up with the surrounding air. When the air is cold, the shirt will feel cold. When it's warm or against your skin, the shirt will feel warm. So when pulling on this top in the morning, after it's been sitting in a cold room, it feels much colder on the skin than a Merino wool top. However, as soon as you start to move, that heat energy transfers into the filaments and warms up. Unfortunately, polyester fibers don't have the same heat capacity as merino fibers, so it doesn't feel as warm when the temperature begins to drop.
We enjoy cold weather in the San Juans in October! This top provides great warmth when layered with another more insulative layer in a system.
When you run or exercise in it, it does a great job of releasing moisture and temporarily holding onto that warm air, so it will keep you warm while moving. However, it cools incredibly fast after you stop moving. We do appreciate that the continuous face fabric does a great job to cut the wind, which inherently leads to better warmth overall.
From skinning uphill in cold weather to crushing the downhill, this synthetic layer will offer decent warmth. We've noticed in wetter climates it is not as warm as other merino wool contenders, unfortunately.
In a layered system, since there are insulating layers overtop, it wicks really well to keep moisture off your skin to keep you warm. Overall, this top offers a good amount of warmth that'll keep you warm in most climates, both wet and dry, warm or cold, when layered properly. It is just not as warm as merino wool.
This top also comes in different weight options. The midweight is the most versatile. However, if you're going to be exercising a lot or run hot, the "Cool Lightweight" may be a better choice for you. If you're going to be sitting around a lot, you'll be better equipped with the "Thermal Weight" option.
This award winner is a super breathable beast. It has huge wicking power with its honeycomb grid polyester fabrics that grab moisture and move it across its thinner barrier to the outside of the shirt. If you need a top that breathes and dries quickly, don't hesitate on this one.
This is a favorite of ours for running and hiking. The fabric is quite thin, which allows for the easy transfer of moisture from the skin to the open air. The porosity of the fabric is quite high, which is also accommodating for that easy transfer of moisture.
We appreciate how nicely the fabric breathes when worn on its own. Our back wasn't even sweaty after tackling hilly country roads during the first snowfall in the San Juan mountains!
During our drying tests, this shirt dried extremely quickly, both when in a dryer and while running around on trails. The lightweight nature and rigidity of the fabric offer great moisture transfer, as mentioned before.
A look at the super porous and durable fabric weave that we love so much. It is magnificently breathable with huge wicking power.
In a layered system, we notice that the polyester material holds the moisture in the fabric a little more than other merino wool contenders. This is primarily because there isn't a huge temperature difference between the skin and the next layer of the fabric, which doesn't promote a temperature gradient, making moisture flow through polyester more difficult than Merino wool. As a result, we felt a little cooler in this top than others, which is why it lost a few points in the warmth metric outlined above.
Comfort & Fit
This base layer top is comfortable with a regular fit that will accommodate many shapes and sizes.
For those that are sensitive to Merino Wool or prefer synthetic layers, this is a great alternative. While the fibers on the skin aren't as soft as Merino wool, the interior latticed network sits flat against the skin with flat seams that don't rub or cause irritation when wearing a backpack.
We love the relaxed of this shirt. It has long arms and torso for all lengths of people! This is on a 5'7" tester weighing 145 lbs. We wear a size small.
We appreciate the longer and loose fit of this top, offering coverage throughout the whole torso and arms. While the fabric isn't as stretchy as other polyester tops, it holds its shape well, hiding lumps in the belly or a muffin top while offering a continuous look for women of all sizes. The hem and cuffs are comfortable with little movement when putting hands up, down, or to the sides.
We love the slipperier face fabrics and thumb loops that make layering it over or under layers easy.
The larger, roomier fit allows you to easily slip on a t-shirt or another base layer easily, which is hard to do with most of the shirts in this review. If you want to wear a tank top underneath during a warm day or prefer to wear it for simple sun protection in the summer, it's a good choice for this reason exactly.
The Capilene Midweight crew layers nicely under large fleece layers like the Columbia Benson, but not as nicely under tighter layers.
It's easy to layer it underneath a fleece or other jackets. With a looser fit, the material does get caught and rises up when taking off upper layers. Pulling it on doesn't mean wrestling with your shirt, either. The face fabric offers a smooth, less friction surface that articulates well even with the fleeciest of upper layers. Arms bunching is typically a concern in this process, but because they are long with thumb loops, simply put your thumbs in, then layer up. Nothing will bunch up this way.
Synthetic fibers are known for their ability to resist abrasion and wear and tear. This awesome and affordable base layer is no different. While its fabrics do hold smells and pit stains after a series of days of uses, this is the one we'd choose if we found ourselves sliding through slot canyons or wearing a backpack right on the material for days.
Unlike Merino wool, the hollow fibers are more rigid and less prone to deformity with abrasion. They bounce back into shape. After wearing this shirt for a few months, almost every other day, and washing it over 15 times, it still looks like new. We've chopped down trees and carried cut blocks right against the fabric.
Chopping wood on a cool Fall day in Northern Ontario while getting ready for the Winter. We felled a tree earlier, and moved the wood wearing just this top. It still looks like new after that.
We've climbed in it, shimmying through tight constrictions in the rock. We've also worn it while running in snowy weather, exposing it to the tight straps of our running pack. We haven't noticed any thread fly-aways or even signs of abrasion after all this. We will continue to test this top and will update you on our findings. However, so far, it looks like an amazingly durable product. The reviews online also confirm this stand-up longevity.
The best value base layer in this review. Know that any high-quality base layer is going to be an investment. However, this shirt has a relatively low cost with high-performing scores across the board. It has a great track record for durability and will last you for many seasons, keeping you warm, and keeping up with you. If you want a base layer that will dry quickly with optimal durability, this is a great option to consider.
The Women's Patagonia Capilene Midweight is a 100% recycled polyester base layer that feels lightweight and dries quickly. While it's not the warmest of the bunch, we love its looser fit and performance that works well on its own or in a layered system. Wear it around the house, while hiking in the snow, or while charging at the ski resort. It's one of the most popular and heavily tested workhorse pieces on the base layer market. It also comes in some pretty cute patterns and colors.
Chopping down trees and gathering wood on a cold day in Ontario. The breathable Patagonia Capilene Midweight offers exceptional thermoregulation and layers easily under our fleece jacket.