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

Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Bottoms - Women's Review

This Top Pick is not very insulating but does the trick if you need a lightweight wicking layer.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $50 List | $49.00 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Durable, fantastic breathability, good price
Cons:  No cozy fabrics, not warm
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 19, 2018
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65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 8
  • Warmth - 30% 4
  • Comfort & Fit - 30% 6
  • Breathability & Drying Speed - 30% 9
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

In need of a simple wicking layer that breathes exceptionally well? The Patagonia Capilene Lightweight is our best recommendation. Earning a Top Pick award, this garment uses 78-grams of 100 percent polyester fibers. This workhorse piece is very well built, providing fantastic durability for the years to come. The durable fibers wick away moisture confidently, offering an impressive drying speed perfectly suited for aerobic endeavors in cold weather. Since this lightweight layer isn't thick or exceptionally comfortable, it's best suited for warm to cool temperatures that might have a little nip in the air. It's also an excellent companion for plugging away the miles on pair or skis or snowshoes where you might find yourselves sweating quite a bit.

Similar to the lightweight Capilene, the REI Co-op Lightweight Base Layer Tights offers lightweight performance for a lower price ($15 less retail!). The reason the Patagonia Capilene won this award, as opposed to the REI contender, is because the fabric feels more comfortable to the touch and is lighter weight. Also, the Capilene offers a broader range of thermoregulation. If you instead seek a warmer synthetic layer with similar materials, the Patagonia Capilene Midweight Bottom is our Best Buy winner. It offers more warmth due to thicker fabrics and a heavier weight. Overall, if you seek a lightweight layer that can add a little more wicking power to your wardrobe, consider this Top Pick!


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

This lightweight synthetic earns a Top Pick award for its optimal breathability and comfortable fabrics. Its a great option if you're in need of a base layer that will wick away sweat in cold temperatures and will keep you relatively warm in cool temperatures. Just don't expect it to insulate very well on the coldest days of winter.

Performance Comparison


Running it out over Ouray  CO right before a winter storm ripped through the area.
Running it out over Ouray, CO right before a winter storm ripped through the area.

Warmth


As a lightweight product, warmth is not a strong suit. Designed for high output activities, the lightweight design will keep you warm in cool conditions but is not suitable for super cold winter nights (unless you layer several insulative layers). With only 78-grams of 100-percent polyester material, the fabric will breathe exceptionally warm and will keep you warm if you happen to get wet. However, because the fabrics aren't particularly thick, there isn't a whole of insulation. Our recommendation is to wear it on warm to cool days or while doing high output activities in colder weather.


We tested this product while hiking, running, and playing in the backcountry. The material is super thin. Since the material breathes well, it transports moisture sufficiently to the outside of the fabric. But, if you stop for a while, you shiver as the synthetic fabric holds onto that moisture if not vented properly. So… make sure you keep on moving and maintain proper ventilation. Wear it under a thin layer during cool or warm weather. Or wear it under a thicker insulating layer during cold weather.

The light fabrics are not very insulating but provide optimal breathability and wicking power.
The light fabrics are not very insulating but provide optimal breathability and wicking power.

Comfort and Fit


This base layer bottom is super lightweight and comfortable to wear! Its thinner design (for a medium) weighs in only at 3.4 ounces. The 100-percent polyester material isn't as soft or supple as merino wool, but it feels silky and smooth against the skin. The waistband appears to be thicker at first, but on closer inspection is about the standard width and size as most mid-range garments… and this is what you feel against your skin. The fit is seemingly true to size but doesn't offer a huge amount of length in the legs.


While a medium fits our 5'7" tester just perfectly, taller women may find the legs on this article to be a little short. We do like the elastic fabric that provides women of all shapes and sizes a nice fit. The ankle cuffs are also elastic and the stitching stretches with the fabric.


While it's elastic, we found that the fabric around the calves is so tight that it pulls down on the waistband. We found ourselves pulling it up every now and again. Make sure you try it on before buying to make sure it fits you best. Overall, this contender is comfortable to wear, but not the coziest out there.

Front -- Model is 5'6" and 140 lbs.
Front -- Model is 5'6" and 140 lbs.
Patagonia Capilene Lightweight
Patagonia Capilene Lightweight
Back
Back

Breathability and Drying Speed


As a lightweight, 100-percent polyester base layer bottom, this garment has amazing breathability. The super thin Capilene material features a brick-based pattern that allows optimal wicking power. The material is able to grab moisture from the skin and transport it away. While polyester is great for wicking and breathability, it requires ventilation to keep the material dry. So, we'd recommend wearing this with a layer that either has zipper or ventilation to ensure the garment stays dry.


When saturated (and provided appropriate ventilation), it does a great job drying. In terms of drying speed, it performs at a similar level as other long john bottoms in this review. As a result of these performance metrics, it's a top recommendation for tackling aerobic adventures in cold weather. Choose this if you're planning on using your base layer for cross-country skiing or winter running. It stays close to your skin and will ventilate exceptionally well. Just don't choose it if you plan on hanging around with little to no insulation.

The material immediately absorbs water on contact  just like other synthetics. That said  it dries quickly.
The material immediately absorbs water on contact, just like other synthetics. That said, it dries quickly.

During our in-lab tests, we made some interesting observations. When we placed water on the surface without too much agitation, the fabric immediately absorbed the liquid. This leads to the idea that the polyester fibers are absorptive, and much more so than merino wool. When dunking it under water, it absorbed the least amount relative to others. This is because there is little material to hold water. In our drying tests, it proved to dry out at the same rate as most every other product in the review. In the field though, it's a top performer for breathability and shows an affinity to dry quickly. As a result, it earns a Top Pick for Aerobic Endeavours.


Durability


Patagonia's Capilene has proved to be a workhorse that will last for years. The material is composed of 100-percent polyester fibers that don't just wick well but stand up to getting beaten down. The materials keep their shape over time and don't stretch out too much after wearing for a few hours. Through our testing, we didn't observe any pilling or faulty craftsmanship. Our only worry is the thinness of the fabric (in comparison to the midweight construct). It seems to be quite fragile, but we didn't observe or experience any tears in our testing. As a result, we deem this a durable synthetic base layer bottom.


Best Application


This base layer bottom is best for any application that requires just a simple base layer to wick away moisture. High output activities like cross-country skiing or backcountry skiing are great examples of when you might need a wicking but not an insulative layer. This is its perfect purpose. If you simply seek a layer that will provide just a thin layer or protection under a pair of pants in cool weather, this is another great application. Just don't depend on it to insulate in any way, shape, or form on super cold days in the backcountry.

Take this Top Pick on any aerobic endeavor that you see fit. Running in cold weather is a favorite of ours.
Take this Top Pick on any aerobic endeavor that you see fit. Running in cold weather is a favorite of ours.

Value


Retailing for $50, this is one of the least expensive base layers out there. Given the lightweight construct, it's not very warm but highly breathable. As a result, the value is definitely there. However, if you want something that performs on a similar level (with less warmth) but a little less expensive, take a look at the REI Co-op Lightweight Base Layer that retails for just $35.

Conclusion


This lightweight base layer is perfect to wear as a simply wicking layer while busting your butt in the backcountry. Designed to wick away sweat, and not insulate, its a great option for aerobic endeavors.


Amber King