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

Patagonia Capilene Midweight Bottoms - Women's Review

This Best Buy award winner balances performance and value.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $59 List | $40.73 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Durable, quick to dry, breathable, warm, high value.
Cons:  Fabric holds moisture, not the most comfortable.
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 19, 2018
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

The Patagonia Capilene Midweight bottoms is a classic and well-known synthetic midweight baselayer bottom that is tried, tested and true. It can be worn while tackling high mountain summits or while lounging about next to a warm campfire. Given its synthetic nature, it is very breathable and dries quickly. It performs best in cool to cold temperatures and its recommended to layer with a water-resistant pant with venting options for best performance. The highly durable fabrics in addition to its low price make it our Best Buy award winner.

While the Capilene Midweight offers the best performance for the price, there are other options with different material makeups. For example, the REI Co-op Merino Midweight Bottoms is a lower priced Merino wool option (~$80) that scores high in the performance metrics. Alternatively, if you're looking for something super inexpensive that still performs decently, the lightweight REI Co-op Lightweight Base Layer Tights goes for only $35 retail. If the midweight makeup of the Patagonia Capilene is too much for warmth, seek out the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Bottom that offers a lighter construct with better breathability. If you're happy with what you hear, then this Best Buy award winner may be right for you. Take it anywhere you go for many years to come!


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

As a midweight synthetic contender, the Patagonia Capilene Midweight offers high performance for a lower price.

Performance Comparison


A good lookin' synthetic baselayer bottom that is priced just right!
A good lookin' synthetic baselayer bottom that is priced just right!

Warmth


As a midweight synthetic base layer (176-grams) that uses 97 percent polyester, it provides a decent amount of warmth for everything from cool to cold days. While the polyester materials aren't as insulating or warm as other merino wool contenders, we are happy with the performance of this piece while playing out in the snow.


The midweight Capilene material effectively wicks moisture from the skin which adds to the warmth of the garment. The thickness of the midweight version of this bottom makes it a little bit warmer and a touch more comfortable to wear alone around the house. While the material does a decent job wicking moisture, like other synthetics, the fabric does a poor job at evaporating water. While polyester does insulate when wet, if not worn with pants that vent well when the temperatures rise, sweat can stay in the fabric. As a result, it doesn't earn a perfect score for warmth.

The midweight designation makes it a great option for cool to cold weather. The material itself feels less insulative than merino wool  and offers a decent level of warmth in the form of wicking power.
The midweight designation makes it a great option for cool to cold weather. The material itself feels less insulative than merino wool, and offers a decent level of warmth in the form of wicking power.

If you seek a material that can completely move that moisture out of the fabric, look at merino wool, such as our Editors' Choice, the Smartwool 250 that offers a much wider range of thermoregulation. Overall, we think this base layer is sufficient to wear for cool to cold days. Because of its wicking power, it's also suitable for everything from high to low output activities. Just make sure you have appropriate ventilation for a high performing outdoor system that will keep you warm in cold weather. We liked to use this pant for hiking and exploring the wilderness by foot.

Here we wear the Patagonia Capilene while skiing in Alaska. This base layer has provided great durability throughout the year.
Here we wear the Patagonia Capilene while skiing in Alaska. This base layer has provided great durability throughout the year.

This is available in a lightweight (a Top Pick in this review), midweight, and expeditionary weight fabric. Midweight fabric offers a more versatile and diverse range of uses. Layer it with an insulating layer to ensure optimal warmth or wear it on its own on a warm summer night.

Comfort and Fit


Outfitted with a synthetic fiber that isn't particularly soft or cozy, the Capilene isn't the most comfortable base layer bottom on the market. The fabrics feel nice next to the skin, but they don't compare to other Merino wool contenders. The waistband is similar to the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight bottom and features a sewn-in elastic band that is attached to a thicker strip of fabric.


Next to the skin, its reasonably comfortable, but could be made even more comfortable by adding in a little padding around at the elastic level. The elastic cuffs are the ankles provide sufficient stretch, while the entire length of the fabric also stretches to a certain degree. This allows for a diverse fit for a diversity of figures. While we like this stretch, this piece would be a made a touch more comfortable with the integration of more elastic fibers. Many of our testers mentioned that throughout the length of the bottoms, it felt a bit rigid and didn't move as well as other products with the body. That said, this is OutdoorGearLab being super critical. This is a tried and tested piece that does demonstrate mobility, just not as good as other contenders.

Patagonia Capilene Midweight -- Front (5'6"  140 lbs)
Patagonia Capilene Midweight -- Front (5'6", 140 lbs)
Side and length
Side and length
back
back

The length of the pant is just perfect for an average 5'7" woman but doesn't really offer additional length for those who might be a little taller. If you have height on your side, you'd be better off to seek a base layer with a longer length like the Arc'teryx Rho LT bottom, our Top Pick for Versatility.


Regarding retaining its shape, the Patagonia Capilene stands out from the rest. Like the Arc'teryx Rho LT, it maintains its form and bounces back into place. This is unlike merino wool contenders that stretch out until the next laundering spell.

Overall, size is true to fit, but we wish for a few more comfort features to ramp up the scoring in this category. We wore it for days on end, but in the end, we prefer merino wool if seeking out a super comfortable and cozy experience.

This is only available in full-lengths options.

Breathability and Drying Speed


Over the last few years, we've used the Capilene Midweight as a primary layer during backcountry missions and skiing during cold days on the mountain. Not only does the synthetic fabrics do an exceptional job wicking away moisture, but the fabric provides a certain level of insulation that is sufficient when pairing with an insulated pant in cold weather. We've tested it while running, hiking, and skinning uphill. In all cases, when appropriate ventilation was available, we discovered that our bodies stayed warm and dry.


Like other synthetics, the fabric readily absorbs water (much like cotton) but it insulates when wet. Also, when you ramp up activity and there is enough ventilation available this bottom proved to easily allow the evaporation of moisture, thus keeping the body warm. In our tests, we also learned that this product had the fastest drying speed of all products tested. While it did absorb quite a bit of moisture when we dunked the bottom underwater (~11.3 oz), it dried in our dryer tests in about 80 minutes. While this was about the same time everything else dried, the difference was that it was able to remove more moisture in a similar period.

This layer readily absorbs water in our floating tests...however it dries super fast!
This layer readily absorbs water in our floating tests...however it dries super fast!

Also, we've worn this baselayer while backpacking through the woods and skiing in Alaska. Through these experiences when we required quick to dry performance that the Midweight Capilene delivered on. As a result, we conclude that this is a very breathable layer that offers a quick drying speed. We'd recommend it for a plethora of activities. Use it while post-holing through the snow in the backcountry or on a super cold day of cross-country skiing. As long as it vents well, you'll be happy with its breathable performance.


Durability


If you're an indefatigable person that beats their base layers to the bit, the Capilene Midweight may be a great friend in your quest for utter exhaustion. The 100 percent Capilene polyester fibers are incredibly resilient with the fabrics offering a high level of durability to snags and snares along your adventures. The face fabrics are not fragile, allowing you to wear this piece on its own if you felt so inclined. Also, during our testing period, we didn't note any wear or tear, pilling, or random stitching fly-aways. Traditionally, the Capilene has been known for its awesome level of durability and it continues to stand true to that reputation. If you seek a durable midweight base layer, this is our Top recommendation! We've had ours for years and you should expect the same level of quality.


The polyester fabrics feature a fleecy-inner bricklayer that is comfortable and incredibly durable. The face fabric is smooth and doesn't catch on even little snags. Good enough to be worn on its own.
The polyester fabrics feature a fleecy-inner bricklayer that is comfortable and incredibly durable. The face fabric is smooth and doesn't catch on even little snags. Good enough to be worn on its own.

Even though this piece integrates Polygiene® permanent odor control technology, we still notice a slight smell after wearing it for days on end. This is the norm with most synthetics. As a result, we'd recommend laundering it in between uses or using a tech wash to remove lingering scents.

Best Application


This midweight synthetic is perfect for any adventures in cool to cold weather. Stalk animal prey while sitting quietly in the cold for hours. Wear it while tackling miles via skis or split board. Or, wear it around the house while you write up your favorite gear review. Even though it's not the warmest or most comfortable base layer out there, it certainly does the trick. And it'll last you for years to come.

Alison layers her climbing pants overtop her baselayer while climbing on a cold day in Red Rocks. The abrasion of upper layers can cause holes to wear through if not careful. However  in the ultra-durable Patagonia Capilene Midweight  this didn't prove to be a problem.
Alison layers her climbing pants overtop her baselayer while climbing on a cold day in Red Rocks. The abrasion of upper layers can cause holes to wear through if not careful. However, in the ultra-durable Patagonia Capilene Midweight, this didn't prove to be a problem.

Value


Retailing at just $60 (with many deals online from last year's colors) this is one of the highest value products out there! It wins our Best Buy award for this very reason. If you instead prefer a merino wool base layer, the best deal that we've discovered is the REI Co-op Merino Midweight Bottoms costing only $80.

Conclusion


This Best Buy award winner is a 100 percent polyester mid-weight long underwear bottom that balances high performance at a fantastic price. While it's not perfect, it's certainly a great option if you're looking for a less expensive base layer that will perform and last you for years. It's versatile and you can use it for most cool to cold weather adventures.


Amber King