As a tried and true synthetic base layer, the Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew takes home our Top Pick for Breathability for its excellent temperature regulation throughout all four seasons. Take it climbing, running, biking, hiking, and more!
Introducing our Top Pick for Breathability, the Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew.
The Capilene provides average warmth during the coldest seasons as both a stand-alone top or as apart of a layered outdoor outfit. The 100% polyester construct generates heat while on the move while the tightly woven-face fabric has the affinity to cut a steady warm breeze. As a stand-alone top, it provides great warmth in temperatures up to 65 degrees.
In a layered system, it is sufficient to keep you warm in a layered system when polar sub-zero temperatures are encountered. While this base layer provides decent (and average) warmth for a mid layer, it only scores a four out of ten because it comparatively wasn't as warm as other Merino wool and synthetic competitors. This was a favorite for aerobic activities in the cool to warm weather, but not our first choice on the coldest days of the season.
We tested the Capilene Midweight Crew while biking, hiking, skiing, and winter running. We found the generated warmth is comparable to the REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Crew, our Best Buy award winner. When wearing both tops on winter runs with similar temperatures, we observed that the Capilene Midweight Crew did a better job breathing, keeping us dry and comfortable while active.
However, as soon as we stopped at a mountain summit to take in the view, we could feel the wind and cool breeze through the fabric, quickly losing generated heat more readily than the REI Midweight Crew. This is because the Capilene hosts a fleece-lined interior with spaces between the fleece squares that doesn't lock in heat the same way the REI Midweight Crew does. That said, the face fabric does a better job at cutting the wind than the REI Midweight Crew. This top is perfect for those seeking a base layer perfect for active wear in the Fall, Spring, and Winter, but is not the best option for standing around in cold weather.
The fabric is thin and not the warmest out there as it allows ample airflow.
If you seek a warm synthetic base layer, check out the super cozy Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip, featuring a fleece-lined interior and wind-resistant face fabric. Or if you're more of a Merino wool loving gal, be sure to check out the Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Crew, our Top Pick for everyday wear. This was one of the warmest Merino wool tops tested.
The Capilene Thermal Weight is a great option if you plan on spending your time in sub-zero temperatures.
Scoring a perfect score for the breathability, the Capilene is the Queen of thermoregulation. When we took it running on winter mornings and backcountry skiing on warm spring days, the fleece lined interior wicked away sweat readily, moving it to the outside of the fabric. The fabric stayed relatively dry, even when we broke a serious sweat when it was worn on its own. The only time we noticed it holding moisture was when it was layered underneath several layers, where moisture was unable to escape. Since it has a boxier (and looser) fit, we were able to layer a tank top underneath so it could be easily shed when temperatures rose above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the Capilene Midweight Crew is fantastic at shedding heat and venting unwanted moisture, it doesn't have a substantial range of thermoregulation. Since the polyester isn't as warm or cozy as Merino wool contenders, it's just not as warm. If you prefer a layer that can thermoregulate amazingly while keeping you dry, take a look at the Smartwool Merino 250 1/4 Zip, our Editors' Choice award winner. The Smartwool Merino 1/4 Zip provided functionality through a wide range of temperatures, wicking away moisture and venting it efficiently. The zip-neck also allowed for additional ventilation that a crew collar just can't match.
A look at the fabric construct of our Top Pick for breathability that allows ample air flow.
Overall, if you're looking for a base layer that does a great job breathing, the Capilene Midweight Crew is our top recommendation. It's perfect for outdoor aerobic activity in cool to warm weather.
Comfort & Fit
The Capilene Midweight Crew features a comfortable synthetic fabric that feels good on the skin in addition to flat seam stitching (found in all base layers) that prevents chafing or discomfort while wearing all day long. The fit is boxier and looser than other base layers tested and is not "tight" by any means. It's easy to wear layers underneath, making it a little more versatile for warmer weather. The torso and arms seem to be long enough for women of all different shapes and sizes, though we wished that the fabric was a touch stretchier. We also noticed that this piece got stinky fast, despite the Polygiene odor blocker in the fabric. While it didn't stink for the first few weeks, we noticed a stench that lingered even after a few months of intensive use.
While this synthetic is comfortable, it's not nearly as cozy as our Merino wool competitors. For example, the WoolX Hannah has a much softer fabric that feels amazingly cozy to wear all day. The Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Crew is our Top Pick for everyday wear because of its cute stretchy merino wool fabrics that provides a casual, relaxed look, perfect for both tall and short women. Both are great Merino alternatives to the Capilene simply because they feel like cashmere against the skin.
The fit is a little boxier and looser than other base layers in this review.
If you prefer a synthetic that is a little more comfortable and fitted, the REI Co-op Midweight Crew is a good choice, though the fabric isn't as cozy as the Capilene. The Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip , however, steps it up with a fleece-lined interior and stretchy Torrent fabric with a super long construct, perfect for those in search of ample coverage.
The thumb loops are a feature only found with the Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew. A great extra for pulling on layers and keeping the layer in place.
Layering with the Capilene Midweight Crew isn't so bad. The smooth face fabric creates a frictionless surface that can be put underneath other grabby mid-layers. That said, this top only scored a six out of ten in this metric because the fit is quite boxy and does not hug the body in all the right places. Putting it underneath a tighter-fitting mid layer is not ideal as the fabric around the torso bunches and twists, riding up while on the move. The upside of this boxier and less fitted design is that a t-shirt or tank top can easily be layered underneath (unlike most baselayers tested). Plus, the hidden thumb loops can be worn while putting on additional layers, an bonus that no other base layer features.
If you prefer to wear tighter fitting mid layers that require a streamlined base layer, the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip or the REI Co-op Midweight Crew are both excellent choices. Both have a super slippery face fabric in addition to a "skin-tight" fit that hugs every curve of the body. The architecture of the Arc'teryx top is a little more streamlined than the REI. Both are synthetic options.
Here the Arc'teryx Rho LT layers nicely underneath the Capilene Crew for additional warmth.
Merino wool base layers aren't as easy to layer as their synthetic cousins; this is simply because the Merino wool fibers aren't as smooth and have a little more friction. Of the Merino wool contenders, the Kari Traa Rose Half Zip is the most layerable because of its akin to skin fit and tightly woven weave. The Smartwool Merino 250 1/4 Zip isn't so bad either because of its thinner fabric construct and longer arms that provide anchor pull points when pulling on a layer overhead.
Wowza! This is not only the fastest base layer to dry, but it also absorbs the least amount of water! Drying in only 40 minutes, the Capilene earns a perfect ten for drying speed. In addition to our dryer tests, we found that it dried quickly in the field. After sweating, we took it off, and within ten minutes of sitting in the sun, it was dry as a bone. As a result, this is the best option if you seek a quick-to-dry baselayer!
The author has owned a Capilene Midweight layer for over seven years, and it's still holding up! She's tested it while shimmying and grunting up fat off-widths and while boating down raging rivers. Despite some face fabric pilling and a couple of thread fly aways, we can vouch for its great durability. While its fabrics properties are durable, the fabric gets stinky (like most synthetics) over time.
The synthetic fibers in addition to the tightly knit face fabric make this piece resistant to snags, similar to The North Face Warm Crew. Like all synthetic pieces tested in this review, it's far more durable than Merino wool contenders like the Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Crew. That said, we did notice a tiny bit of length-wise shrinkage after the first wash and dry. If you're in search of the most durable base-layer tested, the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip wins in this category hands-down. Even after three years of being beat into the dirt, it shows little to no wear in tear; the architecture and craftsmanship also exceed that of any product tested.
This layer will last for many years. While it does get smelly, use a tech-wash to preserve the fabrics and rinse out nasty odors.
Take the Capilene Midweight Crew on your next vacation or mission to the mountains. It can be used for a diversity of outdoor recreation, ranging from cold morning runs to rafting down the Grand Canyon. Because of its decent and fairly high scores over most categories, it is versatile and ready for anything that you throw at it. For ultra-cold weather, we would recommend the Patagonia Thermal Weight Hoody. This is a heavier and more versatile option suited for sub-zero temperatures.
Taking a little afternoon jog with our Top Pick for Breathability, the Capilene Midweight Crew.
The Capilene Midweight is a tried and tested piece that has seen multiple mountain summits, trail runs, and riverside views over the course of the last few years. It's a bomber shirt for a bomber price. While the REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer won our Best Buy award this year for its lower price ($50) and better performance, it's a highly valued piece that our testers continue to use and love. If you are in search of a less expensive (and high value) Merino wool layer, be sure to check out the WoolX Hannah for just $79.
The Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew is our Top Pick for Breathability. The fabric provides ample airflow and decent thermoregulation in cold weather. This classic synthetic base layer is our go-to for aerobic winter recreation and as a wear alone article during the warmer months of the year.