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Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Tee - Women's Review

Unbelievably light and breathable, this is the shirt for hot summer days
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $45 List | $45.00 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Ultralight, super breathable, packs small, smooth and stretchy fabric
Cons:  Delicate fabric, not as versatile, pricey
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Paige Klugherz ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 25, 2020
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85
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 8
  • Comfort - 30% 8
  • Breathability - 30% 9
  • Drying Speed - 20% 10
  • Features & Versatility - 20% 7

Our Verdict

For those summer months when each run is swelteringly hot, the Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight is the one to wear. It's an ultralightweight shirt with impressive breathability and a lightning-fast drying speed. With a classic fit, you'll find the stretchy polyester comfortable and flattering, and the low profile seams made it a breeze to wear under a running vest. While durability and versatility may not be its strongest characteristics, this high performing, specialized tee is an easy choice as our Top Pick for Heat.

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Our Analysis and Test Results

As we've come to expect from the brand, Patagonia delivers super high performance with this shirt. It's a specialized tool in your running apparel toolbox, but what it does, it does really well. Breathable, quick-drying, and unbelievably light, you'll practically forget you have this shirt on!

Performance Comparison


We love the stretchy  double knit polyester that accommodates all the different movements that come with trail running.
We love the stretchy, double knit polyester that accommodates all the different movements that come with trail running.

Comfort


A high scorer in this metric, the Capilene Cool Lightweight has a number of characteristics we love. Made out of a polyester double knit, the fabric has tons of stretch — more than any other shirt we wore this season. It glides across the skin and moves with you. It has a pretty classic athletic shirt fit — not too tight, not too loose — and the body length is what we're looking for in a running top. It has a slightly wider than normal crewneck, which looks nice while still giving you plenty of coverage and enough space for pack straps to sit comfortably. The sleeves cover enough of the upper arms, and the gussets underneath the sleeves create an increased range of motion without pulling at the fabric.


Unlike some of the other higher-end shirts, this one hasn't shifted the seams off the top of the shoulders. The seams throughout are low profile flatlock seams, but if you're extra sensitive to chafing, you may want to pay attention to how this seam will affect you when wearing a running vest or pack. The quality throughout the shirt is high (as is to be expected with a Patagonia product), but our one concern is the durability of the fabric. A number of customer reviews mentioned snagging of the delicate material, but since we were following local guidelines this spring to avoid narrow singletrack trails where social distancing couldn't be maintained, we weren't able to fully test this question.

This shirt features a gusset below the sleeve and a flatlock seam running along the length of the shoulder.
This shirt features a gusset below the sleeve and a flatlock seam running along the length of the shoulder.

The last component of this metric we look at is the range of temperatures we'd be comfortable wearing it in. While the Capilene certainly excels in the heat, once it starts to cool off at all, its thinness won't provide much protection.

Breathability


The Capilene Cool earns the highest marks in this category. It's not surprising once you feel just how thin and lightweight the fabric is. A size extra small weighed in at a featherlight 1.69 oz. On hot runs in full sun, we felt plenty of consistent airflow moving through the shirt. The fabric has an all-over grid pattern, with the thin lines helping let air move through.


The not-too-tight fit also contributes to the breezy comfort of this one. Be aware that with the benefits of this thin fabric comes the drawback that the light color versions of this shirt are very see-through.

With its fantastic breathability  we felt really comfortable running in the desert heat.
With its fantastic breathability, we felt really comfortable running in the desert heat.

Drying Speed


For our drying speed test, we soaked each shirt until fully saturated with water, wrung them out by hand as much as we could, and then hung them up to dry completely. The Capilene Cool Lightweight reached dryness two minutes before the next finisher, earning it top marks in this metric. We look at drying speed as a component of both comfort and safety. If you're traveling through the backcountry, you want to be wearing clothes that will dry quickly. If you've been sweating heavily, making sure your shirt will be dry before the weather cools off when the sun sets can be a huge concern. No need to worry about this if you're wearing the Capilene, though!


Additionally, in hot weather, a fabric that dries quickly will give you the benefit of evaporative cooling, helping regulate your body temperature and keeping you comfortable. Again, the result of the Capilene in this category weren't surprising considering how light and thin the material is.

Its ultra-light weight contributes to its super fast drying speed.
Its ultra-light weight contributes to its super fast drying speed.

Features & Versatility


Running shirts are generally a pretty straightforward piece of gear, but there are a few features we like to see. This shirt doesn't have any reflective decals, which is in line with its ultralight methodology. The manufacturer also doesn't list a UPF rating. While polyester shirts generally have a UPF of 15, considering that you can practically see straight through this one, we're not sure what the actual sun protection qualities are. This was something we thought about a lot since chances are if you're wearing a shirt as opposed to a tank top or just a sports bra, you're interested in some degree of protection from the summer rays. Unfortunately, we don't have a conclusive answer to this one, so it's just something to keep in mind.


Another feature we look for is odor-control. For this shirt, Patagonia uses a Polygiene treatment on the fabric that prevents odors from developing by preventing bacteria from growing in the first place. Since standard polyester can get pretty funky, we love that this was a consideration.

When it comes to versatility, we have a few different thoughts about this shirt. While it packs down incredibly small and layers well under jackets, we come back to our durability questions. Its stretchiness makes it an easy pick for an activity like yoga, but we would be pretty wary of wearing it rock climbing. Also, it has a narrow temperature range in which we'd wear it solo. Once cooler fall temps roll in, this shirt will probably be put away until the next summer.

With super thin fabric comes concerns about sun protection  durability  and the range of temperatures you'd choose to wear the shirt in. The lighter colors are also very see-through.
With super thin fabric comes concerns about sun protection, durability, and the range of temperatures you'd choose to wear the shirt in. The lighter colors are also very see-through.

Value


If you're needing a specialized running shirt to get you through the hottest months of the year, the Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight definitely has a high value and is worth the money. Patagonia is also famously known for their gear repair service, so if any wear and tear affects its performance, the fact that they work with customers to fix apparel adds to its value. We believe exceptional performance is worth the usually higher price tag, so if this shirt fits your specific running needs, we think you'll be happy with the choice.

Conclusion


This ultralight, ultra-breathable shirt is our Top Pick to get you through the summer heat. You'll stay cool and comfortable whether on roads or trails, and while it may not be your go-to every day of the year, it fills a niche in your running gear quiver.

The summer heat is no match for this lightweight and breezy layer.
The summer heat is no match for this lightweight and breezy layer.

Paige Klugherz