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

Patagonia Micro Swell - Women's Review

A stylish top for a casual beach day.
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Price:  $100 List | $49.50 at Patagonia
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Cute prints, good coverage, rash guard seam placement
Cons:  Loose wrists, seams on front of arm not great for paddling
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 23, 2019
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54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 11
  • Comfort & Fit - 30% 5
  • Sun Protection - 25% 6
  • Breathability - 20% 5
  • Durability - 10% 6
  • Style - 15% 5

Our Verdict

We like the several options of bold prints and the shirt's flattering pattern. Its tight fit, higher neckline, and seam placement that's not in your armpit make this a functional option in the waves. However, it's not the best rash guard we tested - that award goes to the O'Neil Basic Skins. The Micro Swell's wrists are a bit too loose for comfortable swimming, the fabric is stiffer than the O'Neill, and the seams on the fronts of your arms rub against the edge of a lifejacket while you paddle. But if you value fashion as much as function, this could be the right choice for you.


Our Analysis and Test Results

The Patagonia Micro Swell Rashguard carries a UPF 50+ rating. It's made of 83% nylon (the print is polyester) and 17% spandex and features rash guard seam placement.

Performance Comparison



Have a stylin' day at the beach.
Have a stylin' day at the beach.

Comfort & Fit


As a rash guard, the Patagonia Micro Swell is a very tight fit, with a lot of spandex to hold it all in. The mock neck is like a mini turtleneck, giving you added protection from the sun. This top feels sleek and silky, though less flexible and comfortable than the O'Neill Basic Skins. Rash guard seam placement moves the scratchy seams out of your armpits and onto the fronts and backs of your arms. Unfortunately, this makes for some uncomfortable paddling as that seam then rubs uncomfortably against a life jacket. We also don't love swimming in this top, as the wrists are just a tad too loose and flop around awkwardly while we freestyle. But for casual water use, we think this rash guard is alright.

The seams on the arms rub uncomfortably against a life jacket during paddle sports.
The seams on the arms rub uncomfortably against a life jacket during paddle sports.

Sun Protection


With a UPF rating of 50+, the Micro Swell is right at the top of the pack for sheer fabric protection value. The mock neck and long sleeves also help keep the scorching sun off your skin. Our 5'4", 117 pound main tester wears the XS and she reports that the torso is long enough to keep you covered. However, we strongly recommend if you're going in the water to not forget to apply sunscreen to that small strip along your lower back, as this top will ride up a bit with your arm movements.

The sleeves of this model are long enough even for our long-armed testers  but the wrists are too loose and ride up in the water.
The sleeves of this model are long enough even for our long-armed testers, but the wrists are too loose and ride up in the water.

Breathability


Like most rash guards, this shirt is designed to keep you protected from the sun while actually adding a bit of warmth in cooler waters. The Micro Swell does exactly that. The Micro Swell is also not particularly fast to dry though, especially compared to some of the other shirts we tested that are made to dry super fast. If your beach day plan involves more beach than waves, we think you'll appreciate a more breathable sun shirt like the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoody or Outdoor Research Echo Hoody.

This sun shirt doesn't dry as quickly as we expected.
This sun shirt doesn't dry as quickly as we expected.

Durability


This top has reinforced seams everywhere, and the fabric is tight-knit and holds up well in the water. We experienced no issues with this rash guard during our two months of testing, but we have some concerns. Mostly, it's with the seams. They're wide and reinforced, but also full of crazy loops in all sorts of directions that can be snagged much more easily than the seams of the O'Neill. The O'Neill's seams are much closer to and embedded in the fabric of the shirt than those of the Micros Swell. This is easily seen in the photo below.

The seams of the Patagonia Micro Swell (top) and O'Neill Basic Skins (bottom). The Patagonia's seams are scratchier  easier to catch  and less comfortable to wear.
The seams of the Patagonia Micro Swell (top) and O'Neill Basic Skins (bottom). The Patagonia's seams are scratchier, easier to catch, and less comfortable to wear.

Style


As a rash guard, the style of the Micro Swell is limited. It looks rather out of place in most coffee shops and office buildings. But on a beach, the Micro Swell is quite in its element. It's a tight fitting shirt, leaving little to the imagination in that regard. However, the bold prints are not only fun and (in our opinion) cute, but also help to smooth this tight-fitting shirt into a more pleasing pattern even if you're not feeling like your beach body is everything you want it to be right now. The solid sections on the sides are also fairly flattering, and we think this rash guard has more style than we expect from a purely functional shirt.

This rash guard isn't quite as tight-fitting as the O'Neill  which makes it not as good functionally  but a bit more forgiving to the wearer when it comes to fashion and fit.
This rash guard isn't quite as tight-fitting as the O'Neill, which makes it not as good functionally, but a bit more forgiving to the wearer when it comes to fashion and fit.

Features


Built to be sleek, the Micro Swell is devoid of most features. As previously mentioned it has rash guard-place seams (aka not in the armpits) and a mock neck.

No seams in the armpits is what makes this shirt have "rash guard seams".
No seams in the armpits is what makes this shirt have "rash guard seams".

Best Applications


This sun shirt is a great fit for a day spent playing in the waves or splashing around the beach. It's both functional and stylish and easier than reapplying sunscreen every 90 minutes. If you're looking for a shirt that can handle some more serious water action though - like surfing, kayaking, or big swims - we'd recommend the more functional O'Neill Basic Skins.

The mock neck helps protect at least part of your neck from sun exposure.
The mock neck helps protect at least part of your neck from sun exposure.

Value


With a price of $100 and a very specific intended use, we're not sure the Micro Swell is worth so much. If its water sport coverage and functionality you need, the $34 O'Neill is certainly a better bargain. But if you like to be the loudest dressed woman in the room, this top will help you get there while keeping you protected from the sun.

Conclusion


The Patagonia Micro Swell is a rash guard that's a blend of reasonably functional features and a wild style that you just might love. Though it's not really up for intense water sports, this top adds a level of function to any half beach, half water fun in the sun day.

This isn't our favorite rash guard  but it does a decent job combining function and fashion - as long as you're not really serious about your water sports.
This isn't our favorite rash guard, but it does a decent job combining function and fashion - as long as you're not really serious about your water sports.


Maggie Brandenburg