Patagonia Micro Swell - Women's Review
Cons: Loose wrists, seams on front of arm not great for paddling, expensive
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Patagonia Micro Swell carries a UPF 50+ rating. It's made of 83% nylon (the print is polyester) and 17% spandex and features rash guard seam placement.
Comfort and Fit
As a rash guard, the 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 other options we tested. Rash guard seam placement moves the scratchy seams out of your armpits and onto the fronts and backs of the arms. Unfortunately, in this case, it actually makes for some uncomfortable paddling as that seam is tragically placed to rub 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 when freestyling. But for casual water use, we think this rash guard is alright.
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", 120-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 arm movements.
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. It is 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 some of the super-thin, hooded models we tested.
As a rash guard, the style of the Micro Swell is limited. It looks decently at home at the beach, but it's doubtful you'll want to wear it to very many other places. The seam placements on the arm also limit its versatility — they are placed out of the armpits for more comfort while moving, but their location is problematic when wearing a life jacket for things like paddling. And paddling is a major draw for water-lovers. We think this rash guard has missed the mark, even within its own limited scope of intended activities.
This top has reinforced seams everywhere, and the fabric is tight-knit and holds up well in the water. We experienced no issues during our two months of testing, but we have some concerns. Mostly, it's with the seams. They're wide and reinforced, but the surging is full of crazy loops in all sorts of directions. These snag much more easily than surges with smaller, more embedded stitches.
Built to be sleek, the Micro Swell is devoid of most features. As previously mentioned, it has rash guard-placed seams (aka not in the armpits) and a mock neck.
With a surprisingly high price tag 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, there are better performing options that are significantly cheaper. But if you like to be the loudest dressed woman on the beach, this top will indeed help you get there while keeping you protected from the sun.
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 day of fun in the sun.
— Maggie Brandenburg