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Patagonia Micro Swell - Women's Review

A stylish top for a casual beach day with rash guard seam placements
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Price:  $99 List | $99.00 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Cute prints, good coverage, rash guard seam placement
Cons:  Loose wrists, seams on front of arm not great for paddling, expensive
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 28, 2020
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43
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 14
  • Comfort and Fit - 30% 4
  • Sun Protection - 25% 6
  • Breathability - 20% 3
  • Versatility - 15% 3
  • Durability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Patagonia Micro Swell is a rash guard that's cute but not as functional as we'd like it to be. Its tight fit, higher neckline, and seam placement that's not in the armpit all work in its favor. We also like the several options of bold prints in a flattering pattern. However, the wrists are a bit too loose for comfortable swimming, and the seams on the fronts of the arms rub against the edge of a life jacket when paddling. This sun shirt is a great fit for a day spent playing in the waves or splashing around the beach. If you want to spend all day swimming, you'll probably want a different rash guard, but if you're more of a beach bum and value fashion over function, this might be the right choice for you.

Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


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

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.

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", 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.

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. 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.

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

Versatility


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

Durability


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.

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.

Features


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.

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".

Value


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 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.

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 day of fun in the sun.

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