Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight Crew and Tights
Sizes Tested: XL
Reviewer: 6’2”, 160 lbs.
Days Tested: ~50
Locations Tested: Taos Ski Valley, NM; Snowbird, UT; Red Mountain Pass, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Winter Park, Crested Butte, CO
Patagonia has been putting out solid base layers for a very long time, so when they revamped their well known Capilene 4 fabric, we needed to check it out. Turns out, this is a very good update.
Patagonia’s Capilene base layers follow a numerical system, with Cap 1 being the lightest and Cap 4 being the warmest. Cap 4—which is made out of 3.8-oz Polartec Power DryHigh Efficiency fabric—is expedition weight and uses a matrix of heavyweight fleece squares on the inside and face fabric on the outside. Patagonia claims that the new Cap 4 fabric is 2% less warm, but 50% lighter than the old fabric, which you can still find in Patagonia’s line under the name “Piton.”
These grids are designed to provide a balance of breathability, warmth, and sweat management. The heavyweight fleece serves as a reservoir for heat and wicks sweat away from your body, while the gaps between the squares allow for airflow. This technology sounded pretty sensible, but there was really only one way to determine how well it worked. So I put it to the test for about 50 days.
Sizing / Features
I ended up with an XL in both the crew and the tight. This was definitely a baggy fit for me—if I had wanted these base-layers to be skin tight, I would have been better served with the large. That said, the XL seems to fit like other XL base layers I’ve worn.
I should also note that these bottoms have a “functional fly”—I know this is a big deal for some people.
In my opinion, Patagonia hit the mark when redesigning Cap 4: these pieces are more like a true base layer and less like a fleece, and they breathe well while also being pretty warm. Cap 4 is also quite light for the warmth it provides, and it’s extremely packable—it takes up much less space than you’d expect from a base layer this warm.
I wore the Cap 4 base layers in a variety of conditions, from cold powder days at Snowbird to balmy spring touring on Red Mountain Pass in southern Colorado. I found the Cap 4 to be an incredibly versatile fabric—on spring days (45-50 degrees), it’s ideal by itself under lightweight outwear such as the Patagonia PowSlayer Jacket or PowSlayer Bibs, and it also works well as a first layer under a hoody or down jacket on cold days.
Cap 4 fabric isn’t as warm as Under Armour UA Base 3.0 or Patagonia’s R1 (both those products feature grid systems as well, but with much heavier fleece and much smaller gaps), but it is more breathable. It’s also more breathable than the Polarmax Comp 4 Tech Fleece (review to come) and almost as breathable as any standard jersey-fabric base layer I’ve worn.
In temperatures below ~50 degrees F during high-output activities, I found myself turning almost exclusively to these Patagonia Cap 4 base layers. They’re warm enough to keep me happy even in sub-zero temperatures when I’m hiking or skinning, but they’re also breathable enough to keep me from overheating on warmer days.
In the past, I’ve used some heavy fleece base layers on high-output, cold days, and those base layers were a real liability. A day of hiking Taos’s Highline Ridge out past Juarez would result in a cycle of misery; I would sweat a lot during the hike, then freeze while riding the chair back up. When I put Cap 4 to the test touring in Telluride and Red Mountain pass this spring, I found that I was very comfortable on the way down, even though I’d sweated a lot on the way up.
I’ve used the Cap 4 crew and tights pretty heavily for about 50 days, and so far they’ve proven themselves quite durable. I’ve noticed minimal pilling in the face fabric, and the fleece has maintained its weight through several washes.
And I haven’t noticed any sweat-stink issues so far.
The Patagonia Cap 4 Expedition Weight crew and tights are the best heavyweight base layers I have ever worn. The fabric is very comfortable across a pretty wide range of temperatures, and it wicks sweat and breathes very well.