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Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Zip-Neck

rated 3 of 5 stars
photo: Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Zip-Neck base layer top

Lightweight base layer that works in a wide range of temperature and weather conditions. Outstanding at wicking moisture. Extremely air-permeable worn alone, quite a bit warmer under a shell. Not as warm as previous "expedition weight" Capilene, but it wicks better and dries faster. Relatively slender fit is also unlike previous versions.


  • Wicking moisture
  • Versatility
  • Well made
  • Surprising warmth under a shell


  • Cost
  • Fit for some body types

This is the warmest of Patagonia's fully synthetic Capilene base layers, the thermal weight zip neck has evolved into something more of an all-purpose shirt than earlier "expedition weight" Capilene base layers. Older versions of what Patagonia offered as its warmest base layer have varied over time; I have a several years-old expedition weight zip neck Capilene shirt that is, in reality, what Polartec called "Power Stretch" fleece. If you crave that heavier-weight fleece, Patagonia still offers a newer version of it as their Crosstrek fleece—I reviewed the Crosstrek Bottoms a while back.

This shirt feels very lightweight, quite stretchy, and has a pretty close fit—classic base layer fit, really. The outer surface is smooth, the inner surface is grid-like—hard to describe, but the photos give a good idea.  

The design is very basic.  No pockets, a fairly long zip-neck, extremely light loop for hanging it up (you'll find the skinny cord loops on most Patagonia shirts these days), and thumb loops, which I think are particularly useful when pulling layers on over a base layer.  

This shows the shirt zipped all the way up. It's a size XL—I'm fit, but by no means thin. It runs pretty true to size. Note, this was taken after a moderately taxing six-mile hike in cool (high 40s) and breezy weather. The shirt was already mostly dry within a half hour.  
20181223_124017.jpgthumb loop photo above

FIT is semi-athletic, not a shirt one would normally wear out on the town. The fabric has a lot of give. Because the zip neck is so long, it can vent quite a bit of heat and moisture if needed. Sleeves are average to a tad long; hem is on the longer side, tucks in well if you want. Very stretchy, places little to no limits on your range of motion. The fabric is reasonably soft, enough that I don't feel the need to wear anything underneath. On a few cold days, I wore a merino t-shirt underneath.  

VENTILATION was clearly a priority with this shirt. Don't let the smooth outer face fool you. If it's cold and windy and you're wearing this alone, the wind will cut right through....fine if you're doing a very taxing hike, but otherwise, you'll be layering this with something else. The flip side of that equation is that for a shirt that supplies decent warmth layered under a shell, it does better transporting sweat away from my skin than almost anything else I have (note, Patagonia's Capilene Air fabric is very different from this in some respects but similar in its relatively loose weave and lack of wind proof qualities).

This isn't a super-slippery layer. Under a shell, no issues, but if you're pulling on a fleece over it, you'll be thankful for those thumb loops. Otherwise, pulling on a fleece with sleeves that aren't oversize, you'll pull the cuff of this shirt up, which is annoying.  

WARMTH depends on what you're used to and looking for. This isn't as warm as the Power Stretch fleece Patagonia once used for its expedition Capilene tops or the Crosstrek tops Patagonia offers now. Under another fleece layer or Patagonia's NanoAir and under a shell, it's a great choice for a hard hike or nordic ski in the winter. It's also not as warm as Patagonia's wool/capilene blend fabric, Capilene Air (which I'm going to review soon too).  

ODOR hasn't been an issue, but the shirt is about 18 months old. Synthetics have gotten better at fighting the traditional stinkiness, and I have learned that running smelly base layers in hot water, extra rinse, with a little bit of extra into the laundry (borax, color-fast bleach) does a nice job on odor. I never run this all the way through the dryer—I give everything about 10-12 minutes, then hang garments like this to dry the rest of the way.  

DURABILITY hasn't been an issue either, but I think this fabric has some increased risk of snags than the thicker Power Stretch fabric on the Crosstrek shirts and pants. The photos show pretty well that this hasn't pilled.  

TESTING CONDITIONS have consisted of many hikes, walks, bike rides, and stand-still sporting events over the past 18 months. Whereas I'll sometimes reach for a wool base layer in colder weather, this is the one I grab if I expect a hard hike and more sweat—and I really like this under other layers when I'm lugging a backpack in the snow for the same reasons. It's also a layer I like a lot on rainy days under a shell because it performs so well when it's wet.   

COST is a Patagonia downfall. $99 bucks full retail for this shirt is quite a lot of money. I pay Patagonia for layers like this because they function well, last for several years (usually), and benefit from a lifetime guarantee that Patagonia actually honors.  


Because I was replacing/updating a pretty worn heavy base layer from Patagonia, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting. However, I like the way this has been updated to favor moisture-transport and breathability. Also, as I now live in the Mid-Atlantic instead of the Northeast, the weight of this makes more sense for me. Look at the Crosstrek if you need more warmth and worry less about getting the sweat out.  


I have used this a lot for hiking, walking, and cycling over the past 18 months.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $89

Uncomfortable fabric, poor fit. Worst Patagonia purchase in 35 years.


  • It came in the right color and arm and torso length are good.


  • Fabric, fit, match to what I searched all suck.

Worst Patagonia item I have ever purchased. Fabric is uncomfortable on the skin. This weight is what came up when I wanted to replace my expedition weight zip top.

Ridiculous. This is flimsy, textured on the inner surface. Shoulder area and neck fit is loose and loaded with excess fabric. If I could give it a negative star rating, I would. 



Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $90

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