Review: Patagonia’s Capilene 3 Hits the Appalachian Trail With Aaron

In the past, Patagonia’s Capilene base layers have proven themselves worthy time and again. That being said, when I was given the opportunity to try out this year’s edition, I jumped on it.

I set off on the Appalachian Trail with the Capilene 3, an updated version of the previous top I’ve used in the past.  At first glance, I noticed the cut of the garment was much different. The torso was slightly shorter and the newly lowered sleeves were much roomier. For my purposes, this was a blessing because I was going to be wearing it as a standalone piece. These changes made it wear more like a normal long sleeve T-shirt. But for those of you that may want to wear this under a mid layer, these characteristics make it a more difficult.

Another change from my previous Capilene top was the use of Polartec fabric. This made a noticeable improvement in the weight and compressibility of the piece. Another brilliant aspect of this piece was the fact that it can work double duty. The outer surface of the fabric is smooth and looking even further, it has a dimpled pattern on the inside. I found that, as I expected, it kept me toasty and warm even in the cooler temperatures by using those tiny dimples to trap warm air against my body.

Now for the really cool part: flip it inside out and that smooth surface grabs all the sweat off your body. It also wicks it to the dimpled side (outside) where it has more surface area to evaporate. The result is a shirt that dries faster when you start sweating and helps to cool you down. Patagonia also used a printed on label and flat stitch seams throughout, so it looks the same inside and out. Whether or not they did this purposely, I don’t know, but they’re smart for doing it, period.

The Capilene 3 is not, however, without its drawbacks. The simple problem of being a synthetic (polyester based) fabric means one thing: it stinks. Odor has always been a problem that plagues synthetic base layers. Even though Patagonia buys some wear time with their Gladiodor fabric treatment, it’s no match for this smelly hiker. Presently, the golden standard is Merino wool and Gladiodor doesn’t even come close. This is suffice to say, it won’t smell any worse than your gym clothes after one use, but I just don’t get to wash things after every time.

Now that the sun is setting a little sooner and temperatures are dropping slowly, I’ll still find myself reaching for the Capilene 3. At day’s end, it’s more about function for me; not the smell. Currently, the Capilene 3 is the only piece of clothing that’s traveled every mile of the Appalachian Trail with me.


  • Capilene 3 mid weight fabric has a durable, stretchy, double-weave construction
  • Durable smooth jersey face slides easily beneath layers
  • Brushed for warmth, softness and compressibility
  • Zip-neck for easy climate control is backed by kissing welts for low-bulk comfort next-to-skin
  • Raglan sleeves and underarm panels placed strategically to provide full range of motion and comfort under layers
  • Straight hem; cut long enough to tuck in
  • Solids: Polartec Power Dry 5.4-oz polyester (65% recycled) double knit; Heathers: Polartec Power Dry 5.4-oz polyester (51% recycled) double knit. Both with Gladiodor odor control for the garment. Recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program
  • 260 g (9.2 oz)
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