By The Numbers: Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight vs. Patagonia Capilene Midweight Performance Comparison

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable By The Numbers: Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight vs. Patagonia Capilene Midweight Performance Comparison

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    Stephen Seeber
    BPL Member


    Companion forum thread to: By The Numbers: Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight vs. Patagonia Capilene Midweight Performance Comparison

    How does Patagonia Thermal Weight Capilene stack up against Midweight Capilene?

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Thanks for this analysis. I have been using the R.5, Cap4, and Expedition weight since the early 2000s and have thought they were the best option for sub 50F conditions. I would have asserted that they were very good at wicking moisture away from my skin, which your data contradicts.

    I have thought about my experiences, I realize that I am managing activity and insulation to avoid sweating. I am able to do this because the combination the high air permeability of the expedition weight + extra insulation when covered with a shell allows me to be highly active without sweating in cooler conditions. It’s not that the Cap4 was wicking and drying quickly but it enabled me avoid the needing of that action, leaving my base dry at the end of the day.

    The other thing I have noticed is that when I have used a EPIC windshirt + Cap4 in the rain, I was able to manage better than several other base layers, almost as well as a classic pile. That grid pattern which limits wicking away from the body, also limits the amount of saturated fabric that touches the skin keeping me  fairly comfortable.

    Appreciation your investigate of clothing performance using the lab.

    Scott Emmens
    BPL Member


    Another great article Stephen, thanks for your continued work on this subject.

    I am starting to realise that my personal issue is more with effort output rather than garment/fabric issues. I do more running than walking so I am slowly learning to adjust my expectations of remaining comfortable…

    I have been testing various garment and fabrics that are readily available in New Zealand, which is rather different to what is available in the States! My next thing to try is a mesh layer, something like Brynje products, again not readily available in NZ, and nowadays shipping is pretty expensive so these experiments are getting costly!

    I am very much looking forward to the final two articles in this series.

    Thanks, Scott

    Stephen Seeber
    BPL Member


    Hi Mark:

    I don’t think my article contradicts you experience.  I think successful backpackers learn to accommodate the shortcomings in their gear.  In your case, you are varying level of effort, layering and ventilation, all necessary components of operating within the limits of a wicking layer’s ability to wet, transport water and then dry.

    I think your point about pillars or napping on the interior of various base layers, particularly from Polartec are valid.  Since the pillars limit wicking, sweat is given a better opportunity to turn to vapor on the skin and then escape through subsequent layers.  Of course, if you sweat too much, liquid sweat can still saturate the base layer fabric due to diffusion.  Also, if your layers provide inadequate vapor transfer,  all that sweat vapor may simply condense wherever dew point is encountered.

    No base layer system can completely eliminate the need for these accommodations.  However, based on the things I have learned and described in this series of articles, I hope to present a system that provides far less reliance on accommodations.

    Thanks for reading and providing your comments.

    Stephen Seeber
    BPL Member


    Hi Scott:

    Level of effort matters greatly.  If you are working at a high level, than the shortcomings of typical base layers are more likely to be revealed.  Please let us know how the Brynje fishnet works out.

    BPL Member


    Nice article Stephen!

    FWIW, I’m a heavy sweater that runs warm and I’ve had great luck with the thermal weight capilene for winter hiking in Ohio. I usually wear it by itself, or over a mesh undershirt, or with a thin shell (all depending on how cold/windy). So it’s usually functioning more for warmth than wicking, and relying on its air permeability (and zipper) to control temperature and minimize sweating.

    I think for me and my winter conditions it just happens to strike a good balance. As you point out, there are certainly other options that are more efficient on a weight/warmth scale, but they’re typically too warm for me.

    I did try the midweight a few years ago. The balance was a bit off for me, so I sold it. But anecdotally my experience lines up with your test results – it wasn’t as warm and didn’t breathe as well, and ultimately seemed a bit clammier. But I’m sure for some folks it works great.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Thanks for this well documented report. I have wondered about the actual differences between these two Patagucci tops.

    I like KUIU’s Pro Merino (53% Merino wool, 38% polyester, 9% nylon). It is expensive but worth the money.

    It absolutely is the warmest fabric for the weight I have worn and is equivalent to the Patagonia Thermal weight in warmth but is a little lighter in weight.

    KUIU has some of the most innovative and high quality outdoor clothing on the market today. Almost all their clothes are now available in plain colors as well as their very effective proprietary camo patterns. A lot of their clothing uses Toray Industries technology. Toray is a top quality Japanese company that has been in business of outdoor fabrics for many decades.

    Scott Emmens
    BPL Member


    Hi Stephen, the Brynje is currently in transit. We have another bunch of bad weather forecast for next week, I have my fingers crossed it arrives in time for!

    I did a run on a very wet rain and 99% humidity), cool (3°c) and windy evening last week wearing my Finetrack Elemental layer and my Macpac Nitro Alpha top and remained quite comfortable, but wet through from the rain. I then wore the same top layers on a 0°c dry morning run a couple of days later and it was perfect. When I arrived at work my torso was damp in spots but certainly not wet.

    I’m am growing more enthusiastic about the Finetrack layer everytime I use it! It works very well with a 125gsm NuYarn Merino top over it in cold blustery conditions.

    Aimee M


    I use my Patagonia Thermal weight base layers (zip hoodie  and bottoms) exclusively for a sleeping layer while backpacking. Not found anything as warm for the weight. I am always grateful for the hood in the middle of the night or when the weather changes on a 7 day trip to the Gros Ventre, for example, from which I just returned.

    unfortunately, I will never be able to replace it when it wears out because they stopped making the hoodie – at least for women.


    BPL Member


    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    Great article, as always.  I clearly need to dive a bit deeper when next I replace a base layer; seems that – yet again – I’m doing it all wrong.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    yeah, another great article

    “The Micro Puff is 250% more efficient for warmth than the Capilene Thermal Weight and 500% more efficient for warmth than the Capilene Midweight. As I have written, a base layer is not a great way to add warmth.”

    Choosing a base layer based on it’s warmth is not a useful selection criteria, they’re all about the same, very little warmth

    Plus, as worn, there are air layers between base layer and mid layer/skin, and this is about the same regardless of which base layer you wear

    Mina Loomis
    BPL Member


    Locale: Central Texas

    “… a base layer is not a great way to add warmth.”

    I am not skilled at the technical measurements.  In actual use on backpacking trips and in daily life, I find that a thin layer (wool, synthetic, blend, doesn’t matter) right next to my skin (not tight, I don’t do tight) adds much more *perception* of warmth, for me, than a thicker layer farther out, for example a thicker puffy.  It seems to have something to do with the thin next-to-skin layer removing a feeling of draftiness?  I don’t tend to generate much sweat unless it’s really hot, ie outside of any conceivable base-layer or puffy conditions.  So not worried about wicking-type considerations.  Just warmth.  Also I am a person who chills easily and can be found wearing insulation when many of you would not be.  And I live in Texas so don’t get much practice at cold.


    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    the thin next-to-skin layer removing a feeling of draftiness?

    Marlo S
    BPL Member


    Hello stephen Seeber,

    I love your articles! Especially the “by the number’s” series’s… the technical/scientific detail in them is unsurpassed! Please keep going

    Do you know how Patagonia’s Capilene air fabric perform side by side to the mid or thermal weight? was wondering why it’s not listed in this comparison?


    Stephen Seeber
    BPL Member


    Hi Marlo:

    Thank you for the kind words.

    I agree the Air would be interesting to test.  I will try to get my hands on one of these and conduct at least a partial analysis.  I am curious how Patagonia’s fluffing of the wool might impact warmth/weight performance.  I suspect this if a very loosely knit fabric so air permeability should be high.

    My next article compares performance of merino wool, alpaca and polyester for base layer use.  There are some blends included in the analysis.  The use of a merino/poly blend will impact wicking performance.  It will not impact  drying rate.  It will not impact warmth or warmth/weight.  It can impact cost of the fabric  and the finished garment.  It can impact durability of the fabric.  It can support product marketing goals.  The next article will explain why I make these statements.

    Marlo S
    BPL Member


    Yeah the capilene air is a loose Knit… I’ve got my hands on a capilene air crew and it’s the best baseleyer I’ve seen so far

    the air permeability is great and when used with a windbreaker or other layers it’s surprisingly warm! but I would love to see a comparison to other baselayer fabrics!

    definitely looking forward to that article you mentioned :D

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