First take on Patagonia's winter-weight base layer top made from Polartec's Power Dry Hgh Efficiency
New for 2012, Patagonia's Men's Capilene® 4 Expedition Weight Zip-Neck is a full-on winter base layer made from a gridded Polartec fabric called Power Dry Extreme High Efficiency.
It's kind of confusing as Patagonia calls the fabric 'Capilene 4' but it is just their own name for the Polartec fabric.
The fabric's a very stretchy one with micro-gridded inside designed to trap more warm air with minimal bulk and a smooth outer face to allow other clothing to slide easily over it. The stretch comes from the 9% Spandex with the rest being high-wicking Polyester. It also has an anti-odour treatment called Gladiodor® odor control.
Yada, yada, yada... all you really need to know is that this fabric is absolutely brilliant. It's light - the top weighs in at just 174g - it wicks like a thirsty runner in Death Valley, dries just as fast when it does get wet and feels instantly warm and snug against the skin.
Fit And Features
The fit of this Patagonia top is well night perfect too with a decent length and drop-tail meaning it plays nicely with harnesses and legwear, snug cut making for efficient, close fit and lack of bulk and the long zip opening giving effective venting options if you do get a tad warm hammering up the trail.
The seams are flat-locked anyway, to minimise any rubbing, but the shoulder area has been cut so there are no seams sat directly under pack straps. Finally, there are hidden thum-loops, literally simple cord loops, tucked away inside the cuffs, so you can use them if you choose, but if you don't, you won't even know they're there.
Mid Or Base
The other thing we love about this fabric, and others like it - see the Mountain Equipment Eclipse - is that you can wear it either as a really warm, cold conditions base layer or alternatively layer it on top of a thin wicking tee and use it as a lightweight mid layer under a shell if you run on the warm side. Versatility which goes some way to justifying the £85 price tag.
We've used it layered under a slim-cut Haglöfs Endo shell jacket and the snug fit was ideal as was the smooth outer face of the fabric allowing easy movement between the layers and litte restriction.
You will mostly need a shell layer too as the downside of the thin fabric and gridded construction is minimal wind resistance. It means you cool down fast if you do vent, but any sort of breeze will cut straight through the fabric.
The other possible downside of the lightweight material, is that it may not be as tough as some. Our's has a small tear in the shoulder area, which could be down to an unfortunate encounter with toothier creature in the washing machine. We'll be keeping an eye on that one?
Brilliant material in an unfussy but highly effective package from Patagonia. It's not cheap, but it wicks ferociously, dries as you watch and still manages to be surprisingly warm into the bargain. It's versatile too with lightweight mid-layer potential, but like most base layers it has little wind resistance.
The real only question mark against it is that small nick in the fabric, but for now we're going to put that down as unlucky rather than a serious issue. Stonking winter base layer top if you can afford the steepish price.
More information at www.patagonia.com.