Like most outdoor enthusiasts, I own a lot of baselayers. It seems to be something you collect over the years and are slightly loathed to get rid of. I’ve got silkweight, merino, Lifa, Powerstretch, R1 amongst others and now a Cap 4 Expedition Weight Zip Neck from Patagonia.
Value for money: ****
Patagonia say that:
Our warmest and most breathable synthetic baselayer keeps you dry and comfortable in cold conditions.
When a foot-wide ledge becomes your bed for the night, this compressible zip-neck helps turn up the heat. The warmest and most breathable baselayer in the Capilene® family, Capilene 4 keeps you dry and comfortable in cold conditions and through long nights. It has a soft, stretchy feel, with a smooth jersey face that glides beneath layers. Its open grid brushed fleece interior warms your core, wicks moisture and rests smoothly against the skin. Details include articulated, raglan sleeves for complete shoulder mobility, hidden thumb loops to ensure wrist coverage and an elongated zipper for efficient venting. The baseball-style hem stays put under a harness. Made of 3.8-oz proprietary performance Polartec® Power Dry® High Efficiency™ fabric that has Gladiodor® odor control for the garment.
Firstly the Cap 4 Zip Neck is not a lightweight baselayer and as Patagonia talk about cold conditions, that’s when I’ve been testing it. I’ve worn the Cap 4 all winter (not without washing it though!) for a number of different activities. Trail running, ski touring, hiking, mixed climbing, ice falls, and mountaineering…the Cap 4 has done it all! On a day out winter climbing you may have a high output approach where you are going to sweat! Similar for things like ski touring and when you are ice and mixed climbing, you may be working hard whilst leading a pitch but then stood still belaying for an hour (or maybe more). If you are soaked to the skin in sweat when you stop, then you are inevitably going to get cold more quickly during periods of inactivity. I read a quote recently (unfortunately I can’t find it again!) that said ‘if you don’t want to get cold then don’t get hot’ and I think there is a lot in this. On long sweaty approaches I like to set off cold and wear minimal clothing so that I can regulate my body temperature and not overheat. Similarly when climbing, I wear the bare minimum to protect myself, then layer up over the top of this when I stop.
So, how is all this relevant to the Cap 4 baselayer you might ask? Well, if you have a decent baselayer, that breathes effectively and wicks moisture (sweat) away from your skin, then there will be less moisture on the skin and in your clothes when you stop. Remember that this moisture is the stuff that then rapidly cools down and cools you down. That’s what it’s designed to do! Sweating is your body’s natural cooling process.
In terms of breathability I have been mightily impressed with the Cap 4. This winter when I have been moving quick on approaches or out running I have layered nothing more than a light shell over it if it has been windy. It has been warm yet wicked moisture away from my body at a very quick rate. The fabric is also very quick drying and I think that this is down to the grid patterning of the interior, which gives a greater surface area, spreading the moisture out so it can evaporate more readily. In short, this baselayer breathes well and dries fast, coping very well with the changing outputs that a day in the mountains can demand.
I really like the 3.8-oz Polartec® Power Dry® High Efficiency™ fabric. It is super comfortable when worn next to the skin, being soft and stretchy but also allows layers to move freely over the top of it. The cut of the garment is excellent with the baseball style hem giving extra length and coverage so there is a bit of overlap between that and your lower half, something which could cause you to have a cold spot. The arms are well cut and sufficient length is built in to ensure that the sleeves do not ride up when you are climbing.
I particularly like the subtle addition of thumb loops. These are discreet enough to not get in the way when you’re not using them but simple and effective to deploy when you are. These are a great feature for a winter baselayer as they ensure your wrists stay covered and warm, even when you are wearing non-gauntlet style gloves.
Other things I like about the Capilene 4 Expedition Weight Zip Neck Baselayer are the zip, which is smooth to operate even when wearing gloves and also deep enough to ventilate on those days when things are warmer than you anticipated. Also, even after multiple days of use I have found that the Cap 4 doesn’t smell too bad (my climbing partners may disagree!) and I can only presume that this is down to the Gladiodor® odor control.
To conclude, I would say that this is now my favourite winter baselayer! I love the cut, fabric and the discreet thumb loops. The only thing that would make it better for winter use for me, would be if it had a hood! Oh wait…Patagonia have read my mind and a hooded version was available for the winter season. Good job!
- Find out more about the Men’s Capilene 4 Expedition Weight Zip Neck Baselayer and buy it from the Patagonia website.