Review: Patagonia Capilene Lightweight T-shirt

I’ve found a new favorite travel t-shirt, and I’m so excited to be reviewing this as it’s been at least 5 years since I’ve been this happy with a shirt. [Along with today’s article, I’ve also updated my post discussing my favorite travel shirts.  You can read it at this link.]

Before the review, let me tell you how I found this marvelous piece of garment.  Although Columbia Titanium tees used to be my go-to travel top, my recent experiences with Columbia’s quick dry t-shirts have been disappointing.  It seems they took a product that was great a few years ago and turned it into a cheaper, crappier version that is not nearly as nice.

Since I recently had to retire a 7 year old travel shirt that went with me everywhere and the above two Columbia tops turned out to be duds, I took a field trip to my local outdoor-themed clothing store and looked through everything they had.  And I found an absolute gem of a shirt that they happened to have in my size:  the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight T-shirt.

Patagonia Capilene Lightweight T-shirt. The current 2017 model.
The various tags that came along with the shirt.

This is one of Patagonia’s high end performance shirts that is good not only for travel purposes, but also for any sort of outdoor activity where hot weather and a lot of sweating is involved.  There exists both a men’s version and a women’s version.  Other than how they look, they’re pretty much the same shirt, but the one I am reviewing today is the men’s model.

Since I bought this shirt earlier this summer, I’ve worn it everywhere.  Weekend road trips, walking around town, hiking through brush, trail running up and down the hilly Tennessee mountains; you name it.  Any time I get a new shirt, I like to wear it frequently and in several different situations to see how it holds up.  And so far from my experience, this shirt seems like it’s the real deal.

The very first thing I noticed about this shirt was how light it was.  I’ve never owned a shirt this light before.  A size small weighs in at 2.5 ounces.

Patagonia shirt: 2.5 ounces, or 71 grams for all non-Americans.

In comparison, one of my standard cotton t-shirts that I wear around the house weighs in at a much more hefty 5.5 ounces.

Regular cotton tee. 5.5 ounces, or 156 grams.

This shirt weighs less than half a standard cotton t-shirt.  It barely feels like you’re wearing anything at all, yet it still feels well-made, and it’s not see-through so no worries about random people trying to sneak a peek at my nips.  Being the curious guy that I am, I also weighed my older Columbia Titanium t-shirt, and that comes in at 5.6 ounces; so pretty similar to the cotton tee.

Since at any given time on my travels I have a maximum of 3 shirts in my backpack [here’s my packing list if you’re unfamiliar], this means that all 3 shirts weigh a grand total of 7.5 ounces, which is just a bit more than a single cotton t-shirt.  I think that’s pretty awesome.

How does it fit?  Here’s a picture of me wearing the shirt:

Lite Adventurer modeling the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight T-shirt.

I have difficulty finding shirts that fit me well because they’re often too big around the torso.  Lite Adventurer is not a big dude — I’m a compact 5 foot 5 inches tall and weigh 130 pounds, so the Small size in many brands is oftentimes still too big on me.  This shirt, however, is perfect for my frame, and since it’s slimmer around the waist than most brands, I don’t look like I’m walking around wearing a potato sack.

Other than the fit, the feature of this shirt I appreciate the most is how fast it dries.  At home, I take it out of the washing machine, hang it up in my bathroom, and it’s completely dry within an hour.  I also ran a test where I hand washed it in the sink, did the towel drying trick, and hung it up to determine the drying time.  Result:  2 hours and 15 minutes.  Most of the shirt was dry after 90 minutes, and it took another 45 for the sleeves and armpit areas to catch up.  Now, this will of course vary depending on your local climate, but given that I live in the relatively humid south, it’s very impressive.

Drying experiment after a hand wash.

For new readers not familiar with my earlier posts discussing quick dry clothes, the reason why drying time is so crucial for me is that I don’t travel with many pieces of clothing — stuff gets washed every single evening before I pass out for the night.  This is how I’m able to travel for extended periods of time with a single backpack.  However, if clothes are still wet in the morning when it’s time to pack up and go, this travel system will not work.  And that reason is why this product is such an exciting find for me; I’ve never before had a shirt that dries so absurdly quickly.

The Patagonia Capilene Lightweight shirt is made of a proprietary material called Capilene.  It’s essentially Patagonia’s version of premium polyester.  In my own wear, I’ve found it to feel good on the skin without any of the itching and irritation that is associated with standard, cheapo polyester.  The shirt retails for $39 — which in my opinion is underpriced for the quality you get — and occasionally you can find it on sale for half that price.

The one thing I cannot yet comment on is longevity.  My old discontinued Columbia shirts that I bought around 2010 were ridiculously durable, and one of them is still going strong after 7 years of regular wear.  I’m hoping it will be the same with this shirt, but that remains to be seen.

Lite Adventurer’s rating:  ***** (five stars out of five)

It’s rare that I find a piece of clothing I’m so satisfied with, and this is definitely one of them.  Fits well, great quality, weighs almost nothing, and dries insanely fast.  It’s everything I look for in a travel shirt.  My highest recommendation.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Patagonia Capilene Lightweight T-shirt

  1. Is this a Jersey style shirt?
    As in, it has all those tiny holes throughout the material? The jersey type always seem to start “fuzzing” not long after purchase.

    I have a Columbia Mountain tech 2 shirt I found at the thrift store. I was obviously dissapointed when I found out they were no longer available for purchase and the market was mostly full of junk.

    Have you found anything else remotely comparable to mountain tech that isn’t “jersey” type material?

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    1. It is not a jersey style shirt, so no holes or anything weird. I’ve had the Patagonia shirts now for about a year, and they’ve held up well without any signs of pilling. For regular travel purposes, these have been awesome and have replaced my Mountain Techs since the thin Capilene material dries so quickly. However, one of the drawbacks is that they don’t feel quite as soft as the old Columbias. For regular activities I don’t notice this at all, but I go trail running a few times a week, and I definitely feel a difference with all the movement and sweating and prefer the softer Mountain Tech shirts for strenuous exercise.
      Give the Lightweight Capilene a try (make sure it’s the lightweight and not the regular version; big weight difference). I’ve bought many different shirts over the last few years in search of something as good as the Columbia Mountain Techs of the early 2010s, and this is the only one that I’ve been happy with.

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      1. Thanks I’ll try it out.
        The closest I’ve been able to find at least in terms of quality is some of my wife’s Oiselle shirts, which unfortunately are cut for women and not 100% polyester.

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