Toughest Gear: Patagonia Capilene Baselayer

25 years later, this Patagonia model is still the baselayer to beat.


In the mid-80s, Patagonia stitched a handful of half-and-half shirts for a few outdoor writers. The challenge: compare the company’s new baselayer fabric with the reigning polypro. Rocky Mountain editor Steve Howe (testing since ’91) got the sample at left while working for a regional outdoor magazine, and he recalls how quickly the writers realized that Capilene was a huge leap forward in softness, durability, and stink-resistance.

“People who complain about baselayer odor now have no idea,” he says. “In those days, you couldn’t get the smell out of polypro even if you soaked it in baking soda.” We gave Capilene an Editors’ Choice Gold award in 2004 and love the snagproof, pillproof toughness so much that it’s the baselayer we buy for our kids—then hand down to their friends. $34 and up; patagonia.com