Keeping Warm on the Water: Patagonia’s Proven Capilene Layering System

Dave McCoy, all “Capped out” and taking one final measure for warmth, on a cold December float down the Skagit River.

I know it’s mid-May and everyone thinks we’ve turned the corner and that summer and a seemingly endless supply of 80-degree days is just about on us, but the truth is we are going to get some late spring dousings that will chill us to the core, if we’re not prepared.

That happened a couple years ago, in late May, when two of my buds and I rolled to the Big Hole and ended up driving through eight inches of snow on the pass between Anaconda and Wisdom. What do you do? You fish anyway. We did. Launched the boat and threw streamers all day. And one of my buds almost froze to death. He got real quiet because he wasn’t dressed right. We dug through our bags and found stocking hats and, best of all, Patagonia Capaline insulation for him to put on. He may not have called it his favorite trip of all time, but he lived.

Layers are the key to staying warm in the shoulder seasons. Hey, they’re the key to staying warm any season. Ever wish you’d layered on that hot summer morning, only to find the temperature dropping thirty degrees in the afternoon when a thunderhead delivers two inches of hail? In this shot I’m all layered up in Patagonia’s Cap 1 and Cap 3 base layers, the top layers covered by my old reliable PG down jacket. I may look like the doughboy but I’m warm. And I’ll take warm along with the smart ass comments over cold and off the water any day.

Had to do the same the year prior when we launched a couple boats on Rock Creek and one of our friends decided he would send us wader-clad softies a message and wet wade for the rest of the season . . . beginning that day. Chastised us, in fact, for wearing waders. We were not hard core, he claimed. But when we pulled off the river for lunch I could see his leg bouncing, hypothermia setting in, the product of it having had rained all day, with temperatures in the low forties. Again, we went through our gear, found the extra Capilene and he was saved, I tell you.

Nanno Air and a Manitoba moose head on my back. Full warmth in the Canadian backcountry.

In addition, I took three different layers of Patagonia’s Capilene base layer system to northern Manitoba last September, and if you think I was overdressed for that time of year, you’d be wrong. Northern Manitoba in September is on the cusp of winter. In fact, the area I visited, Egonolf Lake and Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge, rests just south of the tundra, just outside polar bear and musk ox range. To say I was pushing the limits of the fishing season would be an understatement. I still caught a lot of big pike and some nice lake trout off of mid-water shoals, but we had to slam through big waves and brave an incessant wind to do so. Dressing properly was the key to being able to spend enough time on the water to locate fish.

In addition, I had tagged a moose hunt onto my fishing trip and each day we would rise early and cruise the lake, looking for these beasts along the shoreline. We never did see one on shore, but I did spot a cow on a ridge from the boat one time. After that, we’d hike into the low hills and call from likely looking spots, and after a couple days doing so, we got a response. Two days later we put one on the forest floor.

There was only one time during the entire trip that I actually felt cold, despite the weather, and that was only after I sat almost motionless, for four hours, on a cold boulder, while a moose bellowed from the forest. Couldn’t move. Didn’t want to spook him. Finally started shivering.

I know this, I couldn’t have lasted without quality clothing, including a tandem of Patagonia’s Capilene 1 “silk weight” with Capilene 3 on my lower body, covered with high quality hunting pants. When I rode in the boat, and endured the wind, I put rain pants over those to keep the wind off. I had the same setup on my upper body, with a Patagonia Nanno-Air jacket, which is highly breathable and super stretchy for comfort, worn over that. On the coldest mornings and often while fishing or sitting in the forest waiting for a moose, I covered that with a with a 10-to 15 year old Patagonia down jacket—a jacket that’s seen rough use in multiple explorations through Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Montana, Idaho, eastern Canada, the Yukon Territory, and even Russia.  It’s a bit beat up, but not even ripped, and it keeps me warm any day of the year.

Over the years, I’ve used that system everywhere and it performs great. Even when your waist deep in a winter steelhead stream for 10 hours a day. Nobody can say you’re going to be warm every  moment in the outdoors, but these “long underwear” give you the best chance you have to stay warm and dry while hunting and fishing around the world. That’s my take. Here’s some dirt, and a video, from the manufacturer:

Capilene® synthetic baselayers wick moisture away from your skin, breathe efficiently and dry fast to provide the foundation for any layering system for any pursuit. Collaborating with our ambassadors and field testers, we continually work to improve our Capilene fabrics and their construction. All Capilene fabrics have an updated and consistent fit in each fabric weight; and use Polygiene® technology to control odor in the garment. They are the best baselayer option for high-sweat activities and wet conditions.

Made from moisture-wicking polyester, Capilene fabrics keep you warm even when wet, dry quickly, and manage your moisture, whether you’re breaking trail on a steep skin path or belaying on an alpine route. Designed for fast-forward, aerobic activities, they’re quick to wick and quick to dry. Capilene polyester is made from recycled polyester (35% recycled content or more) and is also machine washable.

We make four Capilene fabrics for different levels of exertion and temperatures.

Capilene® 1 Silkweight is our stretchiest Capilene performance baselayer fabric for breathability and ultra-fast dry times. Worn alone, it provides 50+ UPF sun protection and a cool, drying airflow. Paired with another layer, it wicks moisture and adds warmth when temperatures drop.

Capilene® 2 Lightweight is our fastest drying Capilene performance baselayer fabric. A great weight for aerobic use in mild to cool conditions, its open-knit construction breathes and wicks moisture. Capilene 2 provides 20-UPF sun protection when worn alone and insulates in cool to cold conditions beneath layers.

Capilene® 3 Midweight is the most versatile of our Capilene performance fabrics. Soft and compressible, Capilene 3 Midweight baselayers stretch, dry quickly, resist wear and provide excellent insulation and next-to-skin comfort. Midweight is a versatile, do it all baselayer for active use in cool to cold conditions.

Capilene® 4 Expedition Weight is the warmest and most breathable of our Capilene performance fabrics. It’s made to keep you dry and comfortable in cool-to-cold conditions. Soft, stretchy and compressible, it has a smooth face that glides beneath layers and a brushed fleece interior to warm your core, wick moisture and feel smooth against your skin.

All of our Capilene performance fabrics incorporate Polygiene® technology to control odor.

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