The baselayer is made from Polartec's Power Dry material, with its raised 'touch points'

The baselayer is made from Polartec's Power Dry material, with its raised 'touch points'

On test: Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight Bottoms
Price: £70
Weight: 153g men’s; 130g women’s
Fabric: Polartec Power Dry High Efficiency, 91 per cent polyester; nine per cent Spandex
Colours: Forge Grey or Black (men’s), Nickel/Grey or Black (women’s)
Sizes: XS to XL
Country of manufacture: Colombia

We’ve had these baselayer bottoms for a couple of months but only now, with the onset of cold conditions, are we able to put them to the test properly.

Patagonia, the company renowned for its ethical approach to outdoor gear, produces these bottoms, or tights or longjohns if you’re this side of the Atlantic, in Colombia ‘of US materials’.

Those materials are Polartec’s brand new Power Dry High Efficiency, which it claims is ‘Designed to keep your skin dry when you sweat’.

Polartec said: “All fabrics in this series feature a bi-component knit construction that uses different yarns on either side of the fabric.

“This creates two different surfaces: one that is optimized to move moisture away from the skin, the other to dry quickly. They weigh less, take up less pack space and deliver more insulation and breathability than most fabrics in their class.”

The outer face of the material has a smooth jersey face for easy layering, but it’s the inner surface that looks and acts differently.

The Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight Bottoms

The Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Weight Bottoms

Hold the garment up to the light and you’ll see it’s made of a fine mesh with thousands of small double rectangles standing proud. This construction, according to Polartec, offers superior performance when working hard on the hills.

The company said: “Moisture and high relative humidity next to the skin cause discomfort. Polartec Power Dry keeps the skin dry through three complementary mechanisms:”

  • The fabric is highly breathable and does not restrict the movement of moisture vapour
  • Touch points on the fabric inner surface draw moisture. Sweat is wicked off the skin to the outside of the fabric where it spreads rapidly for evaporation. Polartec Power Dry fabrics move at least 30 per cent more moisture away from the skin than single-component fabrics
  • When the sweat reaches the outside of the fabric, it spreads out on the outer surface of the fabric, enabling it to dry at least two times faster than cotton.

The Patagonia Capilene 4 Bottoms also feature Gladiodor odour control and 30 per cent of the polyester content is recycled.

So how do these bottoms perform?

On hard hillwalking outings in both cool, dry conditions and more typical British deluges, the bottoms kept me warm but dry. To be honest, it’s easy to forget you have them on, which for baselayer leggings, that’s the best result.

The last thing you want is that clingy, clammy feel with the constant need to tug them up after a climb.

Polartec's explanation of how Power Dry works

Polartec's explanation of how Power Dry works

I wore them under my standard hillwalking trousers and there was no sense of cooling from quite strong, cool winds. At the end of uphill extended stretches the legs were dry too.

In use, the Patagonia Capilene 4 Bottom hugs the legs and lower body, providing a nice, snug fit without impeding movement.

The ankle cuffs are double thickness too which, with their Spandex stretchiness, hold them in place without riding up.

The bottoms also have a functional fly and are gusseted at the crotch, to aid mobility.

The women’s version has a deeper waistband and no fly.

The garment is machine washable and can be tumble dried on a low setting.

The anti-odour properties of the bottoms were also noticeable, with considerably less pong evident than with we would expect from a conventional pair of baselayer tights.

The outer layer of the bottoms is smooth

The outer layer of the bottoms is smooth

The Patagonia Capilene 4 Bottom is not a cheap garment, but for anyone who wants to stay dry in cold conditions when pushing things hard, it could well be a worthwhile investment. Its wicking of sweat was better than anything we’ve worn.

Expect Polartec Power Dry High Efficiency to appear in an increasing number of outdoor baselayers in the future.

More details are on the Polartec and Patagonia websites.

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