Two shirts, two shorts, six weeks. Still going strong…
Cristi and I have been on the road full time about six weeks. For nearly every day of that time I’ve been wearing Patagonia Baggies and a Capilene Cool T-Shirt. Time for a gear review.
I got my first pair of Baggies sometime back in the early 1990’s shortly after Life Tools became a Patagonia dealer. The baggies replaced an old pair of Sierra Designs shorts that I had more-or-less worn out. They ticked all the boxes for a pair of lightweight summer shorts: a couple pockets up front with mesh drains, a snap pocket back, elastic waist with drawcord and mesh brief liner. I wore those shorts out, bought another pair, loaned them out, lost them and was Baggie-less for a few years. I’m now back in the Baggies game with a couple pair that I picked up over the past couple years.
My new Baggies are much the same as the originals, with a couple significant changes. First, they’re no longer made with cotton. When Patagonia made the switch to organic cotton fifteen or so years ago they determined that the cotton content in Baggies would drive the price up too much, so they switched to full synthetic fabric. Today, Baggies are made from recycled nylon.
The other big change is the inseam. My old Baggies were short. My new Baggies Longs have a 7-inch inseam.
Truth be told, I have three pairs of Baggies. I wanted some throwbacks and I’m of an age where I can wear short shorts if I want to. [I can also wear Crocs without irony. Who says getting old is a drag?] My third pair are Baggies Shorts. Inseam is solidly old-school at 5 inches.
Short shorts are fine on the river but for hiking I prefer the longer inseam of the Baggies Longs. The short Baggies ride up and can cause a little chafing. Not good…
For everyday wear it’s nice to have shorts with pockets. The two front pockets on the baggies are large enough to hold a phone or keys and are cut so that things don’t fall out when you sit in the car. The rear snap pocket works great for a wallet. If you load the pockets up too much you’ll need to tie the drawstring pretty tight, but most of the time that isn’t an issue.
New Baggies dry much faster than old Baggies. If I rinse them out and throw them on the back of the truck they’ll dry in less than an hour. This is a big plus for traveling clothes. Which brings me to the T-Shirts.
In the piece that I wrote about summer outdoor clothing I came out hard as a fan of lightweight button-up shirts for summer outdoor wear. The Capilene Cool T-Shirt has changed my mind. These shirts are made from silkweight polyester Capilene fabric with an anti-microbal treatment. They’re comfortable to wear in hot weather and they dry almost as quickly as my Baggies.
As I mentioned in my post on baselayers, I’ve had mixed experiences with anti-microbal treatments. Most of them work pretty well for a couple days before giving up the ghost, but in the end I can beat them all. The HeiQ Fresh treatment that Patagonia uses on these T’s is as good as any I’ve tried. In hot weather I can wear the shirt for a two or three days before things get dicey.
Since I have two of these shirts, I never do this. The real beauty of the Capiline Cool T-shirt is that, if you rinse them out with fresh water daily, they never stench. You don’t need soap. You don’t need hot water. Rinse and dry. I can rinse one out at the end of the day and wear the other the following day. The next day I rinse the second shirt and wear the first.
The rinse and wear factor is really what has made the Baggies and Capilene Cool T-Shirts my everyday clothes. Early in the trip I tried to wear cotton t-shirts and found that I couldn’t count on them to dry on our travel days. The result was a bunch of sour smelling t-shirts. I ditched a handful of them and have used the Capilene shirts almost exclusively since.
The two Capilene Cool shirts I have are olive green and grey. They work with both colors of my Baggies, so I can wear whatever happens to be dry and clean when I wake up. I like the graphics on the shirts, too. It makes them look more like regular T-shirts and less like long underwear.
Any time you write a product review you have to throw some negative thoughts in to prove that you’re not completely biased, right? Well, I do have a few gripes about the Baggies. The biggest one is that I’ve found the mesh liner to chafe just a little bit when worn for multiple days of hot hiking. Rinsing them daily helps a lot, but I’ve been tempted to cut out the liners more than once.
My second gripe has to do with the fit. Obviously, this is highly subjective, but I could use a little more room in the seat and thighs, especially when I put a phone and car keys in the front pockets.
As for the shirts, I have no complaints. They fit, they’re comfortable, they wick. If you’re looking to pare your summer shirt closet down to two items they’re the way to go.
[Update: Looking through some old pictures I found one of me backpacking in the Smokies taken back in 2009. Wearing the same pair of black Baggies that I have now. Ten years later they’re still going strong. Elastic is still good. Fabric is holding up. That’s a durable pair of shorts!]
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