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De-funkifying Capilene and other wicking synthetics

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
2 min read

Here’s one from the archives that got lost in my last blog move. It’s from November of 2006, soon before our Joshua Tree trip.
So, Chris and I are gearing up for our next climbing trip, which is going to take us destination desert for 60 degree days and 30 degree nights, so I’m trying to plan for a non-repeat of our chilly (but beautiful) camping at Crater Lake earlier this year. Part of this prep is pulling out all the base layers that have been hanging in the closet since the official end of our Pacific Northwest climbing season back in September, and I’m astonished at just how bad girls can make stuff smell. Capilene (Patagonia‘s synthetic (and recyclable!) base layer fabric) is notoriously smelly, which I thought only applied to stinky boys. But, after two years of being the fabric I live in while climbing (tank top, green long sleeved tee as sun shade, orange zip neck fuzzy fleece for warmth — if you’ve seen any photos of me climbing, odds are, some combination of this is what I’m wearing.[1]) even my girly Capilene has succumbed to the funk. The stench. The smell. My bosses think I’m crazy because I can smell the fear in my work suits even after dry cleaning. My Capilene doesn’t smell like fear… but it does smell. It now smells to the point that I don’t know how I’ll make it a week or so living in it in dirtbag conditions, given that I’m starting out with it already smelling.

I emailed Patagonia today to request environmentally-friendly advice on de-funking Capilene and other wicking synthetics, and minutes later I had a response from them to try adding a bit of white vinegar to the wash load and avoiding using the dryer since that seems to make things worse. I’ve been pre-soaking in a mix of water and a little vinegar, and adding vinegar to my wash water not every wash but on occasion, and it makes a HUGE difference in the funk. My beloved green Capilene 1 was destined for recycling and I’ve gotten another climbing season out of it. Now if I could only figure out what the greasy and unremovable spots are that I get on the … um … ladies while climbing, I could even wear my Capilene out in public. That may be too much to ask for. One’s world can only be so close to perfect.

Despite the funk, I adore my Capilene, and adore Patagonia because of their products and their dedication to environmental ethics and sustainable business practices.

[1] See e.g., example 1 (green tee at Smith Rock); example 2 (orange fleece on the Oregon Coast); example 3 (green tee at Smith with the family); example 4 (green tee smooching Chris at Smith); example 5 (green tee on the Zip at Squamish).


Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.