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Tees on Test

Tees On Test - Summer 2019

OK so summer's here, the thermals are put away for another season and the tees come out to play.

So we figured let's take a look at a few offerings out there to decide what's good, bad and indifferent.

We recently had the opportunity to head off "Down Under" for a full six weeks, so what better test than this to put a few tees through their paces.

Plan was.....a lot of travel miles.  Diving and flying intermixed with walking and hiking in the rain forests, beaches and cities so the gear would have a real diverse set of circumstances to be tested in.

Washing would be hard.  Only when available would we be undertaking a "conventional" wash at a hotel or in a city launderette.

We decided to limit our tests to just a few lines and elected to take 5 tees to test based on brand hype, price point and fabric differentiation

1.       ODLO® Millennium LinenCool Pro Run Tee

2.       Icebreaker™ Tech Lite Merino Wool Crewe

3.       Under Armour® HeatGear® Tech Tee

4.       TriDri® Tech Tee

5.       Helly Hansen® Lifa™ Stay Dry Tee

We wanted to test a few "real world" things to really see if the facts lived up to the marketing hype:

1.       "Travelability" - No such word we know but how well did each garment survive countless packing and repacking

2.       Looks - What does it look like on

3.       Durability - Day to day wear and tear.  Does it stack up in everyday use

4.       Tech Hype - Did the tee live up to its brand marketing hype

5.       Freshness - We wanted to put to the test the so called anti-bacterial capabilities because we couldn't wash them too often if at all.

6.       Weight and Feel - You want your summer tees light so how did they perform

7.       Value for Money - The end game!  If you're going to spend £50 on a simple tee.....it had better be worth it!

So we conducted rigorous tests on daily wear on each line and we'll do our assessments here in the same order as listed above

 

ODLO® Millennium LinenCool Pro Tee

What is it?  A blend of Linen fibres which are cotton derived, mixed with synthetic fibres to give a natural linen feel and look with added performance from the synthetic blended fibres.

Travelability: not bad but as you'd expect from a linen-centic garment, the creases did appear.  Not a massive issue as once on, the body heat kind of ironed it out somewhat reasonably quick.

Looks: This tee probably of all we tested had the most aesthetic appeal of them all even with the creases which added a kind of authentic appeal.  There is something nice about linen anyway and rarely used in performance apparel, the looks were perhaps surprisingly appealing.

This had a more athletic fit to it which is normally the case with European brands and with ODLO® in particular.  Again, not an issue but do be aware that if you carry a touch more timber than you'd necessarily like, you may want to size up one.

It felt very soft next to the skin.  Fabric face has a very natural feel to it and the sleeve length was good and not too "baggy".  A good body length too which historically has been a good feature of the whole ODLO range.

This was certainly one we'd happily wear in exercise and as a leisure item without any concerns.

Durability:  Overall, very good.  Linen is quite resilient anyway and worn numerous times over the six week period without washing, it stood up very well.

Tech Hype: Designed to keep you cooler.............well we're not so sure.  It certainly wasn't excessively warm but was there a marked difference in our "core" temperature over the other tees we tried?  Not that we could determine.  Maybe in the lab but in the real-world, we really weren't convinced.

Freshness: It did pretty well.  Cotton and linen have a natural ability to deal with nature's bacteria that can and often does cause fabric odours......we've all smelt it and most of us have experienced it at some time.  The LinenCool™ did a very good job indeed.

With the natural fibre content coupled with ODLO's Effect™ system which is a silver Ion process that kind of stops bacteria sticking to the fibres and is a known deterrent to bacteria, overall this was good.

It probably would have gone the distance but we felt it necessary to give it a freshen up at about 3½ weeks or so.  It didn't smell so much but it just sort of felt "grubby" so a quick wash brought it back to life.  It then went the rest of the journey un-washed and stayed fresh.

Weight & Feel: We liked the feel a lot.  Less harsh than a pure cotton tee and with more character.  Cotton-centric products are always heavier than synthetic fabrics but not noticeable in this case.  When wet, it didn't stick to the skin which was good and it dried pretty quickly which was probably helped by the synthetic fibre content that offered a good level of moisture performance.

Value for Money: This is always very subjective but at £45 for a Tee, the overall performance we'd say was borderline for the cost.  But we felt if you had only one choice on the table, then it's probably a good purchase to make.

Overall Rating: 8/10

 

Icebreaker Tech Merino Wool Crewe

What is it?  A blend of super-fine Merino Wool fibres mixed with a tiny amount of Nylon and Lycra for a bit of stretch and durability.  Ostensibly nearly 85% pure Merino.

Trevelability: Excellent.  Wool has a tendency not to hold creases anyway so even when removed from the darkest corners of your travel bag, this was good to go without any attention needed. Just put it on and let your body heat do the rest.

Looks: We fell in love with this one it must be said.  It hangs really well and the body length was perfect.  Not too baggy as it has a Euro cut and whilst regarded as a Slim Fit design, the size Large on a 40/42" chest sat very comfortably.  It looked new throughout its use but if you are borderline size wise then just go up one size.  It also didn't bobble at the neck which can be a common feature on men's tees with beard rub.

This was certainly one we'd happily recommend in active use and as a leisure item without any hesitation and this stood up very well to the rigours of our adventure.  You'd probably not choose it to play football in but for everything else including dinner.....perfect.

Durability:  Wool by its very nature has a tendency to be somewhat delicate in general but the Corespun™ Technology that Icebreaker use that "wraps" the wool fibre around a synthetic core without and detriment to the garment, feel proved very good indeed.

Overall, it performed admirably even when carrying a ruck sack all day.  No bobbling or fabric abrasions at all.....we were falling in love with it!

Tech Hype: We've all heard the hype about Merino wool "wear it for weeks and it won't stink at all....blah, blah, blah".  Well we certainly put this one to the test on that front but we will admit to a high degree of scepticism over these much vaunted claims.

Wool as a natural fibre has this unique ability to adapt to the body's needs in terms of temperature control.  As an external layer it doesn't make you excessively hot and is great at keeping you cool at the same time.  There are no synthetic garments that perform as well but then Mother Nature has had a few million years of development over the manufacturers to perfect this ability.

Freshness: OK we're going to get a bit biased here now.........BRILLIANT!

With such a high wool content which actively stops bacteria clinging to the fibres, Merino Wool has long been a favourite of the traveller for this reason.  But was this all just brand hype?

Oh no it wasn't.........it was worn for 16 days solid all day, every day and became my personal go-to tee.  It did not smell at all. It looked as good as it did on day one and only went into the half way wash due to an unforeseen accident with a ketchup bottle.  I am convinced it would have gone the full 40+ days without a wash had Mr Heinz not intervened.

It dried in the room overnight and was good to go again the next day and was worn every day for the remainder of the trip.  The wool dried so fast we were extremely impressed.  Absolutely faultless on this front and a clear 10/10 because we can't give it 11/10.

Weight & Feel: We took the 200GSM weight option of the Tech tee and it was slightly heavier than most of the other tees we tested but Icebreaker do this tee in a 150 and even a 130GSM weight.  That said the feel was superb and absolutely not itchy in any way.  Anyone thinking wool is itchy.....think again.  Technology has moved on quite a bit.  When wet, it didn't clog and certainly didn't stick to the skin which was good and it's drying times were seriously impressive.

Value for Money: This is a toughie and as always is very subjective as it does depend on your budget.  At the best part of £60 SRP, it is seriously expensive for a tee but do take into consideration that Icebreaker is an ethical manufacturer and its Merino sourcing and animal welfare credentials are second to none.  In today's world, we should all look to where our garments originate and what environmental and social impact your clothing choices have on our world....it costs to be ethical.

However if you want to travel light, this tee by far out-performed anything else we tested by miles.  So to our mind, that makes it well worth your buck. You could easily purchase 3, 4 or 5 tees for the same price, but that takes up more room and we bet you'll revert to the Icebreaker Tech at every opportunity.

Overall Rating: 10/10 (sorry.....we can't fault it)

 

Under Armour HeatGear Tech Tee

What Is It? UA's trademark HeatGear fabric is in actual fact, Polyester with a brand controlled fibre weave giving it a soft flowing light appeal that is very effective.

Travelability: As with all this type of synthetic Tech Tees, it travelled remarkably well.  It folds to nothing, can be stuffed in shoes and is good to go in minutes.  Nothing bad here at all.

Looks: Very nice but shows catches.  It's an athletic tee that sits well on the body and does what it says on the tin.  Very lightweight and relaxed with a very nice appeal.  They tend to vary in fit across colours though.  We think this is largely due to the mass production nature of this type of tee and the use of multiple factories for that production so there can be a tiny degree of inconsistency.

Durability: These Tees are primarily Polyester and Nylon which are both durable performance fabrics. That said this style of tee can be susceptible to pulls if you catch it and there's no recovery.  We went into a rain forest wearing one and came out with two small but obvious catches in the fabric so they are tough in the gym but perhaps less so on your travels.

Tech Hype:  Polyester and Nylon are widely used in the Tech clothing arena and the fibres are exceptional at what they do.  The tees dry unbelievably fast even when soaked in sweat.  There is literally thousands of this type of tee on the market and all perform extremely well from a tech perspective.  The UA Tee was no different and it did its job well but in our opinion did not perform as well as either of our natural fibre options on test above.

Freshness:  Tech Tees can ONLY offer anti-bacterial functionality with human intervention.  Synthetic fibres are and always will be, susceptible to smells as bacteria love to hold on to and sit inside the hollow synthetic fibres and when they do, there's no recovering.

To counter this, UA uses a wash in anti-bacterial treatment that supresses this unpleasant effect.  It does work but to be honest, not for that long and certainly not for several days use without washing.  Additionally, this is a chemical additive that we should not be using so from an ethical perspective, we really should look at alternatives.  In summary, brilliant for a game of football or tennis or a gym session but less effective over a sustained period.  We also found that sweat stains were visible after a long hard day after drying particularly under the arms, which is not a pleasant look as we well know.

Weight & Feel:  Exceptionally lightweight.  It really is something that is superb to wear if you are getting sweaty and wet over a short period.  It's also dead easy to wash as it dries very fast indeed.  You could easily wash it in a machine and put it back on from out the washing machine, it'll dry very, very quickly.

It feels very nice against the skin.  You can't really fault it.  When sodden as often it was, it did cling a bit to the skin but the drying speed was very impressive so that wasn't really an issue.

Value for Money: At around £23, you could buy three of these tees for the cost of one Icebreaker or ODLO® as tested above so the value for money compared to these was very good.  It did its job well but you do need more of them on a long multi-day wilderness hike.  Good UVF capability though as is usually the case with synthetic fabrics.

But this is a product whose origins stem from oil and again taking the ethical path, we should all consider where our clothing comes from.  Our throw away culture has to change and a twenty quid tee only encourages that approach.

Overall Rating: 6/10 for this adventure (8/10 for active one day use)

 

TriDri Tech Tee

Why?:  So why take this one at all?  Well quite simply we decided that we'd test a budget tee against all the others to support or dispel the beliefes that cheap doesn't work.  The facts were that we could repeat everything stated above for the UA HeatGear Tee and copy and paste it here for the TriDri with one exception......it's half the price.

You can pick up this very good tee for around £10 or sell in some cases therefore from a value perspective, it was an absolute winner.

But all the other points listed above in the UA test apply almost verbatim so we're not repeating them here.

If you are after a synthetic Tech Tee then without any doubt the TriDri is as good as the UA and has countless more colours available and they do a Women's version which UA don't.

Overall Rating: 6/10 for this adventure (8/10 for active one day use but better value than UA's option)

 

Helly Hansen Lifa Stay Dry Tee

What Is It? Whilst pitched as a base layer this is the original technical tee.  Helly Hansen Lifa™ is a trademarked Polypropylene based fabric that is designed to create what the market says is the driest tee on the planet.  Polypropylene does dry very fast indeed, faster than Polyester.  See Polyester v Polypropylene article here.

Travelability: As with the Polyester based options, this travels well but with the jacquard effect fabric face and seriously light construction, it does come out looking a bit crumpled from the bag.  That said though, it ironed itself out probably faster than any others we tested.

Looks: This is a practical tee with modest aesthetic appeal to be honest.  It's not sold as a leisure piece, this is an outdoor workhorse.  The HH stripes are synonymous with the brand and not necessarily appealing to everyone's tastes.  It does hang well and sits nicely on the body.  Not our personal favourite on this front it must be said.  You certainly wouldn't choose it to go down the local bar.

Durability: The HH Lifa™ was probably the most susceptible to catches due to the fabric finish being a slightly waffled affect.  Extremely light and very un-restricting but we'd probably say not too tough.

Tech Hype: Quite simply bang on the money.  HH sell this as a dry Baselayer or tee and that's exactly what it did almost to perfection.  I don't think we need say more.  Superb.

Freshness: HH has had a long standing reputation that is somewhat unfair, with the term "Smelly Helly" from way back when they first launched.  Certainly early days of the base layer which Helly invented, there were some issues but fabric technology has moved on.

In our humble opinion, the freshness rating of the HH Lifa was very similar to the UA and TriDri Tees we tested.  It wouldn't go the distance but was better than the UA and TriDri options but nowhere near as good as either of the natural fibre options tested here.

Weight & Feel: Weight was superb.  It's so light it's amazing to be honest.  Feel was not a smooth fabric face due to the nature of the jacquard fabric finish, which is quite deliberate to help move moisture off the skin and accelerate drying times but the feel is not noticeable at all, it's just the fabric technology at work.

Value for Money:  At around £30 for the long sleeve which was a unique option over all the others tested and £25 for the short sleeve, it's pretty good market value.  The question is does it offer better value than the UA or TriDri options and the answer is yes to a degree.  It certainly has a performance edge but has less aesthetic appeal over either the UA or TriDri.

Who Are We?  Middle aged ardent travellers with a passion for the great outdoors.  What qualifies us to comment on this?  Experience and a wealth of brand knowledge over nearly 20 years in the technical apparel industry.  Why should you listen to us?  You shouldn't necessarily.  This is simply our personal findings from our recent rip that we thought some people may find useful.

 



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