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High-heat, Low-stink options for Tee Shirt?
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Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
High-heat, Low-stink options for Tee Shirt? on 09/13/2013 10:44:34 MDT Print View

On the trail/in camp, I prefer to wear a short sleeve tee shirt as a "base base" layer, pretty much at all times, regardless of whatever else I'm wearing on top. I tend to hike warm areas (so calif, arizona). I've been wearing these thin polyester shirts found at walmart (Starter Dri-Star), and I like them (very thin, which I like) except they really retain odor. I even carry and use deodorant, but these shirts just plain stink after a day's activity. I have to carry two, and wash one out each night. "Camp-washing" the underarms with limited water and soap helps a little, but cuts into my water stash, and gets the shirt far from clean.

Keeping in mind that I want this base layer to be thin and light, dries fast and doesn't retain water, what are my options for this foundational undergarment, that reduce odor? Or is my system "as good as it gets"? Are there some synthetic fabrics that are lower odor retention? What is "microbial treatment," and anyone had good experiences with? Wool seems too hot for my use but...maybe?

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: High-heat, Low-stink options for Tee Shirt? on 09/13/2013 11:22:32 MDT Print View

Lightweight wool is actually pretty cool. I really like my Patagonia wool t-shirt, and it does well in the heat.

I practically lived in my Capilene 2 long sleeve shirt for two weeks (was able to rinse it in streams a few times) this summer, and it really didn't smell that bad.

Edited by T.L. on 09/13/2013 11:26:15 MDT.

Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
High-heat, Low-stink options for Tee Shirt? on 09/13/2013 12:25:46 MDT Print View

I hike in much the same conditions as do you. I use a light weight merino wool T-shirt. I am currently using a light Icebreaker shirt although I have also had good luck with Smartwool products. Non-stinky and relatively cool.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: High-heat, Low-stink options for Tee Shirt? on 09/13/2013 12:39:31 MDT Print View

Have you tried hiking in a cotton t-shirt?
In the dry california heat I don't find them getting uncomfortably sweaty.
They retain your body moisture and you dehydrate less.

There are lots of synthetic shirts out there with anti-microbial treatments that are supposed to work well.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: High-heat, Low-stink options for Tee Shirt? on 09/13/2013 15:54:59 MDT Print View

As far as pure stink control and over the overall life of a garment, wool and linen are going to be your best options. Wool is somewhat warm though, even when thin. Linen is much cooler (and dries fairly quickly, especially in lower humidity-high heat conditions), but i don't think i've ever seen a t-shirt made out of it. However, there are plenty of 55% hemp and 45% cotton t-shirts out there, and this would work fairly well too, since hemp and linen are very similar in a lot of ways.

Less ideal, but still pretty good are highish nylon- to lowish cotton blends (if you can find it, also somewhat rare). Even a pure nylon t-shirt will stink less than a pure polyester one (if both are untreated). Plus it will be cooler if all other things are equal since nylon and polyester have significantly different thermal conductivity levels. The reason why nylon is less stinky than polyester is because it's less extremely hydrophobic. Extremely hydrophobic fabrics get stinky fast because the oils, skin cells, salts, etc get stuck inbetween the fibers of the garment and hard to wash out because the fibers and fabric literally repel water more than those that are hydrophillic or like nylon sort of inbetween.

As Justin hinted at, in hot, dry heat, you actually want a fabric that can hold moisture some. It prolongs the cooling effect. So if you're talking really hot and really dry, cotton actually works pretty well because of that prolonged cooling effect and because it's very thermally conductive--heat passes easily through the actual fibers. But for less extreme conditions of hot and somewhat dry, nylon-cotton blends work very well.

Also, this will lighten up a garment potentially since nylon is significantly lighter than most other fabrics (except polypro).

Re: treatments, some seem a lot better than others ime and research. The ones that involve chemical finishes are somewhat known for being able to be washed out of the garment, but other treatments last much longer. I have good experience so far with Dri-Release stuff.

Hope this helps

Edited by ArcturusBear on 09/13/2013 15:55:59 MDT.

Stu Pendious
(Beeen) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: High-heat, Low-stink options for Tee Shirt? on 09/13/2013 16:28:53 MDT Print View

Icebreaker makes a pretty thin merino wool that dries pretty quick and stays cool enough for me even in severe heat. I've worn one of these for many days in a row in 90+ without much more than a dunk in a lake now and then to wash dust off it, and didn't hold any kind of stink.

Just if you're trying wool, buy from a place with a great return policy, as you might find out on day two or three that it causes you to itch.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Re: Re: High-heat, Low-stink options for Tee Shirt? on 09/13/2013 17:28:13 MDT Print View

> Just if you're trying wool, buy from a place with a great return policy, as you might find out on day two or three that it causes you to itch.

I've never met a wool that didn't. That's why I'm so wary of buying an expensive wool tee shirt.

I should try dri-release first.

Edited by Bolster on 09/13/2013 17:34:46 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Wool For Life on 09/13/2013 18:07:18 MDT Print View

Smartwool isn't itchy in their microweights and lightweights.

Ibex, however is.

I will say, though, I wear wool religiously. I literally wore the same long sleeve wool shirt about 75% of the summer, including 90-100+ heat days. It was a Smartwool Lightweight shirt. I also cycle in an Ibex Woollies (the sleeves aren't loose). I never feel an itch anymore, and I never reach for anything else for extended trips.

I've recently started cycling in a wool/synthetic blend from TNF I got from someone in Gear Swap and so far, I love it. It's very soft. However, it's definitely a sweater and not a warm-weather garment, so this doesn't help you much, but it might be worth looking at blends. I personally doubt blends for odor; (if there's synthetic thread in there, won't it stink?)

In other words...

Try wool. If you commit a bit, you may never go back. The "itch" is hype.

I'm wearing, right now, my Smartwool long underwear. Earlier today, I was wearing my Ibex baselayer top with Icebreaker cycling shorts and wool toe socks, with a wool headband. I slept last night in Smartwool briefs. I am a poor college student, but I rotate through 2 pairs of underwear, 10 socks, 2 light shirts, 1 sweater, and 2 sets of long underwear, all wool, 365 days a year. Only time I'm not in wool is when I'm changing wool pieces.

I actually told a girl once that a significant part of foreplay for me was removing wool. She didn't really think it was as funny as I did...

Edited by mdilthey on 09/13/2013 18:11:30 MDT.

John Davis
(JCD) - F

Locale: Southeast
Icebreaker on 09/13/2013 18:12:45 MDT Print View

Icebreaker lightweight merino wool is the way to go. I live in the hot and humid mid atlantic. I have no problem wearing wool in the summer. It does not itch and although counterintuitive actually keeps me cool. Absolutely no odor and dries very quickly. Won't ever use synthetic again.

Simon Wurster
(Einstein) - F

Locale: Big Apple
Re: High-heat, Low-stink options for Tee Shirt? on 09/13/2013 18:44:01 MDT Print View

Others have mentioned wool, and I find it the best for stink--even after many days. Takes a while to dry, can be fragile, and is always expensive.

I found ibex to be the itchiest, smartwool almost as itchy, but patagonia to be almost itch-free. Seems to vary person to person, so ymmv.

To treat and maybe prevent stink on synths, I sometimes carry 2 oz. spray bottle of drugstore hydrogen peroxide. Sprayed in critical areas, it works very well--for me. I never had any problem with burning or bleaching.

David McBride
(VintageGent) - F

Locale: Galveston TX
Ibex on 09/13/2013 20:15:21 MDT Print View

In yet another case of "your mileage may vary," I've never found Ibex to be particularly itchy, certainly no more so than Icebreaker and Smartwool.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Wool Info on 09/13/2013 21:12:14 MDT Print View

The thinnest Ibex is thicker than the thinnest Smartwool and Icebreaker. When I reach for a thin item, I usually choose Smartwool first. That being said, I think Ibex has the finest stitch quality and overall fabric quality, the pieces feel a lot more durable and they don't stretch like smartwool does.

Now, Patagonia's merino is actually, to my knowledge, a merino/synthetic blend unless they've changed things.

Arcteryx's wool is fine, but no better than anything else and about 20% more expensive.


Anton Solovyev
(solovam) - F

Locale: Colorado, Utah
Re: High-heat, Low-stink options for Tee Shirt? on 09/14/2013 01:33:56 MDT Print View

Same as others said: I have converted to Icebreaker t-shirts and underwear. Practically no smell in worst conditions. Outer layers do start to stink in prolonged wet conditions, but wool stays practically odorless.

The wool (150 weight by Icebreaker) is still quite a bit warmer than standard synthetic t-shirts. I wish there were available even thinner merino t-shirts for desert conditions.


On a related note, what are the odor control solutions for socks and shoes? Out of the last 3 trips twice I had gotten into the situation when my feet were wet for over a day and after that stink got out of control.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: wool on 09/14/2013 04:07:05 MDT Print View

I own a few icebreaker tech-t lite shirts and wear them year round.

The Rab MeCo is a wool-cocona blend that is even lighter and still does a good job at keeping the stink away.

Michael Wainfeld
(Adox) - M

Locale: EastCoast
Icebreaker T shirt on 09/14/2013 08:39:09 MDT Print View

+1 on the Icebreaker T shirt. One of the best pieces of outdoor clothing I have. I always wear mine as the first layer, and I've worn it for 6-7 days straight. No stink, and It's held up great.

Erik G
(fox212) - F

Locale: THE Bay Area :)
Re High heat, low stink on 09/14/2013 08:53:07 MDT Print View

I use capilene 2 tops now, and they do not stink nearly as bad after a couple sweaty days as other polyester shirts I've worn. They are treated with Patagonia's "polygiene" permanent odor control. No clue what that actually is, but it appears to be working. :) Also I find they cool you off well when wet, and FWIW cap 2 is marginally lighter than cap 1. But cap1 has a higher UPF (50 vs 20).

I've found that wool makes me itchy. :(

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re High heat, low stink on 09/14/2013 14:22:57 MDT Print View

Wool, even in its lightest forms, is much too hot for me. I have tried 150g and 120g wool and they smoke me out. They do work extremely well at odor control however. I've learned to live with the smell of synthetics for hiking purposes, but will try some of the blends eventually. I think there is the perfect shirt out there somewhere.


just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Re High heat, low stink on 09/14/2013 19:55:22 MDT Print View

Yah, Rab MeCo is pretty good stuff too, but also still too hot for me where i live.

Earlier i said that i don't think i've seen any Linen t-shirts before..well turns out i wasn't looking hard enough. I just did a search on ebay and found a number of pure and blended Linen t-shirts. (i'm tempted to get one myself, but having so many linen button up shirts, i feel like it might be excessive).

There are actually some great deals going on there now. I really recommend trying a cheap shirt, you may be surprised how cooling/cool and stink resistant the stuff is. If the stuff is a bit rough feeling at first, you can speed up the softening washing and then by drying in a dryer on medium heat (a few times). Normally i wouldn't recommend drying Linen shirts in a dryer because it makes it look extremely wrinkly and it does shrink a bit (a little more than a non-preshrunk cotton tee), but i've noticed it does soften up the material faster.

However, good quality linen stuff usually starts off soft enough to begin with. Anyways, it's much better for hot weather backpacking than merino (ime), and much longer lasting (it's tensile strength is at least 3x higher than wools) with quite good stink control (rivals wool). If you ever happen to see any linen-nylon blends, please let me know. Pure linen can be a bit heavy, but i imagine the t-shirt versions will be lighter than my button up shirts.

Edited by ArcturusBear on 09/14/2013 20:00:16 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re High heat, low stink on 09/14/2013 19:57:45 MDT Print View


Edited by justin_baker on 09/14/2013 19:58:15 MDT.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re High heat, low stink on 09/14/2013 20:10:59 MDT Print View

related to what i wrote at the end of my last post. Regarding weights, here is a list of the specific gravity of different fibers.

Acetate= 1.33
Camel hair=1.31
Silk Weighted= >1.60
Silk - B. Mori (raw)= 1.33
Silk Tussah=1.32
Wool= 1.31

Note that Linen's specific gravity measurement is 1.5 and cotton's is 1.54, so all other things being equal, a linen t-shirt will be very slightly lighter than a cotton one, but a bit heavier than a polyester or wool t-shirt.

Polypro is not on that list for some reason, but from memory, it's measurement is something crazy like .90. However, definitely don't want to use that for hot weather stuff!