Performance Wool, Synthetic T-shirts – Duofold, Ex Officio, Prana

The old standby cotton T-shirt doesn’t have much of a place in the outdoors. Even beyond the “cotton kills” adage, the average cotton shirt is clammy, heavy and generally not terribly comfortable for athletes.

Fortunately, there’s a whole crop of synthetic-fabric T-shirts made with the outdoor athlete in mind. Polyester, nylon mesh, Lycra and other materials stretch, breathe, dry quickly and stand up to abuse. Here are a few of my favorite new models.

Axis Tech

Duofold Hydrid
Of all the shirts I’ve tested this year, the Hydrid gets my No. 1 vote. The polyester fabric wicks well, the shirt is comfortable and light, and Duofold includes a zip on front to open the shirt up for added ventilation. It’s also among the least expensive in this batch.

Ex Officio Dri Cricket
This three-button shirt will stand up to business-casual dress codes in corporate America and hold its own wicking a sweaty body in the woods. Ex Officio uses a mix of 85 percent polyester and 15 percent cotton to create a breathable and soft-feeling shirt that’s quick drying and resistant to wrinkles.

Prana Axis Tech
My favorite for looks, the stylish Axis Tech also breaths well and is comfortable for moderate workouts. Its mid-weight polyester fabric gives the shirt a more substantial feel than most other synthetic T-shirts I tried.

Illumilite Adventure
To make you visible at night, the Adventure T-shirt has a reflective coating on the surface of the fabric. The shirt also offers UV protection at UPF 30+ levels, according to the company. I found this lightweight shirt to be highly breathable and friendly to any kind of vigorous aerobic activity.

White Sierra Day Tripper
It looks and feels pretty much like a cotton T-shirt, but the Day Tripper is made of a lightweight synthetic mesh fabric that pulls sweat off skin so well White Sierra says you can use the shirt as a base layer in colder weather. The company designed this shirt without a shoulder seam so it’s comfortable to wear under a heavy backpack.

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Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.