Shirts are the piece gear that hugs you all day long, so put some proper care into the choice of your closest companion on the trail. Synthetic shirts are now impossibly light weight and super soft merino shirts add a level of comfort that may be worth the extra ounce.

Don’t forget, you can always go to your local thrift store and find a crazy cheap and very lightweight polyester button up. Thrift store button-ups are all the rage in the hiker trash community right now. What you save in cost, you loose in performance though. Thrift store shirts are light and do wick moisture, but can’t beat the performance of a higher priced piece of gear.

I have seen hikers never do laundry while implementing thrift store shirts; they just buy another for $1 and give or throw away the dirty one, so that’s a plus…I guess.


The following are the stats and my humble opinions of shirts I’ve used or researched and wish to use on the trail:


Rohan Ultra Silver Tee – $40.61

Weight: 60g / 2.1oz
Material: 100% polyester with Dynamic Moisture Control™ and anti-odour control technology
Pack Size: 200ml
Drying Time: 3 hours


If you google “world’s lightest shirt” the Rohan Ultra Silver Tee will pop up. It claims that title by using a feather weight polyester that has also been bonded with silver chloride made from recycled silver, to inhibit bacteria growth and fight odors.

The silver treatment is supposed to last the life of the garment and never wash or wear out. The synthetic fabric is also treated with Rohan’s Dynamic Moisture Control™ to improve wicking capability and speed up drying time.

The cut is athletic in the shoulders but loose from the chest down and that, combined with the barely noticeable weight of the shirt, creates a unique sensation when wearing. Nothing unpleasant, it just took a couple of times wearing it before the sensation of a shirt almost hovering on me felt normal.

The dry time was fast; fast enough that I don’t remember ever taking of this shirt and it still feeling soaked, unless I had been caught in the rain. Meaning, for me, the shirt dried almost as fast as my sweat could dampen it.

As far as the anti-odour control technology, I found the shirt remained stink free for many more days than a non treated garment or a normal cotton t-shirt. However Duck, my last hiking partner, was constantly smell shaming me on our 2017 Florida Trail thru hike, so maybe I was just smell-blind. Duck said I had an odor, I didn’t smell anything…nor did I care.





Patagonia Men’s Capilene Lightweight T-Shirt – $39

Weight: 77g / 2.7oz
Material: 2.3-oz (80-gsm) 100% recycled polyester double knit with Polygiene® permanent odor control


The Lightest of Patagonia’s Capilene fabric weights is used to construct its “Lightweight” product line. The Men’s Capilene Lightweight T-Shirt is also treated with Polygiene® permanent odor control that is supposed to last the life of the garment.

The cut of this shirt is slightly less athletic but still structured. I don’t find it constricts my movement at all, like some other “technical/athletic cut” shirts end up doing on me.

I’m 6’1″, 190 pounds and Patagonia recommended a Large, but I ordered a size larger than recommended because I have a longer torso and like to tuck my shirt when I have a pack on.

The shirt is almost imperceptible while wearing it, in a natural kind of way; after a few moments you really do forget you are wearing a shirt at all.

A shirt this thin is not going to provide much insulation at all. This is a warm weather piece of gear that could be used with light layering in the spring and fall. Not recommended for cold weather use.





REI Sahara Tee – $29.95

Weight: 155.9g / 5.5oz
Material: 95% polyester / 5% spandex



This is a less expensive option for a high-wicking shirt, though still not cheap. The fabric REI uses in their house brand synthetics feels very slick and “syntheticky” to me. I will use them in the gym and on cold weather outings, but really don’t find them comfortable for all day wear in the heat.

I used an older generation REI brand poly shirt on my 2012 MST thru hike, and after just 41 days the fabric showed visible wear and pilling on all points of contact with my pack.

These shirts feel heavier and are less breathable than lighter synthetics, but that is why do like them for winter camping. If I’m dealing with cold weather, I would prefer wool, but when I know I’ll be in high exertion situations, working up a lot of body heat and sweat, I reach for a bulkier synthetic base layer like this.

When paired with the protection of a few heavier layers, the REI brand base layers hold up well, are thermally efficient, and move moisture away from the body at a rate outer layers can keep up with.






Smartwool Men’s Merino 150 Base Layer Short Sleeve – $75

Weight: 133g / 4.7oz
87% Merino Wool / 13% Nylon Core

smartwool men's merico 150 base layer short sleeve

I’ll admit it. I’m on the merino wool train. Big fan-boy right here. These lightweight 150gsm merino wool shirts are my daily wear shirts, off the trail.

This is Merino wool and it’s soft and comfy against your skin, not like your grandpa’s old scratchy wool sweater. It’s so soft I even wear wool underwear and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I look forward to putting them on every day.

Wool wicks moisture very well, but it doesn’t dry very quickly. Your body will feel dry beneath it, but the fabric will hold moisture and hang heavy when damp. The great thing is that even when wet, wool retains its insulating qualities, keeping you warm even when soaked.

You can wear Merino for days because wool also resists odors naturally, without any chemical treatments.

Wool is a natural temperature regulator too; it will help you stay cool in warm weather and warm in cool weather.

Unfortunately Merino wool’s Achilles Heel is its delicate nature. Snags will easily rip the fabric and prolonged use will quickly wear holes. Many companies now use Core Spun technology, weaving merino wool around a stronger nylon thread for increased durability and next to skin comfort. This helps a little.

The thru hikes I’ve done have been warm weather affairs and I took a wool shirt on my first one and regretted it; North Carolina’s Mountains to Sea Trail in August had me sweating buckets, and while it wicked and regulated temps fine, wet wool just feels icky to wear. Luckily I brought a synthetic too and used the wool to sleep in.  I do wear Merino wool shirts almost everyday off trail and I have loved merino wool base layers on the cold weather camping trips I’ve gone on. For winter camping, if I’m planning big miles, I’ll go beefy synthetic. I’ll go with wool for base camp or for low mile winter trips.







Rohan Ultra Silver Long Sleeve Tee – $49

Weight: 95g / 3.35oz
Material: 100% polyester with Dynamic Moisture Control™ and anti-odour control technology
Pack Size: 360ml
Drying Time: 3 hours


The big long-sleeved brother of the Rohan Ultra Silver Tee, it uses the same feather weight polyester to achieve the lightest possible weight, bonded with silver chloride made from recycled silver, to inhibit bacteria growth and fight odors. The silver treatment is supposed to last the life of the garment and never wash or wear out.

I have yet to see a lighter top. Neatly rolled or just stuffed in your pack, it takes up almost no space, considering how important its function can be. Personally I prefer a zip neck top, for better venting.





Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Zipneck – $59

Weight: 113g / 4oz
Material: 2.3-oz (80-gsm) 100% recycled polyester double knit with Polygiene® permanent odor control


Basically Patagonia’s Men’s Capilene Lightweight T-Shirt with arms and a zipper. This is one of the lightest weight zip neck tops available. Great for layering on hot weather, cool evening hikes and perfect for late spring early fall weather.







Icebreaker Merino Men’s Everyday Long Sleeve Half Zip Top – $60

234.80g / 8.28oz
200-gsm merino wool rib fabric

I love the Icebreaker Merino Men’s Everyday Long Sleeve Half Zip Top. I absolutely love it. It has exceeded my expectations in every way. Not only did it make it through my entire 2017 Florida Trail thru hike without the slightest sign of wear or tear, it has become my go to long sleeve choice almost every day off trail, and it is going strong. It still looks almost brand new. Even after a thru hike and years of pushing the sleeves up around my forearms, the wrists have not lost their elasticity!

This Merino wool top does jump up the scale a bit as far as how heavy it is. The extra ounces translate to more warmth. The difference between the insulation power of a mid weight wool garment like this and a lightweight synthetic is very apparent.

I can’t say enough about the quality of all of Icebreaker’s Merino clothing. Theirs seems to hold up the longest and fit the best, at least to me.












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