Strong, lightweight, and impossibly breathable, these shirts are excellent. However, they do have one flaw, and a nearly fatal one at that: It is impossible to wear one without looking like a goober.
That’s right, a goober.
Now, this doesn’t actually matter when you’re out hiking. After ten minutes on any tough trail you are going to look terrible. When performance really matters it’s better to turn into this skid, ignore looks completely, and pick out the most functional gear you possibly can. At least that’s what I tell myself. How else could I justify the purchase of these incredibly sexy gloves?
But here’s the rub: sometimes you want all the benefits of outdoors clothing without looking like a goob. That’s where the Tilley Endurables Moisture Management Shirt comes in.
WHAT IS IT? The Tilley Endurables Moisture Management Shirt
HOW LONG HAVE YOU OWNED IT? One Month
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? About $130.
PROS? Cool, comfortable, looks good, wonderful fit and finish
CONS? No venting
WHO SHOULD BUY IT? People who want to look good while fishing, hunting, and light hiking
WHO SHOULDN’T BUYT IT? People who need top of the line performance clothing
DID SOMEONE GIVE IT TO YOU FOR FREE? Yes, Tilley was kind enough to send this for review. However, I am not being compensated for this review (beyond the shirt) and Tilley has no editorial control of it’s content.
My search for this shirt has been a long time coming. Several months back, when Angie and I took Jack to his first pumpkin patch (which you can read about on her blog). I knew we were going to be be out in the sun all day, so I wanted to wear something breathable and sun proof. I also knew there were going to be lots of pictures, so I wanted to look like a normal person. Unhappy with my options, I eventually choose my long sleeve Ibex All Day Crew, a great shirt in its own right.
The downside to this is, as you can see in the GIF above, that because it doesn’t have a collar my neck got a lot of sun. The solution, I figured, was to tie a bandanna around my neck. Unfortuatnely this made me look like a complete goob.
But the fish didn’t care.
Months later we were looking to take Jack on his first birding trip. We were heading to Ramsay Canyon, a kinda-nearby preserve that features more walking than hiking. Back to the drawing board, I decided to try an old classic, the Railriders VersaTac Light.
Unfortuatnely, while these are quite Versa, they are a little too Tac(tical) for a simple day with the family. With pockets, on top of pockets, on top of other pockets (literally), the VersaTac is a good hiking shirt, great fishing shirt, and perfect travel shirt, but not what we’re looking for here.
Being an obsessive, I started scouring the internet for options. First, there was the Railriders Wayfarer shirt, which Padre truly loves. Unfortuatnely I didn’t like any of their patterns, and the whole point of this endeavor was to look better outside. Then I looked into the Ibex Champlain, but it is heavier than all my other wool shirts and I worried that it would be too warm. Frustrated, I gave up until the fine folks at Tilley called and asked if I would be interested in reviewing their entrant to the category, the moisture management shirt.
I have a very, very long history with Tilley products. Padre gave me my first Tilley Hat, right from his head to mine, when I was a kid. I have worn nothing else ever since. Their hats have been with me three times across the Tibetan Plateau, on tiny boats in the East China Sea, to the bottom of the Grand Canyon countless times, and on more hiking, fishing, hunting, and backpacking trips than I could possibly count.
What has always impressed me most about these hats, beyond the deep emotional connection that comes from wearing something for years, is the fact they are put together like tanks. Unlike some of my favorite American made products in the same category (looking at you, Filson), I’ve never found a Tilley product with a loose seam. This makes me happy: clothes are expensive so they should be made right.
On first look, this is just a regular old long sleeve shirt. When you look closer, however, a few things stand out.
For one, it is incredibly soft for a 100% nylon shirt. It doesn’t quite feel like cotton (EDITOR’S NOTE: That is a good thing!), but it is radically softer than any nylon I’ve felt before. Stitches are also tight and small, suggesting that they might actually hold up to use. The collar is stiff, so it stays where you want it. Last but not least, the pockets are zippered and built inside, rather than on top of the shirt. This might seem like a little detail, but if you are weight-loss-challenged, like me, you know that having big bulky pockets on the outside of your shirt makes you look like a fatty. No one wants to look like a fatty.
But how well does the Moisture Management Shirt manage moisture? you ask. To find out I decided to work up a decent sweat while wearing it, once tossing Jack around in the snow and once hiking up Miller’s Peak in southern Arizona.
Unfortuatnely I had some camera problems on Miller’s Peak, so pictures are in short supply. Further, were this a dedicated hiking shirt, more hiking specific testing would be in order. With that being said, I found that the Moisture Management Shirt managed moisture acceptably, but not exceptionally. The nylon construction wicked moisture away from my skin quickly but the lack of venting was what allowed moisture to build up in the first place. Putting venting on the shirt would look pretty goober-y, however, so these are just the types of tradeoffs you have to make in building an all around product. For the activities this shit was designed for (travel, fishing, light to moderate hiking, days outside with the family) performance is more than adequate.
In the history of Lesser Places we have never turned around a review this fast. We test gear until it breaks. Our long term reviews cover millions of steps, thousands of miles, and years and years of use. The fact that I feel comfortable reviewing this shirt with just a month under my belt should tell you something: I really, really like it. It’s comfortable, looks good, performs well, and is put together with obvious care. What more could you possibly want from a shirt?
DISCLAIMER: Tilley Endurables provided me the Moisture Management Shirt for testing. Though this may change in the future, there is no financial relationship between Lesser Places and Tilley Endurables and I am not sponsored by Tilley Endurables. Tilley Endurables had no editorial control over the contents of this review.
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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, occasionally for Backpacker.com, and even more occasionally for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.