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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Carhartt Force Womens Performance Tee > Test Report by Nancy Griffith

September 29, 2013



NAME: Nancy Griffith
EMAIL: bkpkrgirlATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Northern California, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
WEIGHT: 130 lb (59.00 kg)

My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a light-weight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) and use a tent, stove and quilt.



FrontManufacturer: Carhartt
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: $32 US
Listed Weight: 5 oz (142 g)
Measured Weight: 5.5 oz (156 g) for Medium and 4.7 oz (133 g) for Small
Initial Color Tested: Asphalt Heather (M) and then Tulip Pink Heather (S)
Also Available in: Black
Made in El Salvador


The Carhartt Force Performance T-Shirt is a blend of synthetic and natural fabrics. It is 81% polyester, 14% cotton and 5% spandex. This combination is supposed to make for a tough shirt that wicks moisture, releases stains and fights odors.

The shirt has a crew neck with flat-lock seams and a women's princess cut. The seam is not at the top of the shoulder but is off-set to the front which is a feature I appreciate for wearing while carrying a backpack. The curved hem is slightly longer in the back than the front. There is a Carhartt logo on the front hem and a Force logo in the middle of my shoulders on the back. There is no tag at the neck but there is a large tag on the side seam.

The shirt has a look and feel of a soft cotton shirt but with the other synthetic fibers it has properties of a more technical shirt.


BackI reviewed the Carhartt sizing chart and saw that a medium would be the perfect size for me. It shows a bust of 35 - 36 in (89-91 cm) and a waist of 28 - 29 in (71 - 74 cm). The pink heather looked a bit too bright pink so I ordered an asphalt heather shirt in size M. I was surprised when I received the shirt to see how large it was. It reminded me of one of my husband's shirts. I tried it on and the length was quite long and the width was very wide. I tried wearing it for a 10 mile (16 km) hike and felt uncomfortable all day with the size. I talked of trying to shrink it in the laundry but then decided to find a store that carried them and get a smaller one.

During my one day of wearing the gray shirt, I managed to get a tomato sauce stain on it. I had forgotten to mention it to my husband who kindly attempted to shrink the shirt by washing it in warm water and drying it at our highest dryer setting. I was sure that the stain would be permanently embedded but it had come out. And the shirt size hadn't changed much.

I went into the store and the first thing that struck me was how much I liked the pink heather color and how the size XS looked like so many of my other shirts. I tried on a XS and S and was unable to tell the difference. I went back and forth and finally headed back to the rack for another S. It fit a little larger but not very much so. I bought it thinking that a little room for shrinkage may be in order. I haven't worn any t-shirts with cotton in a long time but I recall the 100% cotton variety shrinking.

I talked to the salesperson and she agreed that Carhartt women's clothing runs large. She gave me quite a story about all of her Carhartt clothing and the different sizes she owns in different fabrics. She also agreed that the sizing chart is inaccurate and advised me not to buy their brand online since I would need to try it on.

I really like the new size and color and am looking forward to wearing it this weekend for a backpacking trip.


On the tag are washing instructions which say to wash in cold water without bleach and to tumble dry on low. It also says not to use fabric softener which the salesperson re-iterated to me without prompting. Lastly it does not recommend using an iron. Yippee.



I wore the Force shirt for eleven days of backpacking and five day hikes. I also wore it for pre-dawn runs, tennis, mountain biking and going to the gym. I probably wore it twice a week on average.

Hetch HetchyBackpacking:
Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite National Park, California: 4 days; 32 miles (52 km); 3,900 to 7,400 ft (1,189 to 2,256 m); varied trail conditions from exposed dry granite to marshy bogs with multiple creek crossings and muddy sections.

Emigrant Wilderness, Sierra Nevada, California: 4 days; 24 miles (39 km); 7,160 to 8,930 ft (2,182 to 2,722 m); 55 to 85 F (13 to 29 C); mostly dry trail of dirt and rocks.

John Muir Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 3 days; 24 miles (39 km); 4,035 ft to 9,940 ft (1,230 to 3,030 m); 45 to 80 F (7 to 27 C); trail varied from loose sand to talus.

Hiking examples:
Mount Ralston, Sierra Nevada, California: 7 miles (11 km); 6,400 to 9,235 ft (1,950 to 2,815 m) elevation; 65 to 80 F (18 to 27 C); steep trail with packed dirt, loose sand and talus conditions.

Mount Rose, Carson Wilderness, Nevada: 10 miles (16 km); 8,900 to 10,776 ft (2,713 to 3,285 m) elevation; 60 to 80 F (15 to 27 C); trail varied from dirt to talus.


Mount Ralston
Let me start by saying that it seems I have owned and have worn every variation of natural (wool, cotton, silk, blends) and synthetic (nylon, polyester, blends) shirts that are available. I prefer wool for odor control, cotton for comfort (although it's a no-go for technical wear) and synthetics for maintaining a nice look and lack of wrinkles. So, I wasn't expecting to find anything new or different in this shirt. However, I was surprised to find the most comfortable shirt that I've ever worn which also has good odor control, maintains a great appearance and has excellent durability. This is easily my favorite technical shirt.

Moisture wicking:
I first wore the Carhartt Force shirt on a four-day backpacking trip. The first day included a 3,000 ft (914 m) climb over 8.5 miles (13.7 km). It was fairly warm and I was sweating profusely most of the way up the canyon. The shirt did a great job wicking away the moisture. When we stopped for lunch in a shady cool area, I didn't feel chilled and my shirt was not soaking wet. This continued on all of my other uses which were generally hot with lots of exposed climbs but the shirt wicked away my perspiration and kept me dry.

With plans for a three week backpacking trip later in the summer I was curious to see if this shirt would make the cut. I was only taking one t-shirt so it would be the one that would stay the best smelling. I was disappointed on day two of the Hetch Hetchy trip that my shirt was already sporting a disagreeable odor. I washed it in a zip-top bag with some leaves of pocket soap and dried it on a granite boulder in the direct sun. It dried in just a few late afternoon hours and was fresh smelling again. I purposely tried to wear the shirt a couple of times between washings to test this out and every time found that on the third day the odor wasn't acceptable to me. Based on this I ended up wearing a wool shirt on our three-week trip but I wore the Force shirt for the first three days. I washed it on day two.

To be fair I have some synthetic shirts (well I used to have them) that smell disagreeable on the first day of wearing and seem to be impossible to ever get clean-smelling again after too many days of vigorous exercise. On the other hand I have wool shirts that smell pretty good nearly indefinitely. I put this shirt in the above-average category as compared to all types of fabrics and excellent as compared to only synthetic shirts.

LaundryWashing & Drying:
I machine washed and machine dried the shirt approximately eleven times over the test period which was after multiple uses each time as mentioned above. On the trail I washed the shirt twice and swam in it a couple of times. It washed up easily and dried quickly in the sun laid across granite rocks.

I always seem to manage to get stains on my shirts and spilled some tomato sauce and other food on it at times. Those washed out easily and didn't seem to hold any residual stains.

The instructions say to wash in cold water and tumble dry low but this shirt probably got thrown in a warm water wash and got dried on a warmer temperature at times. There hasn't been any shrinkage and the shirt has held its shape.

Appearance & Durability:
The Force always looks nice and doesn't hold wrinkles even after being stuffed in a pack or slept in or on top of.

I like that the hem and tail of the shirt is a little bit long and so I never had any issue with my pack hip belt causing the hem to ride up.

The durability of the shirt has been very good with no pilling around the shoulder strap area which is common with backpacking shirts. It has no snags despite drying it on granite and getting caught while bushwhacking.

This shirt doesn't show any SPF rating and I've always found it funny when clothing has a rating since any fabric is obviously providing protection. But I noticed after the Mount Rose summit hike that I was lightly sunburned through the shirt afterwards. When I took off my clothes, I had a complete outline of my sports bra on my chest and shoulders. I have fair skin and it was early season when I hadn't had much sun, but I was really surprised that any shirt would let that much sun through. I have never experienced that before. In my younger days I have even purchased shirts that are supposed to let you tan with them on. Even though those shirts seem nearly see-through (which the Force is definitely not) I never seemed to get any sun.


This shirt has become one of my all-time favorites. This blend of natural and synthetic fibers seems to provide a nice combination of features. I'll definitely be buying more of them and only wish that they came in more colors.

Great wicking
Comfortable shirt
Nice feminine fit
No snags

Only comes in a few colors
Sizing chart isn't accurate

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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