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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Carhartt Mens Force Henley Tee Shirt > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Carhartt Mens Force Henley Tee Shirt
Test series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: June 30, 2013
Field Report: September 17, 2013
Long Term Report: November 19, 2013
Author sporting the Carhartt Force T
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing/kayaking and most other outdoor activities, but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
When I think of Carhartt I think of tough work wear, and the Carhartt Mens Force Henley Tee Shirt (hereafter referred to as the Force T) claims it is designed for a 12 hour work day and not a 2 hour workout. However, since backpacking usually involves wearing a shirt all day, and often times the same shirt day after day, it seems logical that the Force T might fill the role of rugged and dependable outdoor shirt. The 5.75 ounce, 65% cotton/35% polyester plaited jersey knit of the Force T feels a little thicker than my normal 100% cotton tee shirts but it still has the feel of cotton and is no no way heavy. It is also designed to wick moisture and resist stains, both important attributes of a shirt expected to endure the rigors of hiking and just being out in the woods.
It almost seems like the Force T was designed with wearing a pack in mind. It is constructed with flatlock seams, a tagless neck and the seams across the shoulders are further to the front than my regular tee shirts (I checked). The care instructions are located on a tag on the lower left side but the tag is lower than my waist line. I will mostly be wearing the shirt outside my gym shorts so this will mean the only tag on the shirt should not be in contact with my skin. However, it could be removed if I wanted to. The Force T has three buttons on the front which can be left unbuttoned if more ventilation is needed. There is a pocket on the left side of the front of the shirt as well. The pocket is flat and measures approximately 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) wide and 5.5 inches (14 cm) deep. My iPhone fits in it without poking out the top which should mean it is less likely to fall out. Here is the shirt during an off-road recumbent bike ride, notice I have my phone in the chest pocket. The length of the shirt tail is also demonstrated.
The care instructions for the Force T are pretty simple. They are; Machine wash cold with like colors. Use only non-chlorine bleach when needed. Tumble dry low. Do not use fabric softeners.
I am testing an X-Large. This is the size of all my tee shirts. I will say that the X-Large in the Force T is slightly looser fitting than my tee shirts but I suspect a large would be a little snugger than I prefer. I am what is considered long waisted but even so, the shirt tail on this shirt hangs pretty low on me. I have worn it on 3 occasions so far and my wife says it looks good on me but then again, she is probably a little biased. Overall I am pleased with the fit but would not mind the shirt fitting a little snugger.
Trying it out
While not a dress shirt, I first wore the Force T to church on a Wednesday night. I then wore it for just over an hour the following morning on an off-road ride on my recumbent. It was about 85 F (29 C) and the humidity was 91%. I pretty much soaked the shirt within 30 minutes of riding and it did not dry off before I took it off at the end of my ride I hung it on the back of a chair in the kitchen while I took a quick shower and then checked it for wetness. It had dried slightly but was still pretty wet. There were a few drops of water on the tile floor of the kitchen. This might sound like a failure right off the bat, but believe me, when the humidity is 91% clothes do not dry very well. Anyways, the Force T was not dirty other than sweat so after my shower I washed it in the kitchen sink. I used lukewarm water and a little dish detergent. I then rung the shirt out as dry as possible and hung it out on my deck. The full sun did not hit it for an hour but it was about half dry before the sun hit it and completely dry about 30 minutes later. I next wore the shirt the following morning on a longer off-road ride, only this time it was a little cooler (81 F/27 C)) and the humidity was much lower (57%). I rode almost 2 hours but never did soak the shirt completely. I came home and threw it in the laundry. After my shower I washed it using the active wear setting which I use for most of my clothing that has polyester or nylon. I think this setting puts out cold water but I'm not positive. The washer dried the shirt quite a bit with a high speed spin at the end and it only took an hour for it to completely dry hung out on my deck in the sun.
Summary Thus Far
With so little use I really don't have much to say. It is very comfortable and seems like it will do a good job of wicking away sweat while I am out hiking and riding my bike for exercise. I'm a tee shirt kind of guy so it stands to reason I have enjoyed wearing it so far but I look forward to testing it on actual hikes with a pack to see how it will handle that kind of activity.
Test locations and Conditions
Testing during this phase took place riding my bike around the Cades Cove loop inside the Smoky Mountain National Park and hiking the Fiery Gizzard trail, also located in Southeastern Tennessee. I also did a lot of day hiking and bike riding in my home area of Northeastern Alabama. The most severe testing had to be the 3 day kayaking trip on Black Creek in South-central Mississippi. It rained a lot this summer, in fact, rainfall so far this year in North Alabama is about 8 inches (20 cm) above normal. It has also been slightly cooler than normal all summer, but the humidity has been higher so it has still felt pretty hot. I asked a guy from Idaho who was visiting the area in August what he thought about Alabama and his very first comment was "Damp, and the air seemed thick all the time". The hottest testing was during the kayaking trip on Black Creek when daytime highs reached the mid 90s F (35 C). The lowest temperature encountered was 50 F (10 C) on an overnight camping trip at the KOA campground in Townsend Tennessee.
Field Test Results
I will not even begin to try and outline all the times I wore this shirt. I will say that I probably wore it more than any other item of clothing I have ever tested. I wore it to town, to work and just around the house a lot. I often wore it for the day and then on a late afternoon hike or bike ride near home. Then I would let it dry on a chair or on the deck and wear it just for a hike or bike ride the following day. By then it usually did not smell all that fresh so I would wash it and then repeat the pattern.
My first overnight use was on May 17th when I stayed in a KOA campground in Townsend Tennessee. I was there for the 2nd annual Smoky Mountain Recumbent Rally. It was around 70 F (21 C) when I arrived at my campsite and I had on shorts and the Carhartt Henley Tee. I wore the shirt while I set up my hammock, while riding my bike around the campsite and then walking down by the river that ran adjacent to the campground. I then rode my bike about 2 miles (3 km) round trip to a nearby restaurant for supper. I waited until I was ready for bed around 10 PM before putting on a thermal top and bottom and hung the shirt over the ridge line of my hammock so it would be reasonably fresh for the ride in the morning. It rained during the night but stopped long enough for me to pack up the next morning. I skipped a formal breakfast but did have a couple of bananas and some nuts before I drove into the park to meet the recumbent riders for the ride around Cades Cove. Only 14 riders showed up (out of about 50) because of the rain, and a few that did show debated skipping it after seeing that the rain was getting harder instead of slacking off as predicted. One guy did bail, saying his wife would kill him if he came home sick. I had a similar discussion with my wife about re-injuring my knee so I understood where he was coming from. Anyways, I rode the 11 miles (18 km) in the rain in just under 2 hours. I know that sounds painfully slow, but I did get up to around 25 MPH (40 KMPH) on a few downhill runs, and that felt fast on the wet roads with wet brakes. It is hard to say how the shirt performed as it was under my rain jacket during the ride but I never did get all that hot and sweaty during the ride, probably because it stayed around 60 F (16 C) during the entire ride. By the time I drove back to town my shirt was basically dry. I wore it the rest of the day in town and then on the long drive home that night. When I got home I really did not notice any odor on the shirt but I needed a shower myself. I did wash it along with my other clothes and dried it on my deck. Once dry it smelled and looked as good as new.
My knee has steadily improved and I was able to do some short hiking trips with up to 45 lbs (20 kg) in my pack, or should I say packs. However, on my first backpacking trip my pack only weighed 25 lb (11 kg). I hiked about 5 mile (8 km) round trip on the Fiery Gizzard trail in Tennessee. It was 77 F (25 C) at the start of the hike. It sprinkled off and on during the hike to our campsite but I did not put on my rain jacket, however, my shirt got pretty wet from sweat, especially on my back side.
Sweat on my back after a few hours hiking
When we arrived at the campsite it was starting to thunder in the distance so I suggested that we should set up our hammocks and thus have a place to store our gear. After that we hiked down to an overlook to eat supper and watched the approaching storm. By now it had dropped down to about 70 F (21 C) and when the rain hit it dropped several more degrees. The storm lasted about 30 minutes but I stayed perfectly dry wearing my rain jacket. Well, not perfectly dry, my shirt was already damp from sweat and everything from my waist down got soaked including the non-waterproof boots I was wearing.
When the rain stopped we still had a few minutes of daylight left so we quickly searched the area for wood and somehow managed to light a small fire. At around 10 PM the rain came back so we turned in for the night. I brought a small throw blanket and some thermals to sleep in so I hung my shirt over my ridge line for the night. I woke up cold at around 2 AM and decided I needed to put on my rain jacket for additional warmth. The rain jacket helped me warm back up but I never did get truly warm. It was still raining the next morning so we skipped breakfast. I changed back into my shorts and the Henley Tee before packing up my gear. I also kept my rain jacket on for the hour and a half hike back to the truck. The rain varied between a sprinkle to pretty hard, and except for a little dampness from sweat, I stayed dry from my waist on up.
My next hike with a pack was a planned overnight on July 25th on the same trail. However, my hiking partner developed some blisters and had some ankle swelling issues so we decided to turn around after hiking just over halfway to the campsite. The shirt was comfortable under my original pack load. I ended up carrying both packs on the hike back to the truck. My pack weighed in at 30 lbs (14 kg) and my partners was 15 lbs (17 kg) so I ended up with about 45 lbs (20 kg) during the hike back to our vehicle. I did sweat more on the hike back out but this was expected.
Trust me, I'm having more fun than my expression illustrates...
On August the 2nd I wore the Carhartt Henley Tee for most of the time on a 3 day/3 night paddle on Black Creek in Mississippi. Daytime highs were in the the mid 90s (around 35 C) but afternoon thunderstorms cooled the air temperature down a lot. The lows each night were around 70 F (21 C) and I slept just fine in the shirt and a pair of shorts. For the drive down I put the shirt in one of my dry bags and wore another t-shirt on the 8 hour drive and then the first night in my hammock and the following day on the river. I put the Carhartt Henley Tee on shortly after landing at our campsite on the second night. I packed a pad and a light fuzzy throw blanket along but with the warm temperatures, I never even got them out of my kayak. Actually, I thought it was a little too warm in the shirt and shorts until well after midnight each night.
Except for a few times swimming, I wore the shirt around the clock the following day, the third night and then the last day on the river. I finally took it off back at the outfitters where I showered and changed into some clean clothes I had packed for the ride home. So basically I wore the shirt 47 hours straight, from 4 PM Friday afternoon until 3 PM Sunday afternoon. The good new is that the Carhartt Henley Tee was extremely comfortable the entire time. I did apply some sunscreen to my arms and lower legs but the shirt and the wide brimmed hat I wore provided my only sun protection for most of my upper body and, believe me, despite the afternoon thunderstorms, there was a lot of bright sun on this trip. We spent about half of our time each day paddling and the other half exploring the many white sandy beaches along the way. The bad news is that the shirt really did develop an odor by the end of this trip. I had packed it and my other river clothing away dry for the drive home. When I got home it was almost midnight and I took the time to unload my gear from my truck and decided to go ahead and wash the cloths I had worn on the trip. With all the clothes in the same bag it is possible some of the odor came from other items of clothing, but everything had that distinct "please wash me now" smell going on. I also did not want my wife to have to smell them... I put them in the washer and then hung them on some kitchen chairs to dry overnight. The next morning everything smelled great. Well except for my hammock and rain jacket which I washed outside the following morning.
Summary Thus Far
I am really pleased with the performance of this shirt so far. While not the most high tech shirt, it is certainly one of the most comfortable I have ever worn. It wicks away sweat reasonably well but does take a little longer to dry than full synthetic garments. However, it does not develop the odor that synthetics tend to, and what ordor it does develop washes away and stays away longer. I have noticed previously worn but washed synthetics will start to develop that "odor" shortly after putting them on, and even if I am not sweating. I have also been impressed with the durability of this shirt. It has not shrunk at all and other than a little stretching of the chest pocket it looks remarkably new. I suspect the chest pocket would look better if I had not carried my cell phone in it so often. Anyways, with fall weather just around the corner I am looking forward to more use before giving my final analysis.
Long Term Report: November 19, 2013
Carhartt Force Tee ready to go paddling with my wife, niece and nephews
Testing Locations and Conditions
I have continued to wear the Carhartt Henley Tee about twice a week. I wore the tee around the house, to town, on several more day hikes, one more overnight hike and while kayaking. However, with much cooler weather the past few weeks I have often worn it under another shirt or even a jacket. It has continued to perform well for all activities.
Most testing took place in the woods near home. Kayaking was also local, once on the Paint Rock River and on Lake Guntersville three times. It has not been hot during this last phase of testing. The coldest temperature experienced while testing the shirt was 26 F (-3 C) on an overnight hike.
Long Term Test Results
I wont cover every use of the shirt but highlight a few times when it proved to be exceptionally well suited for the task at hand. When I wore it while day hiking I found I used the chest pocket for my phone and eyeglasses. It was always easy to grab either and I never lost them out of the pocket. When I was kayaking my phone was in a waterproof case but I still needed a handy place to keep my reading glasses. I would slip my sunglasses off and put them in the same pocket for however long I needed my reading glasses.
On November the 12th I wore it under a long sleeve wool shirt on the 1 mile (1.6 km) hike. The temperature during the hike was around 40 F (4 C) and it was pretty windy. As soon as I stopped to set up my hammock I put on a light non-insulated rain jacket and wore it the rest of the evening and then in my sleeping bag since it was going to drop well below the comfort threshold of the bag I was using. The Force Tee worked well as my base layer on this hike but a long sleeved version might have been more appropriate. I was also pleased that the shirt stayed dry while I was hiking even though I did not go very fast and certainly not all that far. Here is the shirt being used as my base layer.
Though not visible, I'm wearing the Carhartt Henley Tee as my base layer in this photo
A few days later I wore the Carhartt Henley Tee while I cut and split a load of firewood for someone needing it. I started out with a light flannel shirt over it but was soon in just the tee, even though the temperature never got above 55 F (13 C). The shirt got pretty wet from sweat but, after I stopped working, the shirt dried within an hour as I continued to wear it. I was also burning a nearby stump and the shirt did smell like smoke. My wife found the smoke smell pretty strong when she got home from work and we went to deliver the wood, fortunately, washing it took away the odor.
I have not babied this shirt at all. On one of my kayaking trips I had to change a tire on my truck and had to crawl under it to get the spare tire and also when placing the jack. I was on a gravel road but the Carhartt Henley Tee did not seem phased. I have no idea how many times I have washed the shirt but it is still holding up well and has not faded at all. I am very pleased with the durability of the shirt.
The Carhartt Henley Tee has become one of my favorites, especially during the hotter months of the year. It works well for all my outdoor pursuits. It does wet out pretty easily but dries fairly fast. It also stays fresher smelling for longer than it seems should be possible. This concludes my testing of the Carhartt Henley Tee. I would like to thank Carhartt and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity.
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