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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Outdoor Research Sentinel Shirt > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Outdoor Research Men's Sentinel L/S Shirt
Test Report Series
Initial Report: July 1, 2010
Field Report: September 28, 2010
Long Term Report: November 29, 2010
author sporting the Outdoor Research Men's Sentinel L/S Shirt
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, 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.
The Sentinel L/S shirt is a long sleeve front buttoning shirt. It is not that much different than some of my flannel shirts or even dress shirts as far as the style goes but what sets this shirt apart is the built in bug protection. The website list the following key features. But I must point out that the last one listed is missing. I suspect it is a mistake on the website but there is no "Zippered napoleon pocket internal with media port" to be found on my shirt.
+Dri-release® woven; 85% polyester/15% cotton fabric provides comfort and moisture management
+ Insect Shield® clothing repels mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and no-see-ums, reducing the need for topical repellents
+ Insect Shield® is odorless and EPA-registered; effectiveness against insects is good for 70 washings
+ Relaxed ft with curved hem
+ Front button closure
+ Covered mesh panel vents under arms
+ Roll-up sleeves with external button hooks
+ Chest pocket with hook/loop closure
+ Zippered napoleon pocket internal with media port
While not listed, the shirt has the same mesh material across the shoulder area and it looks like the same mesh material as listed for the vents under the arms. That's pretty much it but I did want to show how the external button hooks look.
button hook to hold up the sleeve
The website also mentions an Infinite Guarantee and under that it says Outdoor Research products are guaranteed forever. But I assume that since the info for the shirt states that the insect treatment will remain effective through 70 washes that the insect protection part is not guaranteed forever. A tag on the shirt also said that 70 washes are the expected life of a garment. So taken together, I am a little confused as to why they would state that Outdoor Research products are guaranteed forever.
What makes the shirt work?
The website does not say what the insect treatment used is, other than it is odorless, safe, EPA-registered Insect Shield®. However, there was a clear card hanging from the shirt that list Permethrin (0.52%) as the active ingredient. I have used a Permethrin spray to treat my clothes in the past and had fairly good results. Just this past summer I used an Outdoor Research BugBugAway hat and was pleased with the insect protection it provided. I just hope the shirt works as well.
My shirt is an XL and it fits me very well. I can even button the top button with no problem though I generally don't button my shirts all the way to the top. The sleeves are a tad long, but that is usually the case with any shirts I buy because shirt makers must think all guys big enough to wear an XL must have really long arms. I am long waisted but the shirt tail on this shirt is plenty long for tucking into my pants and seems like it will stay put fairly well.
As I have already mentioned, the Insect Shield® insect protection is supposed to last through 70 washes. A tag sewn onto the shirt says to wash in cold water, do not bleach, tumble dry low, iron low and do not dry clean. The hang tag card said to wash as normal laundry. However, the care directions on the hang tag card say do not wash with other garments. The hang tag card also re-confirms the "do not dry clean" and explains that this will remove the treatment. It goes on to say do not re-treat the garment with other Permethrin insect repellent products. Since I doubt I would wash just the shirt in the washing machine I think I will just hand wash the shirt as needed. I usually line dry my clothes so I will probably do the same with this shirt.
My testing over the next several months will mainly focus on the bug protection the shirt offers. So far I've worn the shirt for several hours around in my yard as well in my friend's yard when I went over to visit and put a Boston Butt on his smoker. I did not get any bites in either yard, but since we had a smoker going in his yard that may have helped. I just know he didn't get any bites either in just a t-shirt. I did like being able to roll up the sleeves since it was a fairly hot evening. It was 90 F (32 C) when I was in my yard but did cool off considerably before I headed over to the friend's house at 7 PM. We were then outside until around 9 PM. I'll end by saying the shirt feels good. I was not sweating a whole lot but it also felt pretty cool with the sleeves rolled up and even before I rolled them up it did not seem all that hot.
wearing the Sentinel while paddling my kayakTesting Locations and Conditions
Most of my use of the Outdoor Research Men's Sentinel L/S Shirt came on several day hikes down to a creek behind my house, or as I call it, the holler. I did not do any overnight trips until recently (after the hottest weather broke) so I have only worn it on two overnighters so far. Both times were on short 4 mile (6 km) hikes on trails in these same woods. The low on the first night was 67 F (19 C) but it was 84 F (29 C) when I turned in around . The next overnight trip was a few weeks later and it was much cooler with a low of 54 F (12 C) but around 68 F (20 C) when I retired to my hammock. It did not rain either night but there was a lot of wind on the second night. I also wore the shirt on a couple of my longer kayaking day paddles when I knew I would be out in the mid-day sun for several hours.
Field Test Results
For about the first month and a half after getting the shirt my area experienced very hot weather, with highs over 100 F (38 C) and lows each night of around 80 F (27 C). I usually waited until late in the afternoon to do much hiking so this meant my hikes were not usually all that long. But I think the bugs had the same idea as they always seemed worse shortly before sundown. The main thing I noticed when wearing the shirt was that as I was walking along the trail, I would have a few bugs buzz me and even bump my face occasionally, but I did not get any bites on my head or wrist. I did get a few around my ankles which were a good ways from the shirt. The other thing I noticed was that if I stopped walking I would immediately get a pretty thick swarm of insects, but after a minute or so the cloud of bugs pretty much dissipated. I can't say this was a surprise because I noticed the same effect when I was wearing my Outdoor Research BugAway Bucket hat last summer. In fact I wore the BugAway Bucket hat on a few of my hikes as can be seen in the photo below.
wearing the Sentinel while day hiking down at the creek
On one of my paddles I did see an insect on the shirt but I wasn't wearing it at the time. I had stopped for a swim and had laid the shirt on my kayak which was beached near some overhead limbs. A cricket somehow landed on the shirt and seemed to be having a good time relaxing on it. Anyways, he (or she) didn't bother to jump until I got very close to the kayak. I didn't have my camera handy to get a picture and have not found any insects of any kind landing on the shirt since then, even thought I have taken the shirt off several times, either for a quick swim down at the swimming hole in the holler or when out paddling on the lake.
The best test was probably on the first overnighter when I used the shirt for bug protection in my hammock. It was a rather warm night so I was not down inside my sleeping bag and I left the hammock bug netting unzipped and pulled out of the way for the entire night. I did have on some gym shorts and kept my lower legs inside the sleeping bag but my face and hands ware not protected in any way other than being close to the shirt. I did hear quite a few bugs banging into my hammock fly and even a few around my ears, but they were not near as plentiful as when walking, and rather more like when I would stop for a short break when they pretty much left me alone.
I used the shirt in a similar fashion a few weeks later but it was much cooler and the wind was blowing so much that I really don't think there were many bugs flying around. I actually had on a T-Shirt under the Sentinel and it was all I needed to stay warm when I was hiking in and setting up camp but I was wishing for a light jacket the next morning. However, after stirring around a bit as I took down my hammock I was OK, and plenty warm once I started the hike up the side of the mountain back to the house.
Care and Durability
I'm not sure how many times I've worn the shirt but I usually wore it at least once and often two times each week. I soaked the shirt with sweat several times so I nearly always needed to wash the shirt after each outing. Therefore, I'm pretty sure I washed the shirt at least a dozen times and probably a few more than that. I washed it by hand the first three times since it says not to wash with other clothing but that got old fast. I reasoned that I could wash it with a few towels since I would not be wearing the towels. This worked rather well and the shirt did not even pick up a lot of lint like some garments do when washed with towels. I always hung the shirt outside to dry. As for durability, the Sentinel is still looking very nice. It seems to be holding up well to the many wearing and subsequent washes.
Summary Thus Far
I have no complaints with the Sentinel. It has kept me bite free on all my excursions with the shirt. I know it has worked because I have been bitten the few times I was out hiking and not wearing it. My one complaint would be that the shirt is rather warm when the temperatures were much above 80 F (27 C) and downright hot after it got into the mid 90s F (around 35 C). I could and did roll up the sleeves several times, but not always, because I felt the protection from sunburn was worth being a little hot. This was especially true when I was using the shirt while kayaking because I was usually out in the direct sunlight more. A lighter and more open weave fabric might be more appropriate for those really hot outing.
Locations and Field Conditions
I've now used the Outdoor Research Men's Sentinel L/S Shirt a total of 6 nights while camping and on literally dozens of day hikes since getting it. During this last phase of testing I used the Sentinel three consecutive nights while car camping in southwest Mississippi and one more night here in the woods near home in northeast Alabama on a 9 mile (14 km) overnight backpacking trip. The three nights/four days in Mississippi saw lows of around 50 F (10 C) each night and highs of around 80 F (27 C) each day. I only wore it during each night except for the race It did not rain at all but the winds were fairly brisk each night. My last night's use here close to home saw a low of 38 F (3 C). It did not rain during the night but did rain and sleet some while I was hiking the following day. The elevation at the camp ground in Mississippi was around 150 ft (46 m) and the elevation for the campsite near home was approximaty 1000 ft. (300 m). Most of my day hikes have been in mild fall weather but the last couple saw pretty cool temperatures at around 45 F (7 C). These hikes ranged from 2 to 4 miles (3 to 6 km) depending on how much time I had available to hike.
Long Term Testing Results
This part of my review will focus on the last four nights' use plus the day hikes during the same time period and then summarize all my uses. Wearing the Sentinel L/S Shirt has been more pleasant during the last couple of months due to the cooler fall like temperatures. This same cooler weather has meant that bugs have not been as bad. However, I did see quite a few biting insects during some of my training paddles leading up to the Phatwater Challenge and then during the three night stay in camp in Mississippi for the race. Shortly after that the weather cooled off enough that I really haven't seen many bugs.
I basically used the shirt as my sleep shirt during the stay at the campground in Mississippi. It worked very well with my arms exposed about half of each night. Then as temperatures dropped I would pull them inside my bag for the rest of the night. On the 42 mile (68 km) paddle it was a rather chilly 55 F (13 C) at the start of the race but warmed up to around 80 F (27 C) by the time I finished some 5 hours and 47 minutes later. I did not sweat too bad in the shirt during the race and took it off for the rest of the evening. I wore it again for the last night (third night) in my sleeping bag but it was beginning to develop an odor. Let's just say that upon returning home it was ready for a trip to the washing machine. I have worn the shirt on a couple more local paddles since the race but to tell the truth, paddling has not been high on my priority list lately.
I did use the shirt on one more overnight backpacking trip but this time the temperatures were cool enough that I did not see any insects. I hiked about 2 miles (3 km) before setting up my camp on a chilly and rather breezy evening. I wore a pair of sweat pants and the Sentinel bug shirt over a light performance top (basically a synthetic long sleeve t-shirt) and some thick wool socks to bed. It was 44 F (7 C) when I turned in and the low for the night was 38 F (3 C) when I checked it at around 5 AM. I hiked a little over 7 miles (11 km) the following morning and it was rather cool for the entire hike. In fact it rained lightly several times and even sleeted a couple of times. I would add my rain jacket over the Sentinel and performance top as needed but most of the time I hiked without the rain jacket. The shirt proved to be warm enough for these conditions but I did overheat a little on a few of the steeper climbs and got a little chilly on a few of my rest stops. However, this is pretty much what hiking in these conditions always presents for me and is not really a poor reflection on the shirt. . Here is a photo of the shirt being worn on this hike.
wearing the Sentinel while backpacking
I did not see many bugs on most of my recent day hikes but the shirt has remained comfortable and provided good warmth on some of the chillier hikes. In fact, I wore a light jacket and a pull over sweat shirt over the Sentinel on my last two day hikes. Then I would pull off layers as needed and even ended up in just my t-shirt on my last hike. Of course it warmed up to 60 F (16 C) and I sweat going uphill in just about any weather.
Long Term Durability
The Sentinel is holding up rather well considering the numerous wearing and washing it has seen. I have not kept up all that well but I estimate I have washed the shirt at least 25 times so far. I will admit that when paddling the shirt was not exposed to all that much abrasion but on several of my hikes I got the shirt hung up on briers and scrubbed it on many limbs and rocks.
Overall, the shirt does what it is supposed to do (keeps me from getting insect bites). It is a little warm for the hottest weather in mid summer but even then, it wicks well enough that I was able to wear it without too much discomfort. I could roll up the sleeves to help cool down but of course this left my arms exposed to the sun. Fortunately, the bugs left my exposed arms alone. My one concern is that the bug protection is said to only last through 70 washes. This may be considered the normal life of a garment but I am approaching at least 25 washes and my shirt still looks like it has a lot of miles left in it. I do tend to keep clothes until they are threadbare and I'm sure I go way past 70 washes for most items. Anyways, I did not have the Sentinel early during the summer when bugs were already bad. In other words, I could easily see washing it 35 times or half the life of the insect repellent in one full season. An option for sending the shirt back for re-treatment for a modest charge might be a nice touch for Outdoor Research to consider. But other than that, I would have to say that the shirt is good for general outdoor use anytime bug protection is needed. The sun protection is a nice bonus.
This concludes my testing of the Men's Sentinel L/S Shirt. I would like to thank Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this very nice shirt!
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