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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Outdoor Research Sentinel Shirt > Test Report by Rick Dreher

Outdoor Research Sentinel Shirt
Test Series by Rick Dreher

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LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - June 03, 2010
FIELD REPORT - September 26, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - November 29, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Rick Dreher
EMAIL: redbike64(at)hotmail(dot)com
AGE: 56
LOCATION: Northern California
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (2.10 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.40 kg)
FOOT SIZE US men's 11.5
TORSO LENGTH 19.5 in (50 cm)
YEARS HIKING 41

I enjoy going high and light and frequently take shorter "fast- packing" trips. My longest trips are a week or so. I've lightened my pack load because I enjoy hiking more when toting less, I can go farther and over tougher terrain, and I have cranky ankles. I use trekking poles and generally hike solo or tandem. I've backpacked all over the U.S. West and now primarily hike California's Sierra Nevada. My favorite trips are alpine and include off-trail travel and sleeping in high places. When winter arrives, I head back for snowshoe outings in the white stuff.


INITIAL REPORT

Product Information & Specifications

Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: OR Web site [www.outdoorresearch.com]
MSRP: US$ 85.00
Weight (manufacturer): 9.9 oz (281 g)
Weight (measured, men's large): 9.0 oz (255 g)

Details:

Long-sleeve button-front shirt treated with Insect Shield brand permethrin insecticide
Size: Men's large
Color: Fossil (gray)
Fabric: "Dri-Release" woven; 85% polyester/15% cotton
Additional features: Covered mesh panel vents under arms; roll-up sleeves with external button hooks; chest pocket with hook/loop closure; collar extension for additional neck coverage.

Initial Impressions

Overview: The Outdoor Research (OR) Sentinel is a button-front, standard collar, long-sleeve shirt for the outdoors. It provides full arm and neck coverage against sun, the elements and bugs. It's ventilated and made from "Dri-release" wicking fabric that is supposed to keep the wearer cool and dry. There is a chest pocket, a keeper system for rolled up sleeves and an extendable collar. Setting the Sentinel apart from ordinary outdoor shirts is Insect Shield insecticide fabric treatment.

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Not a bug to be seen.



Dri-release is an 85-15% polyester-cotton blend said to wick moisture (absorbed by the hydrophilic cotton) and force it outward to evaporate (by the hydrophobic polyester). OR doesn't provide a sunblock rating but surely this fabric provides a significant level of UV protection. Insect Shield is a permethrin treatment said to repel mosquitoes, ticks ants, flies, chiggers and midges. It's fixed to the fabric and is specified to last through 70 washings. Researching permethrin, I found that it's considered safe to the wearer and the surrounding environment when used within established guidelines. It's not water-soluble, which contributes to its use as fabric treatment (notably as applied to mosquito bed netting in the tropics). This is a good thing, because permethrin is extremely toxic to aquatic life.

First Observations

The OR Sentinel is a typical casual button-front shirt, styled to wear in town as well as in the backcountry. The fabric is mid-weight and the only hint of bug-repellency is a discreet Insect Shield logo. Metal buttons communicate a no-nonsense commitment to toughness and the chest pocket has a hook-and-loop closure. Mesh-backed ventilation is provided below the armpits and button tabs can anchor the sleeves when they're rolled up past the elbows. AWOL is a "zippered napoleon pocket internal with media port" described on OR's Web site but nowhere to be seen on the actual shirt.

Evaluation

Materials and assembly: The Sentinel is nicely cut, sewn and finished. It has a mesh-reinforced yoke, hang loop and other details that lend an overall feel of quality. There are no exposed and fraying seams and all stitching is straight and neat. The fabric itself is soft to the touch and fairly thick. The test shirt is a little lighter than the specified weight.

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Sleeve keeper straps.



Features: The vents, sleeve tabs, pocket closure and collar extension are all welcome additions. Bug repellence remains to be demonstrated. A quirky departure from a typical shirt is button holes that are horizontal rather than vertical.

Reading the Instructions

Instructions: The hangtags give details about the permethrin fabric treatment but nothing else about the shirt's design and other features. The OR Web site does detail the features. Care instructions are on the required tag sewn into the shirt itself, and another tag summarizes the insecticide treatment. Among the bits of information are notes that the shirt must be disposed of in the trash and is not to be used as anything other than a shirt. I will not, for example, strain drinking water through it.

Trying it Out

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Collar extension, extended.



The Sentinel fits fine. The sleeves and length are long enough and the shoulders give me freedom of movement. Due to the relatively heavy fabric the shirt is warm, sweaty in my local summer weather. The sideways front button holes are a little slower to button and unbutton, and I can't divine a reason for the design.

The sleeve tabs definitely keep the sleeves from falling down, which is a plus. The flip-up collar extension doesn't seem to want to stay up, so I'll have to see whether there's a trick.

In sum, the Sentinel is a nice medium-weight shirt that gives no outward hint of its bug-repellency.

Summary

The Outdoor Research Sentinel shirt is a backpacking departure for me, as I'm accustomed to wearing t-neck and zip turtleneck shirts hiking and camping. In addition to checking out its bug-repellant properties I'll see how I like a more traditional button-front shirt for camping.

Please check back in two months for the field report.

Acknowledgments

My sincere thanks to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test the Sentinel shirt!


FIELD REPORT

Field Locations & Conditions

I took the Sentinel on four backpacking trips: three to California's Desolation Wilderness and one weeklong trip to southern Yosemite. I also took it on two day hikes and half a dozen local area photography trips, and wore it locally many evenings when bugs were present (noted: Shakespeare and mosquitoes make an interesting combination).

Temperatures encountered ranged from cold (low 20s F/-5 C to as hot as the mid 90s F (35 C). Weather was usually clear and sunny but also encompassed hail, sleet and snow in Yosemite. Bugs? Oh yes friends, bugs by the score, by the thousands, by the kilo. In Desolation during July I ran into some of the worst mosquitoes I've ever encountered, and was peppered by blackflies for variety and laughs. I can always count on mosquitoes at home in the valley twelve months a year but in the mountains they're a cyclical phenomenon, and it looks like I hit high cycle. Luckily, by the late-August Yosemite trip the bugs had waned to an occasional bother and then, a sudden mid-trip cold front swept through and seemed to knock them completely out of the mountains (perhaps for the season?).

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Encircled skeets hankering for a snack. Illogical.




And there was much rejoicing.

Field Performance

Fit: The (men's large) Sentinel fits me fine-across the shoulders, sleeve length, tail length, collar are all adequate and comfortable. Rolled and strapped in place, the sleeves are about elbow-length, which is also fine.

Layering: The Sentinel's cut allows me to layer it comfortably over as many as two base layers (lightweight t-shirt and midweight long-sleeve undershirt). A down sweater or rain jacket will still fit over the Sentinel and the shirt and jacket don't bind or restrict movement.

On the Trail: I tried wearing the Sentinel day hiking and backpacking but found it too warm during mild weather, when it quickly became sopping with sweat. I preferred keeping it packed handy to don at rest stops where the bugs are waiting. In Yosemite I didn't need the bug protection so didn't try wearing it on the stormy trail days, wearing a hooded windshirt or rain jacket instead. Fit-wise I didn't have any problems wearing the Sentinel under a pack, there is no discomfort from seams, bunching fabric and the like.

In Town and in Camp: Here, the Sentinel was my best friend. Loafing in camp and beginning at dusk at home, I can don the Sentinel to keep the bugs at bay. It's comfortable and doesn't look like technical hiking gear, so I can wear it a lot of places. It's also warm on cooler evenings and the soft fabric feels nice compared to a nylon windshirt. The collar extension is a good idea but doesn't like to stay up. I don't know if there's a trick I'm missing.

Okay Bugs, It's You or Me: What do bugs actually do when they land on the shirt? Whether mosquito or blackfly they land and wander, looking for a drill site through the fabric, then fly off unsated. I'm deeply disappointed they don't keel over and die right there, but I can still envision them dying later, unsuccessful in the goal of egg-laying. It's my preferred outcome.

Camping, the Sentinel comprised one part of a three-part antibug system of shirt, permethrin-treated nylon pants and headnet that helped stave off bugs and keep me sane (relatively) especially in mid-summer. I'm confident the trio reduced my bite total by a good 90 percent, perhaps more. I get a little claustrophobic in the headnet but the shirt and pants were completely comfortable to wear while protecting my blood supply.

Laundry, Wear and Tear: Giving it no special treatment, I machine-wash the Sentinel along with other clothing (front-load washer) and machine-dry it, something I've done at least a half-dozen times. All my accumulated camping grime has come clean and I don't notice a difference in bug repellency. There's also no fabric pilling or other damage. A few threads have come undone, particularly at button holes, so I'll keep an eye on those. Somehow I've avoided gumming up the shirt with tree sap, a typical hazard of camping in the woods.

Summary

Permethrin fabric treatment works. When I returned home from the most buggy trips my lumpy, itchy hands, wrists and ankles were in stark contrast to the rest of me, which was bite-free. No West Nile virus for me, either.

The Sentinel is nicely designed and well made. The fabric is soft and comfortable, if overly warm in hot weather. The sleeve-keeper straps are great and I like the rugged metal buttons. Very importantly, it fits. Now that it's fall and the Sierra bug season has passed, I'll likely swap the Sentinel from my backpacking kit for a fleece top of similar weight because I'll prefer the added warmth to bug repellency. However, at home and around town I'll still use it because mosquitoes don't' really have an off-season.

Nits, Suggestions

Other than some stray threads I find no faults with the Sentinel shirt. The horizontal button holes slow me down a bit, but that's more a difference than a demerit.

For summer I'd like an option in a lighter fabric for truly warm weather. Some bugs like heat too. The collar extension would benefit from a tab to connect the front and keep it up because the current design doesn't stay put. I wouldn't mind having the phantom missing second pocket; it's nice to have pockets in camp.

Acknowledgements

My sincere thanks to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Sentinel shirt!

Please come back in two months for the long-term report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Long-Term Test Locations & Conditions

I took the Sentinel on one backpacking trip to California's Desolation Wilderness and on two day hikes in the Tahoe area. I wore around town on buggy evenings after fall rains returned, stirring the local mosquito populace to action.

Temperatures encountered ranged from the low 40s F (/5 C) to the mid 80s F (30 C). Weather ranged from clear to drizzly. Altitudes ranged from sea level to 8,600 feet (2,600 m). I only encountered mosquitoes locally; in the mountains they've been gone since I posted the field report. I did run into some pesky yellow jackets in the mountains, though.

Performance in the Field

On the Trail: I revisited wearing the Sentinel for day hiking in cooler weather than the field report, and it proved more agreeable than in summer heat. It's comfortable under a pack, with no annoying bunching under the straps or the back panel, and I didn't overheat when exerting myself. I didn't have any other new comfort insights while wearing it around town-it's a nice, mid-weight shirt.

Bugs: Mosquito resistance remains the same as during the field report. They land but don't stay long enough to bite. Yellow jackets ("meat bees") neither bit nor stung me through it after landing on me, but I didn't have a full-fledged assault to fend off either. (They can be very aggressive in fall and have no qualms about gnawing at anything that might prove to be a meal. They're especially drawn to open food, keeping mealtimes quick.)

Laundry, Wear and Tear: Further washings haven't bothered the Sentinel and it still looks good. As before, I see no fabric pilling or other damage and the bug repellency remains effective. No more buttonholes are unraveling.

Summary

I'm quite sold on permethrin fabric treatment. It's not a complete DEET substitute but it really reduces how much I use and frankly, in some ways is more effective. Plus, I've never enjoyed slathering myself in DEET.

The Sentinel is a nice shirt, comfortable and offering good utility. Because it's not laser-focused on camping, I can also wear it at home and in town, extending its usefulness.

Suggestions: Repeating myself from the field report, I'd like an option in a lighter fabric for truly warm weather. The collar extension design needs a rework to keep it up, extending neck protection.

Continued Use

The Sentinel will be back in my pack next spring, right after meltoff, and will remain until the mountains dry out in late summer and mosquitoes and blackflies are gone. It, along with treated pants and a headnet, give nearly complete protection against the mountains' buggy hordes. This has been quite a revelation.

Acknowledgements

My sincere thanks to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Sentinel shirt!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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