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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Outdoor Research Womens Essence Tee > Heather Oakes Palmer > Test Report by Heather Oakes

Outdoor Research Essence LS Tee

Initial Report: December 16, 2006

Field Report: March 6, 2007

Long Term Report: May 8, 2007


Tester Information:

Name: Heather Oakes Palmer
Age: 29
Gender: Female
Height: 5'5" (1.65 m)
Weight: 140 lbs (64 kg)
Email address: alekto”at”yahoo”dot”com
City, State, Country: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Tester Biography:

I consider myself an intermediate backpacker, with my longest backpacking trip being only three nights. Day hiking and weekend backpacking comprise most of my experience. I average one backpacking trip and two day hikes per month covering about 10-15 miles (16.1- 24.2 km) per day. I tend to backpack in warm, humid climates, with a good amount of hiking in the southern Appalachian Mountains and I have rarely hiked in below freezing or snowy conditions yet. I am a lightweight backpacker and buy my gear accordingly, often splitting various objects and amounts of weight with my husband.

Product Information:

Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Year: 2006
Style: Women’s Paradox Jacket
Size: Large
Color: Wasabi (other colors available: Orchid, Delphi)
Listed Weight: 5.3 oz /150 g (size M)
Measured Weight: 6 oz /170 g (size L)

Product Description: Advertised as a shirt for active wear, the Essence is made of Merino wool which has moisture management and quick drying features. The Tee also features FreshGuard® odor neutralization. Designed for comfort, the wool fabric and fit is designed to “feel more like a comfortable cotton shirt than a technical piece.”

Initial Impressions:

The Outdoor Research Women’s Essence LS Tee looks and feels more like a work-approved comfy shirt than something I am supposed to sweat in. The shirt is long-sleeved in raglan style which I think means that it looks like a sports jersey. The overall style and ‘Wasabi’ color all appears as depicted on the website. The rounded collar is not quite high enough to cover my throat with two layers of seams sewn in to it. Both the sleeves and the bottom hems are double sewn. All the seams on the inside of the shirt look very strong. At this time the tee is free of snags and pulls on the fabric, and only has a couple of long threads coming out from the inside seams.

A small “OR” tag is sewn into the bottom left of the shirt. The inside tags describe the dri-release wool with Freshguard, and washing instructions. A small raised flower (the Outdoor Research women’s wear symbol) is visible on the outside of the shirt behind the neck, and in the inside of the shirt below the collar are labels with sizing and fabric origins.


The wool feels very soft and light against my skin as if it is an old broken-in shirt. The shirt fits well enough for an active-wear piece. I have room enough to wear the shirt over a sport tank but its snug enough that I don’t feel a lot of extra fabric when I tried it on underneath different mid layer jackets. The Essence has plenty of room in the chest, and roomy armpit area. The sleeves are long enough to cover my wrists and the shirt hangs below my waist covering most of my hips as well. The fit around my waist is roomy almost to the point of bulkiness, and the very bottom around my hips is a little too snug making me feel that the shirt is actually not very fitted for an hourglass shape. Since I like my active shirts to be slightly larger so I can’t always feel fabric attached to me, the Essence’s slightly larger fit works well for me as a hiking shirt. I would need a smaller size to make it look ‘fitted’ and suitable for non-active wear, but since I do plan on getting sweaty, I’d rather not have a curve (read: sweat) hugging top.

Field Report: March 6, 2007

Field Conditions:

A delayed and schizophrenic winter has certainly changed what the normal conditions for Georgia this time of year would be. I have tested the shirt on day hikes near Atlanta around 1200 ft (366 m) and backpacking trips in the north Georgia mountains in elevations between 2000-4500 ft (610-1372 m). For most of my testing including the first backpacking trip with the Essence; the days were between 45-65 F (7-18 C) and nights between 32-45 F (0-7 C) even above 3000 ft (914 m). During my last backpacking trip, the weather behaved more like a normal February with temperatures only reaching 35 F (2 C) in the middle of the day, nighttimes into the low 20’s F (-6 C) and plenty of chilly 5-11 mph (8-18 kph) wind and some sporadic light rain.


A mild January backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail near the North Carolina border allowed me to begin testing the shirt as an active layer. Using the shirt during the day with the temperatures around 50 F (10 C), the shirt performed well as an active layer. The fabric felt fine, not too sumptuous but more comfortable than older generations of activewear. Good amounts of sweat in the usual back and armpits areas allowed me to notice that the shirt dried quickly enough, but certainly did not instantly mop up my sweat. As the temperatures were fairly mild, the sweat dampened shirt did not chill me while at rest and did not chafe while hiking. Once in camp, the shirt was put out to dry so I could stink it up the next day. I can report almost the exact same results the next day when I hiked out, again using the shirt as an active layer.

The weather finally began to act like winter on a recent February backpacking trip, the first days’ temperatures were between 35-27 F (2 to -3 C), with slight wind and light rain. Due to a late start, I only hiked about 3 mi (5 km) with the Essence as my active layer but was worn underneath a wind shirt. I had misty rain off and on for a while which never actually hit the shirt, just my outer layer. The zipped up outer layer due to the rain caused me to sweat even more in the Essence than I had before in the testing. I was pretty chilled and had to add an extra layer while resting due to both my shirts’ and wind shirts’ dampness. Overnight, I again set the shirt to dry and changed into heavier clothing when the temperatures dropped to the low 20’s F (-6 C). The next day the temperatures were around 25 F (-4 C) when we hit the trail and the wind seemed to know when I was resting so it could chill me to the bone. Even with low temperatures by my standards, I still sweat and still get easily chilled by that sweat.

A few day hikes near metro Atlanta continued to allow me further test how well the shirt works as an active layer. Temperatures usually hovered between 50-65 F (10-18 C), so it never got cold enough to really feel the chill from the sweaty shirt. On one of these day hikes I did feel chafing from the shirt in the armpit area, where the straps of the pack rubbed the sweaty fabric, but I only had this chaffing problem once during a warmer day.

As I’ve hiked and backpacked with the shirt, so far the fit and comfort is good. I have never felt constricted by the neck, arms, or hips and I enjoy unrestricted movement. The shirt is long enough to not expose skin around my waist when simply sitting down, and the sleeves are just the right length. I’m not really sold on the fabric comfort; it is about average really, not soft enough for me to want to sleep on but I have certainly felt less comfortable fabric before and the inside tag near the hip area is uncomfortable. The shirt is breathable and dries out about as fast as most active wear shirts on the market today.

The smell of sweat retained by the shirt is minimal, a big plus in its favor. While I have not taken it on a trip longer than two days, I can sweat profusely in it after those two days and not be ashamed of walking around in public. The shirt reacts favorably to hand-washing specific areas, when only the armpits are washed with regular hand soap the smell is easily covered. After three machine washes with low heat dry or air dry, the colors have not run or faded and the wash has not had any negative effects on the durability of the shirt.

At the end of the testing period I have found the Essence to be extremely durable. I can find no ripped or dropped seams, no signs of strain or damage to either the collar or the sleeves, and only very minimal pilling has occurred where the shirt has rubbed up against things (most likely the pack). There are also no discolorations in the fabric, and it has retained its shape after use and washings. Overall, I am pleased with the odor control, the fit, and durability. While the fabric feels fairly comfortable, it is by no mean luxurious and the inside tag placement is awkward. The shirt is light and packs down well, but it is warm enough for most winter days I see here in Georgia.

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Long Term Report: May 8, 2007


A wimpy winter, and an early spring followed by a vicious cold snap gave me ample opportunity to test the OR Essence in multiple weather conditions throughout the entire testing period. During the final portion of the testing, I had sometimes warmer day time temperatures of between 30 F (-1 C) to 88 F (31 C) and night temperatures ranging from a low 20s F (-6.6 C) to 65 F (18 C).

Usually during backpacking trips the nighttime temperatures were too cold (47 F (8 C)) for me to wear the Essence after dark. Wearing the shirt almost exclusively during the day, I concentrated on testing this shirt as an active layer and letting it dry during the night to wear the next day. As the weather fluctuated and the spring evenings were not so freezing, I would wear the shirt in the chilly early mornings and sometimes at night. The Essence proved its worth during the cooler parts of the last weeks of the testing period with its versatility in milder three season weather. The shirt never lost its shape or stretched out from use, the fit stayed reliable and comfortable. Whether I wore the Essence as my sole active layer or underneath a jacket, the shirt continued to win points by not riding up my back while seated or wearing the pack.

During my almost every weekend day hikes; the Essence often needed sleeve adjustment with daytime temperatures mostly between 40 F (4.4 C) – 88 F (31 C). Once the temperatures were closer to the higher side during April and May, I began to feel uncomfortable in the shirt. During a hike in late April, I finally had to peel the dripping shirt off when I had decided that I was quite sweaty enough and could now hike in my sporty tank top (which was also soaked). The sweat rings around my armpit area had literally spread to the bottom hem of the shirt and I could feel chaffing from my pack. Hung out to dry for a day time break or overnight, the shirt aired out quickly when damp. The Essence did a pretty good job of not retaining body odor, a little soap and water on the smelly spots helped dramatically when I could not fully wash the shirt.

The Essence has remained very durable over the course of the testing period. Even after being heavily used the fabric is without rips, and the seams are solid with very few hanging threads. A very small amount of pilling or fuzzies can be seen in areas where the shirt gets rubbed a lot, such as the small of the back and on top of the shoulders. The area around the wrists and the bottom hem show remarkably few signs of wear with only a few small dangling threads. Machine washing cold with a low heat dry, and hand washing has not adversely affected the Essence either. I subjected the Essence to plenty of spring trail brush, but the shirt did not snag easily. I also continued to appreciate the freedom of movement I enjoyed wearing the shirt in the arms and neck area. Even while doing some stretching exercises or yoga, the shirt gave me plenty of room to move.


Overall the Outdoor Research Essence is a useful addition to my 3-4 season layering system. The Essence works well as an active layer during cold days, and as a base-layer on cold nights. With warmer weather, the Essence is comfortable even up to the mid 70s F (24 C) and the long sleeves keep the sunburn away but higher humidity does make the shirt feel like a sauna. This is not a summer shirt for my Georgia weather. Fitted for a woman, the shirt actually looks normal enough to wear in town as well as on the trail and does admirably well with that double duty. Pretty durable, the Essence also held up well under average backpack stress showing few signs of wear in the typical places such as shoulders and back. The Essence dries quickly and easily overnight (even in a humid tent) and the multiple usage aroma is fairly mild. It's high praise indeed when my only complaint is the placement of the inner tag near the bottom hem that rubs and annoys, but is easily remedied by the judicious use of scissors.

Thanks to Outdoor Research and for letting me try my luck with the Essence!

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