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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Outdoor Research Womens Essence Tee > Kathleen Waters > Test Report by Kathleen Waters

Test Report: Outdoor Research W's Essence LS Tee TM
Last Updated May 4, 2007

Biographical Information
Product Information
Initial Report - December 12, 2006
Field Report - April 22, 2007
Long Term Report - May 4, 2007

Tester Biographical Information    <back to top>

Name: Kathleen Waters
Age: 55
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m)
Weight: 124.5 lb (56 kg)
Bust: 35 in (89 cm)
Waist: 27 in (69 cm)
Hips: 36 in (91 cm)
Email: kathy at bysky dot com or
TheMiddleSister at usaring dot com
City, State, Country: White Lake, Michigan USA

Backpacking Background: My husband and I started hiking in 1998 after an eye-opening climb up Hahn's Peak in Colorado.

Hooked, we return to Colorado often. We've hiked/snowshoed glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley.

At home in Michigan, we plan for 2-3 hikes of 6-8 mi (10-13 km) weekly and one weekend hike monthly. Weekday hikes take place in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, a mixture of heavily-wooded moderate hills and flat terrain. Weekend hike locations vary.

My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) including food and water.

Product Information (including picture, from website)    <back to top>

Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Year of Manufacturer: 2006
Model: W's Essence LS Tee TM
Weight: 5.3 oz/150 g (size M)
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
Color: Orchid, Wasabi (green), & Delphi (blue)
MSRP: $42 US
Warranty: None found


Merino wool fibers give this comfortable long sleeve the ability to manage moisture and dry quickly. Active styling makes it feel more like a comfortable cotton shirt than a technical piece. The odor neutralization allows you to wear it for days on end without developing a permanent scent.

Outdoor Research W's Essence LS Tee

+ Lightweight Dri-Release® Wool fabric manages moisture, dries quickly
+ 88% polyester/12% Merino wool for superior wicking and a cotton-like feel
+ Built-in FreshGuard® odor neutralization
+ Raglan sleeves

Product Information (from tester)

Size: M
Weight: 6 oz (170 g)
Color: Wasabi

Initial Report
First Impressions
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December 12, 2006

The Outdoor Research W's Essence LS Tee TM as delivered is exactly what I expected after shopping the OR website. The "wasabi" color I received matches perfectly to the color depicted on the website and the website sizing chart was right on for helping me pick out the proper size for my desired fit.

OR W's Essence LS Tee

Like the baby bear in the fairy tale, I like my tees not too big, not too small, but "just right." And the Essence LS Tee TM fits me "just right", comfortably close without being tight. The sleeves are long enough to cover my wrists without being so long as to need rolling up. The hem hits me mid-hip - about 5 in (17 cm) below my waist which makes the Essence LS Tee TM long enough to be worn securely tucked-in or casually pulled-out. I can safely raise my arms over my hand and bend over to tie a boot lace without risking frostbite of the mid-riff.

Princess seams both front and back combined with the raglan sleeves give the OR Essence LS Tee TM a neater look than the average tee and create a smooth, non-bulky underarm. The crew neck lies flat against my body. The raglan sleeves have no top-of-shoulder seams to rub under my backpack shoulder straps. The Outdoor Research W's Essence LS Tee TM is not a walking billboard emblazoned with corporate logos either. A small same-color raised logo can be barely seen on the upper back of the Essence Tee along with an even smaller fabric tag "OR" on the left hem. I can wear this Tee in public without being in the least self-conscious.

OR W's Essence LS Tee Logo

OR W's Essence LS Tee size tag
OR Essence LS Tee care tag

Right out of the box, this is one comfortable long-sleeved tee! The softness of the fabric is like that of a well-worn, well-loved cotton tee with absolutely none of the scratchiness I expect from wool. The seams - and there are more than normal - are not even noticeable when I have the tee on.

Thankfully, Outdoor Research utilizes a stamped size tag at the back of the neck rather than a protruding traditional one, so there is none of the usual irritation there. However, the care instructions which are on the inside left back seam, are on a particularly long, very stiff tag which is very scratchy. Another much smaller fabric tag in the same location touts the Dri-release® FreshGuard® feature and is much less noticeable.

The quality of the Essence LS Tee TM is excellent. All seams are double stitched for strength and the edges are also top-stitched to prevent unraveling of the cut fabric edges. The stitches are straight and tight and the various junctions of two seams are smooth and lay flat nicely. I only found one very slightly loose/pulled stitch on the neckline and no loose threads or long "ends".

The polyester/Merino wool fabric of the Essence LS Tee TM is smooth with no pulls, runs, snags or other irregularities.

Field Report
Field Conditions/Test Results to Date
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March 5, 2007

During the past two months, I've worn the OR Essence LS Tee TM on numerous occasions each month. Out-of-state trips included two weeks dayhiking in the Canon City area and snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park at Christmas time. Wear time for the Essence LS Tee TM was also supplemented with day hiking in Michigan and just plain casual wear around the house.

Temperatures encountered in Canon City was generally in the low 40s (6 C) during the daytime and the teens (-9 C) at night. With the abundant sunshine and almost no humidity, it felt much warmer though. Canon City is in the Arkansas River Valley and is very desert-like with lots of hogbacks and mountains for great hiking opportunities. I spent a lot of my time there alternately dayhiking along the Arkansas River and climbing around the foothills of the Cooper Mountain range. Elevation ranged from 5343 ft (1629 m) to about 6747 ft (2056 m). Alas, there wasn't any snow at all even though I could see lots of it on the tops of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the southwest.

My snowshoeing trip took place on the western slopes of the Rockies in Rocky Mountain National Park. Elevations were in the 9100+ ft (2700+ m) range. Temperatures hovered in the mid 30s F to low 40s F (1-6 C) with almost no humidity or wind and lots of glorious sunshine.

Trails I took were between 6 to 8 mi (10 to 13 km) round trip and were semi-packed snow from previous hikers. The terrain was moderately hilly, actually, I was almost always headed uphill for the first half of the trail and then downhill for the latter.

Testing the Essence LS Tee TM in Michigan has consisted of day hikes in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area on my every-other-day training/conditioning hikes. These hikes are between 5 and 6 miles (8-10 km) with weekend hikes stretching out into 8-10 miles (13-16 km). On my current set of trails, the terrain is moderately hilly, hard-packed dirt and heavily treed. Of course, during this test, the trees haven't offered any shelter from the elements since they are deciduous and currently, leafless.

Lastly, I've worn the tee on occasion in my house where the thermostat is set at an environmentally-friendly 65-67 F (18-19 C).

Wearing the Essence LS Tee TM in Canon City, Colorado was a definite test of the odor-resistance of the tee. I deliberately planned to and did wear the shirt everyday for a solid week. The activities were mostly 3-4 hours at a time of light hiking with and without a pack weighing under 10 lb (4 kg). The rest of the day was spent walking around town checking out the antique shops. In Canon City, I wore the Essence LS Tee TM solo with just my Columbia Boulder ski jacket atop. There were times that I strolled around with the jacket unzipped. And I was very comfortable temperature-wise.

The Essence LS Tee TM never smelled objectionably although it didn't smell spring-fresh either and surprisingly, the shirt didn't get all stretched out either. At the end of the first week, I handwashed out the Essence LS Tee TM in a hotel sink and threw it over the shower rod to dry out overnight. This was at dinner time and by the time I went to bed, 6 hours later, the tee was dry enough to wear. Of course, this was in Colorado where I have to practically drown myself in body lotion because of the lack of moisture in the air!

While in Rocky Mountain National Park, I wore a bit more clothing, in a more layered fashion. First was the silk long johns, then came the Essence LS Tee TM sandwiched between the silkies and a fleece jacket. I carried a pack filled with an extra wind jacket and ski jacket for layering when stopping to eat or after the sun started to set, as well as my headlight, extra socks, food, water, camera and miscellaneous personal items weighing about 11 lb (5 kg). Again, I was perfectly comfortable with this combination of layers. Snowshoeing was definitely more strenuous than hiking dirt trails, and I know at times I was hot, but I never felt more than damp and by the time most shirts would have been feeling clammy and cold, the Essence LS Tee TM had wicked the moisture away from my body. After two days of pretty heavy-duty powder snowshoeing however, I felt the tee needed to be washed again.

Even after two handwashing/hanging dry sessions, the Essence LS Tee TM looked good enough to wear solo on a shopping trip in downtown Denver. OK, I confess, I went to REI where I really didn't have to look extremely neat. But, really, I did look perfectly presentable.

I have to say the Essence LS Tee TM is a great shirt! I love the way if feels and while it is so light, it offers more warmth than I had anticipated, yet I don't seem to sweat. The length of the tee is such that it stayed tucked in my pants and I never had an exposed area of skin at my waist which is very important to me while in snowy climes.

I've washed the Essence LS Tee TM at home also with no harm caused by machine washing and drying. The shirt still looks almost brand new after two months with no pilling, pulls or unraveling seams.

The one negative I have to admit is the care instruction tag inside the Essence LS Tee TM drives me crazy. It is just SO scratchy - or I have extremely delicate skin (not!). I make sure there is some other material between the tag and my skin. I would like to see Outdoor Research do away with the current tag material. I know I would love to cut the tag out!

Long Term Report
Summary Report
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May 4, 2007

During the latter stage of my testing, all of my "technical" wear of the OR Women's Essence LS Tee took place in either the Cañon City area in Colorado or southeast Michigan.

Terrain in Colorado ranged from elevations of 5343 ft (1629 m) to about 6747 ft (2056 m)and consisted of rocky to dirt trails up to a 35% grade, including a good deal of rock scrambling in Cañon City's Red Canyon Park and the BLM district near Cooper Mountain. This area is primarily high desert with lots of piñon pine, juniper and cactus. While it was a wetter than normal winter in this area, I rarely encountered any snow on the ground and only once was hiking in wet conditions.

In Michigan, most of my testing was in deciduous forested areas of rolling hills and flat meadows with little or no elevation gain. There was little or no snow on the ground during the last couple of months and no precipitation.

First, let me say, I generally hike "hot". And during the latter period of this test, the weather got warmer at times, so I was able to test the OR Essence Tee up to a high temperature of 80 F (27 C). I was surprised to find I could comfortably wear the shirt solo up to 60 F (16 C) doing easy to moderate hiking. Any hiking over 60 F (27 C) meant that I was more than a little damp and by the time the sun was blazing down at 80 F (27 C), I was really uncomfortable at even a casual stroll. The upper temperature comfort limit during strenuous mountain hiking for me was around 55 F (13 C).

At the higher temperatures, while the Tee would get very damp, it wicked the moisture away from my skin so effectively that the outside of the shirt would be wet when the fabric against my skin was merely damp. During rest stops when damp clothing is most noticeable, the shirt would usually dry our totally by the time I was ready to go again, especially in Colorado's windy dry climate.

The Essence Tee continues to retain its shape after four months of extensive wear. There is no drooping at the hemline, the sleeves are still trim and snug around my wrists and the neckline still lies flat on my body. I think though the Tee has shrunk a bit, although it might be my usual winter weight gain of a couple of pounds. However, the Tee is amply sized to accommodate this with sufficient length to continue to provide coverage to my back when bending over and my midriff when reaching up. Nice!

The quality of the Essence Tee is is even more evident after four months of wear. There are none of the usual pills or snags even after direct contact with the rubbing of my backpack. And none of the stitching has become loose or broken.

I'm looking forward to lots more wear-time for the OR Women's Essence LS Tee in the fall and winter months and as a result of this very positive experience, I plan to add a couple of short sleeved Essence Tees to my on-trail wardrobe for the warmer months.

Things I Like:

    This shirt is comfortable! The cut is fitted close enough to keep me warm when the weather is cold yet not so fitted as to be uncomfortably clingy when the weather is warmer.
    The fabric of the Tee is soft and light, very unlike my expectations of wool.
    The OR Essence Tee does a great job of wicking away sweat from exertion, yet also repels dampness from the elements.
    There is little smell of sweat even after several days of wear, just a slight "dusty" smell.

Things I Don't Like:

    The only negative I could find - and I really had to nit-pick here - was the care instruction tag's scratchiness! I suggest that the tag either be relocated to the very bottom hemline of the Tee or the fabric changed to a softer material. I will be removing the tag totally now that the test period is over, so for me, this very minor problem is solved!

This concludes my Test Series Report on the Outdoor Research W's Essence LS Tee TM. Thank you Outdoor Research and for the opportunity to test this neat product.

Kathy Waters

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