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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Scottevest Performance Tee > Test Report by Richard Lyon
SCOTTEVEST PERFORMANCE T-SHIRT LONG SLEEVE
Initial Report January 5, 2008
TESTER INFORMATION AND BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 61 years old
I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do a weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker, and I usually choose a bit of extra weight over foregoing camp conveniences. I'm an avid skier who does most of his backcountry winter traveling on telemark skis.
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION AND DETAILS
Manufacturer: SCOTTEVEST, INC., Ketchum, Idaho USA
SCOTTEVEST promotes its entire clothing line under its trademark "TEC," for "Technology Enabled Clothing." The SCOTTEVEST Performance T differs from a plain synthetic tee shirt primarily in its features: three pockets, accessible from zippers on the front of the shirt, and a "Personal Area Network" (described below) that facilitates use of the shirt with electronic devices such as an MP3 player or mobile telephone. Two of the pockets ("Hidden Side Seam Pockets™") are located at the hem on the wearer's right and the third (a "NoBulge Pocket™") at the wearer's left shoulder. The Hidden Side Seam Pockets are both accessible from a single zipper. Each pocket has a port for a wire from the wearer's electronic device. The port is a one and three-quarters inch (3 cm) slit, reinforced with stitching in a contrasting color thread (red on my shirt). The user can thread a wire through the slit to a small elastic loop (also red) sewn on the inside of the collar at the shoulder (one on each side) to use an earpiece. This is the "Personal Area Network (PAN) wire management," which SCOTTEVEST's founder Scott Jordan has patented. Except for the zippers all of this rigging is inside the shirt and not noticeable when looking at the outside.
In general. The Performance T appears to be well constructed, with no loose stitching or other defect. It has a straight sleeve construction with a small yoke in the back below the collar, in the center of which is a SCOTTEVEST logo embroidered in a thread that is slightly lighter grey than the shirt, nicely understated. On the left sleeve at the bicep is a small (1.1 x 0.4 in/28 x 10 mm) red rectangle with the TEC trademark in white letters, also understated. The hem has a double layer of fabric three-quarters of an inch (19 mm) wide, with two rows of stitching at the top.
Pockets are accessed through two five-inch (12 cm) zippers, one on the left shoulder at a slight angle and the other flush along the right seam above the hem. These are the same grey color as the shirt, with the company logo on each zipper tab. A divider is sewn to separate the two hem pockets; either is easily accessible from the zipper opening. My mobile phone or Blackberry device fits in each of the pockets comfortably but reasonably snugly, and it's a simple matter to thread my earpiece through a slit and loop and out through the collar.
Fabric. A tag on the shirt says simply "100% polyester," and I couldn't find out much more about the fabric's content. Huntsman, a Swiss company, says that its "High IQ" stands for innovation and quality and refers to color and finishing effects. Whatever it is I like it. The fabric has a supple hand, with little slipperiness. The color matte grey color has none of the shininess that I've found on some other polyester fabrics. The outside fabric surface has tiny pock marks while the inside is smooth.
Fit. XXL, SCOTTEVEST's largest size, gives me an excellent fit. From SCOTTEVEST's sizing chart I couldn't decide on XL or XXL, so I took the company up on its offer (on the website) to order one of each and return the poorer fitting shirt. SCOTTEVEST sent both and, in a customer-friendly gesture, included a prepaid mailing envelope for the return. My XXL fits well across the shoulders and has plenty of length, enough so that several inches/centimeters fit inside my trouser waistband. A few test stretches in various directions didn't result in a loose shirttail, a good sign for this tall tester. The sleeves come just short of my wrist. It looks good on me.
Testing priorities. As with any base layer my acid test is wicking ability; will the shirt wick perspiration away from my body without becoming saturated or smelly. Right behind is comfort, as I don't like itchy or slick fabrics. No problems out of the box, but what about after a good sweat? I give my shirts a workout, and I'll examine how well this one can take the scrapes and branches of backcountry use. Will frequent use and washing affect integrity or functionality in any way? How easy is this shirt to care for? SCOTTEVEST instructs machine washing (cold water, delicate cycle, no bleach) and air drying, comparable to my wool shirts. Of course I'm interested in how well the PAN system works and will see how easy it is to make and receive telephone calls while wearing this shirt with wires stung through the loops, and whether the arm and leg movements that are part of aerobic activity will dislodge anything.
I have worn the SCOTTEVEST tee on one backpack trip (two days, two nights), five days of inbounds and out-of-bounds skiing, and about ten days when day hiking or exercising.
Backpacking. A two-day, two-night backpacking trip in Oklahoma, in pleasant February conditions: down to about 40 F (5 C) at night, 65 F (18 C) during the day, moderate winds, low humidity, and no precipitation. I wore the SCOTTEVEST as a base layer on our hike in and out and during the days, which were spent mostly fly-fishing. During the hiking the SCOTTEVEST was my only upper body garment, but I added a lightweight down parka or a fleece-lined jacket whenever we stopped.
Skiing. In early January I spent a week's vacation at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jackson's base is about 6300 feet (1900 m), with more than 4000 foot (1200 m) vertical rise to the top of Rendezvous Peak. I wore my SCOTTEVEST as a base layer on three of my seven days of skiing, under a lightweight down parka and either a Thinsulate-lined one-piece ski suit or insulated ski parka. Temperatures ranged from 8-25 F (-13 to -4 C), with snow showers or a storm most of the time and gusty winds nearly all the time.
I returned to Jackson in early March to find much more temperate skiing conditions, with afternoon highs just below freezing, mostly sunny and no precipitation. Again I wore the SCOTTEVEST as a base layer under my down parka and a tricot-lined shell.
Near Home. The North Texas winter has been typically mild, with temperatures about 40 F (4 C) early in the morning and rising to 65 or 70 F (18-21 C) by mid afternoon, sometimes warmer. A few times I've worn the SCOTTEVEST when exercising at my gym, a temperature-controlled 68 F (20 C). Always when exercising and anytime the temperature rose above 50 F (10 C) when day hiking the SCOTTEVEST was my sole upper body layer, though I added a windbreaker or sweater after the particular activity.
Wicking. The unnamed polyester fabric wicks perspiration away from my body quite well. The shirt had its toughest duty on a backcountry ski day and in the gym. During my uphill hiking on skis the shirt would get a bit damp but it would dry out quickly after the aerobic spell ended. This wasn't caused by evaporation, as it was my sole base layer only for a few seconds while I removed my mid-layer; the fabric gets all the credit. During my spinning sessions or stair climbing in the gym the shirt became wet after fifteen or twenty minutes, but it didn't become soggy (as cotton regularly does under identical conditions), and the shirt was dry ten or fifteen minutes later.
Comfort. I'm partial to natural fabrics and usually notice synthetics fairly quickly; they just seem slipperier or scratchier than the merino I use most often as a base layer in the backcountry or the cotton I usually wear in the gym. The SCOTTEVEST feels different from wool, but not unpleasantly so; I haven't had the itching or irritation that some polyester and sweat combine to give me. The shirt hasn't faced three or four days' continuous use in backcountry heat yet, but so far I've been pleasantly surprised with its performance in this regard. The fabric seems very light against my skin, thanks I think to the pockmarked fabric. The shirt's light weight bears out this observation.
None of the seams has caused any irritation from rubbing against my skin, and I haven't noticed any stickiness or other impairment of movement of my trunk or arms during hiking or skiing. I'm glad I chose the larger size, as the somewhat looser fit and longer torso length have reduced any bunching during arm movements. I can't recall my shirttail coming out – a common occurrence when I am skiing - in back at any time.
The fabric is not odor-free. After a tough ski day there's been some of the tell-tale scent of polyester doused with perspiration. Perhaps because the shirt's relatively new, or perhaps because it hasn't faced more than two consecutive days' use before washing, the aroma has been mild and certainly no worse than any other synthetic. This is something I'll look into in my continued testing, if necessary intentionally adding more usage between washings.
Durability. So far so good. Abrasion with avalanche holster and suspender straps, frequent arm movement, and plenty of sweat haven't affected integrity or functionality. I've noticed no stretching or misshapenness. I'll be looking at what two more months' use, in warmer temperatures and with pack straps directly against the shirt, will do.
PAN system. I confess up front that I'm not the ideal tester of SCOTTEVEST's Personal Area Network system for electronic devices. One reason I seek out the backcountry is to escape cell phones and electronic mail. Unfortunately not all my clients see things the same way, however, so more and more I find myself carrying a mobile device on a day hike or weekend backpack. Breaking precedent, I even took my phone on the ski hill this March to deal with a business exigency. So I can report that the pockets of the SCOTTEVEST work well as hiding places for mobile devices. I've been using mostly the NoBulge Pocket (the one on my left shoulder), as in colder weather I like to keep my shirttail tucked in, which prevents using the other pockets for this purpose. My phone fits nicely inside (with some but very little bulge), and it's easy to get at it when it rings by opening the zipper with my right hand. The shoulder pocket is also a good spot to store my smaller digital camera. I store either device in a Zip-Lock bag to avoid any dampness.
On a day hike I carried both phone (in the NoBulge Pocket) and Blackberry (in one of the Hidden Side Seam Pockets at the hem), leaving the shirt outside my shorts. Another good fit; the device didn't bang against my thigh when hiking. I'd say that these pockets do their job quite well.
My phone is a clamshell model, with no buttons accessible when it's not in use, and the Blackberry requires re-entry of a password every thirty minutes, so I couldn't test the manufacturer's claim of being able to manage buttons through the shirt, without unzipping. Too many buttons to find. I don't own an MP3 player, but I'll borrow one to see if I can operate simple buttons through the fabric, and to evaluate the port system for an earpiece.
Care. As my first use was when I was staying at a lodge in Jackson I gave the SCOTTEVEST its initial wash by hand, using an individual packet of Woolite in my bathroom sink. After twenty minutes' soaking and a rinse, I placed the shirt over a towel rack to air dry. It was completely dry overnight, unlike a pair of merino long johns washed at the same time.
I've washed the shirt four times at home in my front-loading washer, following the manufacturer's recommendation to treat this polyester shirt in the same manner as wool: machine wash with cold water, on gentle cycle with gentle detergent and no bleach, and then air dry. (I also followed SCOTTEVEST's amusing admonition, on a tag on the shirt, of removing all electronic devices before washing. I can tell that this company was started by a lawyer.) My own practice is to dry shirts flat and I have done so with the SCOTTEVEST after that first hand washing.
Use and washing haven't caused any cosmetic or functional changes to the shirt. I've seen no fading or spots, no pilling, no loose threads, and no distortion in size or shape.
What I Like.
· The fabric. It's lightweight and comfortable, and wicks well.
· Design. As promised, no chafing from stored devices.
· Fit. Not baggy, even in the maker's largest size. Great long shirttail.
What I Don't
· I've always thought that the best thing about synthetics was being able to toss them into the dryer. I'm not supposed to do that with the SCOTTEVEST. No dryers in the backcountry, though, and the fabric does air-dry more quickly than wool.
Springtime temperatures have given me a chance to wear the tee as a true t-shirt rather than under one or two other layers. Over the past two months I have worn the SCOTTEVEST tee on four day hikes and two overnight backpacks, all here in North Texas, and on about ten days during aerobic workouts at my health club. Outdoor temperatures have ranged from 50 to 90 F (10 to 32 C); my air conditioned gym is a constant chilly 68 F (20 C). One of the overnights featured heavy rain while in camp and occasional showers and mist on the short hike out, the other with humidity and rain on the hike in. At these times I wore an eVENT rain shell over the tee, and at rest breaks when hiking and during my stretching after my exercise sessions I donned a merino or fleece sweater, but usually the tee was my only upper body garment.
The SCOTTEVEST tee has performed well throughout the test period. The most noteworthy thing about it is nothing – as in nothing has gone wrong. After four months of regular use and about a dozen washings the shirt looks and performs just as it did the first time I wore it. All stitching remains intact, neither the shirt itself nor any of the three pockets has stretched or otherwise changed shape, there's been no pilling, and direct exposure to pack straps and hip belt haven't caused any rents, abrasions, or noticeable thinning of the lightweight fabric. Wicking performance has not deteriorated; if anything the shirt and I dry faster when the tee is directly exposed to the air.
Lack of a barrier between the tee and my nose has made more noticeable the fabric's propensity to smell like sweaty polyester after heavy exercise. One rugged 60-minute stint on the stair climber or a two-hour day hike at 85 F (19 C) and the familiar stench pervades until the shirt dries out. The odor returns after a few minutes' hard exercise on the shirt's second day without washing. As stated in my Field Report, however, this has been no worse than other synthetic shirts that I have worn in similar circumstances.
I continue to like the shirt's comfortable but fairly trim fit. The tee has been loose enough to speed wicking and avoid sticking without having too much spare fabric to cause uncomfortable bunching or creasing under pack straps. I really appreciate the long length, and not only in the shirttail. The two Hidden Side Seam Pockets at the waist sit well below the hip belt of any of my packs, allowing easy access to my mobile phone when necessary. With the tee as an outer layer and shirttail outside my hiking shorts I have also used a Hidden Side Seam Pocket to store my small digital camera. It's been easy to take it out for use and I like the peace of mind having the camera in a zippered pocket.
As promised in my Field Report I borrowed an iPod for a couple of sessions on the Stairmaster. The device fit snugly in the NoBulge Pocket (shoulder) and with a bit of manipulation I threaded the earpiece wire through the loop and port, where it stayed without misadventure for the duration. I was able to change the volume or change the on/off setting through the fabric.
The overnight hikes gave me a chance to see how well the tee cleaned up in the field. After the rain on the second trip I hand washed the shirt using Dr. Bronner's and stream water and draped it over a tree branch to dry overnight. As at home by morning the shirt was completely dry.
What I like about the SCOTTEVEST Performance T-Shirt Long Sleeve hasn't changed from my Field Report, and I can now add to the list the zippered pockets at the hem and the shirt's durability. Its most prominently advertised features, the pockets, do very well just what they are advertised to do. If anything this shirt's better on its own than as a base under other layers, because then these pockets aren't lying fallow tucked insider my trousers. This shirt has proven to be a durable and functional athletic tee, one that I shall use as long as it lasts. Thanks to SCOTTEVEST INC. and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity.
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