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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Sitka Gear Traverse Shirt > Test Report by Jason Boyle

Sitka Gear Traverse Shirt

Test Series

Initial Report – October 8, 2008
Field Report – January 13, 2009
Long Term Report - March 30, 2009

Tester Information:
Name: Jason Boyle
Age: 31
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 6"/ 1.68 m
Weight: 180 lb/ 82 kg
Chest: 42"/ 107 cm
Neck: 16"/ 41 cm
Sleeve: 28"/ 71 cm (from the middle of my chest to my wrist)
Email address: c4jc "at" hotmail "dot" com
City, State, Country: Kodiak, Alaska, U. S.

Backpacking Background:
I have been camping and backpacking for about 20 years. My introduction to the outdoors started with the Boy Scouts of America and has continued as an adult. I have hiked all over the Southeastern, Northeastern, and Northwestern United States. I am generally a lightweight hiker, but will carry extras to keep me comfortable. I currently reside on Kodiak Island in Alaska home of some of the worst weather and most beautiful scenery around. I look forward to putting gear through the paces here on the Emerald Isle.

Product Information:

Manufacturer: Sitka Gear
Model: Traverse
Size: Large (received), Small through XXL available
Color: Ash (received) Mothwing Mountain Mimicry (Camouflage Pattern)
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Listed weight: 9.5 oz/ 269 g (doesn’t specify size)
Measured weight: 9.15 oz/ 259 g
MSRP: $99 US
Fabric: Polartec Micro 100 series
Country of Manufacture: China
Traverse Shirt

Product Description:
The Traverse Shirt is a lightweight fleece layer that can be worn as an outer layer over a base layer or underneath a shell to provide extra warmth. One of the first things that I noticed when I touched the Traverse was how soft and quiet the fabric is. It feels very comfortable against the skin and I would gladly wear this with no base layer underneath. The arm cuffs and bottom hem on the rear of the shirt have elastic built into them that allows the shirt to stretch with the user. There is a micro fleece lining on the inside of the elastic cuffs and hem. The front of the shirt has a quarter zip for venting and a small welded pocket that I could fit lip balm or a standard sized iPod or cell phone into. A standard size digital camera would also fit but I think something that large would be uncomfortable to me. Both the venting zipper and the pocket zippers have small zipper pulls that can be operated while wearing liner gloves. The arm cuffs have an integrated thumb loop to ensure that the sleeves don’t slide up.

The fleece seems to be quite thin. I unzipped the front of the shirt and held it up to a light and the single back layer of the fleece was almost translucent. There are two orange and white Sitka logos on the shirt – an embroidered logo over the welded pocket and a vinyl screened logo on the opposite shoulder on the back side of the shirt.

Initial Impressions:
I am always excited when I get to test gear from new companies and this is no exception. Sitka Gear is a new gear company only a few years old and I was quite anxious to see how their clothing would fit and how finished their product would be.

First, I want to comment on their website. It has a lot of bells and whistles, but overall I found it very busy with too much going on. Once I got to the home page, I had to be redirected to another page and then there was a sliding menu to navigate. It made it very challenging to navigate their page while researching the fleece. Once I navigated to the Traverse Shirt page there is an interactive picture of the shirt with little buttons to mouse over and it provided details about the shirt. The very top button has the sizing chart for Sitka. I used this chart to determine what size I would need. They specify that a Large will fit a user with a chest size between 42” and 45” (107 cm to 114 cm). Since I have a 42” (107 cm) chest, I ordered a large which is what I received. It seemed to fit ok, until I zipped up the venting zip at which time it became uncomfortably tight. I felt like my chest was being compressed. I would say their clothing has a very athletic cut and for the Traverse to be comfortable on my body style I will have to go up one size to an extra large. Also since I expect to be wearing this shirt as an outer layer at times, I want it to easily fit over a base layer shirt which means it needs to be a bit looser.

I contacted Customer Service and they were very helpful and just asked me to send back the shirt at my cost, and they would send me out an Extra Large. This was a positive experience.

The overall quality and workmanship of the shirt that I received was very good. It did not have any loose or unfinished seams. All of the seams are flat sewn and I didn’t notice them when I tried on the shirt. The care instructions for the shirt are pretty simple – machine wash warm, do not bleach, tumble dry low, do not iron, do not dry clean, do not use softener, and wash separately.

We are entering the cold, dark and wet months of winter here on Kodiak Island. I expect to use this shirt while backpacking and day hiking here on the Rock. I expect temperatures to range between 45 F and 25 F (7 C to -4 C) over the next four months and an average of 8 inches (20 cm) of precipitation a month. The shirt should get to experience some pretty fun weather.

Field Report – January 13, 2009

Hatcher 1

The Sitka Traverse Shirt has performed well over the past couple of months. The XL shirt is a much better fit, and has excelled in cold and nasty conditions here on the island. It is warm enough to wear with a base layer in subfreezing temps and works well as an insulating piece when conditions call for an outer layer. The thumb loops are sewn too small and don’t work on my medium sized hands, and the fleece isn’t very durable when it comes to bashing through brush. Overall I am pleased with the performance thus far.

Hatcher 2

Field Conditions:
I have used the shirt on two overnight backpacking trips, a car camping trip, a day hike, and an afternoon of sledding where I drug my 3.5 year old daughter up the hill probably 100 times. Most of these trips took place in the Monashka Bay region of the island. The trails in this area are basically game trails that have been used by the natives and hunters on the island and are in fairly poor shape. There is some elevation change in this area of Kodiak, but nothing more than several hundred feet at a time since the trails stay fairly close to the shoreline. The temperatures on Kodiak have ranged from 10 F (-12 C) with a -2 F (-19 C) windchill to the upper 30’s F (3 to 4 C). Winds experienced have been from calm to 70 mph (113 kmph). I also used the Traverse shirt during a snowshoeing trip to Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Range outside of Anchorage on the mainland of Alaska. During this trip, I climbed Skyscraper Mountain, elevation of 4500 feet (1300 m) and the temperature stayed at 20F (-7 C) with winds around 10 mph (16 kmph). In addition to my backpacking trips, I wore the fleece during my 2.6 mile (4.2 km) roundtrip walks to work and during my numerous wood cutting adventures. Overall, I have worn the shirt for a total of 22 days since the Initial Report. I have experienced light and steady rain, snow, high winds, and the occasional clear and sunny day.

In my initial report, I commented that the large Traverse shirt that I received was too snug for my body shape. After receiving and using the XL, I definitely made the right decision. The XL fits much better and allows me to easily layer the Traverse over base layers but doesn’t restrict any of my movement. Since the fleece is only 100 weight it is also easy to wear under my various rain shells and puffy jackets. I also like that the fleece hangs below my waist a bit more than the large. It helps keep the wind from blowing under the fleece and ride up when I bend over. The chest pocket has been very handy for storing miscellaneous gear such as small snacks, lipbalm, identification or my iPod. I used my iPod mostly for my walks to work, headphones while hiking in 1500 pound (680 kg) Kodiak brown bear country is not a good idea. I have used other shirts with thumb loops before and like them, but the thumb loops on the Traverse just aren’t well designed. The thumb loop hole is too small and the fabric is bunched at the joint where my thumb connects to the hand. These issues make the thumb loops unusable. However, the stretchy cuffs have held their shape well and do a good job of keeping the sleeves in place. I also like the zipper pulls. They are easy to operate with or without lightweight gloves. The don’t snag and have operated perfectly everytime.

The fleece has also excelled as an outer layer on some of my colder trips. While snowshoeing at Hatcher Pass, I wore a base layer and the fleece while moving with no problems. I was warm in the 20 F (-7 C) temperatures and only felt the strongest gusts of wind through the fleece. I was wearing a daypack that doesn’t allow much air flow between my back and the pack so I did develop some sweating on my back but adding a jacket at rest stops kept me warm and I didn’t notice any cold spots because of the dampness in the fleece. The half zip in the front is a nice feature. It is deep enough that I can vary the level of ventilation that I want. Even in windier conditions, I will zip it down to allow the wind to wick away some of my sweat which I generate a lot of.

The fleece is also very comfortable. I slept in it on my backpacking trips and on most of my trips wore it the entire time. The fabric has a little stretch in it so that allows it to move with me but doesn’t come out of place when I bend over to pick up stuff.

The durability of the fleece has only been ok. It doesn’t show any wear from my backpack or hipbelt straps, but the Alders haven’t been kind to it. The fabric has developed a couple of pulls from busting through the brush. I have also used it a couple of times while splitting and hauling firewood for my wood stove. Though not backpacking or hiking related, hauling split wood has also cause some pulls. The pulls in the fabric are cosmetic only, but are worth mentioning. I wouldn’t expect any issues if I used the fleece for normal backpacking, but here in Alaska everything has to multitask including all my gear.

Resting in the sunshine

As I said I am pleased with the performance of the fleece thus far. Appropriately sized thumb loops would be nice, but that is really my only issue with the fleece. Otherwise it has performed as advertised. I look forward to continued use during our challenging winter conditions here in Kodiak. This concludes my Field Report.

Long Term Report – March 30, 2009

Ski Chalet

This has become one of my favorite test items. I like the light weight of the fleece, it provides enough warmth as an out piece for most of my active pursuits in dry weather, while still providing good warmth as a mid layer when I am lounging in camp or at a rest break. The overall durability has been just fairly good, there is some cosmetic pilling on the front of the fleece, but the seam stitching, and zippers are still in like new condition. My only negative on the fleece is the price, I think the price is more than I would be willing to pay.

Field Conditions:
Since my Field Report, I have used the shirt on two day hikes at Ft Abercrombie State Park, a day hike in the Monashka Bay region, a snowshoeing trip on Pillar Mountain, a snowshoe trip in the Pillar Beach area, and a two night snow camping trip near the base of Pyramid Mountain. I also wore the fleece for two days while digging out from a record breaking March snowstorm that buried Kodiak in over 2 feet (61 cm) of snow. In addition to my outdoor experiences, I have worn the shirt for an additional 5 days while walking to and from work. This brings my total days of use to 38 or so. Temperatures ranged from just above freezing to 12 F (-11 C) with wind chill dropping the temperatures to the 4 F (-16 C) range. Winds experienced have been 40 mph (64 km/h) or more with a few calmer days thrown in. I have experienced snow, a winter mix of snow, rain and sleet as well as some normal light rain while wearing the shirt.

Digging my snow shelter

After much continued use over this test period, I am pleased with the performance of this fleece. The fit of the extra large pullover has continued to be good. I have had good range of motion and flexibility using the Traverse as an outer layer and as a mid-layer underneath a shell jacket and a puffy jacket.

The thin fleece material is about perfect for me while on active hikes on the colder weather days here in Kodiak. I tend to sweat a lot even when it is cold, so as long as it isn’t snowing or raining hard, I can wear a base layer and the Traverse and be fine. The thin material also is very breathable, and allows moisture to dissipate quickly.

The durability of the fleece has been only ok. Like I mentioned in my Field Report, the front of the shirt has started some cosmetic pilling from bashing through brush while hiking and from hauling wood for my woodstove. This is mostly a cosmetic issue and does not affect the performance of the shirt, but I did expect a bit sturdier fabric based on the cost of the shirt. I have continued to wash the fleece with my other clothes and it always comes clean and smell free. My only real negative about the shirt is the cost. I think the cost is a little high for what I would pay for this type of fleece.

Wearing the Sitka in my snowshelter

Overall the performance has been superb; the fabric is quite, breathable, and warm. The durability is good for the most part, though the outer fabric is showing some cosmetic pilling, but otherwise no issues with seam stitching or zips. It is a good fleece outer/mid layer. This concludes my Long Term Report. Thanks to and Sitka Gear for allowing me to participate in this test.

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