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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Sitka Gear Traverse Shirt > Test Report by Will Dalen Rice

SITKA TRAVERSE SHIRT
TEST SERIES BY
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 17, 2009

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Will Rice
EMAIL: will.dalen@gmail.com
AGE: 27
LOCATION: Charlotte, NC, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 7" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I began backpacking at the age of 13 when I first went to summer camp (1993). In 1999, I started working with a college tripping organization in outdoor trip logistics (in gear preparation), and then as a leader. My most frequented hiking locations are in the Carolina Appalachians and the Smoky Mountains during the cold early spring and the summer. I stopped being a trip leader in 2004, and now I average about 4 backpacking trips and 4 day hikes per year. I carry between 25 and 35 lbs (11.3-15.8 kg) on multi-day trips.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Sitka
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.sitkagear.com/
MSRP: US$ 99
Listed Weight: 9.5 oz (270 g)
Measured Weight: 8.5 oz (241 g)
Size: Medium
Spec. Color: Ash- Mostly Dark Grey with a Light Grey pocket and black cuffs and trim (also available in Mothwing Mountain Mimicry)
Texture: Inside is a microfleece-like texture, outside is smooth, black parts (cuff and lower back) feel like spandex
Other details:
- Has POLARTEC 100 Classic Fabric
- Advertised as a middle layer

IMAGE 1
Front


IMAGE 2
Back


IMAGE 3
Thumb Holes


Materials
The material is very soft and comfortable. It feels like a microfleece type material. The outside surface though feels very smooth. There also is a very small, lower back panel of something that feels like ultra stretchy nylon, or spandex.

The website advertises that this shirt has silver in it also, to prevent smell build up.

Construction
The shirt tag says it is made of 100% polyester. The body is made of two major panels (front and back). The sleeve runs as a continuous piece down the side of the shirt all the way to the waistline. This makes for 4 seams total running down the torso of the shirt. The tag is located on the left side, rear seam (of the pair). There is no collar tag, but there is a silk screen telling the size and that it is made in China.

Features
This shirt is advertised as windproof, breathable, having a high warmth-to- weight-ratio, and a stretch ability that does not restrict motion

I have not tested its windproof or breathability yet.
It feels very light, but I do not know how to measure a high "warmth-to-weight" ratio.
My motion is unrestricted.

It also comes with a pocket. The pocket is the perfect size for a cell phone, and it is located over my left breast.

The last features to note are the thumbholes in the sleeve cuffs. This keeps shirt coverage over the back of my hands when I put my thumbs in them. The shirt works fine without doing this, but the sleeves seem a little bit long for me when I am not using the thumb holes. Otherwise, the shirt seems to be true to size at medium.

Initial Reaction
I put it on as soon as I got it and it felt so soft and comfortable. It fits snug and close, but did not feel restrictive. I wore it with no shirt on below it. It seems like its built pretty well, but it does have a lot of stretch. My first wonder is will it stay nice and stretchy after using it a lot and washing it.

CARE INSTRUCTIONS

The shirt says it is machine washable, and able to be tumble dried. It says not to bleach, iron, fabric soften, or dryclean.

It also advises to wash seperately. I am speculating that this is to keep scent at a minimum for hunting.

TRYING IT OUT

The first night I had it I wore it outside to sleep in. At first I took it off inside my sleeping bag, because I was plenty warm. As it got colder (it dropped down to about 25 F /-3.9 C) I put it back on inside my bag. It was easy to take off and put back on in the dark, in my bag. However, at that temperature, 5 degrees below my bag rating, it was not enough to keep me warm laying still. Its meant to be a 2nd layer, and I was using it as my only layer, so that makes sense.

I have continued to wear it around here and there, but it got warmer (60-70 F/ 15.5-21 C) in the days so I was not wearing as much.

The thumb holes for my hands, seem like a really cool feature. However, it does seem like the sleeve length was extended for this feature, so when I am not using the thumb holes, the sleeve feels too long.

The shirt was not designed to be worn as a base layer, but when I do wear it like that, the tag in the side seam rubs my skin. It is not comfortable. There is no tag on the back collar though, so that's good.

TESTING STRATEGY

From Application:

I hope to take at
least one day trip this year and one multi-day trip, both to West
Virginia.

Also, I intend to do some camping in southern Mississippi, some
hiking at Mt. Mitchell (North Carolina), and a few other overnight
hiking trips near Charlotte, NC.

Claims and intended testing to verify
Wind Resistant?
How wind resistant is this shirt? Mt. Mitchell is the
highest point east of the Mississippi River, and as a result tends to
get very windy. Will it stand up to this location. Will I feel wind
coming through the zipper? Its a tight fitting piece of clothing,
but will I feel wind blowing up from below? Snowboarding will
generate a lot of wind also, so should be another good way to test
this feature.

Deep chest zipper for ventilation?
The test period will also be at the same time as the
orienteering season. This means lots of running around in the woods,
often off-trail, often running through brush and thorns. Will that
chest-zipper really let me open up to keep cool? Or will I have to
wear something else altogether? I create a tremendous amount of
heat, so this will especially test its ability to breath.

Easy range of motion?
I get real uncomfortable in clothing that restricts motion.
Will this shirt be restricting? or will it's 4-way stretching really
give me the freedom to do whatever?

Holes in sleeve feature
This was not mentioned, but I saw the holes in the sleeves
for hands. I have a sweatshirt with this feature and I love it a
lot. Will this hand arrangement impair my ability to use my hands
though?

Silver prevents smell?
This sounds too cool to work. We'll see. I would wear this
shirt without washing it a few times to see how much I start to
smell. I can get really smelly when I sweat and I forget deodorant
sometimes, so I am interested in this feature.

Other Questions:
Is is waterproof? Will it shed water well enough for light rain use
without a jacket? With a jacket, do I end up sweating too much
inside to make it worthwhile?

How tough is the fabric? Can I run through a patch of thorns, or
will that shred it?

If I bleed on it, will it be stained, or does it wash clean easily?

SUMMARY

The shirt seems like its going to become a key piece of clothing in my arsenal. It is ultra-comfortable as a stand-alone. I have yet to wear it layered, as suggested.

I am eager to try out its wind worthiness and to also see if I can still stay cool in it when I get warm. This is going to be especially important in situations where I cannot take it off, such as snowboarding.


FIELD REPORT

LOCATIONS, CONDITIONS, AND PERFORMANCE

I.
11/1/2008-12/31/2008
Location: Charlotte (NC), Clarks Creek Greenway
Weather: Moderate, no rain
Elevation: 751 ft (229 m)
Terrain: flat
Other Clothes: Shorts/pants, undershirt/nothing
Activity: I spend a lot of time walking and jogging on the greenway. It is a paved trail in the wooded flood plain of nearby metro creeks.

Performance:
The Sitka Traverse is very comfortable and works well for light exercise on the greenway. As temperatures fall below around 40 F (4.4 C), my hands and face get cold. The Sitka Shirt has special thumb holes to allow for the sleeve to cover the back of the hand and more of the palm. I have tried to use this feature on multiple occasions, and I find that it does not keep my hands any warmer. I actually feel like the different material that the cuff is made of causes my hand to get colder than if I just left the sleeve on my wrist and had my hands in the open. The elastic cuff does serve a purpose in holding the sleeves when I push them up my arm. When I get too warm, pushing the sleeves up is the first thing I do, and it makes a significant enough difference that I usually don't have to take off the shirt. If I am still hot, I will then unzip the deep chest zipper. This cools me off significantly. I have often worn this shirt at temperatures on the edge of usability, where not having the shirt leaves me cold but having it fully on and closed makes me too hot. I like that by opening the zipper and pushing up the sleeves I can alter how warm it keeps me.


II.
11/8/2008
Location: Kings Mountain (NC), Kings Mt. National Battlefield
Weather: 66-43 F (18.8-6 C) 30-40% humidity, no rain, no wind
Elevation: 1003 ft (305 m)
Terrain: up and down, ditches, gullies, hill tops, approx. 200 ft (60 m) difference from highest to lowest
Other Clothes: Zip-off pants, sleeveless undershirt (synthetic)
Activity: Orienteering (3-4 hours), difficult walking off trail at fast pace

Performance:
I started out the day pretty chilly. Especially in the shade of some of the trees that still had leaves and with the humidity, it felt cold. As it got warmer from the sun and the activity, I unzipped the Sitka shirt and then eventually took it off. I put it in my backpack. It did not take up much room and it did not make my pack much heavier either. Towards the end of the day, it went back to being a little cooler and so I put the Sitka back on. I am still surprised at how comfortable the shirt is everytime I put it on. It fits well and stays in place. It does not restrict motion in anyway.

III.
12/7/2008
Location: Charlotte (NC), Clarks Creek Greenway
Weather: Cold, 26-37 F (-3-3 C), 30-100% humidity, wind 5-10 mph (8-16 kph)
Elevation: 751 ft (229 m)
Terrain: Flat
Other Clothes: pants, undershirt
Activity: Cycling

Performance:
On this cold day I discovered that this shirt is NOT windproof. It is advertised as so, but when I wear just this layer and a layer below it, I can still feel the wind on my skin. This is especially apparent on a bicycle and is especially apparent on a bicycle when it is barely above freezing.

IV.
1/4/2009
Location: Mt Mitchell (NC), Mt. Mitchell State Park
Weather: widely varying, 60 F (15.5 C) to below freezing, cloudy to drizzling, calm to 10-20 mph (16-32 kph)
Elevation: 1404-6684 ft (424-2037 m)
Terrain: very rugged
Other Clothes: fleece vest, pants, fleece hat, backpack
Activity: hiking, 11 miles

Performance:
This was my biggest test day. The day started early in the morning before the sun came up and went well into the night. The biggest thing that this trip proved to me was that this shirt, as a middle layer, is extremely versatile. In a little bit less than the first mile of hiking (all uphill), I became hot enough to remove the vest. I also unzipped my pant legs a little bit later. I did not remove the Sitka shirt, because I found that when I opened it up, it allowed enough heat to escape to cool me. It has a deep front zipper that unzips to about the bottom of my sternum. To further cool myself, I would push the sleeves up past my elbows. The stretch cuffs held the sleeves in place when I did this, and my arms were able to cool very nicely. I spent the day transitioning from sleeves down/ chest zipped (while resting and eating) to sleeves pushed up/ chest unzipped (while hiking). I did not get to the point where I felt too warm to have the Sitka on, even while carrying a 15 lbs+ (6.8 kg) pack.

At one point during the hike it began to drizzle. It was never a consistent rain, but it was enough that my head got wet when I took my hat off. The moisture was not enough to penetrate the Sitka shirt though, as it beaded up on the outside. This was pretty much expected, since its construction is similar to other synthetic mid-layers that also repel small amounts of water. Regardless, it was nice to not be wet (and also nice to not be cold).

I also noticed that when I was not wearing my pack, I could put my back to the sun and the different material in the back panel (which is black in color) transmitted a nice warm heat to my lower back. This same material kept my back pretty cool and kept me from getting sweaty when I was actually wearing my backpack.

Lastly, I discovered that the pocket on the chest is the perfect size for my camera (a Sony point-and-shoot).

V.
1/10/2009
Location: Latta Plantation Park, Charlotte (NC)
Weather: Cloudy, 35-45 F (1.6-7 C), Breezy (5-10 mph/8-16 kph) 50% humidity
Elevation: 659 ft (201 m)
Terrain: fairly even terrain
Other Clothes: Nylon Pants, undershirt, fleece hat
Activity: Orienteering

Performance:
This was a pretty low key orienteering experience. Thorns were at a minimum. We did walk through some more brush-like forest. The Sitka Traverse did not snag on anything. The shirt did not keep me warm in the wind, because it is not windproof. Once in the woods though, the wind was at a minimum, so I was fine. I left the shirt zipped all the way up and the sleeves pulled down the entire time.

NOTES AND QUESTIONS (FROM APPLICATION)

Durability
The first time I washed and dried the Sitka shirt, it began pilling pretty badly. It came out of the dryer with a lot of lint on it and some of the seams have become very fuzzy. I wouldn't say that I have been rough on the shirt at all (I have not run through thorns, yet) and it still seems to be getting ready to come apart on me. It has not failed yet, but it does not look anything like the new piece of clothing that it basically is.

IMAGE 1
Pilling


IMAGE 2
Becoming Fuzzy


Smell
I was interested in how well the smell feature of this shirt would work. As I mentieond, I have not washed it much (2 times). The shirt is beginning to smell a little like it has been worn. Considering how much use it has gotten since its last washing though, I would say it is doing a good job of masking how much sweat it has in it.

From my application:

Wind Resistant?
How wind resistant is this shirt? Will I feel wind coming through the zipper? Its a tight fitting piece of clothing,
but will I feel wind blowing up from below?
- As I mentioned, this shirt is indeed not wind resistant. I don't have to worry about wind through the zipper, because wind comes through everything. Because it is a nice tight fitting piece of clothing, I don't get wind blowing up under it, but I get wind blowing right through it. So, it is not much better.

Deep chest zipper for ventilation? Will that chest-zipper really let me open up to keep cool? Or will I have to
wear something else altogether?
- The deep chest zipper works very well for me. I can unzip that thing as far as it goes and it really changes the amount of heat I am holding in. It works just as well as advertised.

Easy range of motion?
Will this shirt be restricting? or will it's 4-way stretching really give me the freedom to do whatever?
- The stretch in this shirt does well. I do not feel restricted in my motions, but I do feel as though the shirt is close to my body, where I want it.

Holes in sleeve feature
Will this hand arrangement impair my ability to use my hands though?
- When I wear my fingers through the sleeves, my use of hands is not impaired. However, the sleeves do not keep my hand any warmer, so it does not seem to serve it's purpose.

Other Questions:
Is it waterproof? Will it shed water well enough for light rain use
without a jacket? With a jacket, do I end up sweating too much
inside to make it worthwhile?
- It is water resistant. I have not worn it in a torrential downpour yet.

How tough is the fabric? Can I run through a patch of thorns, or
will that shred it?
- As I mentioned, the fabric seems to be coming apart. I have not run through thorns with it yet.

If I bleed on it, will it be stained, or does it wash clean easily?
- I have not bled on it yet or stained it in any way.

SUMMARY

Use:
The shirt has been used while walking, jogging, hiking (strenuous), cycling, and orienteering.

Spread of conditions:
Low intensity activity (walking, hiking) to high intensity activity (running, cycling)
Sunny and warm to rainy, cloudy, and below freezing.

TESTING STRATEGY

I have the following still planned for the remainder of the test:

1) An overnight trip to South Mountains State Park, NC
2) More orienteering days, with more intense running on hopefully colder days, with more thorns
3) Some snowboarding

LIKES AND DISLIKES

Likes:
- perfect sized chest pocket for camera or cell phone
- versatile
- black back material absorbs radiant sun heat
- feels smooth and comfortable

Dislikes:
- different material for thumb loops, back of hand coverage
- piling already


LONG-TERM REPORT

LOCATIONS, CONDITIONS, AND PERFORMANCE

Generally speaking, the long-term testing was more of the same type of weather conditions and activities as the field report. I did some more light to moderately strenuous hiking and some light biking. Temperatures ranged from 35-60 F (1.67-15.56 C) and humidity ranged from 50-100%.

I did find myself defaulting to the Traverse a lot when getting dressed in the morning. It was easy to just throw on, didn't look like it had been sitting on my chair, and it kept me warm in a very comfortable way in about 75% of the weather I encountered.

I wore the Sitka outside to play in snow. I wore a thick outer layer over it to keep out the wet. I kept both the outer layer and the Sitka fully zipped. This resulted in an overheating issue. I chose being too warm though over risking getting snow inside touching my skin. I still have not figured out what the ideal outer layer is to wear with the Traverse Shirt and possibly it was intended for much colder weather than I am experiencing.

While playing in the snow, I further realized the purpose of the thumb loops on the sleeves. They work very well for securing the sleeves to the wrist while putting on gloves to overlap. This is an otherwise annoying situation that Sitka has easily remedied with the adding of this feature. These loops also make it easy to put on a rain jacket or other long-sleeve outer layer over the Sitka.

On another cooler day, I participated in an outdoor team challenge course. As I have found in the past, the Sitka Traverse is versatile in its configurations and can be unzipped and adjusted by pushing the sleeves up. Because of the nature of the activities, the shirt also got very dirty. It was soiled with clay and mud. when I got home, I kept it on and got in the shower. The fabrics did not hold on to the dirts at all, and they washed clean just from running water in the shower. It dried overnight sitting in my bathroom also. It is good to know that I can rinse the shirt easily in the woods and it will still dry overnight in an environment as humid as my bathroom. I also measured some weights while I was watering the shirt.
- When the shirt is fully wet, it weights 32 oz (907 g).
- Wringing the shirt dry, it drops to a weight of 27 oz (765 g).

The shirt still does not seem to retain smell. I do not wash it often and even when I finally break down and clean it, there is no odor from constant use.

Lastly, I noticed a new issue with the shirt. When I am in the outdoors, I have a tendancy to lay down and nap right on the ground. The Sitka "sticks" to branches, mulch, and other loose particles on the ground. It could be the pilling or just the way the fleece-like material works, but I do not enjoy getting up and having a replica of the forest floor stuck to my back.

SUMMARY

Overall, the shirt has shown that it is incredibly versatile. It is super comfortable feeling and fits well. Between being able to unzip the deep chest zipper and pushing the sleeves up, it becomes very agile in adjusting to body-heating conditions and different levels of activity. On the downside, the Sitka seems to have aged prematurely and looks like an old garment that may fall apart at any moment.

On a random note, the chest pocket has finally provided a place for me to put my cell phone on vibrate and not miss calls.

LIKES/ DISLIKES

Likes:
- does not retain smell
- comfortable and good looking design
- versatile (can adjust how warm it is)
- loops for overlap with gloves
- chest pocket is perfect for cell phone or camera



Dislikes:
- not windproof
- not durable (pilling)
- cannot figure out what to layer with

CONTINUED USE

I plan to keep using it for outdoor activity. It will go into my outdoor gear bin. Pilling has made it really poor looking so I don't plan to wear it in any situation in general urban settings. I like to wear and have available my outdoor clothes for cross-over activities that aren't in the wilderness. Because of the degradation of the material in the Sitka, I see myself only using it for certain occassions when I know I need a lighter warm top, but I know I am going to be far from the other people. I also don't plan to wear it if it is windy.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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