Monday, August 27, 2007

The North Face VaporWick Tee

Looking for a synthetic t-shirt for outdoor activities that will work to move moisture and sweat away from your body to keep you dry? If you are, then the North Face's Vaporwick Tee might just be the t-shirt that you want to get. Constructed of the North Face's “vaporwick” fabric, this shirt uses the synthetic fabric to move your sweat from your skin to the outside of the shirt, where it can be evaporated. It does this while fitting and feeling comfortable and looking good.

Fabric Basics

Like many of the synthetic shirts that are available today, the goal of the Vaporwick Tee is to transmit any moisture and sweat from your skin to the outside of the shirt, where it can be quickly evaporated away so that you stay drier than if you were wearing a fabric such as cotton, where the moisture is retained. This kind of material is helpful both in the summer and the winter. In the summer it keeps you cool as the material is constantly evaporating any sweat. In the winter, it's moving that sweat away from your body and by evaporating it, keeping the material dry so that you stay warm.


While not a fitten shirt, like many other synthetic athletic shirts, the sizing on the Vaporwick Tee runs slightly small. I would suggest that unless you like a tight fit, you go ahead and get one size larger than you think you need. That way there is a bit of play in your shirt and at times, I find it more comfortable to have a shirt that's slightly oversized, versus one that is slightly too tight.

Does it work?

On a recent canoe trip, I think I pretty much put the t-shirt to the test through a bunch of different activities. I wore the shirt paddling, hiking and swimming and I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with it throughout the whole time. The weather was sunny and warm, so we were definitely sweating when it came to actually paddling and hiking. The shirt did an admirable job at staying dry, even when I was sweating heavily. When it came to swimming, the shirt obviously got wet, but after wearing it a bit while continuing to paddle or hike, it quickly dried out and was good to go.

When you aren't wearing it, the shirt does take a bit longer to dry. At night before I would turn in, I would take the shirt and rinse it in the lake and then squeeze it and hang it up to dry. In the morning, it would still be slightly damp, which resulted in a bit of teeth clenching as I would put it back on. Though, once I had it on, it would warm and dry out fairly quickly. I'm guessing that unless you either have it in a warm and sunny spot or you are wearing and giving off body heat to help evaporate, the shirt doesn't dry quite as quickly – something to think of if you are trying to have it dry overnight.


When you're on a multi-day trek the best way to keep this shirt clean is to just rinse it out each night. That way you wash out anything that might have collected in the shirt from the day. When you get back home, you can throw the shirt in the wash with your other clothes and send it through the washing machine and the dryer.

Wear and Tear

The North Face brand is synonymous with quality and this shirt hasn't disappointed. I've used it on hiking treks and my most recent canoe trip this spring and summer and I haven't noticed any problems with the stitching and with the material itself. In fact, the shirt looks just like it did when I bought it, even though it's gone through the wash several times. I've been very happy with this shirt and with the long-sleeve vaporwick long-sleeved shirt that I have had for some time as a piece of winter gear.

Final Thoughts

Even though you may pay slightly more for the North Face Vaporwick Tee, it is money well spent (and watch for sales, you can often find these on clearance at the end of summer in stores like REI and EMS). The shirt does what it advertises and not only that, it will last for year after year, even with heavy outdoor use.

If you don't have a Vaporwick Tee in your outdoor gear closet, you should really consider getting one.

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