Disclaimer: Since I am only one man, I unfortunately have neither the time nor the resources to acquire and laboriously compare many different pieces of gear. As such, the reviews on this blog are only my honest assessment of certain pieces of gear and clothing that I’ve purchased and used over the years. If you are looking for exhaustive comparisons backed up by hours and hours of testing and data, I’d highly recommend checking out reviews from sites like The Wirecutter (or its sister site, The Sweethome) and OutdoorGearLab, both of which I refer to in these reviews and when I’m shopping for myself. I am not affiliated with any of these sites, but I rely on their research like any other consumer, and have found their work to be helpful, transparent, and extremely thorough. All of this said, thank you for reading, and I hope you find that the following recommendations positively inform your outdoor gear research and purchasing.
If you could imagine the perfect t-shirt for all of your outdoor endeavors, what would it be like? If you're anything like me, your perfect shirt would be lightweight, fast drying, sweat-wicking, odor-resistant, reasonably priced, and tough as nails. The great news is that but for the durability component, that dream shirt exists.
Behold, the Icebreaker Tech Lite Crewe. Referred to by Gizmodo as "the greatest t-shirt in the history of the world," this marvel of modern textile technology has almost everything you could hope for in a shirt. They weigh next to nothing, yet are extremely versatile. They can be worn for days between washing. They dry insanely quickly, especially out on a clothesline in the sun. They wick sweat to keep you cool, comfortable, and stink-free.
I've purchased six of these over a ten year period and my singular (though significant) complaint about them is that, despite all their merits, the 150-weight merino is not the most durable fabric. It is thin and light, which makes for a very fragile garment. All of my shirts have varying degrees of wear and tear, ranging from pilling to a superabundance of holes. I also purchased a 200-weight variant: Icebreaker's Contour Crewe (which they no longer sell but is most like their current Oasis Crewe). The heavier fabric lasted much longer before showing significant signs of fatigue.
The price tag on the Tech Crewe 150-weight is pretty steep for just a t-shirt, but you can make up for it by wearing these for days (or even weeks) at a time. I personally always get mine at a fairly hefty discount from sites like Steep and Cheap (Backcountry's showroom of heavily discounted outdoor gear).
As a note, since purchasing my shirts, Icebreaker has changed the fabric makeup slightly – from 100% merino to 87% merino/13% nylon corespun. I haven't had a chance to wear a shirt with these new ratios, but word on the street is that it improves the durability of the shirt somewhat. I'm still currently investigating some other merino shirt options to see if I can find one that addresses the durability issue that the Tech Lite Crewe exhibits. Wooley and Ibex are two brands that have been recommended to me as alternatives. However, I must admit the possibility that there might not be an ultra-durable all-merino option simply because of the material itself. But for now, the quest continues.
If I had to make a recommendation for a multi-purpose hiking or outdoor adventure shirt, I'd still pick the Icebreaker Tech Lite Crewe for $75 (currently on sale for $52.50). If you're careful with these, they can last you for years.