Buying Right: The Latest in Wicking Duds

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, August 1995

Buying Right: The Latest in Wicking Duds
By Michael Hodgson

Technical summer wicking-wear comes in two flavors these days: form-fitting, for achieving sweat equity with your spandex-clad compadres, or loose and comfortable, for assimilating to the rest of society. With the latter, you now have the option of veering into the microbrewery after a workout without risk of violating a dress code: Today's baggy apparel is quite presentable, while remaining just as effective in the heat as sleeker performance duds. To top it off, all of the latest wicking garments are softer to the touch than the polypro of yore.

Whichever clothing camp you prefer, a moisture-management fabric works by drawing sweat away from your body and spreading it over a large surface area for efficient evaporation. Choose garments that are well ventilated and don't chafe--bulky seams between your legs will make oppressive heat the least of your worries. That said, there's probably enough effective moisture-management clothing out there that you could sweat and be seen in a different outfit every day through autumn. We've simply narrowed the field to our favorite representatives of cooling couture.

The Sleek Look
If it's really cooking, there's no better performance top than a basic singlet. And Pearl Izumi's Aloft Singlet ($28) has the basics down: The mesh wicks well, and tiny particles of ceramic suspended in the yarn reflect the sun to keep you even cooler. From Pearl Izumi, 800-328-8488.

When intense sun dictates long sleeves, I'm partial to Tinley's Run Top ($28). It's made of a new "smart fabric," called Akwatek, which is touted to wick less on cooler days and more on sweltering ones. Textile IQ aside, I was truly impressed with this stuff in desert highs and lows alike. From Tinley, 800-289-3339.

While just about any split or athletic shorts from a reputable company will work, SportHill's Microlite Shorts ($28), which have a comfortable CoolMax liner, and Pearl Izumi's Aloft Short ($30) are my picks because they're exceptionally breathable and quick to dry. If you prefer a more quad-hugging style, Nike's Dri-F.I.T. Short ($34) is slim and stretchy without feeling confining. From SportHill, 800-622-8444; Pearl Izumi; and Nike, 503-671-3939.

The Loose Look
Accept that on a humid afternoon your favorite cotton T-shirt may reach its sweat saturation point before you even reach the trail. Cotton woven together with a synthetic fiber, however, makes for a shirt that's as soft as the old standby--and that wicks. The Sierra Designs Ray-T-ator (short-sleeved, $26; long-sleeved, $32) and Patagonia's Go-Tee ($27) are most welcome hybrids. From Sierra Designs, 510-450-9555, and Patagonia, 800-638-6464.

In the baggy bottoms department, Duofold's X-Gear shorts ($26) hang comfortably, with plenty of ventilation. If you're looking for more style, with pockets and a built-in mesh brief, Ex Officio's Amphi-Short ($39) is both sweat- and street-smart. From Duofold, 800-448-8240, and Ex Officio, 206-283-1471.

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