Ask Tug: What Wicking Undershirts Would You Recommend for Boy Scouts? A Lesson in Moisture Wicking Shirts.
This is probably way too much information about the usage of moisture wicking shirts, but this reader wrote in with a question about wicking shirts for her two sons that are in boyscouts. The thing that troubled me initially about this question is when the reader said that the boyscout leader insisted on the boys wearing “wicking shirts” for some unapparent reason. Hopefully this information will help others make a more informed buying decision:
My two sons recently joined boy scouts and the leader insists on wicking shirts. I have one son who sweats profusely and one who doesn’t. I don’t want to spend a bundle. What do you recommend? They both wear about an adult medium shirt.
My initial reply:
I’m not sure the boy scout leader really understands how and when a wicking undershirt should be worn. if you spend anytime on my blog, you’ll see that wicking shirts do not help heavy sweaters, they make the problem worse. in looking at your note below, I am not certain if you’re looking to purchase wicking t-shirts as outerwear or wicking undershirts as underwear. which one are you asking about?
let me know, and I’ll see what I can do to point you in the right direction.
I guess as t shirts that can be worn next to the skin, with something like fleece used as layers. The leaders seem to have a heavy bias against cotton.
The boys’ troop does a lot of outdoor activities year round…not just summer and nice weather.
Thanks for any help you can offer!
My attempt to clarify the purpose and use of moisture wicking undershirts:
to be honest, it’s a little hard for me to simply recommend a wicking t-shirt without explaining further.
here’s why: there’s been a lot of confusion in the market about “wicking undershirts“. many companies have offered undershirts made from wicking materials (like polyester or nylon), however, most of them were not designed to fit tight/close to the body. this makes them utterly useless from a wicking perspective. also, for those undershirts that offered good wicking performance, the wetness gets transferred to the outer shirt more quickly and although the wearer felt drier, they’re outer shirts soiled more quickly. so in a regular day-to-day environment, wicking undershirts aren’t very practical to wear, [for those who sweat more heavily].
if you’re looking at layering as a means of offering some sweat protection, then you’d likely be well served with any tight fitting performance t-shirt made out of polyester and either a standard hanes undershirt over it, or some other t-shirt. Walmart and Target carry many different types of performance/compression tees like this under various brands like champion, “starter”, etc. that usually sell for under $10. most of these tees are really stretchy, so while they are close/tight fitting, they’ll be pretty comfortable to wear.
although they cost a bit more, I’m a really big fan of jockey undershirts. I just got a batch from them, and several of them were performance compression tees that are made mostly out of polyester, and all fit close and comfortable. here are the ones I received:
sport performance tee (80% polyester, 20% spandex)
s/s performance tee (100% polyester)
performance mesh side panel tee (100% polyester)
euro coolmax tee (50% cotton, 46% coolmax polyester, 4% spandex)
because the first three are made out of large amounts or all polyester, even through they are comfortable, they definitely feel more synthetic on the skin. the euro coolmax tee feels the nicest and most natural on my skin, and since it should perform well in the wicking category, and it feels nice on the skin, it would be the one I would turn to first to see how it would perform for your sons.
I mean no disrespect to the boyscout leaders, but just because an undershirt is made out of cotton, doesn’t mean that it will perform any worse or better than a wicking undershirt in certain non-high-performance conditions. wicking undershirts don’t necessarily make you feel cooler and for that matter, they won’t make you sweat any less than some of today’s lightweight undershirts – I know this from personal experience and after evaluating hundreds of undershirts. what compression/wicking t-shirts do extremely well in high-performance conditions is make the wearer feel more dry since the wicking fabric does not absorb moisture, plus the undershirt will not be as heavy feeling to the wearer for that very same reason. this is why athletes love wearing compression clothing and is why companies like under armour, adidas, and nike have done so well in building international mega-performance apparel lines.
if your sons are going to be doing activities where they are going to sweat a lot (all over, not just under the arms), and they are looking for more of a performance gear-type base layer, definitely focus your search on compression/performance wicking t-shirts like the ones I mentioned above.
if the activities are more passive, then you might be equally well served with a lightweight fitted undershirt made out of fabrics or blends that keep the wearer cool and dry, such as cotton, cotton/spandex, cotton/poly, cotton/tencel (or any other modal content).
hope the above offers some advice and helps you make an educated buying decision. let me know what you wind up buying and how well it works for your sons. I believe this information will be helpful for other readers as well, so I’ll be sharing it with my readers in the upcoming days.