Gear Review: Sport Science Shortsleeve Rainbow Tee

This hiking shirt blends hippie style with technical attributes.

For all you VW-driving hippies out there who have lamented the retirement of your favorite tie-dyes because they just don’t hack it in the hiking world, you’re gonna love this. The Shortsleeve Rainbow Tee looks like your old friend, but it performs more like a technical hiking tee. The fabric is Dryrelease, made from 85 percent polyester and 15 percent cotton.

The poly/cotton combo is designed to facilitate wicking without the use of any chemicals, which tend to wear off over time. I wore this shirt for four spring weeks in the wet, cool South Carolina forests and the hot, dry Southern California deserts and from a performance perspective, there are few better poly/cotton blends I’ve tested. The fabric has superior hand (translation: it feels very, very good against the skin), and even when I suffocated it under a thick sweatshirt while training for springtime hiking, it kept me cool and dry by effectively wicking most of the sweat off of my body. And after three days of wear, it smelled just as fresh as it did on day one, thanks to the FreshGuard treatment, which blocks body oils (that cause stink) from absorbing into the fabric.

Although I’m typically more likely to carry a dozen pints of Cherry Garcia than a single thread of cotton, this fabric is a fine choice for most three season hikes, as long as there’s not too much precip in the forecast; it did take longer to dry than other synthetic shirts I’ve worn.

The tee has a nice, athletic cut, but I experienced “gap-osis” at the waist and wished for a longer cut through the torso so the shirt would stay tucked in. Also, designers missed the opportunity to up the performance of this shirt by off-setting the shoulder seams. The seams run directly across the top of the shoulders; after several hours of wear under a pack, the friction began to offset the cheery feeling of wearing tie-dye.

As far as durability goes, my shirt is still like new, but gear editor, Kristin Hostetter, has had the same t-shirt in her rotation for over a year and says, “There’s not an iota of pilling.”

Bottom line: If you’re tired of hum-drum hiking wear and pine for days when Jerry Garcia was around to belt out Sugar Magnolia and Fire on the Mountain, you’ll dig this shirt. It’s just technical enough to make the grade for cloud-free summer trips, but let’s face it: the real appeal is its grooviness.

$32; 4.4 oz. (women’s small); Available sizes: S-XL mens’ and S- XL women’s;