There are plenty of hi-tech t-shirts fighting for your travel budget, but this Patagonia Merino Silkweight one stands out on several counts.
When I first starting backpacking around the world, anyone with any manners wore cotton t-shirts. That’s because the efficiency minded Germans who seemed most likely to be sporting the new “wicking t-shirts” could be smelled coming from halfway down the beach. Yes, it’s wonderful to have something on that dries quickly and that makes a lot of sense when packing, but straight synthetic fibers without any treatment tend to get rid of moisture…but hold onto everything else.
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way. You can now stuff your backpack with lightweight, fast-drying t-shirts that you can wear for days without stinking up the hostel. You can take workout wear for your business trip without sacraficing much extra space. You can be ready for an all-day bike ride and know your sink-washed shirt will be dry by morning.
This Patagonia one, which is a blend of 65% merino wool and 35% polyester, lists for a wince-inducing $60, but it doesn’t look, feel, or pack like your usual cut-rate alternative. It does feel silky-smooth against the skin, but the merino wool gives it some softness you don’t normally get in straight synthetics—yet it’s thinner and stretchier than a straight merino wool one typically is. It feels more durable too. Both the shoulder seams and side seams are not only flat, but they’re offset so they don’t get in the way of your pack straps or your arms.
When it comes to packing, you’d be hard-pressed to find any t-shirt anywhere that takes up less space in your bag than this 4.2-ounce one (119 grams). No matter what you do to it though to make it fit, it pops out with no wrinkles.
This Merino 1 wicking t-shirt is meant to fit tight and show off your pecs, so go a size up if you don’t favor the superhero look. I usually wear a medium, but went for a large on this. It still looks flattering, but isn’t so clingy.
I wore this for three days without washing it, in moderate travel conditions, and it stayed reasonably odor-free. When I sink-washed it after that, it dried in two hours in shade with a steady breeze. In the sun it would probably take an hour or less.
Like everything Patagonia makes, this t-shirt comes with an “ironclad guarantee,” so if it fails on any count beyond normal wear and tear, they’ll replace it. There’s also a lot of eco-cred in this product, from chlorine-free wool treatment to bluesign approval on the materials sourcing.