Shirts Page 1

As a sizing reference: I'm 5'7", 155 lbs (yeah, I'm a little guy), medium build (BDU top medium/regular, BDU pant medium/short), waist 32", chest 43". Keep this in mind when you read my comments with respect to sizing, so you have an idea of how the garments featured below will fit on you. ALL garments in these pages are size Medium, unless stated otherwise.



6/07/05 - RailRiders is a small company based in Massachusetts, that has made a name for itself in the adventure-racing community and events like the Eco-Challenge. They offer a wide range of clothing for the active individual - Adventure Racer, traveler, backpacker, hiker, or anyone looking for durable, lightweight and quick drying clothes. When I first heard about RailRiders from my friend Mel (from Kifaru), I thought to myself 'What's a rail rider?', conjuring up images of people riding on trains. Turns out it's not trains, but yacht-racing, where the term comes from. All RailRiders garments are engineered for light weight and comfort without sacrificing durability. The quick-drying fabrics are suited to wet/dry environments.

Eco-Speed T- The Eco-Speed T is made of a nylon polyester waffle-weave wicking 'Hydroweave' fabric (say that 10 times fast), with full length Hydrovent max mesh panels on the sides for ventilation. The fabric is fast-drying and odor-resistant. It's shown here in 'Stone', which is a very light tan. Overall fit of the shirt around the torso is on the relaxed/loose side, probably to encourage movement of the fabric and airflow through the mesh. (I'm still debating whether a loose fit vs. compression fit is better for keeping you drier. I've found that for a fabric to wick moisture from the skin, it obviously has to be in contact with the skin. A looser fit will allow air flow, but I don't think the rate of evaporation from the skin is as fast as the wicking speed. Without proper ventilation, you can have a 'microclimate' between your skin and the fabric, which can prevent efficient evaporation of sweat. The mesh panels on the Eco-Speed address that issue by ensuring that outside air flows through the garment to speed up evaporation, and combine it with the wicking properties of the fabric). It's light weight at 4.5oz.
The distinguishing feature of the Eco-Speed are the white mesh panels which separate the front and back halves of the shirt. The panels are about 7" wide on the sides of the medium shirt and extend from under the sleeves (where they're slightly narrower) all the way down the sides to the bottom. Because of the looser fit of the shirt torso, it moves around more, and air can be felt passing through the mesh. I wore it in dry heat (98°) and felt quite comfortable in it. Switched to a cotton T and it felt less 'airy' and I eventually got sweaty on my lower back. Switched back and could notice a definite difference between the two, and the sweaty spot dried out.
My only suggestion for improvement matches a comment from another customer in the catalog - go with an iron-on label. I found the label a bit scratchy and like I do with all my other Tees, I cut it off.

Front view

Rear view

Side mesh panels

Eco-Mesh Shirt - At the request of an extreme endurance/adventure racer, looking for ONE shirt that would be light weight, provide protection from the sun but have maximum ventilation for hot, arid conditions; quick drying, odor-resistant, durable and chafe-proof, RailRiders designed the Eco-Mesh Shirt, shown here in 'Birch'. Made from a light, tight-weave material that feels more like cotton than nylon. That accounts for the shirt's 5 oz fly-weight. It's not water-resistant, but it dries amazingly fast, based on a few experiments I tried. I soaked it in water, squeezed out the excess, and put it on. I was indoors in the evening and the temp was about 70° (humidty was pretty low), and the shirt was completely dry in about 35 mins. It'd dry faster outside when worn in the sun. The material is so light that it doesn't hold any water for long. The shirt sleeves have elastic cuffs. Overall fit is roomy (without being overly baggy), which is necessary for range of motion as the fabric is non-stretch. The collar is a simple low-profile Mandarin style with a 4.5" opening. A single velcro-secured tab closes the collar, or folds inside if the collar is to be left open. A mesh-lined left chest pocket has a 6" vertical opening with a velcro tab closure and is 4" deep.
For ventilation, the Eco-Mesh Shirt is has full-length, 3"-wide mesh panels running from shirt sleeve cuff to bottom. On the back of a shirt is a hidden mesh vented yoke (see inside-out pic below).
Wearing the Eco-Mesh Shirt is slightly warmer than wearing a T-shirt, but it provides protection that a short sleeved shirt won't (UPF 30) and shields your skin from the direct sunlight. It'll keep the vulnerable forearms from sunburn better than sun screen (which wears off), and will also provide a level of protection against insects and scratches when moving through brush. It's definitely cooler, lighter and better ventilated than any other long-sleeve shirt I've worn.

Eco-Mesh shirt

Rear view showing ventilated yoke

Collar and left chest pocket

Mesh panel

Shirt inside-out to show mesh yoke

Rolled-up size


VERTX Action Polo with coldblack®

9/4/09 - The Action Polo from VERTX is a polo shirt designed for the professional that sets itself apart from the rest by utilizing coldblack® technology that reflects up to 80% of the sun's rays making dark colours feel like light ones. As a result, you stay cooler in hot, sunny conditions with protection from harmful UV rays with a minimum of UPF 30.

The VERTX Action Polo debuted along with their Tactical Pant featured in the above writeup. The VERTX brand is owned by Fechheimer, which has been manufacturing uniforms and and public safety apparel since 1842.

A few years ago, I was driving over to pick up a friend who is an 'industry professional' at his hotel, to go to a law enforcement conference/trade show. He told me on the phone "it's pretty crowded downstairs; I'm wearing a black polo and khaki pants." When I pulled up to the hotel, I got the joke, as at least a dozen guys in black polos and khaki pants were standing at the curb, each with their company logos embroidered on the polos.

The polo shirt is the go-to urban garment of the tactical professional crowd, having a smarter and more presentable appearance than a t-shirt, while providing more comfort in hot weather than a button-down or long-sleeved shirt.

As with tactical pants, the tactical market abounds with polos, most offering variations on the same design. VERTX set themselves apart by utilizing a new garment technology called coldblack.

coldblack - coldblack is a new textile technology which was launched in summer 2008 by Schoeller Technologies AG and Clariant International AG. Schoeller, the Swiss company, should be a familiar name to anyone who's owned soft shell jackets. Clariant is a global leader in the field of specialty chemicals. Schoeller is responsible for the sales, marketing, branding and patenting of coldblack; while Clariant is responsible for the sale of chemicals, technical support and quality control for the coldblack finish.

coldblack is a proprietary chemical finish for textiles that are exposed to direct sunlight over a long period of time. It is fully wash resistant and will not wash out. coldblack prevents textiles from heating up as much and offers protection against UV rays. In other words, coldblack is a sun reflector+ UV protector. In general, dark coloured textiles absorb both visible and UV rays of sunlight, heating up more than light coloured textiles, that reflect both light and heat. coldblack reduces absorption of heat rays, particularly in darker colours, and in all treated textiles, resulting in better heat management.

Black textiles can absorb up to 90% of the heat rays when exposed to direct sunlight, and heat up accordingly. When treated with coldblack, textiles reflect up to 80% of the heat rays and stay noticeably cooler. Test performed in the lab showed that a black coldblack shirt stayed approximately 9° F cooler than a non-treated shirt when exposed to simulated sunlight. Tests also showed that users sweated half as much when wearing a black shirt with coldblack technology vs. a conventional black shirt during activity. Besides garments, coldblack technology has been applied to automotive seat covers, sun shade/awnings, and tents, keeping those items cooler when exposed to direct sunlight. As you can imagine, this technology can have a lot of applications.

Action Polo

Collar details

Fabric close-up

Features - Here are the key features on the VERTX Action Polo (size Medium shown):

  • Material - 100% antimicrobial polyester, moisture-wicking pique knit, with coldblack technology that reflects up to 80% of the sun's rays and providing at least 30 UPF protection.
  • Raglan sleeves for ease of movement - the top of the sleeve reaches all the way to the neckline, covering the shoulder. It's used often in active and sports wear as it provides a looser fit without being baggy.
  • 3-button placket front.
  • Mic tab or sunglass loop at base of placket.
  • Non-roll collar with stays.
  • Side gusset for roomy comfort.
  • Available in XS through 4XL sizes in black, navy blue, silver tan and white.

Notes and observations - The Action Polo is a smart-looking shirt that's well designed and fits well, without being too loose at the bottom. The fabric has a smooth texture inside and a fine pique knit on the outside. The collar and sleeve cuffs are the same texture as the rest of the shirt - they are not ribbed. I found that the non-ribbed collar with stays doesn't roll and get wavy like the ribbed collars. I also like the raglan sleeves, with no seam on top of the shoulder.

Of course, the feature that I was most interested in was the coldblack technology. Without multiple shirts of the exactly the same fabric, both treated and untreated with coldblack in different colours, I had no way of making apples-apples comparisons. All I could do was select black and white shirts of similar fabrics and weights, and do a subjective 'walk around in the hot sun' test. I did have a white cotton polo and a synthetic black t-shirt of similar weight. Since it's the middle of summer, hot days were in plentiful supply, with the sun beating down from a cloudless sky. I wore the white polo to establish the baseline, trying to get a feel for hot warm it felt while wearing it under direct sunlight. I tried to have my back face the sun as I found it to be a bit more sensitive to temperature differences. It was a hot day, and no matter what I wore, I was hot. I took off the white polo then put on the Action coldblack polo and went out again into the sun, letting myself heat up. I could not feel an appreciable difference between the two. I did notice that the polyester fabric didn't get bogged down with sweat like the cotton polo. I then switched to the black t-shirt and let it heat up. I did feel a difference between it and the white polo/Action polo. It felt warmer underneath it, warmer to the touch and it warmed up faster as well. As far as quantifying exactly what the temperature difference was, I can't.

I spent the next few weeks wearing the VERTX Action Polo in the sun during the day, and other black garments as well. Granted they were on different days with minor temperature variations, but the temperature was pretty consistently hot in mid July through the month of August. It's been both hot and humid for the past week or so here. My perception is that the coldblack-treated polo does feel cooler than a non-treated black shirt. It can also have something to do with the material, but I can't say. Bear in mind that if it's hot outside, you're going to feel hot no matter what. The coldblack isn't going to make you feel 'cool', but it's my perception that I don't heat up as fast or as much when wearing it vs. other black garments - that I stay more comfortable. Based on what I've seen, I'd like to see coldblack applied to other fabrics and articles of clothing, like dark hats or BDUs, to see how it works out there. So far, it's promising.


Velocity Systems Rugby Shirt

6/13/14 - The Velocity Systems Rugby from Velocity Systems is an athletic shirt with rugby-influenced styling and a tactical touch. It can be worn as a warm weather range shirt or as a moisture-managing base layer.

Back in June of 2009, when I reviewing the VERTX tactical pants, as well as their Coldblack Polo shirt, I brought up the idea of a modern rugby jersey-styled tactical long sleeved shirt in email to Fred Helman at Fechheimer, and cc'ed my buddy Dave Walsh (formerly of ITW and Arc'teryx LEAF) on it, who was working at VERTX at that time. I felt that a modernized rugby-style long sleeved shirt would be the perfect range shirt - it'd protect the neck and elbows better than a regular long sleeved shirt, and look better than a long-sleeved polo. Not the old rugby jerseys with the polo-shirt collars; but the newer modern ones with the mini Mandarin collars. Dave had been working on other clothing ideas for VERTX and was very interested in the idea of a rugby-style tactical shirt, so he ran with the concept and worked hard on it. We exchanged a bunch of emails with ideas and collar designs over the next year or so, but unfortunately, the Rugby shirt never got off the ground at VERTX beyond prototypes, so when Dave left and went to Velocity Systems, he saw the opportunity to continue with the idea. Instead of the original long-sleeved jersey idea, the Velsys Rugby is a short-sleeved version. I do hope that eventually, they'll release the long-sleeved version that I originally envisioned.

The Velocity Systems Rugby is a lightweight, rugby influenced shirt that can be utilized as a hot weather range shirt, or a moisture managing base layer. The rugby style collar keeps a weapon sling off the base of neck. The Rugby is an outstanding polo replacement for a department’s relaxed uniform or training day standard. The active cut is athletic and mobile; the material is comfortable and quick to dry. The two envelope pockets on the sleeve accept Hook backed patches.

Wolf Grey rugby shirt

Features - The Velocity Systems Rugby Shirt has the following features:

  • Material - 83% Nylon 17% Spandex with soil release and Odorexx™ Antimicrobial treatment. Highly breathable weave; rapid drying and enhanced wicking. Very stretchy.
  • Modern Rugby Style collar - The collar is 1.25" tall around the neck to provide better protection from rifle slings than a regular T-shirt collar. It curves downwards towards the front and overlaps in the front.
  • Envelope pockets on sleeves - Sleeve pockets are approximately 5.5" tall and 5" wide, and are made from soft velcro-compatible fabric (loop) for patches or ID. The opening is secured by a simple overlapping flap - there's no zipper.
  • Athletic cut - Not too baggy around the torso for a better fit.
  • Heat seal tagless labels - No chafing or scratching.
  • Available in black, earth (tan) and Wolf Grey.

Front closeup

Collar details

Sleeve pocket

Loop velcro

Notebook in pocket

Notes and observations - The Velsys Rugby shirt is actually more substantial than I expected. I expected a very thin, featherweight fabric like a base layer, but it's got a good weight to it and drapes nicely. This is a 4-way stretch fabric, and really is very stretchy so that movement is unrestricted. There are little mesh 'vents' that woven into the fabric, which is very breathable and has practically no resistance to air flowing through. The vents aren't holes, but just a more open area of the knit. One thing that I did notice, though, is that the outside of the fabric is resistant to snagging on hook velcro, but the inside isn't. The inside of the fabric is actually quite prone to snagging on hook velcro, as I found out when I washed it with a pair of pants that had a hook velcro closure, and it snagged the inside of the Rugby shirt and tore it up some. So take care when washing the Rugby shirt or throwing it in a bag with gear or other clothing with hook velcro; don't allow the inside to make contact with hook velcro.

The colour is a good match for Arc'teryx Wolf Grey, which also changes slightly depending on the fabric. The cut and style of the Rugby shirt is definitely more 'modern' looking than your standard polo shirt, and it can pretty much be worn anywhere you'd wear a polo shirt. It's definitely smarter looking than a t-shirt. The sleeve pockets are very low profile and don't draw attention from the general public. They made of a very soft velcro-compatible material; they're not just patch pockets of stiff loop velcro sewn onto the sleeves. They actually blend in so well that I don't think they make the Rugby looks overtly tactical. I've worn it around town with the family, at work in the office, and also at the gym for working out, jogging, at the range and also for indoor rock climbing. I found it to be comfortable however I used it, and completely unrestrictive. The only thing I'd change, maybe, would be to make the collar a half inch taller in the rear to provide a bit more protection for the neck from the sun and a rifle sling, as it can roll inwards a bit as-is.

While the Rugby shirt can serve as a polo shirt replacement/alternative, it's much more versatile and will serve well for any outdoor activity including shooting, hiking or camping. Worn as a base layer or alone, the pockets offer additional functionality over a t-shirt. It's a really great shirt and I like it the more I wear it. I'm really hoping that they come out with a long-sleeved version of this, with elbow reinforcing patches.

Fabric closeup

Compared to Arc'teryx wolf grey





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