Kühl Airspeed Long-Sleeve Shirt
The Airspeed is a good balance of functions - above average in all areas but to be that versatile it has to sacrifice excellence. Breathability, quick-dry, sun protection and durability are all very good, along with comfort and a style that works in town and in the field. The slim fit may not work for everyone (go up a size if you are near top of the range) and long-term durability may be sacrificed for comfort and venting (time will tell).
- Well thought-out design balance of flex/comfort and venting
- Very good sun protection
- Breathability and drying above average but balanced with durability/comfort
- Stylish enough for town and field
- Very useful zippered security pocket
- Slim fit combined with flex
- Short-term durability is better than most sunshirts
- Chest button pockets more style than function
- Sunglasses cleaner a bit small and not accessible if tucked in
- Balancing (town vs field, breathability vs durability, sun protection vs breathability) means sacrificing a bit
- Slim fit may not be everyone's cup of tea
- Sizing running a bit small
- Long-term durability under review (some pilling in high wear flex areas)
The Kuhl Airspeed long-sleeved shirt is designed for warm temperatures with UPF 30+ sun protection. Its a solidly built shirt that bridges a gap for me between sunshirt and durable field shirt.
The clip above from the Kuhl website shows the range of colors and sizes available for the Airspeed.
The Airspeed is a 72% Nylon/28% Polyester hiking/sunshirt with side body panels, center back, and front sleeve being 85% polyester and 15% cotton. It is rated UPF 30+.
You can see the different textile blends in this photo held up to a light. A panel design to allow venting where you need it and increased comfort and stretch where you don't.
The hidden button down collar keeps things in place around the neck and prevents flopping and exposure to sun if your sunscreen or hat have a gap.
The chest pockets are button down and keep crud out of them, but aren't deep enough for my reading glasses or a mechanical pencil to not stick out. I consider these aesthetic.
However, the zippered security pockets are excellent. They fit my cell phone or small field book and pencil, and keeps them easily accessible.
I didn't get much use out of the custom sunglasses cleaner, as the majority of time I tuck my shirt in (I am in tick country a lot so it just makes sense). It also seems a bit small to wrap around my glasses and clean both sides. With the shirt untucked it may be easier to use.
The two button cuff is pretty standard and I used the larger size that was more comfortable for my wrists most of the time (tighter setting above).
The sleeve button for rolling up sets the sleeve at or above the elbow, depending on your arm length. It's a tighter fit there for me but only in style, not comfort.
I sometimes rolled my sleeves up a bit on the forearm without buttoning. This is a slim fit but comfortable once rolled/folded back.
Most of the other listed features are addressed below.
I used the sizing chart from Kuhl to determine the proper fit for me and found it to be an athletic fit - slim and just about right, but a little tight on the arms and shoulders.
Falling within the Medium sizing, I think I would opt for a large. If you pay attention you can feel the flex in the slim fit. Despite that I never found it uncomfortable or restricting. If you prefer a slim fit then I would stick to the size chart.
Regardless, I found the flex of the paneled system (shown above looking at the underarm) very comfortable with venting and more flexible panels in the appropriate locations.
I found the Airspeed very comfortable. The fabric is soft against the skin and no abrasion points for me, despite the athletic fit. Rolling the sleeves up was the only part that was tight but once rolled it was fine.
The shirt is great for field work and hiking, but looks good enough that I wear it to meetings on days when I have to strike the balance between field sites and office visits. For hiking its a good fit and doesn't get in the way.
Kuhl emphasizes warm weather use and breathability with its panel design. I would say it falls in second place behind really thin sunshirts like my standard Columbia Tamiani's (I have a bunch of these because they are really cheap in the off-season, not because I like them more). The Airspeed is a bit thicker and therefore much more durable (see below) but it does feel a bit heavier. I got mine at the end of the really hot season in the south so rarely had a chance to test above 80 degrees.
I can sweat in almost any temperature, so the key for me is how it holds moisture and how fast it dries. I'll put this in the middle ground again compared to really light weight shirts. However, it was never a big issue and I would still opt for the Airspeed over lighter sunshirts due to the durability. I would say the Airspeed is a good balance between breathability and durability.
The vent in the back helps a lot while working or hiking in hotter areas. I didn't time the drying out period, but it took longer than my really thin polyester sunshirts. I did not feel uncomfortable while it was drying.
Sun protection is maybe the most important function for me as I spend a lot of time outdoors for work and recreation. The UPF 30+ meets the Skin Cancer Foundations Seal of Recommendation, with 30-49 offering "very good" protection and 50+ providing "excellent" protection. Note this is based on UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) not SPF (Sun Protection Factor). UPF measures both UVB and UVA radiation, while SPF considers only UVB.
I think the Airspeed does, once again, a good job of balancing sun protection and breathability. UPF 30+ is enough for me along with a good hat and supplemental sun screen, depending on the amount of exposure I anticipate.
I think at least short-term durability is where the Airspeed really outshines (pun intended) my other current options for days in the sun. The fabric is soft and I was concerned initially about how it would hold up for work, which includes scrambling through undergrowth. Lighter sunshirts don't hold up to this kind of wear very long. The Airspeed, so far, has performed admirably and is now my go-to shirt for work (I have worn and washed it over 30 times). Whether crawling through vines or getting stuck with burrs in roadside and cutover environments, the Airspeed did not show any threading or runs.
Long-term I am not sure how some of the high-wear sections will hold up. I can see pilling under high friction areas already in the panels that are more flexible under the arm.
The buttons are plastic, which may not last as long as other materials, and there is one with a loose thread end.
One key for any clothing for me - I must be able to throw it into the washer drier with no concerns. The Airspeed needs machine wash cold and tumble dry low settings, which is fine for me. I have never ironed it or done anything but hang it up after.
I had a busy fall of field work so not many overnight backpacking trips, and didn't really get to test the Airspeed over several unwashed days. So instead I purposely wore it for two days of hot field work in southern Georgia in September, and took this photo when I got back to the office.
At the end of the second day it showed the dirt and sweat mark but didn't stink at all (can't say the same for myself!).
The hidden button-down collar, button front, and 2 button-down chest pockets make this shirt style adaptable to urban and office environments as much as the mountains or field work. I almost feel overdressed in it when working outside or hiking! It is long enough to wear untucked (when not in tick country) so fits any style.
I really like this shirt - as mentioned I might go for a large but the balance it provides for field durability and sun protection, and its suitability to function for hiking and in combination of both field work and office meetings is really beneficial to me. I'll keep watching for long-term wear and see how that holds up, but if it does I'll be purchasing a couple more of these.
I wear sunshirts and hiking shirts many days out of the year. From outdoor activities during time off to my job as an environmental consultant, I spend a great deal of time in the sun and prefer long-sleeved shirts all year round for protection.
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