Royal Robbins Bug Barrier Tech Travel Long Sleeve II
A lightweight long sleeve shirt treated with Insectshield, a form of permethrin, to keep bugs at bay. This is a technical shirt that allows great freedom of movement and has a very forgiving fit. Don’t look to this shirt to provide much insulation or to wick moisture. It’s also very lightweight and dries fairly quickly, so it’s good for warmer weather and harder climbs, as well as for travel.
- does keep bugs away
- fabric dries quickly
- sun protection
- feels wet and clings when you sweat a lot
The Royal Robbins Bug Barrier Tech Travel Long Sleeve II is a synthetic technical fabric shirt treated with bug repellant. It’s available in men's sizes S through XXL and women's sizes XS through XL. The fabric is 91% polyester and 9% elastane and provides sun protection (UPF 50). I tested size XL. The fit is roomy and forgiving because the fabric is light and very stretchy, XXL weighs about 9 ounces. Available colors are gray, olive green, navy, and blue cadet, which I think this shirt is—a dark, heathered blue.
Royal Robbins sells bug barrier pants, shirts, socks and hats.
Shoulder seams are flat and off the shoulder, helpful for backpacking.
Royal Robbins claims that the bug repellant embedded in the fabric lasts for up to 70 washes and says: “Backed by years of research, Insect Shield® technology is applied directly onto each Bug Barrier garment. Based on a type of Permethrin, a synthetic version of a repellent found in certain types of chrysanthemum plants, the results conclusively show that it works.”
Permethrin is an insect repellant that has been available for a number of years to spray onto clothing and claims to repel mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, flies, chiggers and spiders. The spray-on versions generally claim to work for up to five washes, so embedding the repellant and having it stay for up to 70 washes would be a big plus. It goes without saying that when the bug barrier treatment washes out, one could always continue to spray any article of clothing with permethrin to continue keeping bugs away.
This shirt also protects you from the sun and is rated to UPF 50+.
The shirt has a hang loop at the neck, which seems strong and is a nice touch.
THE TECHNICAL PERFORMANCE: SUN AND BUGS
A lot of shirts like this offer UPF protection; this one is UPF 50+. I spent a lot of time outside in this shirt all summer, in the sun all day on multiple occasions, and didn’t get a sunburn under the fabric.
Gravitate toward this one if you also want to keep bugs away. I wore the bug barrier shirt during steamy mid-Atlantic day hikes and a trip through New Hampshire’s Presidentials in the White Mountains. Both featured healthy swarms of mosquitos, more than a fair share of biting black flies, and lots of gnats (in the wooded/lower elevation parts of New Hampshire—high winds clear them out on the peaks). I’m happy to say that I received no bites through the bug barrier shirt.
For the sake of comparison but not my own well-being, I occasionally didn’t apply my go-to bug repellant, Sawyer’s picaridin, and did get some bites on my legs.
I can’t estimate how long the bug repellant treatment actually lasts, because I have only washed the shirt 10-15 times, but can say it still appears to be working. We had plenty of sun this summer, and the UPF isn’t chemical protection, so you should be able to avoid sunburns for as long as you own this shirt.
TECHNICAL PERFORMANCE: MOISTURE AND ODOR HANDLING
The bug barrier shirt does a decent but not outstanding job with sweat, which is why I rated it four stars vs. five. I sweat a lot in this shirt during hot summer hikes. Initially, that means the shirt gets very wet and feels wet; it clings to your skin at times. Fortunately, due to the light weight of the fabric, being in the sun with at least a little bit of a breeze or having the hike move from hard uphills to easier sections helps it dry out pretty quickly. I have run across shirts that feel a little better when drenched with moisture; in terms of dry-out time, this is among the better technical shirts I have tried. The very stretchy fabric has a benefit in that it’s very easy to roll up the sleeves.
I did not experience any odor issues with the bug barrier shirt. Synthetic fabrics tend to have issues with odor over the long run. On a very taxing (for me) three-day hike, I wore the shirt more or less all day, perspired heavily, and didn’t get any funky odor.
Most synthetic shirts like this tend to be built to last; some occasionally pill or show some wear. After a few months under backpack straps, I can’t see any wear marks or impact on the fabric, and no seams have unraveled at all. Expect this shirt to last a long time, longer than the bug repellant certainly.
HOW I WORE AND TESTED THIS SHIRT
Most of the hiking I did was in Maryland, day hikes during hot, humid weather. Hiking in DC metro area in the summer feels like a steam room most of the time, and heat was often in the low to mid 90’s Fahrenheit this summer, occasionally in the high 90s, which is pretty bad combined with 90% humidity. I also wore this shirt more or less throughout a multi-day hike in the Northeast, where temperatures were cooler (50s and low 60s F) ascents and descents were much more challenging, and I wore the shirt for virtually all of the hike.
Royal Robbins calls this a technical travel shirt, and it would be really good for that purpose, particularly in places that are hot and have lots of bugs. It’s lightweight and stretchy and would be great to wear on overnight flights, as well as generally traveling around. It’s quite good as a hiking shirt for the summer because it is comfortable to wear, keeps bugs off your arms, it’s easy to roll up the sleeves, seems to handle odor well, and dries pretty quickly. With good UPF protection, it would probably be great for canoeing (our canoe is damaged, didn’t get out on the water this summer).
If you prioritize a shirt’s ability to wick moisture and dry quickly, this shirt is decent but not amazing because the light fabric wets out and clings somewhat. On the upside, it dries fairly quickly in a decent breeze and when you aren‘t sweating as hard.
A few months of hiking in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample for testing and review provided by Royal Robbins)
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