Open main menu

Short Sleeve Performance Tops

Top Picks

How we choose: The best short sleeve performance tops highlighted here were selected based on 186 reviews of 78 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a short sleeve performance top that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

Disclosure: Trailspace never accepts payment for gear reviews, product placement, or editorial coverage. When you buy through affiliate links on our site, Trailspace may earn a small commission, which helps cover the costs of running the site.

Top Base Layer Top / Short Sleeve Performance

Smartwool Merino 150 Pocket Tee

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

The Smartwool Merino 150 Pocket Tee is an active wear, base layer made up of 87% merino wool and 13% polyester. The high wool content maximizes one of nature's greatest insulator's ability to regulate temperature, ward off the multi-day stink, and manage moisture, while the polyester content adds durability and comfort. A lightweight wool tee allows for an endless amount of uses—from a thin sun shirt on hot summer days, to an excellent next to skin layer as part of a clothing system in winter. I've worn this from the trail, to the crag, to the pub, to the lake, to chasing the kids around the yard; it is really just that versatile. The fit is a little baggier than I would like, but that one constructive criticism is more than offset by the comfort, function, and versatility of this tee.

Reasons to Buy

  • Breathable
  • Wicks sweat/ feels dry
  • No stink
  • Soft, itch-free wool
  • Offset shoulder seams
  • High merino content

Reasons to Avoid

  • Sizing runs a little large in the mid-section

  First off, a disclaimer—I am an unabashed wool fan. It's amazing to me that man has made so many "revolutionary" fabrics designed to do, well...exactly what wool does. Mother Nature has shown us the exact fibre to be using for years. Our ancestors knew it, most experts that make a living outdoors know it, walk through the Scottish Highlands/Canadian North/Siberia, and see what their clothes are made off- natural materials.  Wool is, by nature, "scratchy" to some people. It has come a long way from the ragg wool of past, and high quality, low micron wool, like the kind used in this tee, are a lot softer.

Read more: Smartwool Merino 150 Pocket Tee review (1)

Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Patagonia's Capilene Cool Trail Shirt is a great T-shirt for backpacking, hiking, and running in warmer seasons, and even in shoulder seasons for folks with a high metabolism. It is very comfortable, dries quickly, and doesn’t stink after a few days. In addition, this Patagonia Capilene fabric shirt is Fair Trade Certified and meets Bluesign sustainability criteria, and is now on the top of my T-shirt pile for hiking and other activities. The lightweight construction may wear faster than heavier t-shirts, and the trim fit means take care with the sizing.

Reasons to Buy

  • Comfortable—feels more like cotton
  • Dries quicker than my other T's
  • Feels dry even when damp
  • Seams are comfortable
  • No odor noticeable after “stink test”
  • Fair Trade certified
  • Bluesign criteria

Reasons to Avoid

  • Very lightweight—not for cool temps
  • Long-term wear questionable
  • No pocket (if you like that)
  • Size is just about right, but trim fit

I like to wear T-shirts most of the year until it really dips consistently below freezing. For me they are a good base layer top for everything but deep winter, as I generate heat really quickly and prefer only my torso to have full layers leaving the arms with less layers for additional venting. The Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt is now one of my go-to's after several months of use. Fit: The Patagonia sizing chart was quite accurate. They call this a "Regular" fit. Their Large size fit me (6'0"/183 cm, 170 lbs/77 kg) perfectly.

Read more: Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt review (1)

Ibex 24 Hour Short Sleeve Crew

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

Ibex's 24 Hour all-merino wool crew has all the benefits of sustainable, natural construction paired with excellent design. The light/medium weight short-sleeve top is designed for both casual use and as a next-to-skin layer for active outdoor activities such as hiking in cold to warm temperatures. Initial testing has shown that although not ideal for hot temperatures, this crew is well suited for all other temperature ranges.

Reasons to Buy

  • Durable, high-quality construction
  • 100% natural material
  • Many color options

Reasons to Avoid

  • Itchier than other 100% merino wool products
  • Not ideal for hot weather
  • High price point for a short-sleeved shirt
  • "Regular" fit is actually a trim-fit/Consider sizing up

The world’s opinion isn’t objective. On the outside, gear companies often boast having the "first," the "best," or the "original." Sometimes people can peer through the gimmick, through the subjective "opinions" that appear in headlines. Fortunately, there are resources consumers can utilize to educate themselves about what may be best, or what may be best for them.  Since Ibex’s revival in 2018, the company has been incorporating both old and new designs to keep them separated from the rest of the "merino wool herd." Although not too much changes with a crew shirt, the 24 Hour Short Sleeve Crew pairs the benefits of merino wool with high quality construction to create a versatile product worth considering.

Read more: Ibex 24 Hour Short Sleeve Crew review (1)

Arctic Lynx Maternity Activewear Midweight T-shirt

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

This shirt is super flattering, comfortable, functional, and perfect for all types of physical activity throughout pregnancy. It’s long enough that it won’t ride up or expose the back or belly, and is designed to expand with you as your baby develops and grows. The fabric is flattering and wicks moisture. This product is best for physical activity in moderate temperatures, such as jogging, hiking, yardwork, Pilates, barre, etc. I would recommend it for all pregnant mothers that want to stay active throughout their pregnancy.

Reasons to Buy

  • Ruching is both functional and flattering
  • Length is perfect
  • Fabric is smooth, moisture wicking, and stretchy

Reasons to Avoid

  • Sleeves run tight through the arms

Conditions: I’ve tested the Arctic Lynx Maternity Activewear Midweight T-shirt for a few months now and find myself wearing it often for both housework and exercise. A typical week for me consists of two several mile runs, and 2-3 Barre workouts that are about 40 minutes in length. I also ran a 5K at 21 weeks pregnant while wearing the shirt and I am happy to report it was super comfortable throughout the entire run, wicked moisture, didn’t cause chafing, and didn’t ride up while jogging.

Read more: Arctic Lynx Maternity Activewear Midweight T-shirt review (1)

Montane Dart T-Shirt

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

The Montane Dart is a short-sleeved, synthetic shirt that is an ideal year-round base layer (a long sleeved, quarter zip is also available). It wicks moisture away from the body very quickly, is exceptionally tailored, and protects the skin with a high UPF factor. If you’re looking to start your kit from skin out, I’d highly recommend it.

Reasons to Buy

  • Slim fit
  • High UPF
  • Interior feels dry even when the outer is wet
  • No sweat lines
  • Resists odour
  • I'm a fan of the green colour
  • Flat stitched

Reasons to Avoid

  • Large, abrasive tag
  • Not a fan of the contrast stitching
  • Slightly more expensive than comparable offerings

(Short sleeve tee on the right, quarter zip long sleeve on the left) FIT AND COMFORT The Dart fits exactly as I would design an active base layer to fit. Slim, without being restrictive, and with a little extra length in the hem. I am 6 foot, 170lbs and the size large fits perfectly. This is one of the main selling points to me, compared to a cheaper competitor's synthetic shirt. There is no extra baggy fabric around the stomach and chest to bunch up and the extra length keeps it tucked in under a waist belt or harness.

Read more: Montane Dart T-Shirt review (1)

Ibex Echo T

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2 reviews)

I decided to try out an Echo-T from Ibex. This is a basic T-shirt made with retro styling. The Echo-T comes in a choice of base colors with accents on the neck, sleeves and back in a contrasting color. The one I chose is Coconut Shell/Burnt Red, purchased for $65.55.The fit is very nice on me, a 6 foot 4 inch, 225 pound fit man. While it is not a fitted garment, it is certainly not overly baggy. It has enough length to reach below the waist, and the quality of manufacturing is excellent.Of course the highlight of the shirt is the material from which it is made.

Read more: Ibex Echo T reviews (2)

Icebreaker Sphere Short Sleeve Crewe

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Super comfortable across a variety of conditions.

Reasons to Buy

  • Soft
  • Excellent fit
  • Wicking
  • Dries quickly
  • Excellent odor control
  • Good temperature range

Reasons to Avoid

  • None, so far

I have several merino hiking shirts which are now pushing ten years old, and looking a bit ragged, so I decided it was time to update my wardrobe.  Though my usual shirt size is XL, I found that the XXL was a more comfortable fit for me. It is cut reasonably long for my longish torso, so my gut isn't hanging out when reaching high. This shirt is made of Icebreaker's new "Cool-Lite" Merino blend, which includes 20% plant-based Tencel threads, plus 15% nylon. They market it as being "40% cooler" than their regular Merino fabric.

Read more: Icebreaker Sphere Short Sleeve Crewe review (1)

Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Graphic Shirt

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

One of my recent purchases that I wish I'd bought two of them.

Reasons to Buy

  • Lightweight
  • Cool Capilene
  • Breathes well
  • Fair Trade
  • 50% recycled materials
  • Dries uber fast
  • Odor controlling treatment
  • Soft wicking fabric
  • UPF 50+ sun protection

Reasons to Avoid

  • Snagged it twice

Not sure where to start. I've used this outside, inside, all around in the past two months since the REI sale. I love it so much that I'm sure at some point my wife will ask why I am wearing it yet again. In this summer's heat it has been my go-to shirt if it's not in the laundry. The ability to shed odor has been good because I've had a couple of days of being outdoors where I didn't get to change before doing other stuff and I didn't stink. This alone is awesome, but the heat management combines to make this an outstanding garment.

Read more: Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Graphic Shirt review (1)

Icebreaker Tech Lite Short Sleeve Crewe

user rating: 4 of 5 (4 reviews)

This is an 87% merino wool and 13% nylon shirt. This is a good wicking shirt and light baselayer shirt. It has the feel of nylon, but also has the properties of wool, and it lasts. When these shirts came out they were said to be too light for wear and tear... It weighs 4.5 ounces.

Reasons to Buy

  • Wool layer has less stink buildup on long distance trips
  • Great by itself or with another piece in your layering system
  • It wicks the moisture away from the upper body

Reasons to Avoid

  • Tight, depending on size
  • Shirts shrink when washed
  • Cost, not cheap. Look at what it's made of.

This is a technical shirt that we're discussing, a soft wool wrapped around a nylon core to wick the sweat and clammy feeling away from the skin. The antibacterial properties of wool help in relation to the body creating odor in other technical shirts, such as Capilene. The wool weight is 150 and ultra breathable. The shoulder seams are offset for backpacking. This shirt can be used in the gym or on a hike or to wear as your everyday base. I wore MY icebreaker for 1,000 miles on the Appalachian Trail and it's still intact.

Read more: Icebreaker Tech Lite Short Sleeve Crewe reviews (4)

More Reviews of Short Sleeve Performance Tops

Trailspace reviewers have shared 186 reviews of 78 different short sleeve performance tops.

Show All »

or add yours

Other Types of Shirts

Find more shirts reviewed in these related categories:

Long Sleeve Performance Tops

Hiking Shirts

Fleece Tops

+1 more type

Review Your Outdoor Gear

If you've found this site helpful — or if we've missed something important — please consider paying it forward by some of your favorite outdoor gear.

Why? From professional gearheads to outdoor novices, everyone has an important point of view to contribute. will support the outdoor community and help others find the best gear.

Trailspace reviewers are outdoor enthusiasts like you: hikers, climbers, paddlers, backcountry skiers, and trail runners who share our experiences with the gear and clothing we rely on to get outside. Learn more about Trailspace