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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.

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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)

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)

Top Hiking Skirt / Tank/Sleeveless

Purple Rain Adventure Dress

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

A Purple Rain Adventure Dress is a nearly perfect hiking garment, especially for hot, muggy, and shaded conditions such as those found on the Appalachian Trail. I wore mine continuously for my AT thru-hike. I prized it for its supreme ventilation, simplicity, functionality, durability, comfort, and quick-drying materials. The side-pockets were perfect for carrying my phone, snacks, toiletries, and a myriad of other things. I never thought I'd find a more comfortable piece of clothing than a Purple Rain Adventure Skirt, but the dress design is my new favorite.

Reasons to Buy

  • Excellent ventilation and breathability
  • Made of functional, lightweight, quick drying, long-lasting materials
  • Facilitates full-range and easy movement
  • No buttons, waistbands, or zippers to get in the way
  • Designed/made in the USA by a fellow long-distance hiker
  • Multiple pockets for carrying cell phones, maps, snacks, etc.

Reasons to Avoid

  • Tank design allows sun-exposure on the arms and neck
  • Might allow chaffing for some body types
  • Length of bottom hem a little short for my body type
  • Limited production as of this publication, but new dresses of a variety of colors and sizes are in the works

  The most classic of AT scenes atop McAfee Knob The Purple Rain Adventure Dress in Shenandoah National Park My Background & Experience with hiking skirts and dresses: In 2017, I began a series of adventures that would eventually lead to a career, of sorts, in thru-hiking. I started with several section hikes of the Appalachian Trail, as well as a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. These were my first trails wearing a Purple Rain Adventure Skirt, for which I published a review of my very positive experiences at the time.  Southern Terminus of the CDT, in my favorite Purple Rain Adventure Skirt (worn on the PCT, CDT, and AZT)  and a merino T-shirt.

Read more: Purple Rain Adventure Dress reviews (2)

Montane Shark Ultra Tee

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

The Montane Shark Ultra Tee is a most impressive garment! It fits well, it breathes very well, it remains virtually odor free, and it wears like iron. Although it was designed for trail running I highly recommend it, without reservation, for any athletic outdoor activity and particularly as a base layer.

Reasons to Buy

  • Great fit/comfortable
  • Odor free
  • Cool/breathes well
  • Dries fast
  • Lightweight
  • Durable

Reasons to Avoid

  • Expensive
  • Difficult to locate dealer in USA
  • Lacks care instructions

Features: The Montane Shark Ultra Tee is a garment designed for Mountain Running, Trail Running, and Mountain Marathons. It is made of a synthetic hyper stretch fabric that Montane calls Quartz Skin. It has stretch mesh panels under the arms, in the center chest, and a much larger panel in the back all of which serve to enhance cooling and breathability. The fabric itself draws moisture from the skin, dries quickly and has a UPF protection factor of 25+. It also features an antibacterial treatment called Polygiene a silver salt which inhibits the growth of odor causing bacteria and fungi.

Read more: Montane Shark Ultra Tee review (1)

More Reviews of Short Sleeve Performance Tops

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

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Other Types of Shirts

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Long Sleeve Performance Tops

Hiking Shirts

Fleece Tops

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