There's plenty to love about summer travel, but when the mercury heads towards double digits, outdoor activities start becoming a lot less fun. I love to walk almost anywhere, whether it's exploring a new city for the day, long-distance hiking, or anything in between – but I don't enjoy getting hot and sweaty after a few minutes, especially if I'm wearing a pack on my back.
ExOfficio recently contacted me to suggest trying out one of its Sol Cool Cryogen men's shirts, designed specifically to keep the wearer cool during hot weather. Knowing I'd soon be hiking up and down a hilly southern European city in the middle of summer, I was happy to try anything that might help keep the perspiration at bay.
Features and Design
Coming in a range of plaid and solid colors, and in either short or long sleeve versions, the Cryogen shirts try to limit the effect of hot weather in several ways. The nylon/polyester blend fabric has jade dust embedded in it, which helps wick away moisture, reduces smells and is intended to decrease skin temperature by 4°F.
The material blocks ultraviolet rays (it's rated at UPF 50), and vents behind the shoulders provide airflow and help reduce heat buildup. There's also a button-down collar to keep the sun off the back and sides of your neck, and an interior mesh liner that runs halfway down the back.
Along with a pair of buttoned breast pockets, the shirt also has a “hidden” mesh pocket at the front, secured with a vertical zip to keep your valuables safe.
I received the long-sleeved “Hops” version of the Cryogen shirt, which was green with a plaid pattern. It survived the shipping with a couple of wrinkles, that both disappeared after hanging the shirt up overnight. The medium sizing I received fitted well, slightly longer than some of my other shirts, but not significantly so.
While there's little doubt from the styling that it's a casual shirt intended for outdoor activities, I actually quite liked the color and pattern, and was happy to sit drinking coffee in a European cafe without feeling under-dressed.
The pockets are reasonably-sized, and appropriate for storing lightweight items like money, credit cards or a hotel key. The zip for the “hidden” pocket seemed pretty obvious to me, but it was still a good place to keep something like a passport. Between the location on the front of the shirt, and security of the buttons and zip, pickpockets are highly unlikely to be able to get into the pockets on this shirt, and nothing should fall out either.
Exploring my neighborhood one cloudless afternoon, my weather app was reading 94 degrees as I walked out the door, complete with small backpack.
A few minutes in the heat was all it took for me to start sweating, but less so than when I'd done a similar walk the day before in a cotton t-shirt. Damp patches appeared at my armpits and torso after a while, as well as on my back and shoulders where my backpack sat, but I was more comfortable than usual when arriving at my destination – an outdoor terrace – half an hour later.
Opting for a table in the shade, the slight breeze dried out the shirt before I finished my drink. Walking back to my accommodation on a longer, meandering and largely-uphill route, I stayed fairly comfortable the entire way. After close to 90 minutes of walking in the hot sun, the shirt was damp to the touch in several places, but not soaked through anywhere.
With a multi-week walk planned later in the year, I wanted to test how quickly the shirt dried after being washed, and how well it could stand up to being worn for more than one day in hot conditions. Hanging it up in the sun as soon as I got back, it was dry within a few minutes, and there was no noticeable odor when I put it on again the next day.
After washing the shirt by hand that afternoon, it took under half an hour to dry in direct sunlight, with some small wrinkles that fell out after a few minutes of wear.
The ExOfficio Mens Sol Cool Cryogen shirt is a good option for travelers who'll be spending plenty of time in the sun, especially if they'll be performing strenuous activities while doing so.
Personally I usually opt for short-sleeved shirts in sunny weather, which opens me up to the risk of sunburned arms if I don't apply sunscreen often enough. This is one of the few long-sleeved shirts I'd be happy to wear even in very hot conditions, however, either rolled to the elbow or full-length.
It kept me cooler than my usual cotton shirts, dried quickly even after hand-washing, and didn't look entirely like I'd just stepped off the trail if I chose to sit down in a bar or restaurant. That's a rare combination, as most quick-dry clothing is about as far from stylish as you can get.
The wrinkle and odor-reducing properties are particularly useful for travelers -- being able to wear the shirt for a couple of days, wash it in the hotel hand basin and have it be dry and wrinkle-free the next morning makes it a practical choice, and lets you travel with fewer clothes in that overloaded suitcase.