Modern wicking synthetics pull heat off the body so quickly that it can become detrimental if temperatures drop or winds increase while the shirt is still wet with sweat.
Outdoor Research aims to rectify this with their Gauge Tee, choosing Polartec’s new Delta fabric. Polartec knits both hydrophilic and hydrophobic yarns together into a honeycombed structure that acts as a radiator. The hydrophilic yarns – those that attract and hold moisture – absorb and move the sweat across the fabric and holds it next to the skin, prolonging the evaporative cooling effect. The hydrophobic yarns – wicking and non-absorbent – surround the perforations, the increased surface in contact with moving air promoting fast drying times. These perforations maintain breathability when wet by maintaining open spaces even as the hydrophilic yarns swell with moisture. Laboratory testing held to ISO standards shows Delta to lie between cotton and polyester in drying time, wet breathability and dry breathability. This middle ground of regulated drying allows the fabric to possess the comfortable cooling pattern of cotton and avoiding the “flash cooling” that can happen with polyester when wet. The fabric has a UPF 15 rating and odor control.
The Outdoor Research Gauge Tee has a unique look and feel thanks to the visible honeycomb structure. The contrasting Merrow stitching stands out, along with a reflective logo and trim. I found the cut to be excellent for athletic builds, not too tight while not being baggy. The shirt is quite stretchy, following aggressive climbing movement easily, even when tightly tucked into the harness. The texture gives the shirt a cool touch when dry, reduces the clingy feeling on the skin when the sweat starts to pour, and the airflow through the perforations is evident in breezes. I was skeptical of the metabolic cooling claims, and a hot day at the cliffs with zero wind proved the point. After climbing at a nearby restaurant I walked under an outdoor fan and was awestruck as the cooling effect became obvious; the slight breeze allowed the moisture still in the fabric to draw heat from my body even though I had stopped sweating and my skin was dry. My doubts immediately ceased on the effectiveness of the Delta fabric.
The Outdoor Research Gauge Tee did have some durability related drawbacks. The texture and perforations make snagging on branches a common occurrence, and tearing seems to occur easily compared to other synthetic fabrics. I have three holes collected over just a few climbing outings. I noticed during the first use that my harness and pack rub caused some yarns to pull free, the ends dangling and threatening to run across the shirt further. The shiny sheen became noticeably fuzzy just within a few washes. The shirt still performs admirably, and is probably better suited for running and less abrasive workouts. Nevertheless, I still reach for it as a first choice here in the Texas heat.
Outdoor Research created a garment that truly provides metabolic cooling through the use of Polartec Delta. It is comfortable against the skin, wet or dry, the cut and elasticity playing well with aggressive movements. The Gauge Tee is ideal for high output aerobic training in hot environments, where abrasion and snagging wouldn’t be an issue, and the cooling effect can provide the most benefit.
outdoorreseatch.com MSRP: $59.00