How To Buy a Travel & Expedition Shirt

Today’s trav­el and expe­di­tion shirt is not just a piece of tough mate­r­i­al; it’s sun­screen, bug repel­lant, and a cool­er for your core. It has mois­ture wick­ing prop­er­ties, can be worn as nat­u­ral­ly to din­ner, the office, or on a steam­ing jun­gle trek. No trav­el kit is com­plete with­out one. This guide will help you find the best trav­el and expe­di­tion shirt for your needs.

UPF: Ultra­vi­o­let Pro­tec­tion Fac­tor (UPF) is how fab­rics are mea­sured in their abil­i­ty to block UV rays—a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from SPF’s mea­sure­ment of when skin red­dens. In the US, UPF rat­ings are giv­en by the Amer­i­can Soci­ety for Test­ing and Mate­ri­als or the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Tex­tile Chemists and Col­orists. Test­ing for this num­ber is strin­gent and the num­ber tracks sim­i­lar­ly to SPF pro­tec­tion, but they are not the same. If any­thing, UPF is bet­ter since there’s no need to reap­ply. Dark­er col­ors block UV bet­ter than light.

Insect pro­tec­tion: The big word in insect pro­tec­tion is Per­me­thrin. It’s a chem­i­cal used to treat shirts to repel bugs. Per­me­thrin is used in all new British and US mil­i­tary gar­ments and is mak­ing its way into out­door  appar­el via a com­pa­ny called Insect Shield – a third par­ty fab­ric treat­ment com­pa­ny that inte­grates the chem­i­cal safe­ly into cloth­ing. Don’t wor­ry: your skin has a hard time absorb­ing Per­me­thrin, mak­ing a safe addi­tive to your clothes. Per­me­thrin can bleed in the wash so it’s a good idea to wash treat­ed clothes separately.

Fab­ric: Just like there are dif­fer­ent shoes for dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments, there are dif­fer­ent shirts.

Cot­ton: 100% cot­ton = not adven­ture ready. It’ll soak up sweat and water like a tow­el. Make sure your cot­ton shirts are blend­ed with some kind of syn­thet­ic for wick­ing properties.

Syn­thet­ics: Poly­ester is the most com­mon of syn­thet­ic for mois­ture wick­ing. The mate­r­i­al dries quick­ly, doesn’t absorb smell, and is light­weight. Some com­pa­nies offer “cool­ing” syn­thet­ics, or fibers that cool the skin when wet.

Meri­no Wool: Meri­no wool shirts are caus­ing a stir in a mar­ket dom­i­nat­ed by syn­thet­ics because of its soft­ness and anti-stink (anti-micro­bial) prop­er­ties as well as new tech­nol­o­gy that allows the fibers to reach unprece­dent­ed micron sizes. Meri­no wool is a great choice if you’re not going to be doing a lot of laun­dry on the trail. It dries a lit­tle slow­er, but keeps the skin warmer – impor­tant if you’re hik­ing in cool temps.

Design: Dif­fer­ent designs appeal to dif­fer­ent crowds. A shirt with many pock­ets is great for fly fish­ing after work. Not for run­ning. A syn­thet­ic polo is per­fect for both.

Baselayers/wicking Tees: Light­weight and com­fort­able, Baselayers/wicking tees are great for hik­ing and out­side activ­i­ty. The main pur­pose of these shirts is mois­ture man­age­ment although they also offer sun pro­tec­tion and a bit of warmth.

Polos: Per­fect for sum­mer meet­ings and for runs, syn­thet­ic polos are becom­ing a reg­u­lar sta­ple of office wear. Many times polos have mois­ture-wick­ing design built right in.

But­ton-ups: Most out­door-brand­ed but­ton-up shirts have UPF built into the design, mak­ing them great for trav­el. Many but­ton up shirts offer con­ve­nient pock­ets on the chest for fly fish­er­man or hik­ers need­ing to store maps and oth­er trin­kets. And of course, these shirts are designed to look out­doorsy mean­ing your col­or selec­tions will like­ly revolve around flannel.