Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Good warmth for a short sleeve, inexpensive, dries quickly.
Cons: A bit restrictive in the arms/shoulders, not very soft.
Best Uses: Hiking, exercise/aerobic classes, gym workouts, backpacking, horseback riding, running, tennis, cross-training, climbing, warm weather camping, kayaking, water sports.
No offense is meant when I call the REI Fleet the less cool sister to the Nike Miler UV T-Shirt. As with all siblings, there are strengths and weaknesses on everybody's part, and just because it might not look as cool, it certainly performed on par, if not better. The Fleet puts the Miler and the REI OXT Tech to shame with its drying speed, and here is on par with Patagonia's Capilene 1 and the Asics Favorite Short Sleeve. Because it is durable, breathable, easy to layer and relatively warm, the Fleet becomes fairly versatile as a base layer. If you need a quality top at a low price, I would absolutely recommend this one.
Check out our complete men's performance shirt review to see how this performed against other top shirts.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
I initially viewed this top as the slightly less cool, less talented, but perhaps more down-to-earth sister to the Nike Miler short sleeve. However, I quickly realized that because it offered a more flattering fit and was so much quicker to dry, the two are really very close in performance and looks. The REI base layer is less expensive, almost as good looking, fits well, and scored the same in the versatility department, based on a few perks. Firstly, the OXT Fleet is quicker to dry than both the Nike and the OXT Tech short sleeve, making it a good option for water sports. I tested this top kayaking and I was pleased with the speed at which I went from pretty much soaked to dry again. Paired with the built in UPF factor of 45, it becomes an even stronger contender for water-oriented, warm weather sports.
I also liked the warmth that came from this short sleeve top, which was a bit of a surprise. It is mostly a mesh-like fabric, and so I didn't think that it would be much more than a sun barrier/coverup, but it actually did keep away the shivers when I stood in the cold ocean after a long run, icing my legs. It would therefore be a great top for camping or other travel in mild temperatures if there is the chance of a cool spell and you are limited in your packing.
Overall the fit of the OXT Fleet is good, and the fact that this is a V-neck top is a plus. If you are like me, anything restrictive during exercise or activities drives you crazy. The open neck helped to balance the warmth of the top and kept me from feeling choked, as can sometimes happen with a too-tight crew neck.
All of these benefits are made even better by the low cost of the OXT Fleet, making it the "more down-to-earth" sister to the Nike Miler.
While the overall fit is flattering and easy to move in, the shoulders of the Fleet are very narrow and the sleeves very short, making it feel a bit restrictive when reaching, stretching, or even just running. The cut of the top is quite boxy, but I found this to not be cumbersome as the fabric is truly featherweight. However, light does not always equal soft, and in this case, the Fleet is not the softest base layer we tested, making it unappealing for very hot days. The "novelty" mesh of the Fleet is not as soft as the mesh of the Asics Favorite, the Patagonia Capilene 1 T Shirt, or the Miler tops.
This is a good choice for sunny days, as long as it is not too hot. Water sports will benefit from the quick-drying, UPF 40 fabric, and it is a good choice for travel in mild-to-cool temperatures.
If you are on a budget, this is a great top to add to your arsenal, provided it meets your needs based on the above. However, if you can spend a bit more, you would find a higher quality, more stylish top with the Asics Favorite (which comes in long or short sleeve). The OXT Fleet is a great performer and a flattering top. I would just be hesitant to purchase it simply because it is inexpensive, as it might not last as long as the others.
This also comes in a long sleeve version called the REI Fleet Long-Sleeve ($35).
— Chris McNamara and Emily Zell
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: June 20, 2011
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