Baleaf Quick Dry Review
Cons: Heavy, not very breathable
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Baleaf Quick Dry is an enigma — performing well across the board in comfort, breathability, and drying speed while offering 360-degree reflective banding. This, in addition to a tag-less collar with incorporated sweat strip, all while remaining the least expensive shirt in our review, make it a clear winner. While the design of the shirt is very simple — no underarm gussets and simple raglan sleeves that connect to the collar — the use of 10% spandex in the fabric give more than enough stretch to outshine simplicity and make for a comfortable ride regardless of activity.
The impressive comfort of the Quick Dry comes from the 90% polyester/ 10% spandex fabric, offering a great fit to a wider audience and enough stretch to move with the runner. The fabric feels great upon first wear and exceeded our expectations on the trail. Baleaf opted to use a well-designed combination of flatlock stitching over the shoulders with overlock stitching along the side seams, minimizing — though not entirely eliminating — unwanted rubbing while wearing a pack.
The medium fit was between slim and relaxed for our 5'10" and 155-pound tester. Slight restrictions in the neck and shoulders were not as noticeable once we hit our stride and the natural stretch of the spandex went to work. For an enduring effort like an ultramarathon, the slight pinching under the armpits will be bothersome. For folks with stronger, more developed necks, shoulder, and biceps, the fit will feel more restricting.
Against our skin, the spandex blended fabric of the Quick Dry was soft and cool, but retained the slippery polyester feel. Four directional stretch made our initial wiggles and movements inspiring, and when we sped out the door, the 4.8 ounces moved naturally with our gait. Our hesitation at the overlock side stitching was also subdued — once geared up with a running pack, the soft thread used in the overlock side stitching was not very noticeable. We were comfortable and confident when hiking with full backpacks and pulling an additional layer on over was effortless thanks to the fit and fabric.
Polyester and spandex have natural breathing properties, and that is the extent of the technology in the Baleaf Quick Dry. The entire shirt uses the same fabric, so there are no specially mapped mesh areas to promote additional ventilation. During activities with more natural airflow like cycling, we were pleased with the ventilation performance. However, even on long runs through late spring snowpack and cooler temperatures, it was clear that something was lacking on the breathability front.
While the aforementioned four-way stretch provides great movement without underarm gussets, incorporated mesh in areas where heat is dumped would return dividends in added breathability. Underarm gussets or a more aerated weave would bring the Quick Dry from an average performer to the next level. That said, for a bargain layer, it is quite durable and breathed well during neighborhood jaunts and pick up soccer games.
With a name like the Baleaf Quick Dry, we were eager to put this shirt through our drying tests. Since it is on the heavier side of the spectrum, we anticipated that it would effectively wick moisture quickly, thus get dramatically lighter after the initial spin cycle and again with each 5-minute dryer cycle.
Having a fast drying speed directly correlates to the quality of evaporative cooling you experience in warm, dry climates. After the initial spin cycle, the Quick Dry only retained 22% of its weight in water, and it was dry to the touch after 10 minutes in the dryer, proving that it does indeed dry quickly. For a shirt that has limited air permeability, we were thrilled to see it wick moisture as well as it did.
Our kitchen science backed up what we felt out on the trail: if saturated wet, the Quick Dry was heavy and cumbersome and dried adequately at best. Once wrung out or dried to a damp level, though, the fabric remained cool even on hot days. Running in the shirt outdoors immediately after it went through a spin cycle enlightened us to the evaporative cooling effect it offers. Overall, we are impressed for such a budget shirt.
Features & Versatility
Some of the factors that limit this layer in breathability are advantages when it comes to versatility. The uniform polyester/spandex fabric, tighter weave, and strong stitching make it a durable shirt that is less likely to show wear from friction associated with using a backpack or hydration pack. The fit is not conducive to ultra-distances, but works great on long mountain bike rides and morning hikes.
While the more affordable options in this review tend to be general workout shirts that happen to be adequate for running, this shirt is clearly designed for running. 360° reflective banding and logos make it highly visible at night — only one other shirt matched this. Between the comfort, drying speed, and reflectivity, we found the Quick Dry to be excellent for evening runs and well suited for urban settings.
The collar is tag-less and has a soft, thin strip sewn in to catch sweat, an attention to detail we expect from pricier shirts. While it doesn't promote an odor-control technology, the shirt remains wearable and tolerable after many sweaty miles, making us think it does have some odor-control treatment. Despite no UPF rating, it shines with a lot of features that increase its comfort and versatility.
The Quick Dry is an outright steal. Comfortable, functional, and feature-rich, it has held up through trials of miles. The durability of this shirt alone makes us scratch our head at the price as it showed little sign of wear, despite accompanying us on numerous grinding efforts. What is lacks in breathability, it makes up for in drying speed and features. This is the shirt for evening runs and rides around town.
The Baleaf Quick Dry is a no-brainer buy. Rotate it into the mix on casual runs and workouts. A simple design works with this polyester/spandex blend, though underarm gussets or mesh panels would help with breathability. Flatlock stitching along the raglan sleeves that cross the shoulders make it comfortable with a pack and well suited for hiking. While it may not be for the ultramarathoner, the comfort and reflective banding make it an excellent choice for urban runners or those active at night. As versatile and durable as they come, but for a fraction of the price, this Best Buy Winner is one you should own.
— Jeff Colt