The body mapped mesh ventilation combined with the single piece construction that literally wraps all the way around your body without a single seam makes the Nike Dri-FIT Knit one innovative and interesting shirt. Sadly, there were a number of downsides to the performance of this shirt that eventually left the overall impression a bit lower than we would have wished. Its unique features allowed it to score a bit higher than our Best Bang for the Buck award-winning Under Armour UA Tech, but the difference in price is $55! This is a shirt that we enjoyed wearing and running in, but that didn't quite live up to its price tag.
The Dri-FIT Knit is a form-fitting running shirt that has body mapped breathability where it is needed most, and almost seamless construction. Here we are running uphill through the brutal sand on the approach to Sidewinder canyon in Death Valley.
When comparing the comfort of each shirt, we took detailed looks at the fit, the seam sewing, and the fabric. Probably the most remarkable thing about the Nike Dri-FIT Knit is the fact that the torso of this shirt is made of one continuous piece of fabric, and is never sewn together at all. The only seams present are where the sleeves are joined to the main body of the shirt, and these are stitched together with a low profile flatlock stitch. Normally, we don't tend to notice rub from the seams on the sides of the torso anyway, as they hang away from the body, but this shirt is the most form-fitting that we tried. It hugs the body in a way that even the slimmest fitting competition, the Salomon Agile SS Tee, couldn't replicate. While we prefer a bit more space between our shirt and skin, we thought it fit us fairly well.
Check out the sides of this polyester/nylon blended shirt. Where normally there would be sewn seams, there is literally no seams at all on the Dri-FIT Knit. The main body of the shirt is a continuous loop of fabric.
However, dudes with bigger pectorals or biceps are likely to be bulging out of this tight fit, so consider sizing up. The fabric itself felt great against the skin, but rest assured, you will feel it right against your skin. We thought the comfort level was roughly similar to the Smartwool PhD Ultra Light — that is, not uncomfortable, but certainly present in our minds. We gave it 7 out of 10 points.
As you can see here, this was the most form fitting shirt in our review, and literally hugs the upper body, especially the chest and shoulders, tight. Luckily the material is very stretchy, so there is not much constriction of movement, but some may need to size up.
The "knit" part of the Nike Dri-FIT Knit name stands for the fact that lighter weight mesh ventilation is knit directly into the main panel of fabric. Essentially, little mesh perforations are mapped onto the body in the areas of most need, like the upper shoulders, back, and underarms. There are four different densities of knit perforations in different areas of the shirt, designed to allow heat to escape from the most likely areas of heat buildup. While this idea is both quite cool in concept and the actual look of the fabric, we found that even the most densely perforated zones still do not rival the openness or lightness of mesh found on The North Face Better Than Naked, or even the New Balance Ice 2.0. While the idea is cool, it feels a bit gimmicky compared to the performance of the most breathable shirts, and we gave it 8 out of 10 points.
This is the inside of the shirt, showing what the mapped on mesh looks like. As you can see, despite having many different perforations on the upper body, fabric still effectively covers the openings, so not as much direct air flow as you would expect manages to make it through to the skin.
The Nike model was one of the slowest to dry during our tests. It is made of a nearly equal blend of polyester and nylon. Why this is significant is that nylon is capable of absorbing water into its fibers, in contrast to polyester, which is not. At 5.0 ounces for our size large, it was one of the heavier shirts in this test and clearly absorbed more water than the rest. After the Under Armour UA Tech and the Russell Athletic Dri-Power Core Performance had finally finished drying, this shirt was still damp to the touch, so we awarded it the lowest score.
This very slim fitting shirt is a good candidate to be worn underneath another warmth layer as the temperatures drop, and is also a good choice for running as well as working out indoors. However, we question whether the mesh knitting patterns on the tops of the shoulders and back will be able to withstand very much abuse beneath pack straps.
Exiting a slot canyon in Death Valley after an awesome exploration. The Dri-FIT Knit is a great choice for running short or long, and works well for hitting the gym as well.
This shirt has a couple of well-executed basic features but does not go as far as the Smartwool PhD Ultra Light in providing odor control and an elevated UPF rating. On the back of the neck is a long and nicely sewn on sweatband that helps cover up the seam there. It also has two reflectors: a large Nike logo on the front and a large vertical band on the back, but doesn't include reflectors on the sleeves like the Arc'teryx Motus Crew. Most disappointingly, the newest version of this shirt no longer includes a loop to hold headphone cords in place, like we loved using on the New Balance Ice 2.0. We rated this one right about in the middle for features, giving it 6 points.
A couple of the features on display: the very nice sweat band sewn into the neck, as well as a large reflector on the mid back. You can also see the variance in the body mapped mesh in this photo.
This shirt is best used specifically for running but is also a pretty good choice for use as a workout shirt in the gym. While it is easy to layer over the top of in colder conditions, it is not our first choice for activities where a pack is needed.
Exploring the awesome slot canyons of sidewinder canyon in the Dri-FIT Knit. This adventure perfectly melded run with exploration.
The Nike model costs $80, making it one of the most expensive in the fleet. Much of this expense can likely be attributed to the complication of producing a single-piece seamless shirt with mapped perforations. However, the performance compared to the competition simply doesn't back up the price, and we aren't sure this shirt represents very good value.
Cruising downhill at evening time out of a fantastic run and exploration in Sidewinder Canyon, Death Valley, CA.
The Nike Dri-FIT Knit shirt is one of the most unique in this review due to its seamless construction. It also features body mapped, knit perforations that help with breathability and heat dumping. Unfortunately, a tight fit, very slow drying speed, and lack of features, not to mention the high price tag, outweigh the good.