Patagonia Airchaser Review
Cons: Taped seams on shoulders less durable than sewn seams
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Airchaser, or a variation of this shirt from Patagonia, has been our Editors' Choice Award Winner for several years running. Patagonia has done an excellent job of keeping useful attributes and refreshing the ones that needed some attention. This is an extremely comfortable, lightweight, and quick-drying running shirt that works well in a variety of outdoor pursuits. It is one of the few shirts that is truly not noticeable when running in it, which we love.
Patagonia has gone to great lengths to make the Airchaser incredibly comfortable. Not just comfortable in the dressing room at REI, but while you're actually using it. Some of the highlights include taped shoulder seams, varying types of polyester fabric paneling, and miDori bioSoft fabric softener baked in to make the polyester feel softer and less like slippery plastic.
As far as fit is concerned, our main tester opted for size medium and was happy with the in-between slim and relaxed fit. For scale, our tester is 5'10" and 155 pounds. Gusseted underarms and stretchy polyester provide a full range of movement unencumbered by tight fabric. The Airchaser is an excellent companion when out rock climbing, as overhead arm movements feel unrestricted. As a bonus, the shirt dries incredibly fast after long sweaty approaches to the crag.
Against the skin, the Airchaser is incredibly soft. The miDori bioSoft adds a level of suppleness to the polyester that we didn't find in other shirts. Weighing only 2.6 ounces, there is hardly a chance for chaffing as the shirt feels weightless and floats with you as you run. The underarm gussets assist with unhampered mobility, and flat-sewn seams are low profile and done with soft, comfortable thread. The taped shoulder seams make hauling a backpack or running pack a friction-free affair, and our bony shoulders appreciated it.
Strategically placed polyester mesh panels on the Airchaser help to make it among the most breathable shirts we tested. This paneling lets air pass through seemingly unrestricted, which we appreciate when we're working hard.
The shirt is made of two different types of incredibly lightweight polyester. The heaviest of these fabrics weighs in at only 2.7 ounces per yard, and the entire shirt (in size medium) weighs only 2.6 ounces. These lightweight fabrics, coupled with clever mesh panel placement, make for a noticeably breathable shirt. The mesh on the back is slightly more effective at wicking moisture away from the body.
The rate that a shirt dries once wet affects how much cooling effect you get from your sweat. In our experience, having a fast drying speed directly correlates to the quality of evaporative cooling you experience in warm, dry climates. When we put the Airchaser to the test with our spin cycle water retention method, we found some interesting information.
When wet, the Aichaser is 63% heavier than when dry. After a spin cycle in the wash, it only retains 32% of its weight in water and loses all of that water weight within the first 10 minutes of drying time. For the lightest shirt we tested, we were impressed to see how little water it held as a percentage of its dry weight and how quickly it dried to completion.
These findings might not sound that impressive on their own, but you can truly feel how well this shirt dries during activity. In the name of gear testing (and to test evaporative cooling), our testers rode bikes around the city of Tucson on a 105-degree day. Pouring sweat for the entire ride, by the time they rode the last downhill and walked indoors, the shirt was almost completely dry.
While there are some downsides to having such a lightweight garment, such as potential durability issues, we are willing to cast those to the side for the amazing benefits of this shirt (the Patagonia guarantee doesn't hurt, either).
Features & Versatility
While many people will love to wear this shirt as a base layer beneath thicker layers in the winter, due to the usage of taped seams on the shoulders, we don't think it is as versatile as other shirts for this purpose.
Running shirts are quite simple, and the simplest have no reflective banding, odor control, variability in fabric types, or fabric softeners; the Airchaser has all of these. The miDori bioSoft fabric treatment gives the typically slippery synthetic feeling fabric a more cottony feel, upping it's comfort dramatically. The collar has no tag, adding to neck comfort and decreasing the potential for chaffing, and the collar has a soft, thin sweatband sewn in to help control Niagara Falls as it pours from your scalp.
The odor control on the Airchaser has proven to be effective, even after heavy use through Arizona heat waves. If you remember when synthetic fabrics became a staple in the outdoor community, you also remember the tragically ripe hoards of granola munching hikers passing you on the trail. The Airchaser has HeiQ applied to keep the ripeness at bay, and indeed it does.
Taped seams come apart faster than sewn ones, imploring you to limit the usage to times without a pack. This shirt also only has two reflectors to aid with night visibility, in contrast to the five reflectors found on some of the other shirts in our review. That said, in a clothing category that typically has few extra features, the Airchaser is loaded with them, yet retains an ultralightweight and high level of comfort.
Unlike the neckline, the care instructions tag on the side of the Airchaser is conventional and has to be cut away, leaving some harsher material in contact with the skin at that one spot. This is in contrast to some of the more thoughtful cut-away or tagless designs. Lastly, the Airchaser doesn't have any UPF rating, which could be improved upon.
The Airchaser is an excellent value. The shirt itself is functional, comfortable, performs as it is advertised, and is backed with Patagonia's replacement/repair program — if you do manage to destroy it. Patagonia has also put effort into using recycled polyester, making sure the materials and labor fall under fair trade regulations. These are important things that boost the cost without necessarily boosting the performance of the shirt; the fact that Patagonia can boast fair trade and that some of the material is recycled (and maintains exceptional performance) makes it a great value.
We like everything about this shirt. Its good value, the eye towards sustainability, and its performance. We haven't found a quicker drying or more comfortable shirt yet, which is why this one remains our Editors' Choice Winner. The Patagonia Airchaser isn't the running shirt we deserve; it's the running shirt we need.
— Jeff Colt and Brian Martin