The Patagonia Windchaser is the highest scoring product in our review and wins our Best Overall Running Shirt award. Due in large part to using entirely taped seams, we found it to be the most comfortable of all the shirts we tested. Its super lightweight polyester fabric with mesh on the top half also proved to be the fastest drying shirt compared to all the others, proving that it will work to effectively cool you off in the hottest conditions. We also love that this was the only shirt in this review to be made of 100% recycled polyester, an important fact considering polyester will never biodegrade on its own. With so many great attributes, this is naturally the shirt we recommend first for running.
Patagonia Windchaser Review
Cons: Lightweight mesh and taped seams may not hold up to the abuse of pack straps, not as affordable as some
Our Analysis and Test Results
Hands-On Review of the Windchaser
The Patagonia Windchaser is a running shirt made of 100% recycled polyester that is designed for long runs. With this goal in mind, Patagonia has taken every necessary step to ensure that it is as comfortable as a shirt can be. Compared to the competition, the Windchaser is simply in a league of its own. In our overall ratings, it scored almost 10 full points better than the closest competition, something that rarely happens considering we have worked hard to select only the very best products for inclusion in this review.
Only one other shirt used taped seams to help reduce the amount of rubbing and chafing experienced when running long distances, but The North Face Better Than Naked only used these types of seams on the backs of the shoulders, not throughout the whole shirt like we found on the Windchaser. The mesh on the shoulders, sleeves, and upper back provided great direct air flow enabling fantastic breathability, and we were impressed to find out that this was the fastest drying shirt in the review as well.
Although it could have included extra UPF rating and more reflector tags for greater visibility on the sides, it's hard not to think of this shirt as nearly perfect. Truthfully, the attention to detail was what we would expect from an extremely expensive waterproof jacket, not a simple running shirt.
When assessing for comfort, the main things we noticed that could annoy us and result in a lower score were fit, fabric, and seam sewing. We found that the Windchaser was pretty much perfect in all regards.
Our men's size large fit perfectly, with enough room for us to move about any which way we wanted without feeling any sense of tightness or constriction, while also being trim enough to not feel baggy. It didn't fit nearly as close to our body as the Nike Dri-FIT Knit, but also wasn't as loose as the Under Armour UA Tech. The shirt is made of polyester but is split at mid-chest level, with light, breathable fabric below, and even lighter, perforated mesh above. These fabrics felt slippery to the touch and moved across the skin very smoothly.
Where we were impressed was when we looked closely at the seams. Every seam on this entire shirt is taped together in a way that there is no overlap, and no stitching whatsoever. Since seams are usually the very first thing we notice when we put on a running shirt and are what rub the most over the long haul, we are thrilled Patagonia took the steps necessary to eliminate seam stitching. We gave it 10 points, which was a couple more than we gave to the also comfortable New Balance Ice 2.0.
When assessing for breathability, we found that shirts that used a lighter, thinner fabric that allowed for more air to pass through, thereby enhancing evaporation directly off the skin, were the most effective. The Windchaser was easily up there with the best.
As we mentioned above, this shirt is made with two types of fabric, a thin square patterned ripstop-looking fabric on the bottom that was very similar to the patterning of the Salomon Agile SS Tee, combined with a perforated mesh on the top half of the shirt. Where shirts like the New Balance Ice 2.0 used a similar, but heavier mesh on the back of the shirt, we liked the location of mesh on the Windchaser better because it allows heat and water vapor to escape upwards, as they naturally do. At 3.3 oz., this was the second lightest shirt we tested and was the second most breathable as well.
The Windchaser was the fastest shirt to dry in our dedicated drying speed test. We have to admit that this surprised us a little bit, but polyester is a non-absorbent fabric, so this super thin shirt simply wasn't able to carry much water weight, and so easily dried out quicker than the others.
The light and almost entirely mesh North Face Better Than Naked was a super close second when it came to drying speed, and a trio of shirts that included the Brooks Distance, and the merino wool blended Smartwool PhD Ultra Light were third when it came to speed of drying. As one of the most breathable, combined with a super fast drying time, there is no doubt this shirt will work to cool you off quickly when you are sweating and hot.
Versatility is the one area where we thought this shirt suffered a bit compared to the competition. While we admit that we didn't have time to test it until the seams were coming apart and the fabric was torn, we are a bit wary of the lightweight mesh on the shoulders and all the taped seams holding up under the stress of pack straps.
To state it simply, this is a great shirt for nearly any outdoor activity. However, we have reservations about how long the mesh and taped seams will hold up compared to the heavier fabric and sewn seams of a shirt like the Arc'teryx Motus Crew, our Top Pick as a Base Layer. Luckily Patagonia's Ironclad guarantee means that if the seam tape starts to delaminate, which we have seen in the past before with other taped seams (although this took many years!), you can send it back for a new one, and Patagonia will recycle your shirt for you. Sounds like a win-win to us! Regardless, we awarded it 5 out of 10 for this metric.
This shirt comes with some nice features. In particular, it is treated with Polygiene for "permanent" odor control. Polygiene is a silver chloride treatment that kills odor-producing bacteria and is supposedly safe for both humans and the environment in general. We think it works pretty effectively, although again we didn't have the shirt long enough to know whether the permanency of this treatment is true or not.
The Windchaser also has a comfortable sweatband on the back of the neck and a sewn tab for hanging it on a hook. There are two reflective logos, one on the chest and another on the back of the neck. We ranked it up there with the best for features, along with the Arc'teryx Motus Crew and our Top Pick for Running with Headphones, the New Balance Ice 2.0, but wish it had a couple more reflectors and some additional UPF protection. 8 out of 10.
This shirt is designed to be as comfortable as possible for long runs, where little discomforts can be greatly exacerbated, and even turn into bleeding sores. For this reason, we think it is a great choice for ultra races or other long adventure runs. It will also work well for everyday running, and for nearly any other outdoor activity where lightweight, breathable synthetic clothing is advantageous, such as hiking or peak climbing.
This shirt retails for $59, which is the fourth most expensive shirt in this review. We think you are getting incredible value for this price, even though it's just a shirt. Buy one!
The Patagonia Windchaser is the winner of our Best Overall award because it combines all the necessary attributes of a running shirt. It is supremely comfortable, has lots of super breathable mesh material, is really fast to dry out, and has some extra features that add value. It also takes into consideration the environmental degradation that is inherent in producing polyester fabric and is thus made of 100% recycled material. Clearly, this is the first shirt we would recommend for running.
— Andy Wellman