Russell Athletic Dri-Power Mesh Performance Review
Cons: Heavy fabric, not super breathable, low quality construction
Manufacturer: Russell Athletic
Our Analysis and Test Results
We initially selected this shirt for the bargain-basement price and good reviews. We were pleasantly surprised as the Athletic Dri-Power is reasonably comfortable, dries quickly, and has proven itself to be quite versatile.
The main components in attaining a high level of comfort are fit, fabric, and how the fabric panels are sewn or taped together. As for fit, the Athletic Dri-Power has a "standard fit," meaning it is neither meant to fit close to the body or be overly loose. The fit is a tad on the large size; our 5'10", 155-pound tester often fits in a medium, and the size medium we tested was a tad baggy. If you like having a shirt that fits closer and you fall between sizes, size down. The entire shirt is comprised of 100% polyester that feels a bit more coarse than your standard athletic wear polyester. When put up to a light source, you can see the large grain pattern that gives it its coarse feel.
With these bargain-basement prices, we certainly didn't expect extravagant flat-lock seams or gusseted underarm panels, though we were surprised with how comfortable this shirt is, given the simple construction. Our main gripe revolved around the stitching, and the large abrasive ridge created where any of the fabric panels joined together. While this isn't ideal, it wasn't that big of a distraction during our gym sessions; the issues arose when we threw on our running pack and headed out into the hills. The pressure from the running pack pushing the large protruding seam into the skin was noticeable and downright uncomfortable after a few miles. Additionally, the baggy fit made for extra material and bunching when paired with a pack.
The lack of wide gauge mesh panels knocks the Athletic Dri-Power out of the running for most breathable shirt tested, but the polyester fabric does okay. There was noticeable airflow, especially when we were out on our bike for our daily work commute. At slower speeds hiking and running, we found ourselves wanting more in the breathability department, though. On one particular long road run, we sweat through the perforated polyester so thoroughly, it made us ponder the last time we had sweat that much. Gusseted mesh underarm panels would go a long way towards boosting the breathability of this shirt; as it stands now, it is more than adequate for gym sessions and times when having an ultra-breathable shirt isn't critical.
Our standardized drying speed test revealed relatively quick-drying speeds. While we didn't necessarily feel the breathability and drying speeds out on the trail, the numbers don't lie. After our wash and spin dry, the Athletic Dri-Power retained 69% of its total weight in water and had lost all of that moisture within 15 minutes of dryer time. This isn't the fastest or the slowest but is a strong finisher nonetheless. It's important to note that 94% of that moisture had dissipated by our first dryer weigh in at 5 minutes, remarkable for a shirt holding 100 grams of water.
While these stats point to a fast-drying polyester shirt, out on the trail, we did feel a bit drenched at times. There is variability in outside air temperature and humidity, but it felt like the lack of breathability created a situation where it was more difficult for air to pass through the shirt and, thus, a slower real-world drying speed. Unlike some other shirts that utilized just one fabric, this shirt did not wick moisture as effectively.
Features & Versatility
The poorly crafted seams cut into the versatility of the Athletic Dri-Power shirt. While gym sessions, rock climbing, yoga, and weight lifting all went as planned, the poor stitching made us reach for a different shirt when putting on a running pack, backpack, or going for a hike. As a general use athletic shirt, however, we felt like this is a great option.
As you can imagine, running shirts aren't generally highly featured. The Athletic Dri-Power isn't an exception but does have a few nice offerings. The odor protection functions well, even after weeks of heavy use in hot weather. This didn't mean a total absence of post-workout "musk," only that the shirt didn't retain a detectable odor after washing, which was a plus. Finally, there is one reflective logo on the bottom left front of the shirt, which helps offer a touch of visibility. The Dri-Power also carries a UPF rating of 30+, which helps shield from harmful UV rays.
The reality of this shirt is that it is a great value. While we are highly critical of gear, the issues with this shirt are easily overlooked once we factored in the price. When it comes down to it, the retail cost is a bargain no matter how you spin it. When considering that this is a functional piece of activewear, meant to compete with shirts three and four times as expensive, the value is apparent. The real question is, "Would you rather have a medium amount of good pizza or all you can eat of pretty good pizza" (Michael Scott).
The Russell Athletic Dri-Power Mesh Performance shirt is hands down one of the most affordable shirts we tested. It performed well, but did experience comfort and breathability issues. While we wouldn't recommend it to an ultramarathoning friend, it's an excellent option for anyone who spends time in the gym and is looking for an affordable workhorse of a shirt.
— Jeff Colt and Brian Martin