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Russell Athletic Dri-Power Mesh Performance Review

Offers reasonable performance at a basement level price
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Price:  $16 List | $8.01 at Amazon
Pros:  Affordable, reasonably comfortable
Cons:  Heavy fabric, not super breathable, low quality construction
Manufacturer:   Russell Athletic
By Jeff Colt and Brian Martin  ⋅  Jun 2, 2020
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52
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 10
  • Comfort - 30% 6
  • Breathability - 30% 4
  • Drying Speed - 20% 6
  • Features & Versatility - 20% 5

Our Verdict

One of the lowest priced shirts in our review, the Russell Athletic Dri-Power Mesh Performance is what you would expect to find on the bargain basement clearance rack; the catch is it actually performs well. There isn't anything exceptionally good or bad that we could find with this shirt as it is pleasantly average. While we wouldn't recommend this shirt for someone putting in tons of miles on the trails, for a quick-drying synthetic gym shirt, it gets the job done well. By wearing the Athletic Dri-Power to the gym, we discovered that we reduced wear and tear on our more fragile, technical shirts. All in all, it is an efficient use of your gear and our dollar bills.

Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


The Dri-Power Mesh Performance is a functional athletic shirt at a bargain-basement price.
The Dri-Power Mesh Performance is a functional athletic shirt at a bargain-basement price.

Comfort


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.

The Russell Dri-Power has a slightly larger fit but still moves well with the body.
The Russell Dri-Power has a slightly larger fit but still moves well with the body.

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.

This protruding seam isn't the most comfortable  especially when wearing a pack.
This protruding seam isn't the most comfortable, especially when wearing a pack.

Breathability


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.

The entire shirt is comprised of polyester mesh. While it isn't the most comfortable or breathable shirt we tested  when you consider the price/performance ratio  it is pretty dang good.
The entire shirt is comprised of polyester mesh. While it isn't the most comfortable or breathable shirt we tested, when you consider the price/performance ratio, it is pretty dang good.

Drying Speed


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.

This shirt is fairly versatile for use working out or running  and especially playing sports outside  but doesn't have a very sleek or athletic fit.
This shirt is fairly versatile for use working out or running, and especially playing sports outside, but doesn't have a very sleek or athletic fit.

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 sewn in sweatband on the back of the neck works well. We expect this feature in all shirts designed for running and working out.
The sewn in sweatband on the back of the neck works well. We expect this feature in all shirts designed for running and working out.

Value


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).

If you're going to be running around the desert like we did  we recommend going with a lighter colorway than black!
If you're going to be running around the desert like we did, we recommend going with a lighter colorway than black!

Conclusion


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