The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The North Face Kilowatt Short Sleeve Review

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Price:  $60 List | $48.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Durable fabric, versatile, taped seams
Cons:  Sub-par breathability and drying speed, expensive
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 4, 2015
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67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 30% 7
  • Breathability - 20% 6
  • Drying Speed - 15% 5
  • Versatility - 15% 9
  • Features - 15% 6
  • Style - 5% 7

The Skinny

The North Face Kilowatt Short Sleeve running shirt is a technical garment that includes some nice features like super durable FlashDry fabric and taped, rather than sewn, seams on the shoulders to reduce chafing. Unfortunately, compared to the other shirts in our review, there is no category where this shirt excels and especially when it comes to breathability and drying speed, the Kilowatt falls short. As one of the most expensive shirts in our review, it is hard to justify it over the other great options.


Our Analysis and Test Results

The thing that sets The North Face Kilowatt apart from its competitors is its abrasion-resistant fabric and taped seams on the shoulders. Unfortunately, its added durability comes at a high price, both on the price tag, and in breathability and drying performance. We didn't find that its pros outweighed the cons, especially compared to some great competition.

Performance Comparison


Hard at work on the trails outside of Ouray in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. We preferred the Kilowatt (pictured here) for trail running over road running.
Hard at work on the trails outside of Ouray in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. We preferred the Kilowatt (pictured here) for trail running over road running.

Comfort


While we really liked the idea of the taped seams over the shoulders, most of the seams on the shirt were still sewn, and the ones on the back mesh panel rubbed a bit. The fit is loose, comfortable, and non-restrictive.

The fit is large and loose on this shirt and the material is heavier  adding more durability  than the other running shirts.
The fit is large and loose on this shirt and the material is heavier, adding more durability, than the other running shirts.

Breathability


While the Kilowatt incorporates mesh breathing panels under the arms and along the top of the back like many other running shirts, the weave and type of fabric used were less breathable than models like the New Balance Ice 2.0.

Drying Speed


While The North Face claims that the FlashDry-XD knit body material dries quickly while providing superior abrasion resistance, we found in our drying test that it was the slowest shirt to dry.

Versatility


This is versatile shirt, as it is the most durable one we tested. It would make for a great base layer and works well under a pack.

The heavier FlashDry-XD (orange in this photo) fabric makes this a great shirt for cooler days or as an underlayer. It didn't breathe as well or dry as fast as the other shirts.
The heavier FlashDry-XD (orange in this photo) fabric makes this a great shirt for cooler days or as an underlayer. It didn't breathe as well or dry as fast as the other shirts.

Features


Except for its use of a heavier fabric that is more durable than some of the other very lightweight polyesters that we reviewed, the Kilowatt is pretty short on features. We liked the taped seams, but the single logo provides the only reflection point, and it isn't too bright.

Black seam taping on the Kilowatt's shoulder seams means no rubbing or abrasion on the inside. We only wish they used this technique more liberally! Also visible here is the FlashDry mesh panel designed to allow for better breathability. We found it to be less breathable than other shirts' mesh panels.
Black seam taping on the Kilowatt's shoulder seams means no rubbing or abrasion on the inside. We only wish they used this technique more liberally! Also visible here is the FlashDry mesh panel designed to allow for better breathability. We found it to be less breathable than other shirts' mesh panels.

Style


Our panel of so-called fashion experts put this right about in the middle in terms of looks.

Best Applications


While the Kilowatt is designed for running, we think it will work better for trails and long ultra-type outings than on the roads. It also works quite well as a base layer for other activities.

Value


The North Face Kilowatt Short Sleeve retails for $60.00. This is quite a bit more expensive than other shirts, like the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight T-Shirt and ASICS PR Lyte Short Sleeve that we thought easily out-performed it, so we can't say it comes at a great value.

Conclusion


Don't get us wrong, we don't hate this shirt, we even like it. We wore it many times and had only minor complaints. Most of our critique above is very nit-picky. That said, we had four other shirts to compare it to, and the Kilowatt certainly wasn't the best.


Andy Wellman