Eddie Bauer Atlas Exploration Long Sleeve Review
Cons: Ripstop nylon doesn't make the best fabric for clothing, fit is inconsistent, doesn't dry as fast as others in test
Manufacturer: Eddie Bauer
Our Analysis and Test Results
Our tests are designed to compare and contrast a multitude of brands and designs, and this test accomplished that by including brands like Hanes, Columbia, and Eddie Bauer, broadly available across much of the country, alongside logos somewhat more characteristic to smaller stores and outdoor recreation-focused websites. In this case, the "macro-brands" fared very well, the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite testing amongst the highest, for example, taking second overall to the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody. The Eddie Bauer in many ways disappointed, especially in light of other highly-rated products under its boutique First Ascent line. The Atlas Exploration does offer people a decent option at a good price when on sale, but given the value available in other test options, it's hard to justify making room in your budget for it.
Comfort & Fit
The Atlas Exploration fits quite snug under the arms and across the yoke, enough to limit arm movement as a result of the ripstop's minimal give. After all—it's ripstop. Reaching forward pulls the cuffs to the forearms and the hemline often lifted above the waist. The test sample was a medium, on a very medium-build tester. Out of the box, the shirt feels different than most, almost "scratchy" against the skin, just enough to emulate a Merino wool base-layer.Still, the front fit as it should have, not too athletic or relaxed, a more universal—and ideal—fit.
The lay-flat pockets are nice, and almost hard to see from a distance if not for the button. The shirt-front is where the Atlas Exploration excels, and unfortunately, that's where the superlatives for this category end.
Eddie Bauer integrated FreeShade 50+ UPF sun protection to put the Atlas Exploration on par with all but the Columbia Silver Ridge Lite, which only has a 40+ UPF rating. There's a standard collar, lacking an additional flip-up panel, and the shorter hemline and lack of stretch means that the skin could be exposed at the waist and forearms during specific types of activity in the sun. Design choices in several of the other test subjects, such as hoods, extended collars, and vented yokes, put them at a distinct advantage over a shirt without them.
The Eddie Bauer Atlas Exploration spent time in the humid jungles of Costa Rica, taking on the wet air and heat of an equatorial environment. It was a tough outing for this shirt, as it wasn't quick to release perspiration or add comfort in an oppressive place. It's clear that venting and polyester blends—common among other shirts tested—should be base-line requirements for sun-shirts.
Eddie Bauer's FreeDry® wicking treatment may not be ideal for ripstop fabric, as this shirt stayed wettest the longest after a wash/air-dry test, and also held tighter than all others to the stench of a campfire after 12 hours removed from it. The shirt was also put through "perspiration" tests, and managed to fight off any lingering body odor but gained "stiffness" after allowed to dry.
In terms of anything that could be considered "active cooling," the Atlas Exploration lacked the features and fabric to compete with the likes of the Mountain Hardwear Canyon, Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody, or Sol Patrol II.
Mini-ripstop nylon, not uncommon in down and insulated jacket shells, is by far the toughest fabric in this lineup. Add in a streamlined feature-set and small pockets that restrict the movement of contents, and shoppers could rely on this shirt sticking around awhile. About the pockets: they're small, and forcing contents into them could result in a less-than-desirable result upon removal.
We agree with Eddie Bauer's claim that the fabric is low-maintenance, it feels like a shirt meant to last as if maybe it's designed for preppers to stuff in a go-bag.
In the right color, this shirt could work in town or at the office. It's not overly "outdoorsy", and its universal fit avoids the breezy look of the Patagonia Sol Patrol II or Silver Ridge Lite and the tighter feel of the Astroman. The pockets are subtle, and the left-side zipper matches the shirt color. The cuffs end at the wrist, aren't too wide, and the shorter hemline contributes to the more casual appearance. This shirt can look with jeans or even chill dress pants.
The Eddie Bauer Atlas Exploration shirt boasts a couple of lay-flat breast pockets with mesh backs. They look great but hold little. The left pocket is partitioned to conceivably hold a pen or hang sunglasses, but the separation renders the rest of that pocket almost useless, outside of some folded bills or business cards. The sleeves roll and can be secured with a tab and button, like all other button-downs in this category. The FreeShade label refers to Eddie Bauer's 50+ UPF protection, and the FreeDry is the company's wicking treatment, which seems challenged by the mini-ripstop nylon.
The Silver Ridge Lite and the Outdoor Research Astroman have a similar low-key feature set up front, but the former has massive back venting and the latter impressive stretch and protective collar. The Atlas Exploration simply suffers from an odd fabric choice, not a lack of features.
The Eddie Bauer Atlas Exploration is a good choice for late summer and fall hiking and outdoor activities. It's not the best performer in the heat but can do a good enough job in cooler seasons when sweat cycles don't come as frequently. It doesn't pack as well, the fabric doesn't feel great, and the pockets won't hold much, so despite the company's claim, look for other options in our test for travel shirts; try the Mountain Hardwear Canyon or Patagonia Sol Patrol II.
The shirt would be worth it when on sale, as it's a suitable option for casual outdoor environments and shoulder-season hiking. It can be found as of this writing for $42 on sale. Its regular price of $70 can be better spent in the Eddie Bauer store itself, let alone in places where you can pick up the items that scored better in this test.
The $10 Hanes FreshIQ CoolDRI long sleeve might be a better value than this hiccup on the part of Eddie Bauer. The Hanes may have shrunk, but it makes for a great gym and running shirt and doesn't need to be washed as often. When up against the much more comfortable, well-thought-out, and multi-purpose sun shirts in this test, the Atlas Exploration isn't on the same playing field. There's no doubt Eddie Bauer makes some superb outdoor apparel and products, this just isn't one of them.
— Craig Rowe