Outdoor Research Astroman Long Sleeve Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Good fabric stretch and movement, streamlined features, very lightweight and packable
Cons: Tight fit, feel of buttons on skin, collar point snaps, stretchy fabrics lose UPF+ protection sooner
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Astroman was put through its paces climbing, hiking, training, and cycling, all next to other test subjects in controlled testing for breathability, packing, and general wear and tear. We love its ability to stretch and move and its overall casual look, making it a top competitor for in-town style. While the it's marketed as a climbing shirt, there's little doubt that's not where its useful life ends, as it's also a great option for things like thru-hiking. Ultimately, as a sun-shirt, others in the test perform better, however, and would make more compelling all-around options.
Comfort and Fit
Overall, the Astroman wears really well. It's very light, hangs nicely over the waistline, and encourages airflow between it and the wearer. Its athletic fit might be too "athletic" for some, but the 85%/15% nylon/spandex mix almost makes up for it.
This shirt isn't tight across the chest but does get a tad firm in the shoulders and biceps. That's quickly ameliorated by the flex of the 15% spandex. The cuffs and sleeves remain true to a dress-shirt design by ending at the wrist, and the forearm snaps are ideally positioned for being undone and rolled up when needed, despite this being the only button-up in the test that doesn't have a way to secure rolled-up sleeves. That's not necessarily a drawback, but this is: the back of the placket's metal ring snap closures are often felt against the skin, since the fabric is so thin, and these snaps are quite weighty.
The tighter fit works for some folks from a style perspective — especially athletic individuals, but it doesn't help its sun protection factor. A tight fit enables more UV rays to pass that much closer to the skin. Still, the rear collar flap to bolster protection on the back of the neck is a nice value-add, but securing the front collar point snap is much harder than it should be.
With 50+ UPF protection and extra collar height, the basics needed to repel the radiation of our nearest star are present. We found that the curved hem and shorter back length could lift the shirt in places during some activity, but it never resulted in excess exposure. Center back length measures 29" for a size large, which is about the average for button-up sun shirts that we've tested.
However, fabric that stretches is more susceptible to its sun protection waning over time, as fabrics that stretch wear out sooner, weaken, and allow more UV to pass through, according to skincancer.org. And if there's one thing the Astroman has in spades, it's stretch. Yet, studies have also shown that spandex (lycra or elastane) is naturally more UV-resistant. So, it all comes down to how the Astroman will hold up.
The fit is also one of the most "athletic" in our test — and certainly the most athletic button-up we've tested. This means it's tighter than others — also a drawback for sun protection. There's a reason sun shirts usually fit larger and looser. Bottom line, if sun protection is why you're looking at the Astroman first and foremost, you may want to consider other options. While the spandex component could be considered a good thing, it might not be enough over time.
The Astroman shakes off wetness while drying quickly, circulating air around the wearer. At only 7 ounces, it's not hard for even slight breezes to encourage this shirt's ability to cool. You can feel it actively cool during activity.
The inner yoke is lined with an "air vent," a swath of micro-mesh fabric that helps let more air pass through. The same material backs the left breast pocket. The Astroman lacks physical venting, making it unique among the other long-sleeved, button-up shirts we've tested. The "AirVent Inner Back Yoke" seems to do its part, but clearly the breathability is largely due to the super-thin cocktail of nylon and spandex.
In our campfire test, in which each shirt was exposed to five minutes of campfire cologne, the Astroman performed above average, demonstrating the least amount of evidence it was hung over a campfire. Yet, like all others, it took two washes to fully de-funkify it. In the controlled drying experiment, it performed on par, drying to wearability with all the others in less than 30 minutes.
The Astroman can be somewhat described as a sun shirt that you'll still need to wear sunscreen with. The thin, stretchy material and tight cut will mean that a lot of skin will either be only moderately protected or completely unprotected. Best to supplement this shirt with a wide-brimmed hat, neck gaiter, and even sun gloves for all-day sport climbing marathons, hiking missions, or marathon days on the fishing boat.
The athletic fit does complement an athletic body, though, and rolling from the crag to the table of your favorite brewpub to humblebrag of the day's mini-epics couldn't feel more natural. The minimal amount of features works to its advantage for other casual uses, including working in a relaxed office setting. A lack of pockets may be a detriment to the jet-set traveler, but the fact that the shirt is comfortable to wear, and always seems to look perfectly tailored may help you look more refreshed than your jet lag would let on. We did find that the fabric wrinkles easily, so if you are constantly in need of stuffing it into the nooks and crannies of a bag, be forewarned.
The Astroman feels almost weightless upon first contact, so doubt about its ability to withstand scrapes against granite or bushwacking are understandable. And, indeed, stitchwork in some areas seems to be starting to fray around the collar, cuffs, and pockets. No seams have yet to fail, but it's not the best sign. However, outside of that, the fabric showed no unusual signs of wear throughout testing, holding up to everything that was thrown at it.
The Western shirt-style ring-snap closures, riveted through the fabric as opposed to sewn-on buttons, are a tougher attachment method, more than likely a necessity given the shirt's range of stretch. Our main tester was able to lose a snap on the cuff during the testing process. Repairing a snap is a little more involved than replacing a button, especially while on the trail, and no extra snaps come with the shirt.
The unique fabric of the Astroman is reason enough to purchase it. For those who prefer sun shirts decorated with extra pockets and secret collar flaps, this may not be the option for you. But, for the right person, the clever lack of features help it stand out, especially as a climbing shirt. The sleek feel of the fabric and its low weight are part of the appeal. Disturb that, and you don't have the same shirt. The inner yoke vent, minimal collar point snap, and low profile breast pocket are plenty of extras to keep the Astroman, and its user, on task.
What the Astroman has for itself is no-doubt being a well-made, very comfortable shirt. But its weakness lies in the hard truths that, for sun protection specifically, there may be several better, more affordable options. Value is a tough metric to rate, as money means different things to different buyers. We have no choice as a consumer resource, however, than to err on the side of the average outdoor gear shopper. Shirts in this price range are why so many people flock to Amazon, wait for Black Friday sales, or try to bogart a buddy's pro deal.
We were a little off-put by the stitching unraveling in several places of the shirt and the loss of one of the snaps along the cuff. Durability is not one of the strong suits of this shirt, despite its high price.
There's little to dislike like about the Outdoor Research Astroman. It's one of the most comfortable shirts that we've tested, keeps the UV at bay with its 50 UPF fabric, and isn't much bigger than a smartphone when rolled and ready to travel. It's not as long in the sleeves or robust in coverage as some of the other button-up sun shirts we've tested, but it makes up for those hiccups with streamlined features, category-leading stretch, and overall good looks. But man is it pricey.
— Craig Rowe & Justin Simoni