This reader wrote in with a question about wicking shirts for her two sons that are in Boy Scouts.
The thing that troubled me initially about this question is when the reader said that the Boy Scout leader insisted on the boys wearing “wicking shirts” for some reason.
Hopefully this information will help others make a more informed buying decision:
Best Wicking Shirts for Boy Scouts?
My two sons recently joined boy scouts and the leader insists on wicking shirts.
I have one son who sweats profusely and one who doesn’t. I don’t want to spend a bundle.
What do you recommend? They both wear about an adult medium shirt.
My Initial Reply:
I’m not sure the Boy Scout leader really understands how and when a wicking shirt (or wicking undershirt) should be worn.
If you spend anytime on my site, you’ll see that wicking shirts do not help heavy sweaters, they make the problem worse. In looking at your note, I am not certain if you’re looking to purchase wicking t-shirts as outerwear or wicking undershirts as underwear.
Which one are you asking about? Let me know, and I’ll see what I can do to point you in the right direction.
Next to Skin Wicking Shirts
I guess as t-shirts that can be worn next to the skin, with something like fleece used as layers. The leaders seem to have a heavy bias against cotton.
The boys’ troop does a lot of outdoor activities year round…not just summer and nice weather.
Thanks for any help you can offer!
Purpose & Use of Wicking Shirts & Undershirts
To be honest, it’s a little hard for me to simply recommend a wicking t-shirt without explaining further.
There has been a lot of confusion in the market about wicking undershirts.
Many companies have offered undershirts made from wicking materials (like polyester or nylon), however, most of them were not designed to fit tight/close to the body. This makes them utterly useless from a wicking perspective.
Also, for those undershirts that offer good wicking performance, the wetness gets transferred to the outer shirt more quickly. Although the wearer feels drier, they’re outer shirts soil more quickly. So in a regular day-to-day environment, wicking undershirts aren’t very practical to wear, especially for those who sweat more heavily.
If you’re looking at layering as a means of offering some sweat protection, then you’d likely be well served with any tight fitting performance t-shirt made out of polyester and either a standard Hanes undershirt over it, or some other t-shirt.
Walmart and Target carry many different types of performance/compression tees like this under various brands like Champion, Starter, etc. that normally sell for under $10. Most of these tees are really stretchy, so while they are close/tight fitting, they’ll be pretty comfortable to wear.
Although they cost a bit more, I’m a really big fan of Jockey undershirts. I just received a shipment from the company. Several are performance compression shirts that are made mostly out of polyester, and all fit close and comfortable.
Here are the wicking shirts/undershirt I received:
- Sport Performance tee (80% polyester, 20% spandex)
- S/S Performance tee (100% polyester)
- Performance Mesh side panel tee (100% polyester)
- Euro CoolMax tee (50% cotton, 46% coolmax polyester, 4% spandex)
The first three are made out of large amounts or all polyester. Even through they are comfortable, they definitely feel more synthetic on the skin.
The Euro CoolMax tee feels the nicest and most natural on my skin. Since it should provide good wicking performance, and it feels nice on the skin, I would recommend trying that one first and see how it performs for your sons.
Boy Scouts: Cotton vs Wicking Shirts
I mean no disrespect to the Boy Scout leaders, but just because a shirt or undershirt is made out of cotton, doesn’t mean that it will perform any worse or better than a wicking undershirt during some activities and in some situations.
Wicking undershirts don’t necessarily make you feel cooler. Plus, they won’t make you sweat less than some of today’s lightweight undershirts. I know this from personal experience and after evaluating hundreds of undershirts.
Compression/wicking t-shirts do help keep people feeling more dry, especially in high-performance conditions. Wicking fabric does not absorb moisture as much, and as a result, the undershirt or shirt will feel less heavy.
This is why athletes love wearing compression clothing and is why companies like Under Armour, Adidas, and Nike have done so well in building international mega-performance apparel lines.
If your sons are going to be doing activities where they are going to sweat a lot (all over, not just under the arms), I would definitely recommend purchasing compression/performance wicking t-shirts like the ones I mentioned above.
If the activities are more passive, then you might be equally well served with a lightweight fitted undershirt made out of natural fabrics or blends such as:
- Cotton or a Cotton / Spandex blend
- Cotton / Polyester
- Cotton / TENCEL (or Viscose, Rayon, Modal)
Boy Scout Undershirts / Shirts: Recommendation Table
|Weather / Activity Condition||Fabric Recommendation|
|Moderate Temp, Dry||Any, including cotton|
|Moderate or Warm Temp, Wet||Polyester, Nylon, or similar blends|
|Cold, Dry||Wool, Acrylic, Silk, Viscose/Rayon|
|Cold, Wet||Wool, Acrylic, Silk|
Hope the above helps you make an educated buying decision!
Let me know what you wind up buying and how well it works for your sons. I believe this information will be helpful for other readers as well, so I’ll be sharing it with my readers in the upcoming days.
This article has been updated, re-written, and republished. The original comments below have been maintained for historical purposes.