Under Armour Compression Undershirts and Police Body Armor

08/03/2011 – Police Rejoice! The Original Ultra Cool  RVU Under Shirt for Body Armor Found!

03/06/2010Ask Tug Update: Police Body Armor Undershirts

Ran across a really interesting blog today where a Roanoke, Virginia police officer shares information about the life of a cop (pretty interesting stuff).

Yesterday, he wrote a post about wearing an Under Armour compression undershirt under his kevlar body armor. He described how his compression undershirt gets soaked in hotter conditions, because the protective body armor he wears over it doesn’t provide any room for sweat to evaporate.

Our uniforms are polyester. Dark blue polyester. Plus nearly 30 pounds of metal and leather, high top leather boots and body armor. Body armor is a woven fabric called Kevlar. It’s about half an inch thick and surrounds your upper torso. And it has a big metal plate in the front covering your heart and other important stuff in there. It doesn’t breath. And there’s nowhere for your sweat to go.

Within the first few minutes of the festival [in 95 degree heat] while I was walking around I could feel the beads of sweat running down my back under the armor. It didn’t take long for my undershirt to get soaked. I like wearing the compression Under Armor stuff. One of the main selling points of it is that it wicks moisture away from your body. Under the body armor though there’s nowhere to “wick it away.” It didn’t take long to feel like I was wearing a soda can. And the heat. There’s nowhere for that to go either. When I raise up my chin and pull the top of the armor away from my body I can feel the hot air come out like a hair dryer.


Rules to wearing undershirts

I wanted to find out if he had tried out other moisture-wicking undershirts to see if he had found one that kept him cooler and drier than the Under Armour compression shirt he referenced. Here’s the dialog he and I exchanged:

Tug said…Have you tried any moisture wicking undershirts other than Under Armour? I’ve written about some of them on my blog, but I don’t get into the extreme body temperature conditions that I’m sure you get into and would love to share some of your experiences with my readers. Thanks in advance!

Blogger RoaVaPD. said…It doesn’t matter how great they are at moisture wicking because the body armor prevents the moisture from evaporating. You keep sweating and sweating and you never dry out until you take off the body armor. That evening when I took it off my t-shirt dried off in about a minute.

Blogger Berserk said…I never really saw the draw to the compression shirts. They look cool and all (especially on the girls), but it’s like you said: the moisture has to go somewhere.

The last off-duty job I worked was 8 hours of standing in the hot sun at a busy intersection directing traffic for the construction workers. That put me off of these extra jobs for a while.

Blogger RoaVaPD. said…I like the compression shirts because they are like a second skin. The armor doesn’t snag on it and the shirt doesn’t get bunched up. But as far as their moisture and heat handling capabilities, useless with the armor on.

I thought the information he shared regarding the kevlar body armor preventing the moisture from evaporating was pretty insightful and thought it might be helpful to other police officers visiting here looking for information on Under Armour compression or other moisture wicking undershirt alternatives.

Here’s a couple of of takeaways to keep in mind:

  1. No matter what type of moisture wicking undershirt you wear, if your outerwear doesn’t provide enough breathing room to allow the sweat to evaporate, you’re going to get and stay wet.
  2. In the police gear application, compression undershirts seem to provide more value in protecting your skin from getting chafed and not bunching up under your gear than in actually keeping you cooler and drier.

If any other law enforcement officers (ok, cops) reading this have come across an undershirt (moisture wicking or not) that has performed really well, I’d love to hear from you!

I was just reminded of two companies who specifically market their undershirts to law enforcement. I have reviewed their product in the following articles:

  1. 5.11 Tactical Utili-T undershirts from lapolicegear.com
  2. Execwear undershirt from execwearonline.com

02/05/09 – What about a bullet proof undershirt?
ARMOR-TEE: NFL players now wearing a bullet proof undershirt?


How to wear undershirts

12 thoughts on “Under Armour Compression Undershirts and Police Body Armor”

  1. Brian responded…
    Hi Tug,

    I’ve been in a training class for the last several weeks so I only had the chance to wear the Equmen shirt once.

    WOW, IT’S SNUG!!! It did seem to work pretty well the day I wore it, but it might be just a little TOO snug to be comfortable on a daily basis.

    I wore it again today and it didn’t feel quite as tight, but I was working a traffic homicide scene and didn’t have my vest on, so I can’t really use today to judge.

    Over the last couple days our temps have been in the mid 90’s with clear skies and the South Florida sun hitting full strength; my pool feels like a bathtub.

    I’ll be back out in the heat again this week and will see how well the Equmen and the other shirts I got work.

    The Jockey shirt you mentioned below looks interesting; I just ordered one online to try.

    The other one below is actually a carrier. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a bulletproof vest or not, but the way they work is two ballistic panels are held in place by a custom fitted carrier (usually made by the same company). I’ve seen the site below before and they say using their carrier, you won’t need an undershirt. I’m very skeptical of that. I’ve worn my vest once or twice with no shirt underneath and it sucks. I can’t imagine any material that would change that. The ballistic panels are stiff and move around a little (not much, but enough to be annoying). With an undershirt, they move around against the shirt, not your skin.

    I’ll give you a heads-up next week.

  2. Sent this note to Brian:

    Wondering what you thought about the Equmen undershirt.
    Also wanted to mention two other undershirts to see if you’ve ever tried them out.

    1. Jockey 3D Physique – I just got a sample of this from Jockey and it’s pretty interesting because it has mesh on the shoulders and by your underarm area. I wore mine yesterday while out on a motorcycle ride with mrs. tug and it’s very lightweight, comfortable and fits like a “second skin” (a term being way over used now). Retail is $24

    2. Body Armor Carrier Compression Shirt from Cool Performance Wear. This one is pretty expensive though at $149.95

  3. I also just got my hands on a new Jockey 3D Physique undershirt that might be an undershirt worth trying out. The interesting thing about this undershirt is that it is pretty thin, made out of a combination of nylon and spandex, but has mesh panels on the shoulder and underneath the arm. Not sure how it would perform under Kevlar, but it’s a design that might keep you cooler.

  4. Here’s a note I sent to Brian:

    Have you considered looking at Equmen? Their undershirts are tight, compression type undershirts, however, they do have some ribbing on them that might perform well under Kevlar. They also have designed ventilation pockets in different areas of their undershirts (like underarm area) to provide more breathability. They are kind of expensive, but it might be worth a look.

    Update: Brian just ordered an Equmen to give it a try. He also picked up a couple athletic “wick away” shirts and will be reporting back here on his findings!

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  5. I have seen those. I think I even saw someone wearing one once in the locker room. They never looked comfortable to me, so I never tried one. I wonder if they would be popular today with the newer materials? I suspect the ribs took some getting used to with the body armor pushing them into your skin. Any entrepreneurs here want to start a company?

    Thanks for the heads up on it though.

  6. The shirt someone mentioned above: “There is an undershirt designed for body armor that has ribs on it that hold the armor a little bit off the shirt. That provides channels for the air to flow and vent out of your uniform. I’ve never tried it because they are pretty expensive.” is referring to a t-shirt that was made almost out of a mesh material (but a tight mesh, not an open mesh like a football jersey) and it had ribs, tubes of absorbant material sewn vertically all the way around the shirt about an inch apart. It’s really strange looking (I still have one). The tubes are about a half inch in diameter and run the length of the shrit, top to bottom. The body armor solution this creates is that it keeps the kevlar about 1/4 to 1/2 inch away from the body and allows air to move through, thus allowing some evaporation. The problem with these shirts was that they were a bit itchy to wear; they were made before coolmax material or the under armor brand wicking material. Another side effect of the tubes was that they would also absorb the sweat, pulling it away from the body and into the tubes. The problem is that I think the company that made them went out of business. I’ve been looking for the shirts for the last year and can’t find them. Galls, a police supply catalog, is where (over 10 years ago) I bought the one I still have, but they don’t have them in their catalog anymore (and yes, they were expensive). And since I ripped the tag off the shirt years ago, I don’t even know the name of the company that made them. If anyone knows where to find them, let us know cause they worked great.

  7. David,

    The actual Kevlar panels of body armor need a way to be held in place on your body. They often come with custom fit carriers. The carrier has the velcro straps and shirt tails etc. The ballistic Kevlar panel fits inside the carrier. I have two carriers so I can wash one while wearing the panels in the other carrier. The carrier has no ballistic protection and is just the “pockets” for the armor panels. They are often made of cotton or nylon and some new ones have inhibitors for the bacteria that cause odor.

    The link you are providing is selling a carrier made out of the compression style spandex shirts. It’s just a different material to put your Kevlar panels in. I suppose they think you don’t need a t-shirt under the carrier/armor. Regardless though underneath your ballistic panels you will sweat and get hot no matter what even with the spandex/compression style carrier.


  8. Thanks for the link.

    There is an undershirt designed for body armor that has ribs on it that hold the armor a little bit off the shirt. That provides channels for the air to flow and vent out of your uniform. I’ve never tried it because they are pretty expensive.


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