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EMS Teckwick Baselayer Shirt: Long Term Review

EMS Techwick T Shirt on Francona Ridge
EMS Techwick T Shirt on Franconia Ridge

I have been wearing EMS Techwick Short Sleeve Shirts as a baselayer for over 5 years and they’re my goto shirt of choice for 3 season hiking and backpacking.

I like Techwick because it wicks moisture away from my skin really well. The Teckwick fabric has a grid-like weave that promotes rapid transport of sweat from my skin to the mid and outer layers of my clothing in cooler weather, and which promotes evaporation in warmer weather when I’m just wearing the shirt by itself.

Techwick is a synthetic baselayer that is 100% polyester, which means that it picks up body odors fairly quickly, and my Techwick shirts get pretty ripe after a few hours of hiking. When that happens and it gets smelly enough to bother me, I just wash my shirt in a stream (without soap), wring it out and hang it up or wear it until it’s dry again. The fabric is thin enough that it dries very quickly.

Maria models Techwick in the Catskills
Maria wears EMS Techwick in the Catskills

Fit and Fabric Comparisons

Over the years, I have tried other synthetic base layer short sleeve shirts like Patagonia’s Capilene 1 and Icebeaker’s Tech T Lite, but they really don’t work as well for me. I don’t like the fit of Patagonia’s short sleeve shirts which is too form fitting for my taste and wearing wool against my skin just creeps me out.

Overall Value

Then there the issue of value. Techwick short sleeve shirts cost between $16 and $29 each, which is insanely inexpensive compared to other brands that are one or even two times as costly.

Techwick is also indestructible. I still own the original shirts I bought years ago. I’ve worn and washed them hundreds of times and wear the same shirt week after week on my longer 100-200 mile section hikes. After all this time, none of them have unraveled or disintegrated on me despite enormous abuse.

I honestly don’t know how Eastern Mountain Sports makes any money of these shirts at this price point, but if you’re looking for a top quality baselayer at a great price, I recommend you give EMS Techwick shirts a try.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

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  1. Inexpensive synthetic shirts really are the way to go, I've decided. I really, really loved my Ibex Echo tee, and my Patagonia Wool 2 tee (both wool), but I destroyed both of them on my PCT hike. Torn to shreds just from normal wear. Synthetic tees in general seem so much more durable, and they're almost always less expensive. I can deal with the stink if it means buying new shirts less frequently. And let's face it… I've made wool tee shirts stink just as bad as synthetic ones. It just takes a day or so longer.

  2. Ah – I had no idea that wool had durability problems. You'd be amazed what I've put these Techwick shirts through. On my last trip we were hiking up this badly overgrown trail with brambles…You get the idea. Before hiking with these shirts, I wore them under a kayaking dry-top for years (the same ones). They've really been put through hell.

  3. I have 2 of these myself, and are getting along pretty good. I probably don't have as many miles on them as EarlyLite, but mine are at least 5 years old. I use them hiking, and as a base for my snowboarding attire. They have a pull and rub here and there, but are still good, and didn't shrink much when my wife dried them.

  4. EMS makes some really great clothing. I recently purchased their techwick midweight long underwear for a short weekend backpacking trip. I highly recommend them.

  5. Phil, I wouldn't say wool has a durability issue so much as synthetic is just much more durable. My Ibex tee shirt got about 1500 miles of use before biting the dust, and the Patagonia tee got about 500 (wool 2 is much thinner than the Ibex shirt was). But if I see an alternative that gets five or ten times as much use before getting destroyed, that's what I'll use, especially for long trips. I like my gear to last a lifetime.

    Also, another high point for synthetic is that wool holds more moisture and takes longer to dry when wet through. I sweat a lot, and I like things to dry as quickly as possible.

  6. EMS Techwick is the best thing on Earth. I agree that EMS Teckwick shirts just seem to fit well and last forever. Maybe EMS sees these shirts as an inexpensive way to get customers hooked on the brand which then leads to more expensive EMS purchases.

  7. To my surprise the $8 ($13 list price, but sales go on all the time) poly 'Rech Tech' active-performance Ts at Old Navy do a decent job. They hold up well and don't hold odors too badly either.

  8. Techwick is great stuff, my local EMS sells the short sleeve version for 24.99 though Ive seen it on sale for 19.99. While shopping for a pair of trail runners I discovered that olympia sports sells the same product under the asics name for 15.99. colors are limited to white and gray though.

  9. I really want to love the Techwick shirts, I have a long sleeve I wear sometimes in winter and it's great in many respects (cheap, super-wicking, lots of colors/variations) except the smell issue. The thing just reeks to high heaven even before the end of the day. Ok for a day trip, but any sort of multi-day backpack and it drives me nuts. The washing in a stream idea is good, will try that, but maybe that's not always an option if it's cold/cloudy/raining/etc.

    I got a bunch of icebreaker wool t-shirts last year and love them more than anything. I've worn them up to three days straight 24/7 on trips and the most they smell is a faint musky odor, nothing unpleasant. The only downside is they take longer to dry, but in practice this hasn't been an issue for me as they still stay warm even when damp. Counterintuitively they feel cool in the summer, yet warm in winter. Also, I really appreciate having a natural fiber as the first layer on my core, something about synthetics up against my skin just feels unnatural. Some are softer feeling than others, but the Techwick seems to have more of that scratchy gridded feel to it.

  10. Picked up 2 and yes, once again, Section Hiker hits a grand slam home run! I've come to expect nothing less! I do have a question……the knee brace you are wearing…..can you give a review on that? I don't expect you'd be wearing it if you did not have success with it. I have rebuilt ACL/PCL both knees and an MCL and LCL one in each leg….the braces I have a hot and heavy. Recommendations for us knee folks?

  11. Keith – It's called a Cho-pat and you can buy them on Amazon. Here's a review I wrote about them a few years ago.
    I have a lot of hiking friends (who I've known for years) with problem knees and they swear by them. They're really not very expensive.

  12. Target shirts made by Champion are $12. Currently though, the shoulders are too tight.

  13. The classics never go out of style. The long-sleeve Techwicks are great for fall and winter running, either alone or with a fleece vest. I also like how the don’t get redesigned every year — you can buy a new one and know exactly what you are getting.

  14. I bought one techwick base layer shirt from EMS at a marathon expo more than three years ago. It’s still the only cold weather outdoor exercise shirt I have. I have worn it for every cold weather race and long training run and most of the shorter runs since. 3 miles to 31 miles. I wash it on gentle between almost every run, hot dryer dry. despite all this use, it’s still in perfect condition, still works awesome. I have run in it from single digits to 40 degrees. I have hiked in it, including up Mt Washington (60 degree high, 40 wet cold windy summit). It’s long enough to stay down and meet my pants, even though I have a long torso. The fit is flattering to a woman with curves (not boxy or baggy, not tight across chest). Thumb holes are awesome. It doesn’t smell easily. It layers well with other items under or over it.
    If there is one piece of outdoor gear you buy at any price, make this it.

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