We are happy to award the Arc'teryx Motus Crew our Top Pick for Use as a Base Layer just because it is durable enough to be worn underneath other layers, whether those layers are for warmth or are the hip belts and shoulder straps of backpacks. It also fits sleek enough that jackets or fleeces can easily slide on over the top of it, without dealing with the bunching typical of wearing a baggy shirt as a base layer.
Normally one would expect this level of performance out of any technical synthetic t-shirt like the ones reviewed here, but many of the high end running shirts we tested, such as The North Face Better Than Naked and the New Balance Ice 2.0 are so focused on enabling breathability and aiding evaporation with lightweight fabrics, that they compromise the shirt's ability to simply withstand the abuses of outdoor sports.
Certainly, if the shirt is being used exclusively for running or training, these trade-offs are justified, but many of us like to run and climb, hike, backpack, and ski, and it's impractical to need a specific shirt for every purpose. So, while many of the running shirts in this review will work great for other purposes, the Motus Crew is the highest performing shirt that also works great as a base layer, which is why we awarded it our Top Pick.
The Motus Crew is a great choice for trail running but is also an optimal tech tee for virtually any mountain sport.
When assessing for comfort, we have found that three main elements of a shirt's design affect its comfort: fit, fabric, and seam sewing. The Motus Crew was among the most comfortable shirts in this review.
Speaking of seams, the Motus Crew has quite a few, and they are sewn in a flat-locked manner that ensures the seams and stitching lies flat against the fabric of the shirt, minimizing protruding fabric that can rub or itch.
Here are the flat locked, merrow stitched seams on the inside of the Motus Crew. These were the most comfortable seams of any that were sewn rather than taped.
Additionally, these flatlock seams are sewn using a "merrow stitch" that is noticeably softer to the touch than most of the seams we encountered and was hardly noticeable while running. The fabric is Arc'teryx's Phasic FL, which is essentially a 100% polyester fabric that is light, slippery, and smooth to the touch. The fit is trim and athletic, ensuring that it stays close to your body, but isn't form-fitting or body-hugging, like we encountered with the fit of the Nike Dri-FIT Knit. While it couldn't quite match the comfort of the seam-taped shirts, it was still very comfortable, and we awarded it 8 out of 10 points.
The fit of the Motus Crew is athletic, neither too tight nor too loose, and was pretty much what we would consider ideal for running or wearing as a base layer beneath warmer clothes.
The Phasic FL fabric that is used throughout this shirt is fairly tightly woven compared to the light mesh fabric found on the Better Than Naked shirt. It has a horizontally striped weave that alternates thicker bands with airy gaps on a micro scale that simply looks solid from a distance. While this fabric was designed specifically to deal with moisture management, we found that it worked primarily through wicking action, and certainly did not allow for as much direct air flow through the fabric as some models.
When assessing for breathability, we were looking primarily at the ability of air to pass directly through the shirt, aiding in evaporation directly from the skin, as well as removal of heat and moisture build-up in a vapor state. While it certainly worked up to our standards, we felt this shirt did not accomplish this as well as others, and we gave it a relatively low score of 6 points, on par with the Under Armour UA Tech.
Check out the fabric of the Motus Crew, which is made of a single polyester material that has very thin breathable stripes across it. While it wasn't the most breathable, we appreciated the durability offered by this fabric choice.
Without large vented panels of mesh to aid in direct airflow, the Motus Crew relies on a capillary wicking action to help manage moisture. By closely hugging your body, the shirt can pick up liquid sweat, trapping it in between the tightly woven but non-absorbent polyester fibers, where it can be drawn outward by the evaporative action happening on the outside surface of the shirt. This technique works according to the laws of physics, although this wasn't one of the very fastest shirts to dry out in our dedicated testing.
The shirt itself weighed 4.0 ounces, making it the third lightest in the review, but one ounce heavier than the Better Than Naked. Why this matters is because it simply has more woven fabric present for liquid to become suspended within, and therefore took longer to dry out. It was roughly equal in drying time to the merino wool blended Smartwool PhD Ultra Light and the Brooks Distance, good enough for third overall. We thus awarded 8 out of 10 points for drying speed.
The Motus Crew is an exceptionally versatile shirt that can be used for running, mountain biking, skiing, climbing, hiking, camping, fishing, backpacking, you name it! Not only that, but the design ensures that it is durable enough to stand up to the demands.
We also love that because of its durability, combined with the athletic fit that is close to the body but not in any way constricting or tight, this makes a fantastic shirt to layer over in colder weather. While we thought the Under Armour UA Tech and Smartwool PhD Ultra Light were equally as versatile, neither of these shirts scored as highly, and so didn't receive the Top Pick recommendation that the Motus Crew did. 9 out of 10.
The Motus Crew was the most versatile shirt in this review, which is why we awarded it a top pick. We love wearing it for hiking as much as for running. Shown here next to the Virgin River in Zion on a rest day.
This shirt scored up there with the best when it came to features, but just like the New Balance Ice 2.0, we were a bit disappointed that it didn't include all of the potential features found in running shirts.
It is one of only two shirts that have five reflector tags for higher visibility at night. These can be found on the front, one on each sleeve, and two on either side of the bottom of the back. It is also rated as UPF 25, giving extra sun protection for all those high altitude mountain missions. Lastly, it has a sewn sweatband on the back of the neck. It does not include any form of odor repellant. Like the rest of the top scorers for features, we awarded 8 points.
The Motus Crew has underarm gussets, shown in the stitching here, that help it fit just perfectly. It also offers UPF 25 protection from the sun, and has five reflectors on all sides of the body, like the one on this sleeve.
There is nary an outdoor activity that this shirt won't thrive at, and so we recommend it for whatever you can imagine! As our Top Pick for Use as a Base Layer, we naturally found it to be our favorite running shirt for layering over on cold days.
There is virtually no outdoor activity that isn't a good fit for the Motus Crew, as it is exceptionally versatile. Here wearing it on a run near Zion.
This shirt retails for $69, making it the third most expensive shirt in this review. Considering it is made by Arc'teryx, we would have guessed that it would be number one. Regardless, this is a quality product that is well designed, comfortable, and supremely versatile. We think it presents a solid value.
Checking out the Narrows of Zion Canyon on a rest day hike while wearing the Motus Crew.
The Arc'teryx Motus Crew was our favorite shirt for wearing in the winter beneath other warmth layers, due in large part to its sleek fit and awesome performance. It is made of tightly woven polyester fibers and does not have any panels of lightweight mesh, ensuring that it has the durability to withstand some mountain abuse. For these reasons, combined with its excellent performance, we chose to award it our Top Pick award, and recommend that you check it out.