The Airchaser, or a variation of this shirt from Patagonia, has been our Editors' Choice Award Winner for several years running. Patagonia has done an excellent job of keeping useful attributes and refreshing the ones that needed some attention. This is an extremely comfortable, lightweight, and quick-drying running shirt that works well in a variety of outdoor pursuits.
The Patagonia Airchaser is the most comfortable running shirt you can buy, regardless of whether you prefer to run on roads or trails, like we are here on the Otter Bench trail above the Crooked River in Central Oregon.
Patagonia has gone to great lengths to make the Airchaser incredibly comfortable. Not just comfortable in the dressing room at REI, but while you're actually using it. Some of the highlights include taped shoulder seams, varying types of polyester fabric paneling, and Midori bioSoft fabric softener baked in to make the polyester feel softer and less like slippery plastic.
As far as fit is concerned, our tester opted for size large and was happy with the in-between slim and relaxed fit. For scale, our tester is 5'11" and 170 pounds and wears a size large. Gusseted underarms and stretchy polyester provide a full range of movement unencumbered by tight fabric. The Airchaser is an excellent companion when out rock climbing, as overhead arm movements felt unrestricted. As a bonus, the shirt dried incredibly fast after long sweaty approaches to the crag.
Against our skin, the Airchaser was incredibly soft. The miDori bioSoft adds a level of suppleness to the polyester that we didn't find in other shirts. The taped shoulder seams made hauling a backpack or running pack a friction-free affair, and our bony shoulders appreciated it. Thanks, Yvon.
For running there was no match in comfort. While some shirts may be more comfortable for other activities, this specialist was expertly crafted for running.
The cleverly placed polyester mesh panels on the Airchaser helped to make it the most breathable shirt we tested. In all reality, the front panel (lighter blue) is also quite breathable; it just happens that the mesh paneling lets air pass through seemingly unrestricted.
The three types of fabric which comprise the Airchaser are all incredibly lightweight polyester. The heaviest of these fabrics weigh in at only 2.7oz per yard, and the entire shirt (in size large) weighs only 3.1 ounces. These lightweight fabrics, coupled with clever mesh panel placement, really do make for a noticeably breathable shirt.
The shirt is made of two different types of fabric, which are both very breathable. The dark blue mesh on the back is slightly more effective at wicking moisture away from the body. You can also see the taped seam on the top of the shoulder, in comparison to the flat-sewn seams everywhere else on the shirt, which are still very low profile and done with soft, comfortable thread.
The rate that a shirt dries once wet affects how much cooling effect you get from your sweat. In our experience, having a fast drying speed directly correlates to the quality of evaporative cooling, you experience in warm, dry climates. When we put the Airchaser to the test with our spin cycle water retention method, we found some interesting information.
After a spin cycle in the wash, the Airchaser only retains 23% of its weight in water and lost all of that water weight within the first 10 minutes of drying time. Not only was this the only shirt to completely dry that fast, but it also retained the least water as a percentage of the entire weight of the shirt.
These findings might not sound that impressive on their own, but you can truly feel how well this shirt dries during activity. In the name of gear testing (and to test evaporative cooling), we rode our bike around the city of Tucson on a 105-degree day. We were pouring sweat for the entire ride, but by the time we rode the last downhill to our apartment and walked inside, the shirt was almost completely dry.
We were impressed with the Airchaser's performance. While there are some downsides to having such a lightweight garment, such as potential durability issues, we are willing to cast those to the side for the amazing benefits (the Patagonia guarantee doesn't hurt, either).
Even during the dog days of summer, this shirt felt light and airy. As long as we kept moving and the wind was flowing through the shirt, we felt quite comfortable.
While many people will love to wear this shirt as a base layer beneath thicker warmth layers in the winter, due to the usage of taped seams on the shoulders, we don't think it is as versatile as other shirts for this purpose.
Not only do taped seams come apart faster than sewn ones, imploring you to limit the usage to times without a pack, but the larger fit means that it isn't quite as easy to layer over the top of this shirt. It also only has two reflectors to aid with night visibility, in contrast to the five reflectors found on some of the other shirts.
While the Airchaser wasn't designed for climbing, the airy feel and freedom of movement made it a great choice. The mesh did feel fragile and thus maybe this wouldn't be a great choice for Yosemite offwidth!
Running shirts are quite simple. The simplest have no light reflectors, odor control, variability in fabric types, or fabric softeners; the Airchaser has all of these. The miDori bioSoft fabric treatment gives the typically slippery synthetic feeling fabric a more cottony feel, making this shirt a bit more of an all-arounder. The odor control has proven to be effective, even after heavy use through an Arizona summer. If you remember when synthetic fabrics became a staple in the outdoor community, you also remember the tragically ripe hoards of granola munching hikers passing you on the trail. The Airchaser has HeiQ applied to keep the ripeness at bay, and indeed it does.
The collar has no tag, adding to neck comfort and decreasing the potential for chaffing, and the collar has a soft, thin sweatband sewn in to help control Niagara Falls as it pours from your scalp. In a clothing category that typically has few extra features, the Airchaser is loaded with comfort, yet retains an ultralightweight and high level of comfort.
The only shirt we tested that boasts taped shoulder seams. There is no sewn seam that will feel as comfortable as this. The one downside of this feature is the fragility of these seams. High heat in the drier is a no-no!
The Airchaser is an excellent value. The shirt itself is functional, comfortable, performs as it is advertised, and is backed with Patagonia's replacement/repair program - if you do manage to destroy it. Patagonia has also put effort into using recycled polyester, making sure the materials and labor fall under fair trade regulations. These are important things that boost the cost without necessarily boosting the performance of the shirt; the fact that Patagonia can boast fair trade and that some of the material is recycled (and maintains exceptional performance) makes it a great value.
We like everything about this shirt. Its good value, the eye towards sustainability, and its performance. We haven't found a quicker drying or more comfortable shirt yet. The Patagonia Airchaser isn't the running shirt we deserve; it's the running shirt we need.
The Airchaser is light as a feather and provides just enough protection against the wind and sun, effectively wicking away moisture to keep you cool and dry, and feels great against the skin. Here running above the Crooked River Gorge, OR.