For the past few years, apparel companies have searched for materials that kill odor without killing the planet. To avoid man-made chemicals that aren't so eco-friendly, they've turned to a variety of antimicrobials that are derived from natural stuff, such as coconut husks and amino acids. Some products, such as White Sierra's Tecta shirt, fight odors with fabrics made from bamboo.
The Tecta shirt is made with a fabric called Bam Bam Weave, which is 55-percent bamboo fiber and 45-percent polyester. The bamboo fibers are made from the pulp of bamboo grass and they have a natural ability to wick moisture and resist growth of bacteria. As an added benefit, bamboo can be harvested using sustainable methods that don't strain the environment.
Though bamboo might seem like a strange source for an odor-fighting fabric, our tests showed that the Tecta not only held bad smells at bay, but it also proved to be an all-around comfortable and functional shirt.
Before we could consider the Tecta's ability to fight odor, we had to determine whether or not we'd actually like to wear the thing. And that would be a big "Yes." Despite the fabric's high polyester content, the bamboo made it feel more like cotton than any type of synthetic material. Also, the fabric felt light and breathed well, almost like a linen garment, making it comfortable in warm weather. As for the fit, a broad-shouldered tester wore a size large, while a slim tester wore a medium and both said their shirts fit well. Also, the Tecta hangs a bit loosely, which is ideal for warmer temperatures.
To test the Tecta's functionality, we hiked with it in humid climates for two to three days in temperatures ranging from about 70 degrees F to 80 degrees F. Basically, we pretty much soaked the shirts in sweat. For one set of tests, we hiked all day and then checked to see how badly the shirt smelled. Then we would let it dry, and then check the odor the next day. For a second set of tests, we hiked wearing the Tecta, but did not allow it to dry at the end of the day. Then we checked on the odor the next day.
Our testers said that in each set of tests they noticed a low level of odor immediately after hiking, but detected hardly any increase in odor on the second day. The shirts that remained wet overnight got a little smellier than those that dried. But in each case, the Tecta did not become nearly as rank as typical shirts we've used that had no antimicrobial technology. One tester took the shirt on a three-day outing, and repeatedly wore it and dried it. He said that the odor increased gradually from day two to three, but it still guy's sniff test.
The major caveat here is that it's difficult to judge odor-fighting capabilities, because one person's body chemistry may cause him or her to have completely different results from another person with a different chemistry. Plain and simple, some people can stink up anything really quickly, and consumers may just have to go through trial and error to see if an antimicrobial will work for them.
Our testers have also tried a number of other antimicrobial garments with natural agents, and they generally agreed that Tecta proved to be at least as effective as the others. One advantage of the Bam Bam Weave fabric is that it dries relatively quickly, and a dry shirt allows fewer bacteria to breed than a wet one. Under direct sun, a soaked Tecta shirt dried in 20 to 30 minutes, nearing the performance of many other synthetic tops.
Finally, our testers noted that the shirt was durable and generally constructed well, though one tester noted that some button threads came loose. (That seems to be a common occurrence when we test button-down shirts.)
But, overall, the Tecta proved to be an extremely functional shirt in the field, and we imagine that it would be a welcome addition to any traveler's wardrobe. Also, next year White Sierra will add two women's styles with the Bam Bam Weave fabric.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $50
For more information:www.whitesierra.com