A successful running and backpacking kit begins with the base layers that a person wears. I will be using the Thunderbolt Sportswear Baseline Marly Tee as my base layer shirt for my adventures over the next few months. The Baseline Marly Tee is a lightweight merino tee shirt that is available in both long sleeve and short sleeve options.
Thunderbolt Sportswear is a U.S. based company located in Portland Oregon. They were founded in 2010 and their goal is to make stylish, sustainable performance apparel that is sourced in the United States. They make a variety of apparel including various styles of shirts, pants, and outerwear.
The Baseline Marly Tee is a 100% merino wool shirt that is the lightweight version of the company’s Baseline Tee. Thunderbolt Sportswear claims the shirt is “comfortable, durable, quick to dry, odor resistant and feather light.” The shirt features flatlock stitching, fabric sourced from responsible farms in Australia, and is backed by Thunderbolt Sportswear’s 90 day hassle free warranty. The care instructions are simple – handwash and lay flat to dry. These care instructions are fairly common for lightweight merino wool shirts. The shirt retails for $75 and is available in only one color – light grey.
My first impression is that the shirt is super soft against the skin and appears to be well made. Inside and out the seams are tight with no pulls or loose ends. The light grey color is attractive and there are no markings on the shirt itself. The only identifying label is screened to the inside back collar area of the shirt and it says Thunderbolt Sportswear and has the size (XL), care instructions, and that the shirt was designed and sewn in Portland Oregon USA. I did not see a size chart on the website, but I generally wear an extra-large so that is what I requested. The fit of the shirt is more athletic than relaxed. I am glad I went with the extra-large.
I generally evaluate shirts on several criteria: comfort, durability, and smell. Some questions I will consider are – is the shirt comfortable to wear? I have a closet full of shirts, do I want to wear this one or do I have to wear it since I am reviewing it? Is it durable? The trails around here feature some areas that are thorny or can reach out and snag a shirt. How does the Baseline Marly hold up? Also how does the shirt feel under my backpack? Are there any areas that chafe while running or hiking? Finally smell – merino wool shirts are known for being stink free – how does this one compare?
Update January 6, 2017
I have used the Thunderbolt Sportswear Marly T over the past month while hiking and camping in Southern Louisiana, and while running a marathon in Mississippi, and it has performed superbly. It is soft and comfortable to wear, does not show any durability issues and for the most part is stink free.
I have taken advantage of the holiday season and warm weather over the past month to camp at some of my local state parks here in Southern Louisiana and used the Marly T while camping at Fountainbleau, Bayou Segnette, and Fairview State Parks. In addition, I wore the shirt hiking in each of the parks, hiking on the Mississippi River Levy where I live, and at the Woodlands Conservancy Trails in Gretna La. In addition to hiking, I wore the shirt while training for and during the running of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon. Overall, I have covered 65 or so miles while wearing the shirt. I have experienced temperatures in the 80’s to the upper 40’s while wearing the shirt and some light precipitation while at Fairview State Park, but otherwise it has been sunny and clear.
I evaluate shirts on three main criteria – comfort, durability and smell. I am happy to report that the Marly T has performed well in all three. Comfort is my number one criteria. I want to wear the shirt, not have to wear a shirt because I am reviewing it. The Marly T is a shirt I want to wear. It is soft and comfortable. It doesn’t matter if I am putting it on straight from drying after being washed or if I am putting it on after letting it dry from a morning run – it is always soft, not stiff. The flatlock seams did not chafe while hiking all day or running for 5.5 hours with a hydration vest in the marathon. It is so comfortable that I find myself not wanting to take it off. In addition to wearing it all day at camp while exploring Bayou Segnette, I rolled directly from my campfire into my sleeping bag without taking the shirt off. It was like wearing a soft wool blanket.
The second criteria is durability. This is the one area that has typically been the downfall of lightweight wool products in my experience. I had a favorite wool t-shirt that I pushed my thumb through the fabric while trying to adjust it under my hipbelt. I am pleased to report that the Marly T has proved durable thus far. I have not intentionally babied the shirt, but I also didn’t go bushwhacking with it. I have not noticed any wear spots or piling from my backpack straps or from my hydration vest that I wear while running. Durability is an area I will continue to watch over the next month or so as I continue to wear the shirt.
Another aspect of durability is how well the shirt launders. The reality is I am too lazy to handwash anything. I have been putting the Marly T in with my other laundry and then washing it on permanent press or gentle cycle. I do separate the Marly T from my other laundry when drying it and actually hang the shirt to dry. I have not noticed any negative effects by laundering the shirt this way. It has kept its shape and has not shrunk. I still encourage folks to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
The final criteria is smell – it is hot in Southern Louisiana and this winter has been unseasonably warm so I have sweat quite a bit. The shirt has proven to be very odor resistant at least with respect to body funk. I could easily wear it multiple days without worrying about the smell overwhelming the folks around me. However, one smell that really stayed with the shirt was campfire smoke. I wore it camping at Bayou Segnette on a Wednesday and then wore it again without washing it to camp at Fairview State Park on Friday and the shirt still had a strong campfire smoke smell. This did not bother me, but makes me wonder if there is property in wool that stops bacteria production that leads to body funk smell but does not stop outside smells like wood smoke from sticking to the shirt. Regardless the shirt receives high marks for smell resistance. Regardless, all smells come out of the shirt after it is laundered with no lingering effects.
Overall, I am very pleased with the performance of the Thunderbolt Sportswear Marly T and look forward to another month of hiking, running, backpacking and general outdoor adventures with the Marly T.
Final Update February 15, 2017
I have continued to use the Thunderbolt Sportswear Marly T for my outdoor adventures over the past month or so and it has performed admirably. Comfort remains on point, durability is good and the smell factor is still nonexistent for the most part even after 4 days of backpacking in unseasonably warm temperatures in Central Alabama. There is some minor fabric pulls in the cuffs of the sleeves and a coffee stain that won’t seem to wash out, but these are rather minor annoyances for an amazing shirt.
The final month of use with the Marly T has seen me using it to train and run the Rock and Roll New Orleans Marathon and embark on a 4 day backpacking trip on the Pinhoti Trail in Central Alabama as well as my usual assortment of hikes and runs in and around New Orleans. Overall I have used the shirt for around 125 miles of running, hiking and backpacking. Weather has continued to be unseasonably warm with temperatures in the upper 60’s and lower 70’s while backpacking and in the mid to upper 70’s for the marathon and most of my other adventures. I experienced some precipitation while backpacking on the Pinhoti with one day of hiking with off and on showers where I did not use a rain jacket and on the final day on a mad one mile dash to my truck in a thunderstorm and heavy rain.
As I mentioned in my field update, I evaluate shirts on three main criteria: comfort, durability, and smell.
Comfort is unbeatable. The shirt is super soft. I love how it feels next to my skin, and there is no itch. It moves moisture pretty well even in hot temperatures. The marathon was very warm in the latter miles, and I took advantage of the ice at the aide stations by grabbing a cupful and dumping down the front of my shirt where the straps on my vest would hold the ice against my chest. This made for an ugly picture but sure helped keep me cool while finishing the marathon. The shirt was also comfortable to wear during the off and on showers on the Pinhoti trail on my first day out. Temperatures were in the upper 60s with high humidity so it made no sense to wear a rain jacket since I was sweating anyway. The Marly T kept me warm even when it was wet from the rain, and it dried fairly quickly in the evening when it stopped raining, and after stuffing it in my sleeping bag it was completely dry by the next morning. I did not experience any chaffing, even on some of my longer training runs where I forgot to tape up my nipples or use body glide where my vest normally rides.
Long term durability seems to be positive as well. Overall there is no pilling on the shirt or worn spots from being worn under my backpack or my running vest. The hem and cuffs on the sleeves have a roll to them but I think this is a cosmetic issue. There are a few loose threads in the cuffs as well, but nothing that hinders performance, or that I think will unravel anytime soon. The flatlock seams are still tight with no loose ends. I can see myself getting several seasons of use out of this shirt.
The final factor – smell. As I mentioned before, the shirt does a great job minimizing body odor but does continue to hold campfire smells. This is not a big negative to me, I personally like the way a campfire smells, but my wife doesn’t hold the same opinion.
My only real nitpick with the shirt is that a coffee stain from my backpacking trip did not wash out. I spilled coffee on me on day three and of course over the day of hiking the stain dried in the shirt. When I got home I washed the shirt without treating the stain and after hanging the shirt to dry I noticed the stain was still there. Even so I still wore it for the marathon and washed it again after the race, and again hung the shirt to dry, but did not use any stain treatment. The coffee stain was less noticeable after the second washing but it is still there. It doesn’t bother me and does not affect the performance of the shirt, but I would be less inclined to wear the shirt in social situations versus outdoor adventures.
This concludes my final update to the Thunderbolt Sportswear Marly T. It is an amazing shirt that I will continue to wear on my outdoor adventures. Now which stinky synthetic shirt do I get rid of?
Thanks to 4alloutdoors.org and Thunderbolt Sportswear for providing the Baseline Marly Tee for review.