Vollebak Equator Shirt

Let me first start this review by telling you that this shirt is my near perfect shirt. On paper it doesn’t seem to even come close to the performance of all the other shirts I own or wear. The price is, well, it’s not cheap. And yet, if I could only wear one shirt, this would be it.

I have two of them, they are amazing. They are also expensive.

Vollebak’s Equator Shirt is essential.

Material

As I alluded to at the top, the material itself doesn’t seem extraordinary in any sense as it is: 72% cotton, 24% polyamide, 4% elastane. This doesn’t really tell the whole story, but first I will note that the mesh used is 75% polyester, 25% elastane (this is the armpit area mesh) and there are Corozo nut buttons which are sublime.

This shirt is cotton, but like no cotton I have ever felt before. Here’s what Vollebak says about the cotton they use:

One of the lightest, softest fabrics on the planet, Karnak Menoufi is a silk-like cotton that’s only found in the Nile Delta, and only grows in the years when the rain, soil and wind conditions are perfect.

The entire shirt weighs in at 200 grams. So when you talk about this being light and silk like — yeah that’s what they mean. The weave is incredible smooth and the shirt feels very soft. It feels impossibly thin, but not crinkly like Paper Cotton. This feels better than the best t-shirt, both to the touch and on your body.

The sum of this is a very soft, very thin, very fast drying material which still rates at UPF 50+. Pretty insane if you ask me.

Fit & Style

I don’t know what to make of the style on this shirt. Like all goods from Vollebak they are a mix of classic with an edge towards — I don’t know, being edgy? I can’t really say. The Equator Shirt at first glance can seem oddball, but reminiscent of classic designs. This is further helped by a very good cut, which runs trim, and looks great untucked, or tucked.

The fit for me is perfection. The style is tame enough that I never got a side eye, while not ever looking overly dressy, or underdressed. It’s an outdoors casual shirt, which can be tucked into your pants and made to look like some sort of stylish dress shirt where you are embarrassed to ask if that is the new trend or not. This is the best I can explain it.

Performance

This shirt has insanely good performance — it might be one the best performing shirts I have. And I know those who have been reading this site for a while might be in disbelief on this, believe me when I say that I keep expecting this shirt to not perform well and keep being wrong. This shirt performs better than most of my active wear performance t-shirts and certainly better than merino wool.

Let’s tackle the item most people assume is where this will fail: multiple wears and odor resistance. I get 2-3 wears out the shirts when I need it, with no smell at all. I’ve yet to have these shirts smell. I tested this by wearing them all day in the early summer heat of Disney World with a backpack on my back and the sun beating down. I soaked them thoroughly with sweat, hung them to dry, and smelled. Nothing. So I did it again, still nothing. I also don’t know how that is, but it is.

And, I suspect a part of this is how fast the shirts dry. Whether just out of the washer, after pouring rain, or letting sweat evaporate — these are my second fastest drying shirt. With the only one faster being a Western Rise shirt which is lighter than air here on a humid summer day in Houston.

But wait, there’s more. The shirt is really stretchy, so even though it has a nice tailored cut, it rarely restricts any arm motion. The UPF 50+ rating has to be real, I never burned through this shirt and I have worn it in a ton of situations where sunscreen was required on my face.

There are two things about this shirt which are even crazier than the rest: venting and the sleeves. First let’s talk about the venting on this shirt, because it’s hidden all over. Specifically there are 18 hidden vents. The armpits are mesh. The ‘seam’ across the top back of the shirt is a row of vents. Ditto the forward facing seam at the top of the shoulders. The chest pockets unzip to reveal laser cut holes which act as a chest vent. And none of these vents look odd, none get in the way, and they actually work. I opened the chest vents several times, only to close them when entering A/C areas. Stellar.

And then there’s the sleeve, Vollebak says it best:

If you’re moving hard and fast and want your sleeves to stay rolled, you’ll find a 20cm long reinforced strap on the inside of each sleeve that you can pull out, up and over the rolled sleeve and fasten to a small slip button on the outside of the upper arm. The fastening is secured on its own reinforced patch of military tape. And each 20cm fabric strap has two buttonhole settings so you can choose how high you want them. If you’re wearing the sleeves down, the cuffs fasten with two corozo buttons.

Yes, basically correct. This shirt looks and feels great sleeves up or down, and they stay put no matter which you choose. I love it, and this type of system doesn’t always work this well.

There’s but one single downside on the performance: wrinkles. Lots of wrinkles. This fabric comes out messy looking. It’s odd though, because if you are wearing it casually the wrinkles drop out enough that you don’t need to worry too much. A quick steam pass really releases them to where I like to wear it. But if you do press the shirt with an iron, it looks very sharp and passes in situations which trend a little less casual.

Overall

Man, what a shirt. I have the Sky Blue and the Temple of Doom Edition (this looks like a light-khaki, but to my eye it’s more mint-khaki) and I prefer the Sky Blue color slightly.

I don’t know if this shirt is worth $345. I got the first one as a gift from my wife, and I quickly bought the second one as a gift from me to me, because I liked it so much. I wish I could have this in a standard button down style for the office too, but as it is, I love this shirt. It’s worth it to me, but it is far from an easy price to swallow.

If you do make the purchase, you’ll have my favorite shirt as well.

$345

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Vollebak Equator Shirt

Minus33 ALGONQUIN MEN’S S/S CREW

This item was provided for review.

A while back, I grabbed a Woolverino T-Shirt from Minus33 and I was impressed — so I was excited to give their Algonquin t-shirt in Olive drab a try as well when they offered it. I’ve been testing it for a while now, it’s another instant favorite of mine.

Materials

This is a 100% merino wool t-shirt, which is 17.5 micron with a 170gsm weight in jersey knit. Minus33 rates it at 25 UPF, which is pretty standard fare for merino unfortunately.

To the hand, this is a soft and ’normal’ t-shirt weight — so if you have found something like the Woolverino too thin, and the Outlier Ultrafine too thick, this is the weight you likely wanted. I really like the hand feel on the Minus33 wool across all their gear I have tried — it’s done very well and it feels softer than the micron rating might suggest. This is simply a merino t-shirt so not much to say beyond that.

Fit & Style

One thing Minus33 does very well is to note how to expect the shirt to fit, based on your ‘normal’ sizing. This is listed as: “Regular – Standard fit with a little bit of room to breathe, but not too baggy”. I can translate that further to: normal t-shirt fit.

In other words, this is designed to be worn like any other standard t-shirt, and to that end, the cut is perfect. The product photos make it look like it might have an odd cut, but in person it looks just like a t-shirt should, and like all Minus33 goods it runs a little more trim trough the body — which I like, but is worth noting.

It fits me great, and I am a big fan, enough said.

Performance

I noticed another blurb from Minus33 on this shirt which I’ll quote in full: “Temperature Recommendations: 30°F to 60°F and up while active, 60°F and up while inactive”. That’s spot on. It’s not super thin, so there will be no worries about it being transparent, but it’s also not super thick. If you think of this as a normal t-shirt, you’ll simply find that it works as designed.

For testing: I wore it all day, slept in it, and then repeated that a day later. I couldn’t get it to stink up after repeating that three times, so it’s on par with all 100% merino shirts for me.

The reason I slept in it: the only shirts more comfortable are my Outlier ones, which cost much more, and are heavier. For me, this is the ideal merino t-shirt weight. It performs like merino, which means it dries well enough, insulates from heat and cold, and does a really good job managing odors. Sleeping in a merino t-shirt feels like luxury to me, and there you go.

Overall

The big thing here is the price, at $69 it’s a bargain. Most merino shirts cost more to be this nice feeling with this good of a cut. It’s hard to find something better, let alone at this price.

You can find it here, for $69.

Minus33 is going to be my first stop from here on out for merino goods.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Minus33 ALGONQUIN MEN’S S/S CREW

Minus33 Kearsarge Polo

Note: Minus33 provided this item for review.

Minus33 sent me the Kearsarge Polo in Azure Blue to try out. This is a merino wool pool which comes in a few different colors at a really solid price. I’ve recently become a pretty big fan of the value proposition/quality that Minus33 offers, and this polo is a perfect example of that.

I’m a big fan.

Materials

This is a 100% merino wool garment made from 17.5 micron merino at a weight of 170gsm. This makes it a decently lightweight shirt, and thus the UPF rating is at 25 per Minus33. The material itself is less pique polo style, and more jersey polo style — which is to say it’s more like a t-shirt fabric made with a collar and such.

That’s not a slight, it’s a nice material. I find the 17.5 micron merino a really nice balance of comfort and price and I don’t think many will notice a practical difference between it and something more fine like 16 micron. All in all, the material is thick enough to not be see through, but lightweight enough to breath well.

Fit & Style

This is made to be an untucked polo look, and it pulls that off well. The Azure Blue color is quite bright, but there are other color options as well — I do like the brightness of this. The collar is also really nice, as it stays put and in decent shape overall.

I found the fit to be tailored, as best I can put it, with the sleeves being slightly more relaxed. All in all this is a solid polo shirt cut, leaning slightly more casual because of the styling on the collar. It’s good stuff, nothing overly remarkable (which is basically what I want out of a polo). Minus33 does put a discrete tag on the side hem, I’ve not tried removing it, but I do wish it wasn’t there.

Performance

We’ve written about merino wool here a bunch, and this being 100% merino wool there’s nothing different. It has remarkable odor resistance, very good wrinkle resistance, and dries quickly given both the material and the weight of the material.

I’ve worn it quite a few days in a row without it smelling or looking any worse for wear. I’ve also never found a need to steam it, I wash it, hang it to dry, and toss it back on. Even in the humid heat I get in Houston, this has wicked moisture away quick enough as to never be a concern.

The one performance factor this is lacking on is the UPF rating, especially for a shirt you would find yourself wearing for a day out in the sun. This is more a merino wool fault, than anything else, but worth noting.

Overall

I absolutely love this shirt, and at $75 it offers a very competitively priced item, with some really nice materials and solid finishing. I’ve been looking to add more polos to my closet, and this one quickly found a spot as one of my most worn items. It’s the perfect weight, in my favorite shirting material.

Find here, $75.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Minus33 Kearsarge Polo

Triple Aught Design Gemini Shirt Short-Sleeve

I’ve been more and more inclined to not wear t-shirts of late, which means I have been looking to expand my clothing into short-sleeved button-ups and polos. I have a few from Outlier, but was looking for something a little easier/worry-free to care about, and snagged the Triple Aught Design Gemini Shirt Short Sleeve in Gunmetal.

I’ve had it for a while now, and thought I would share my thoughts on a shirt which has become a staple for me.


Straight out of the washing machine, no attempts to remove wrinkles.

Material

This is a 65% Polyester, 35% Cotton shirt which comes in an a rather light 122gsm material with a DWR finish to it. The handfeel of the material is absurdly soft, and Triple Aught Design notes that the fabric has a ‘sanded finish’. I’ve not seen that before, but it feels as soft as you could get something before it starts to look fuzzy — if that makes sense.

This means it not only feels soft, but it has a softer/no-glare finish to it, while not been a full matte finish. It’s a really nice and subtle effect that keeps the material from having that synthetic sheen/vibe to it.

The materials are nice, and feel even nicer in hand.

Fit and Style

The trick on short sleeve shirts is for the styling and fit to work well for you. I’ve found this shirt to fit a little boxier, and is cut very long in the torso. I have a long torso already, and this size Large shirt (my normal size) had me immediately remark “wow, that’s long”. Certainly not too long to wear untucked, but any longer and I wouldn’t be a fan.

That said the cut overall is pretty nice. I do have broad shoulders and find that while the size fits me perfectly across the shoulders, the shirt can be a little restrictive on my arm movements in extreme circumstances — a little stretch in the material would go a long way here.

The drape of this shirt is a little stiff looking. It doesn’t quite flow, but it doesn’t look stiff either. It’s so light that the entire shirt tends to sway, instead of falling easily with gravity — hard to describe, but the drape gives away the shirt a bit.

The collar though, the collar is extremely good and stays nicely. This is really well done.

The one caveat is the chest pockets. These are an intentional design decision and they are what gives this shirt a unique look. I’ve never had anyone comment on them one way or the other, but if you don’t like the look of the chest pockets in these pictures, you won’t like them in person either. They don’t bother me, but they are different and worth basing your decision on.

Performance

As always, here’s the stated claims and what I have seen in use:

  • Moisture Wicking: this is a mixed bag for me. The shirt does dry very quickly, there’s no doubt about it. It would be easy to sink wash, and dry over a short night before wearing again. However, when I start to build up sweat, I do notice the shirt can feel a little clammy between my skin and the shirt, like the sweat isn’t being pulled into the shirt and wicked away. That said, suddenly the moisture will disappear, and I don’t know what to make of that.
  • Wrinkle Resistance: yeah, pretty much as claimed. You wash it, pull it out, hang dry or dryer, there’s not enough wrinkles to ever keep you from wearing this. I’ve not packed it for travel, but it’s my most wrinkle resistant short sleeved shirt.
  • Resists stains: yep, the DWR coating is solid, but will wear off eventually.
  • Lightweight and Packable: yep.
  • Easy to care for: 100%, yes.

I wore this for a cool morning while the kids took tennis lessons and it blocked the light breeze to keep me comfortable, then I went straight into the yard pulling weeds in 80°F heat and it stayed clean and I didn’t overheat. I really like this shirt, as it’s very comfortable to wear.

For me the biggest performance advantage of this shirt is how easy to care for it is. Wash and dry however, it seems to not bother the shirt. No wrinkles, and strong DWR to keep it looking clean. When I travel this summer, I’ll always be taking this shirt with me.

Overall

It’s not my favorite looking shirt, and I wish the color selection was better, but I do really like how easy this shirt is. There’s better performing shirts out there for hot weather (Outlier’s Ramie SS gear is legend for this), but this is the most performant while being easy to care for shirt I have found. I’d buy another if they had some less ‘tactical’ looking colorways available. As it is, if you like the pockets and the color, this is a great add.

Find here, $95.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Triple Aught Design Gemini Shirt Short-Sleeve

Beyond Clothing Dawa Sherpa Full-Zip L3 Fleece

The Dawa Sherpa Fleece is something I snagged for myself this past winter — I wanted something soft and cozy hoodie to lounge around the house in which would also work as a full outer layer if I needed to stay warmer when out and about.

The Dawa looked nice to me, and the price seemed too good to be true at $80 — but it’s an insane value.

Materials

Beyond only specifies that this is “Polyester double-sided brushed-knit fleece”. They further state “Certified STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® | confirmed free from harmful levels of more than 100 substances” and “bluesign®-certified textiles have been verified for ecological safety at every step of manufacturing”. Which is all good.

In practice it’s a Sherpa fleece, which means it is fuzzy on both sides. It’s a Midweight fleece, so it’s not overly thin, nor super thick. In practice all the materials are really nice, but given the price there’s no branded ‘Polartec’ or anything like that here — but there’s nothing concerning either. I’ll also note that this has held up well through multiple washing machine runs, while hanging it to dry.

Fit & Style

The cut and fit is spot on for me. It is long enough in the body that it doesn’t feel breezy when you are in chilly weather, but no so long that when you sit down you are sitting on the back of it, pulling it tight. The hood is very nice, and the sleeves are also long on it. All of that makes it really effective for staying warm when outside, and comfortable when laying on the couch.

It’s a fuzzy fleece hoodie, it’s spot on for that style. The color you see here is coyote.

Performance

The best way I can describe this is: cozy. It’s exactly what I wanted from an item like this. Something which replaced a standard hoodie for me. From a pure performance aspect you really are looking at warmth, breathability, and drying times.

  • Warmth: warm but not too warm. As a layer it’s perfect. On it’s own it will be susceptible to wind.
  • Breathability: it is decently breathable, but you can heat up in more static movement.
  • Drying times: excellent. It comes out of my front load washer feeling decently dry after the spin cycle and has always dried in single digit hours.
  • Odor Control: I’ll also add that I’ve worn this a ton, and never washed it because it smelled bad. Something which happens on other outer layers. Here, I’ve simply spilled something on it each time I have needed to wash it.

The performance of this is on par with your standard fleece jacket. Nothing more, but nothing less either.

I do want to point out the pockets. The front hand pockets are very large and are great for hands, or storing gear in. I found the zippers to be well placed, which makes the pockets very easy to use. Oddly, there’s a pocket on the top left collarbone area. It remains a mystery to me why this exists.

Overall

There’s some branding on this garment, but it’s not over the top or very loud. The entire package is well executed and this is an item I really love. It’s not often cold enough to need this here in Houston, but I grab it at any chance I get.

Big fan.

Find it here, $80.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Beyond Clothing Dawa Sherpa Full-Zip L3 Fleece

Minus33 Wool Raglan T-Shirt, Woolverino

I recently lost some weight and because of that my preferred and standard merino t-shirts started to wear larger than I wanted. Which means I needed to get some new shirts, but instead of simply changing out what I have with a new size, I went looking for something entirely different and found the The Wool Raglan T-Shirt from Minus33.

I’ve been wearing it for a while now and am a big fan. Let me tell you what makes this great.

Material

Minus33 labels this material as ‘micro weight’ in their ‘Woolverino’ collection. The weight references the fact that this is a 145gsm jersey knit fabric, and it is thin stuff — not the thinnest out there but it’s lighter than your standard cotton t-shirt.

The Woolverino fabric is made up of 84% Merino Wool, 12% Nylon, 4% Spandex. This is a great blend, giving enough nylon for structure, spandex for stretch, and everything else merino wool for performance. Add to that, the merino chosen is 17.5 micron — it’s soft stuff.

I’ve found this to be a surprisingly stretchy shirt that has an excellent hand feel and softness to it.

Fit & Style

This is a raglan sleeve, so it’s going to look more athletic than it does ‘normal’ out of the box, and on top of that, this is a rather slim/athletic cut. I don’t find that it overly clings to my body (like the images on the website show) but it certainly is a more tailored form fitting cut.

This cut works well for me, and I find it extremely comfortable and something which is easily worn under a layer, or as a stand alone t-shirt. It’s a nice shirt that sits on the edge of workout, to casual. Good stuff.

The material is thin, and in the grey color I got, you can see some skin tone through it in areas where the material is being pulled a little tighter. For most there should be no issues with transparency, but there is a potential for it — I would suspect the darker colors to reduce this issue.

Performance

Minus33 lists the performance attributes as follows:

  • Durable: I have no good way to test this in such a short time frame, but I’ve seen no pilling or other issues at all with it.
  • Temperature regulating: par for the course with merino, and is not held back at all with the nylon and spandex added to the knit.
  • UV Protection: this is listed, but it’s rated at UPF 20 which is better than nothing, but hardly earth shattering. Not entirely sure why they wanted to tout this one.

The performance on this shirt is on part with any 80%+ merino shirt, which is great to begin with — the added stretch is a nice bonus allowing the shirt to wear comfortably more trim.

Overall

I really like this shirt, it feels very nice, very soft, and is very comfortable. For those who want something looser fitting, you’ll want to look elsewhere. But if you want something really soft and comfortable, and a little more trim than most offerings — this is my favorite to date.

You get all of this for $65, and generally at that price you are not going to get something cut this well, or with this fine a micron wool. This is a stellar value on an already good shirt.

Recommended.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Minus33 Wool Raglan T-Shirt, Woolverino

Blundstone Dress Chelsea

I’ve been wanting a pair of Blundstones for ages, and so when I started ramping back up to the office I was looking for what boot I might buy to have a good pair of black shoes. Somehow I didn’t have any.

I found these on sale and jumped at the chance to try them out. These Dress Chelseas are fantastic.

Materials

There’s really only a few components to this: waterproof full grain leather for the uppers with elastic to help secure, and a TPU sole with cushioning. The magic is in the “SPS Max Comfort” system which is essentially a method for reducing impact to your heel when you step/move/whatever.

For now I’ll focus on the primary material: the leather. The majority of my shoes are leather and the majority show the same things: scuffs on the toes and scuffs on the inner heel of the shoes. These are high wear areas on any shoes or boots and leather tends to show these. The Blundstone leather here is slightly matte, maybe eggshell in sheen. And in the black color I have it takes the right angle of light to see any scuffs in them.

Even when you do get the lighting correct, you’ll find almost no scuffs which is unusual for my shoes. In fact I was taking out the garbage in these boots and the giant plastic wheel accidentally nailed the side of my boot at an angle — the type of thing that would put a serious mark in most shoes. It was hard to see on these, and then almost completely went away with a wipe of a damp cloth. A few days later I don’t see it at all.

This is seriously durable leather, and while I can’t speak to the waterproofing, I suspect there’s not a lot to worry about with these. The sole is likely to wear out before the leather.

Fit & Style

As with any boot, getting the sizing right is important. I wear 11.5 in Nike’s and many shoes, and 11 in others. I ordered an 11 after measuring my foot per Blundstones guide and hit the mark out of the box. Note that the half size increments don’t change the length, but change the width.

The style of these boots takes the classic Blundstone Chelsea design and applies a smoother/less aggressive outsole to it. The end result is a dressier looking Chelsea boot which only suffers from performance by having a less aggressive sole.

I love the way these look and fit. Overall they look great in the office and with a pair of jeans around the yard.

Performance

With boots there’s a wide array of performance attributes, but I’ll focus on three for these boots: comfort to your foot; breathability; and durability.

When you talk about Blundstone what you generally hear is how comfortable they are. I own a lot of boots, and in fact they are my most worn shoe type because if I am wearing pants I am wearing boots. The Blundstones are a top performer when it comes to comfort. They are soft but supportive under your foot. The entire footbed is really nice, but not so nice that they out perform other boots (GORUCK’s MACV-1s for example wear more comfortably over a longer day). They are certainly comfortable, and for the price you rarely see comfort like this, where you aren’t just buying a sneaker made to look like a boot.

However, the breathability does suffer in these as they are thick leather with no vents. The only breathable areas is the elastic on the sides to secure your foot into the boot. A thicker wool sock is recommended for these to help your feet regulate moisture better, once that is done I have had no issues wearing them in Houston during the summer — I would say they are on par with all other leather boots.

The last thing is durability. The leather here impresses me a lot, as it is very durable and will lead to a boot that looks good well past it being useable. Meaning that they are low-maintenance boots and not something which scuff the instant they see your foot slipping into them. That said, the lower profile sole doesn’t have as deep cut tread so it’s likely to wear out sooner, and these boots cannot be resoled. In the two and a half months I have had my pair, I don’t notice any concerning wear on the sole thus far.

Break In

With all boots we need to talk about break in periods and how that goes. I found that with these the break in is very short, but is needed. I only had a mild hot spot develop on one foot from my driving position, that went away after just two wears.

What took much longer to break in was the top edge of the boots. Getting the top to relax and mold to how you sit and stand took about 5-6 wears of the boots. And the first couple had the spots around the top edge of the boots feeling carpet burned. Switching to heavier socks resolved this after the first wear, and since then they have relaxed nicely to where it’s not an issue.

So the break in for these boots is at the top edge, and will take 3-6 days of wearing them to get feeling good.

Overall

I love these boots, and they are among my most worn. While you can get them from Blundstone directly, I found mine on sale at Amazon for a very good price. Knowing what they are now, I would be happy to pay full price, and would love to get another pair in brown as well — even if I have nothing but brown boots already.

They are comfortable, easy to slip on without worry. And they fit in a lot of situations. My wardrobe trends more Smart Casual in style and this dress variant fits that styling very nicely. If you are more casual then the standard Blundstones are likely the best bet for you.

Great boots, good comfort, and really durable leather on them making them the lowest fuss boots I own.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Blundstone Dress Chelsea

A Well Performing Belt

Personally, if my shirt is tucked in, then I need to be wearing a belt. Anything else feels off, and even when I am not tucking in my shirt, I often will reach for a belt as well. Belts are a tricky area, as they are partly about looks and finishing an outfit, and partly about the function of helping to keep your pants held up (they are never about holding items unless you are working or in a war).

The problem with belts is that there are effectively three types: heritage leather style belts, the classics if you will; hiking performance belts; and tactical belts for holding all the guns. It is extremely hard to figure out what a good belt is for normal life — or as normal as life might be right now. Something that looks good, is comfortable, and has good adjustment.

I’ve already looked at a few on this site, the Grip6 and we’ve talked about the Slidebelt in some guides, but today I want to walk you through the spectrum and how I am approaching belts these days. But first, a baseline: all my belts need to work well on a pair of Futureworks in the office, in the car on the way to the office, and they need to be able to be used on 5-pocket style pants as well. That’s the range I am going for: casual to smart casual.

Let’s go from classic to high-performance.

Filson 1-1/4″ Bridle Leather Belt

First up is an offering from Filson coming in at $80 the 1-1/4” Bridle Leather Belt is one of many offerings in their full leather lineup of belts. It’s width makes it perfect for smart casual to casual wear and the leather itself is among the best you can get. Filson’s bridle leather is next level if you have never handled it before. This is among the most classic designs: single strap of leather with a brass buckle to secure it.

This is easily one of my favorite belts I’ve ever owed and something which feels like it will last a lifetime. There’s plenty of reviews talking about how people used them daily for 10 years and only got a new one because their pants size changed. The sizing is a little odd, but read the measurements and measure your waist — if you buy based on that you should get a belt where the buckle lands in the center of the holes. In the time I have had this belt is shows no stretch and no wear marks at all.

It’s a little bulky at the front, but otherwise is as simple and classic as you can get. For a long time I avoided belts like this because I thought they would not be worth the money, but this one is. The issue: it’s about as low tech as you can get. If that’s your speed, stop here, if not, keep reading.

British Belt Company / Generic Box Store Belts

I have had a few offerings from British Belt Company, and I mean no disrespect when I saw this, but they mostly feel no different than any “genuine leather” belt you grab from a big box store, though likely with better pricing. They look nice! Even the belts you buy from Macy’s or Nordstrom look nice, but they feel nothing like the Filson Bridle Leather. They are $35 belts and paying any more is wasting money.

These are simply about looks, and they last a couple years at most. The leather is cheap and stiff. Oddly turning them into belts that show wear quickly and stretch even more quickly. There’s nothing bad about owning some of these, especially for things like “suit belt” but there is also nothing good about them either.

SlideBelts

SlideBelts was one of the first ‘performance’ belts I got. Taking a classic leather belt look, and applying a unique ratcheting style buckle/clasp to the belt. What you end up with is a couple really cool things: easy to adjust discretely, micro adjustments, and a cut-to-fit ordering system so you are never getting the wrong size.


Vegan leather.

I have two of these, one in the vegan leather option, and one in the top grain leather option. The vegan leather is not good. It’s plasticky and very stiff, so much so that any advantage from the micro adjustments is lost in the uncomfortable nature of the belt band itself not forming well to your body — and I put over a year of wear on mine. The top grain leather is fantastic, it shows wear, but it molds very nicely to your body, forming a very comfortable belt.


Top grain leather.

There’s a wide variety of colors and styles, so there will always be something for you and the buckles are interchangeable as well (though you need a tool to pry them free I find). The part that finally got me to move away from these though: bulk and weight.

The buckle is a serious chunk of metal and it weighs a lot, and more than that it sits out from your pants a fair amount. It feels and looks bulky. With some styles, this is fine, but for me it was too much. (For travelers do note that these buckles often don’t make it through metal detectors.)

Good belts, comfortable, but for the price they weigh a lot and are bulky.

Filson Togiak Belt / Hiking Strap Belts

Now we are moving straight into the hiking performance belts. I have a few in this category, I’ll talk mostly about the Togiak belt from Filson as I like it the best. But generally these are some sort of nylon webbing / elastic webbing / canvas strap type of belt with a pull-to-adjust system of some sort and a basic to fancy clasp. The Togiak is canvas with a g-hook style clasp. Bison Belts are popular, as is the Arc’Teryx belt.

These are all very comfortable while looking not great. Depending on the nylon webbing choice they range from stiff to soft on the canvas side. I prefer the smoother webbing options or canvas as they form well to your waist and offer supreme comfort. They are true micro-adjustment belts too, as they offer near infinite adjustment options.

The downside is completely on the looks end. While you can get the precise strap you want and a wide variety of color options — none of these will look “nice”. They don’t all look bad, but they are going to stand out if you try to rock them in the office with a pair of chinos and a button down. Firmly casual, but among the most comfortable out there since they are the easiest to find exactly what you need/want for your use.

I wear the Togiak all weekend long. Great stuff.

Arcade Adventure Belt

Arcade made a good marketing splash when they launched the Adventure belt. I picked one up and fell in love. This is a belt for people who don’t like wearing belts, but want their pants to fit a little more snug. These are a decently thick bit of elastic webbing with a very thin plastic buckle.

They sit very low profile, and move very nicely with your body. They come in a wide array of color options as well. The color I picked isn’t conducive to the office and I think you might be able to get away with one with chinos, but it would be pushing the limits. So while the looks aren’t a huge downside, I don’t find them to look overly dressy as they are quite wide. Some newer options from Arcade attempt to solve for this, but the logos and buckles will always skew these casual.

There’s only two downsides to these belts: they flex a lot so they won’t work well for you wanting to hang anything from the belt (which don’t); and they are difficult to adjust when wearing them as they are very tight to move through the adjuster on the buckle.

If you like elastic waist pants, but sometimes have to wear non-elastic waist pants, these are a great solution for you.

Grip6 Belt Narrow

I’ve already written about this here, and my opinion on it hasn’t changed. Grip6 belts are fantastic low-tech, high-impact belts. They sit very flat, offer a webbing that is strong enough to have some structure, but eventually will form to your waist shape. They are comfortable, secure, and look ok. They won’t work for business casual, but I wear mine often into the office.

They hold really well after you sort out the correct way to secure them. They come in a wide array of colors and widths, and the buckle is the lowest profile of all the belts on this list. The only downside with these that I have found is that they are a little tricky on the width. There are three widths: 1.1”, 1.5”, and 1.75”. Anything in the 1.5” and up realm will often look far too casual for office wear with chinos/button down. But 1.1” is slightly too narrow to site well in the loops of my Futureworks. I really like the 1.25” width for universal belt use, and that isn’t available in Grip6.

For me, I wear these belts a ton, but they do have some downsides the width being one, but the second being that they need to be worn snug in order for the clasping mechanism to secure properly. So this isn’t a belt you can wear loosely at all.

Good stuff, great price, versatile — tricky widths.

Outlier Polyamour Precision Belt

The last belt is the most technical of them all, the Outlier Polyamour Precision Belt. This is a crazy belt, as it is 100% polyester webbing that has all sorts of tech into it making it feel like cotton canvas, but perform like “not cotton”. And then there’s touches of suede to aid the looks. Lastly the belt secures with a hidden Fidlock clasp.

The belt only comes in black and in a 1.5” width which normally I don’t love for smart casual, but the looks of this belt pull it off well. I’ll go ahead and say this right now: I wish there was charcoal, because I would only wear this belt if given the option. There’s no other belt on this list as good as this belt. It’s comfortable, the webbing forms well, and the clasp is fantastic. Both fast to secure, easy to undo, and secure throughout the day. With a nice balance of sitting low on your waist, while not looking out of place.

There’s two main downsides to this belt:

  1. The clasping mechanism has limited range of adjustment about 1.5” total. And while it does step nicely through them so you can find a good fit, that does mean that if your waist size fluctuates this won’t be a great option for you.
  2. It only comes in black.

The upside is that the sizing is easy on this one, as Outlier tells you to buy your pants size which is contrary to all other belt sizing, but 100% how belt sizing should work. I wear a 34 in Outlier pants and bought a 34 belt — perfect fit.

Again, if this came in charcoal (brown likely wouldn’t look great) I would only wear this belt and forgo all others — it’s that good. This is what all the other belts want to be and so much of that is because of the webbing magic.


What I Mostly Wear

All of those belts above are ones I bought, own, and wear with some regularity. The Outlier belt is newest to me, but easily my favorite. That said I find that I wear the Filson Bridle Leather belt the most, it’s essentially everything I want in a belt, and I never have to think about whether it works for that situation.

Belts are funny, they are the one area where the tried and true classics work almost as well as the highest of high-performance models, so much so that there’s very little upside to getting anything other than the classic options.

Then again, Outlier, make me a charcoal variant of that Polyamour Precision belt and I am all in. Until then, the Filson Bridle Leather is fantastic.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

A Well Performing Belt

Beyond Clothing Avid Ultralight K4 Pant

One of the newer offerings from Beyond Clothing is this Avid Ultralight K4 pant which is a hiking pant made into a jogger design. These grabbed my attention as I like to wear lightweight pants around the house on the weekends, and often find that cotton doesn’t quite meet my needs.

I’ve been testing them for a while now, so let’s dive in.

Material

These are marketed as “soft shell” but I think that’s a bit of a misnomer here. They are more like if you just had the facing of a soft shell garment, as there is no pile or anything of that nature — to that end they are effectively a stretchy nylon pant that is pretty thin. Beyond lists the make up as: 86% nylon, 14% spandex with that being a 4-way stretch on the spandex. The shell is further treated with DWR and what Beyond lists as “Clear coating on the outer shell increases the soft hand feel”.

I am not sure what the latter is exactly, but I will say the material feels very nice, and only has a small amount of the dreaded nylon “swoosh” sound. I’m a fan of this material, though it could stand to be a touch lighter in weight.

Performance

These are what I call performance first pants, as anything that you get for looks or feel is a bonus. These are designed first and foremost for performing well in any activity and they bridge a nice gap: something you could wear outdoors without issue, but also something that lends well to around town. If you could wear joggers to do it normally, these are like joggers on steroids — some of the best performing ones I have tried.

There’s six traits that Beyond lists, here’s my thoughts on each:

  • Ultralightweight: in weight of the garment this holds very true. But the fabric is not as thin as something like GORUCK’s Simple Pants. But as something to toss into a bag as a travel pair of joggers, this checks that box nicely.
  • Wind resistant: I was not expecting this at all when I got these pants — I didn’t read the description closely and thought they would be breathable. Weirdly, they trap heat from your body, and block wind extremely well. For cool weather workouts they are great. For keeping off a chill in strong AC, great. For heavy activity even in moderate temps, they get warm. Very warm. But, had I read, I would have been very impressed with the wind resistance on these, especially given how light they are.
  • Water resistant: this is all about the DWR, which is effective. But for how long, I don’t know. Light rain that is passing, no worries. Anything more and I wouldn’t expect to stay dry.
  • 4-way stretch: wow. These things stretch all over, but it’s not a soft stretch, so they stay decently crisp looking while never binding up on you. Good stuff.
  • Highly compressible: kind of. About the same as any thin pant, I don’t see anything special here.
  • Fast drying: yes, nylon and elastane are drying champs. These dry on par with most light nylon garments, which is to say really well. If you do find yourself hiking in a cool but not cold temp and they get wet, they should dry without much hassle. Similarly they dry quickly after washing.

There’s a couple other points about these worth mentioning:

  • The hand pockets are fantastic. They have a nice cut to the pocket and stuff stays in them. Further they have a bit of elastic at the bottom edge which makes them more comfortable for your hand, or gives you an ideal spot for anything with a pocket clip on it.
  • The left front pocket has a loop to attach keys to, which is out of the way and actually useful. Well done.
  • The right front pocket has another zipper pocket at the opening. This pocket is unobtrusive and is a nice addition for pants made for the outdoors.
  • The rear pockets are zippered and I could take them or leave them. They aren’t bad and don’t get in the way, but I’ve not found them functional on this type of pant.
  • The waistband though, the waistband is awesome. It’s smooth, thick, durable and holds in place. I am slightly in between sizes with these and so I sized down, so they fit me more snug than I might like, that is until I load up the pockets and start doing stuff in the pants — at that point I love the waistband. Really well executed.

As a performance pant: these are some of the best hiking pants turned joggers and the only downside is that I live in an extremely hot climate.

Fit & Style

First the fit, as these are sold in Small – XXL waist sizes with three lengths for each. I wear a 34×32 in most pants and find that to be spot on, after some back and forth with Steve over the sizing, I opted for the M Regular in these. I find them to be a perfect length for me, while being about as snug as I might want them.

Style wise, these are joggers and outdoors ones at that. I would say they are firmly casual/outdoors. No big bonus points here, but they don’t get any weird looks anywhere I wear them.

Overall

I like these pants. They are an acquired taste, and for me they are great pants for the weekend. Great to wear around the yard, doing chores, or just lounging about. They make solid pants for travel as they can fill many roles well, and of course they are great outdoors.

You aren’t likely to win any style points for them, but you’ll be more comfortable.

Find them here.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Beyond Clothing Avid Ultralight K4 Pant

Triple Aught Design Agent XC Shorts

I’ve been fascinated by Triple Aught Design’s Agent chino offerings, but have always waited too long to get a pair, and found my sizes out of stock. But when these shorts came out right on the heels of me needing some new shorts, I snagged them right away in the Raven color (which is like charcoal with green undertones?). The XC fabric is their more technical, lighter weight offering — since getting these shorts I have been wearing them a ton.

I really like them, but maybe not for reasons you might think.

Materials

The material on these is a heavy NYCO blend, which feels very smooth to the touch and a bit crisp. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Filson’s Tin Cloth before the waxing — which is a complement. At 194gsm it’s not the lightest weight material, despite Triple Aught Design saying it is their lighter weight material.

The actual make up is listed as: 40% Cotton / 28% Nylon / 27% Cordura Nylon / 5% Elastane. I am sure there is some branding reason the Nylons are put apart like that, but really this is a 55% Nylon, 40% Cotton, 5% stretch garment, which is a pretty classic mix and one that performs well. You get the cotton feel, a slight bit of stretch, and an exceedingly durable garment.

If you are at all familiar with Filson Tin Cloth, I would say this is the modern take on that fabric. Triple Aught Design then does a thorough DWR treatment on it, and the material is durable and water resistant. Good stuff.

Fit & Style

These are listed as “standard fit” with an 8.25” inseam. It’s actually harder to find shorts around this inseam length, and I’m very happy with the inseam. It’s the right balance of being shorts, but also not too short for the style (while not being silly long as so many shorts like this can be).

I ordered a size 34, which is the size I am wearing in almost everything right now, and found that out of the box they fit about a half size too large. I don’t think I could downsize so I washed and dried them and that shrunk them only about a quarter size. It’s enough that they don’t fall down without a belt, and they fit comfortable.

The style isn’t too outwardly aggressive if you wear shirts untucked, as that will hide the massive belt loops and extra pockets. If you tuck in, then be prepared for people to notice the more outdoors vibe to these shorts — I certainly don’t think they scream tactical, but they clearly are not normal. With your shirt untucked they can essentially pass for any run of the mill shorts.

The Raven color is fantastic. It’s closest to charcoal with browns and greens in it too — it shifts ever so slightly and is really pleasant looking in person. I am a big fan of it.

Performance

The Agent XC shorts add performance in an unusual way. Yes, they do have some stretch, but I don’t notice it. The gusseted crotch itself is a far bigger performance gain than whatever the 5% elastane is doing in these. But that gusset means that they don’t need to be overly wide at the thigh while still allowing a lot of range of motion.

They resist water and heavy dirt well, but I do find that powdery type stuff and dust can collect on them. A good pat-swipe motion will clean them right up. But if you work somewhere dusty they are going to snag that dust. I wore them digging a hole, and they looked clean afterwards, however wearing them to clear out some dusty stuff in the attic caused them to look pretty dusty until I could clean them up.

I also need to say that these are not that breathable. They are not warm, they do block wind, but they are not something that is going to actively cool you. They might be more breathable than other shorts out there, but certainly not anywhere close to most of the performance shorts we test here.

Which is why the real performance gain is the pockets on these. There’s a bunch of them. There’s two hand pockets in the front, two rear welt pockets, two “hidden” rear pockets, and then an entirely hidden pocket as well.

The two rear hidden pockets are just up from the welt pockets, and they are narrow and deep. They are easy to access and can hold a ton. I needed to do some work on the fence from a ladder, and they held wire cutters and other long tools really well. They are not secured, which makes them far more useful. And beyond that, they don’t detract too much from the looks.

The big feature on these is the two front pockets. They are slant openings, with a flat/straight edges right at the bottom, which makes securing something like a pocket knife an excellent experience. And then inside the front pockets are internal dividers on the side of the pocket against your leg. These don’t get in the way if you don’t use them, but each pocket has three slots in those (with bottoms) two wider and one smaller. These are great for holding your knife or flashlight inside the pocket. Keeping a key from floating around — my iPhone 12 Mini even fits in one.

At first I felt these were a neat gimmick. Now some time on, I wonder why all pants don’t have these. They are wonderful — but I also carry a lot of ‘gear’ with me. These dividers caused me to wear these shorts far more than I otherwise would have, and are a huge win.

Overall

These are heavier shorts, but I wouldn’t hesitate doing labor intensive work in them. They won’t cool you down but they also don’t trap enough heat to worry about. I’ve worked in them a bunch and found them great because of all the extra hidden pockets.

Even then, day in and day out, the pockets have made my life easier because they keep gear organized, flatter, and the heavy material keeps that gear from becoming oddly shaped bumps showing through your shorts.

I am waiting for these to come back in stock, as I want another pair, and I will also snag the chinos as soon as I can.

Recommended, with those caveats. Buy here.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Triple Aught Design Agent XC Shorts