X-Bionic Trekking Shirt

I’ve had the Trekking Shirt and Shorts on test for a good while now, and it’s taken me that good while wearing them across a range of conditions to try and find something to talk about. Now, that might sound strange considering the amount of research that’s gone into the kit, and the complexity of the finished product, but when it comes down to it, after the first couple of times where I was looking and feeling to see what was happening, I’ve just been pulling them on and getting on with it.
Is that damned by faint praise then? Not at all, it’s not as if you normally look at the mixture of materials, monitor the different areas of compression and the like when you’re cutting around the hills. Probably the most obvious performance aspect of baselayers is how it manages moisture and temperature. If that’s not right you soon notice. Anonymous baselayers are what you want, fit and function married invisibly in a cocoon of comfort.

So, after a gap of a month I pulled on the t-shirt again for a refresher on a hike-a-bike around the Kilpatricks.

The first thing you notice is the softness of the fabric, it’s lovely against the skin. The fit is still close, but the huge amount of stretch will accommodate any size or shape or person. I hesitate to say this, but for a synthetic it’s bloody close to feeling as friendly on your person as merino.
The close fit will be a sticking point for many, but baselayers should be close, they work better that way from a moisture management perspective. I’m not exactly adorned by a mail-order catalogue aesthetic, but I’m on the inside looking out, and I’m comfy, so don’t give a shit I say.
The close fit has other benefits, I was reading a study into clothing using compression, and they say that zoned compression works much better than a general compression, ie tight leggings or a skin-suit that you see mentalist Olympians wearing. The X-Bionic kit is super-zoned in that case, taking the concept much further than most. But can you feel it? Well aye, if you’re watching for it. The shorts not so much, your man-tackle is supported and “encapsulated”, and there’s total free movement, but in the shirt you can feel an elusive something depending on what you’re doing. It’s support, but support that holds no resistance when you move against it, but even that is making too much of it, it’s so subtle.
This was my difficulty in writing the kit up, talking about this stuff makes it look like you’re wearing an exoskeleton and it’s all hinges and pivots, but in actual fact you don’t feel any of this unless you concentrate on it.

Moisture management is outstanding, I can get the shirt and shorts damp, but never overloaded. The fabric sucks up the sweat or vents it through the open weave zones on the chest and back. It seems to spread out whatever moisture is there so you don’t get the unsightly patches of sweat that are the curse of most things made in such a light shade of grey. It’s not a sweat-box either, it looks chunky, but it’s not, it’s light and the surface is contoured rather than thick, so you’re in that “just nice” zone, even when working hard.
There’s another merino comparison in that it’s quite happy as an outer layer, a light shower when you’re on the move is no trouble and a cool breeze seems to get absorbed by the fabric. Smell wise it’s not too bad at all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the synthetics on test, times have indeed moved on and into a much fragrant area.
The shirt has what looks like loose-knitted patches on the hips and shoulders that catch a rucksack’s contact points. These do seem to keep these areas dry, but as to their load absorbing qualities, I can’t tell, my shoulders are too used to pack these days.

Summing up, I really like the shirt, it’s close to merino in its feel, it’s very comfy indeed and keeps me dry at all times. The shorts have the same fabric performance, but because the fabric is softer compared to the last shorts I had from X-Bionic, it means that the legs ride up a bit. It might just be a personal fit issue though, and they do longer-legged shorts which I like the look of.
I like the X-Bionic stuff, and as I’ve said before the technical looks and hype that comes along with it shouldn’t intimidate you, because all of that becomes irrelevant when you pull it on and head out there, it just works.

Hey, I didn’t mention their horrendous packaging once.

74 thoughts on “X-Bionic Trekking Shirt”

  1. I wear the Air force 1 socks all year round unless I’ve got my Manta’s on in which case I move to thick smartwool ones and a thin liner sock.

    I’ve found myself wearing the X boxers a lot this year too. The snugger more ‘encapsulated’ fit seems to have sorted out any chafing problems I had. If only they could make merino wool boxers in the same shape with the same holding power.

    The shirt sounds an interesting alternative.

  2. aye ive got 2 pairs of the airforce 1 and some trekking extreme light, the airforce get worn most the time.

    i was registering my 3rd pair of boxers (got them on special offer from james @ one outdoors) the other week and looked at my past registrations, ive had my main airforce 1 socks since 2005….still in great nick too so definatley worth the cash.

    supposed to be getting some of their compression socks on test soo so that should be fun…obviously not with shorts though.

  3. The shirts look tempting, especially in black. I wonder if they’d be a better match for an Analogy system in winter than Merino.

    Finding good boxers is a real problem for me at the moment.

    I’ve tried the energizer boxers, but just can’t get on with them. They’re far too short in the leg for me and ride up and become uncomfortable quite quickly. It’s a real shame as I love the material.

    I have some Nike pro shorts which have horrible shiny material that becomes clammy on long jaunts and the longest washing label I’ve ever seen but in their favour they are a much better length and cut (a few inches above the knee) for me and never ride up.

    If X-bionic did some around that length I’d be made.

    That or maybe I need to finally try some merino wool boxers if there’s some good long ones. Boxer shorts bunching up around my groin seems to be par for the course for most wicking technical cut ones I’ve tried.

  4. i had some haglofs ones before i got the x-bionics, they were great but they seem to have changed them and made them shorter and with a nasty waist band.

  5. Benjamin, X-Bionic do a few longer legged shorts. The Haglofs ones Moggy mentions are in a great fabric (I’ve got the boxers and matching t-shirt in for test) but the legs are quite short, but it all deoends on your shape I suppose.

    The bovers I wear most are Chocilate Fish’s merino ones, just got a new pair for spare in fact.

    Smartwool used to do boxers with very long legs and a letterbox fly opening, they wewre great.

    Getting your panst sorted is a trila, but it’s bliss once it’s sorted.

    Aye Moggy, those news ones are very different!

  6. Do they? I’ve only seen the ones which go beyond the knee, which is a little excessive outside winter.

    I shall have to investigate.

    The trouble with the trials of pants is the no returns policy, so you can quickly build up a load of rejected pants as you can’t tell how they’ll perform until your out in them for a day.

    How long are the choclate fish ones? They look longer than the energisers.

  7. http://www.x-bionic.com/#/en/site/products/men/underwear/energy-accumulator-pants-short/135116

    The Chocolate Fish’s legs are longer than most I think, in fact longer than anything else I’ve got except the old Smartwools.
    The one’s I’ve just got have a fly for peeing simplicity this time!

    It is hit and miss like you say, very difficult to get it right.
    I wonder if I shouild do a panst round-up at some point, it’s one of those rarely dicussed but vital subjects.

  8. Never mind the spelling, I’m worried about the concept of chocolate fish having legs!

  9. Sounds like a wise plan.
    btw, is there anywhere in the UK that actually sells this stuff? For women?!

  10. http://www.wiggle.co.uk have plenty of the wummins models, check under the “bike” and “run” headings for different models all at 10% off (some 30%).
    Actually, maybe the triathalon heading will have some too?

    I really do fancy some more of the kit, this is why I was looking for retailers. I might have to get the t-shirt that matches the black energiser shorts.

  11. Can’t find the Trekking range in the UK, unless they’re calling it something different.

  12. That was in reply to the “..is your friend” bit.

    The trekking range I remember them saying was still “on its way”. I do believe I had the first set out ther at one point. It just took me ages to make my mind up.

  13. I’ve had two pairs of the EnergiZer boxers for 2 or 3 years now (had to try M and L) – the fabric is lovely but I find the legs too short. I think I’ll have to try a pair of the Running Pants Short… just as soon as I can steel myself to pay the price!! :(

  14. if your lookin for x-socks and x-bionic gear try dropping james at oneoutdoors a line, he runs a couple of xgear sites and may be able to help

  15. Okay, the word on the street is that the Trekking models are in the UK, they might just be hard to find.
    So phone Suzanne Russell, Customer Services 01250 873863 Ext 222 and she will tell you with a glance at her screen who’s got what and where they are.

    They’re looking at bringing in more of the gear (usual trouble, someone has to have the nous to stock it) including the long shorts and long sleeve tops.
    And, it turns out the Ben Fogle & Co are wearing X-Bionic gear in their On Thin Ice telly programme.

  16. The obvious question following on from your excellent tip above is how do the trekking shorts compare with the energiser boxers? I have the energisers and like everyone above I like them a lot apart from the short leg.

  17. For info, the Trekking shirt and boxers ARE now available in the UK, as is the long-sleeved Winter Trekking Shirt and 3/4 length pants (as used by Cracknell, Fogle and Coates for the race to the South Pole).

    Likeys (www.likeys.com/acatalog/X_Bionic_-_Men.html) stock the Winter Trekking stuff (plus Energizer, Accumulator and Runningwear), and I’m sure if you asked them nicely, they’d be only too happy to get in the short-sleeved version too. Failing that, for the time being, ask James at OneOutdoors, or pester your local outdoor store to get some in.

    Loads more X-Bionic stuff in the pipeline – including, I believe, a range featuring all the X-Bionic technical wizardry … but made in Italy from, wait for it, Saxon Merino wool! There’ll be less packaging too.

  18. In response to More-On’s question re Energizer/Trekking boxers – there really is very little difference, though having used both, I’d say the trekking ones feel noticeably softer/more comfy.

    I’ve also used an advance sample of the Trekking Pants Short – which cover the quads nicely and finish a couple of inches above the knee (take note Benjamin) and work well under a pair of ‘normal’ hiking shorts. Fantastic! No riding up and the compression really helps on a long day out on the hills. Hopefully, these will be in the UK next year.

    The Running Pants feature a higher degree of compression – just where it’s needed – and so far, are probably the best X-Bionic legwear I’ve tried. Well worth the investment. Of the 50-60 people who tried these on at this year’s London Marathon Expo, I think only one or two didn’t reach into their wallet and buy a pair.

  19. Ta for the info Simon, the Trekking Pants Short sound like they might be ideal when they arrive. What’s the difference between them and the Energy Accumulator pants short PTC linked to?

    I presume the running pants, which look excellent, are designed more as an outer short tight rather than as underwear?

  20. Benjamin – length wise, the Trekking, Accumulator and Running Short Pants are pretty similar (i.e. just above the knee). The difference is in the weight of fabric, and also the degree of compression, with the Trekking jobbies being the lightest in both respects (the fabric weight/properties being more similar to the Energizer range) and the other two being fairly similar to each other.

    In general, where the baselayers are concerned, I’d say the Energizer and Trekking pieces are ideally suited to most outdoor pursuits in typical UK conditions year round – and they do exactly what they say in terms of keeping you cool when you’re warm and vice versa. I’ve used the same short-sleeved Trekking shirt on a cold January day (under Paramo Velez) and also in the 30 degree temps we had for a short spell in May. However, I prefer the long-sleeved ‘Winter’ version, which I’d didn’t find too hot in the Lakes last week. But that’s just a personal preference.

    The Accumulator range would be great in really cold conditions or for activities like climbing (a chilly hour on the belay followed by full-on effort for the next pitch).

    The Running Pants are indeed designed to be worn on their own – no need to hide them under ordinary shorts. They look much better on, and are more supportive/less revealing than your bog standard lycra shorts, so I’d say just the job for adventure racing/trail running, not just for the track.

    Hope that helps.

  21. Cheers again for the detailed info. I understand the range a bit better now.

    I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the trekking short pants when they get released. In the meantime I’ll possibly finally give wool pants a try (shudders).

    The shirts are on my investigate list as well, is the winter one you mention the ‘ski touring’ one?

  22. Glad to have been of help.

    Yup – the Ski Touring is also known as (and named on the packaging) as Winter Trekking … but like I say, I’ve found that it doesn’t have to be winter to use it.

  23. BTW Kate, the Energizer, Accumulator and Running ranges come in men’s and women’s version. There will be women’s versions of the Trekking and Winter Trekking ranges early next year.

  24. Good banter and info people!

    I’ve just had word in, and I’m going to have a look at the “Apani” X-Bionic merino kit shortly (I’ll try and sneak some photies) and I’ll have a test sample in a bit for us to see how it does out in the field as well.
    My interest is most definitely piqued.

  25. Dont get me wrong the X bionic stuff is good !
    Only problem is when it gets outwith its limit it really craps the bed !.
    I have had it on few times when it has done this (my fault probably !) but when it does you would be as well running about the hill without it !

  26. Simon_R: Can I add my thanks – the Trekking Pants Short do seem the way forward for me at least.

    Benjamin: Just to add to the confusion I have to say that having tried a variety of ‘technical lower body apparel’ I find wool ones don’t ride up, but that their supportive qualities are rather lacking. That probably isn’t a surprise, but I thought I’d mention it…

  27. Aghhhhhhhhh!
    You probably don’t know this, Simon (well, you do now), but I get SO pissed off at companies that produce men’s stuff and not women’s, or men’s stuff before they can be arsed to bother with the women.

  28. I mind we were talking about this. I reckon the fabric “mechanics” suit me very well, but I can see folk being hot and cold in it.
    I’ll need to get one of the Energiser shirts and see what the difference is to the Trekker.

  29. Sorry Kate … just the messenger. Not sure why these particular pieces didn’t come in men’s and women’s at the same time – will see if I can find out. Particularly unusual as everything else they do there’s as much for women as for men, and in decent colours.

    Will update when further info available.

  30. Cheers, Simon. And if they want someone to test the women’s trekker pant short, I’m their woman!

  31. Unisex? My experience is that it’s essentially designed essentially for men. Take the ‘unisex’ Velez, for example. Though I have one, it’s tighter on the hips than I’d like, but the next size up would swamp my upper body. Most ‘unisex’ items of clothing are too tight on the hips for me – I have very … ahem… female backside and hips. Topside’s less problematic, at least for stretchy stuff (provides room for bust), parly because I have quite broad shoulders. In fact my Berghaus x-static tops are all bloke’s small, because the women’s medium are too short in the arms.
    Unisex colours are generally good, partly because they don’t seem to produce much in the way of pastel pink and baby blue for blokes (which of course encompasses unisex).

  32. Interesting. Perhaps a feature on why manufacturers produce the stuff they do in mens / womens / unisex, and equally interesting and important, why retailers stock what they do. I find it particularly frustrating trying on what I suppose one might call the more technical or higher end stuff in women’s fit in shops, though usually one can order it mail-order. But that’s not always helpful.
    Boots are a case in point. Our local Cotswolds has twice as much display (and stock) space given over to men’s footwear than women’s so they have a vastly greater choice. I’ve asked them about it, and of course it’s all to do with market forces. But it’s extremely annoying!

  33. Kate – having read your response to the “unisex” question, you might find the men’s Trekking shirt to be ok. If not, then I’d certainly suggest getting hold of the women’s Energizer shirt which is widely available now. And it’s a bit cheaper – just doesn’t have the cushioned shoulders and hips.

  34. Re Apani – the merino X-Bionic stuff due next year – this sounds very interesting. Not much info around just yet, though there is a ‘teaser’ website (http://www.apani-life.com/home) where you could be in with a chance of winning some of the gear.

  35. There’s one brand I know who say that they’re customers are generally all athletic shaped (ie tall skinny buggers) and that a unisex fit works for them very well.

    Some others have extremely different blokes and wummins fits, Haglofs immediately springs to mind.

    Maybe unisex is partly a philosophy for some folk and penny pinching/finger crossing for others?

  36. Haglofs women’s tops excellent – their bottoms would be perfect if they did them in a short leg length!
    Montane – their fit has suddenly become a *lot* more ‘athletic’ and thus unusable for me :-(

    And one other point about men’s tops – I find quite a few women’s tops – base-layer, fleece etc. – are too short in the torso for me (again, may be due to broad shoulders).

    I thought the penny pinching approach to unisex was the most likely!

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