Gear Review: North Face Progressor Short-Sleeve Wool Crew
Weight: 165g (5.82 oz)
Materials: Polartec® Power Wool™—69% polyester, 31% wool with FlashDry™
A shirt’s a shirt, right? Wrong. I used to think so but after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2016 and the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017 and wearing one shirt for the length of each trail, I learned differently.
On a basic level, a shirt is a base layer to cover/protect your torso; however, anything longer than a few days might change your expectations. For longer hikes, a shirt is your second skin worn day in and out for weeks or months. It may be the shirt in all your trail photos, too, and an icon that trail friends recognize you by or ask others about you.
When the North Face sent me the Women’s Progressor Short-Sleeve Wool Crew shirt to review, I was excited to test it out. The Progressor promised to be “breathable and quick-drying, with superior wicking performance, ample stretch, and exceptional recovery.” I tested it relentlessly for six months for different activities, in different weather and temperatures—summer, fall, winter; hot, humid, mild, windy, snowy, damp and dry conditions.
Here’s how it performed and why I now consider it a staple in my gear list.
Circumstances of Gear Testing
When it arrived in the mail, it was the end of summer in my native Mid-Atlantic roots on the East Coast (translation=hot and humid).
I decided to wear it as much as possible for hiking and to wash it minimally. I wore the Progressor constantly for trail running, hiking, backpacking, trail maintenance, even non-outdoor pursuits.
The Progressor’s promise to be breathable, durable, odor resistant, moisture-wicking, and quick drying had me cautiously optimistic since Mid-Atlantic summers are damp and humid and 2018 was the “wettest year on record” with the most rainfall ever (kudos AT class of 2018!).
Comfort: Durable, lightweight, and naturally breathable.
Fit: Slim, fitted.
Wicking: Quick-drying FlashDry™ technology; odor-resistant and moisture-wicking Polartec® Power Wool™.
Hem: Drop-tail hem.
Material: 153 g/m² Polartec® Power Wool™ (Odor-resistant and moisture-wicking); 69% polyester, 31% wool with quick-drying FlashDry™ technology.
Weight/temperature: Lightweight (but not tissue thin). Cool to warm depending on air temperature.
Durability: I wore this shirt relentlessly for six months, after which it looked as new as the day I received it.
What I liked best: Versatility and flexibility. This shirt is a go-to for any type of hiking or backpacking as a base layer, a second layer, or your only layer.
Guarantee: Lifetime warranty (yaaasss!) against defects in materials and workmanship.
The North Face Women’s Progressor is a comfortable, good-looking wool shirt that is durable and lightweight. It has a flattering cut with a drop-tail hem (a tad longer in the back), making it a flattering and functional cut.
It is multipurpose, soft, comfortable, and flexible. For packing, the Progressor folds down to the size of a camp mug or fist. And it has a lifetime warranty, an excellent feature for the practical, budget-conscious hiker, and a good thing for the planet.
Fit: I’m 5 feet, 8 inches, and 145 pounds with an athletic build—long torso, broad shoulders, and smaller waist. I wore a size small that was comfortable and fitted. The bottom of the shirt falls at my hip; the crew neck comes up over my collar bones—a nice fit and not too high or snug on the neck. The soft stretch of the polyester-wool blend of material allowed it to move comfortably with me as I hiked, bent to set up camp or clear a tent site, to stretch, or to move in a myriad of other ways.
Flattery: This shirt has a nice, subtle flattering shape while not being too fitted, rather than a shapeless or boxy fit. If you’re looking for a looser fit, order one size up.
This top looks good on with an ever so slight feminine shape rather than boxy-ness. My mom, who often weighs in on the fashion sense of my hiking clothes, saw me in the Progressor more than a few times and gave it a thumbs up. “I like that shirt. It looks good–fitted, flattering, and feminine.” At one point I reminded her that vanity is second to function on trail, but this shirt reminded me a good hiking shirt can do both. “You can be a hiker and look great,” as mom told me.
Function: What matters in function? Does it feel soft and stretch with your movements? Does it stay in place? Keep you comfortable (warm or cool) and dry? In months of testing, the Progressor looked, felt, and acted like only a very well-designed shirt does—moving with me while I hiked the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, did trail work on the AT in Pennsylvania, backpacked in Shenandoah National Park, did burpees in the living room.
After hearing me talk about the Progressor for months, one day my mom reminded me, “Remember, talk about the wicking, Laura!” That ever-present humidity and moisture in summer, fall, and winter on the Mid-Atlantic puts the Polartec® Power Wool™ fabric odor-resistant and FlashDry™ wicking to the test.
I made sure the Progressor saw a lot of moisture, either from perspiration, humidity, or rain to test the Power Wool™ fabric and the FlashDry™ technology.
In wet, humid climates it is common to sweat even after moving, because the air is moist and the body continues to perspire (rather than having it evaporate like it would in arid climates). This happened as I tested the Progressor. I found the quick-drying FlashDry™ technology and Polartec® Power Wool™ enabled the wicking of moisture to transfer moisture some from the fabric, however, it did not perform a miracle. The only materials I have seen do this in wet climates are tissue or paper thin (which the Progressor is not). In a dry, desert climate, this shirt would probably dry very quickly.
A damp shirt, however, in moisture-rich climates will stay wet for a while (a small price for the beauty it brings—lush greenery, vibrant flowers, and colorful foliage). The Progressor stayed fairly damp in these cases, but did not feel overly heavy. Without consistent sweating or heavy rain, the Progressor will stay comfortably dry and wick moisture away from the material, enabling the FlashDry™. And if the air is dry/warm, it will help the FlashDry™ quick drying.
Fragrance. I give this shirt a thumbs up on nearly everything, except one con: the material isn’t odor-resistant. The material seems to absorb odor more than to evaporate or resist.
Wearing the Progressor daily for outdoor, active pursuits with little washing meant it certainly had time to accumulate odor. And while it hid most odor, after a couple days of sweating and continuous wear, the odor-resistant component of the Polartec® Power Wool™ technology came up short.
After a wash, it is fresh again; however, when sweating again for another day, the shirt seemed to hold onto or regain that same funk. This being said, when a piece of clothing can magically mask or lose the residue of body odor, I consider it an engineering anomaly or David Blaine-like magic trick.
If looking for a multipurpose, comfortable, flattering shirt for the front or backcountry, the Progressor has you covered. If you don’t care about the look, that’s OK too, because this shirt does what a good base layer should.
I think people should hike in whatever they feel comfortable in and what functions well. It doesn’t have to have the exact label, e.g., base layer, to be worn for that purpose, either. If you want this shirt as a base layer, it works well. If you want it as a second or other layer, it also works well.
Because of these reasons and its great performance over long months of testing, the Progressor is now a part of my frequently used gear. It’s a shirt I would recommend to any fellow hiker to add to their hiking drawer or to wear on a section or thru-hike.
This shirt also pairs great with the matching North Face Women’s Progressor Hybrid Tights, which I tested in conjunction with the Progressor Wool Short-Sleeve Crew.
Final Rating: 8/10
Disclaimer: This product was donated for the purposes of review.
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