Friday, November 12, 2021

2021 Gift Guide and Mini Reviews: Men's Shorts, Tops, Singlets, Base Layers and Socks-Tracksmith, ON, Odlo, Brooks Run Visible, Decathlon, Craft, CEP, Darn Tough

Article by Jeff Valliere and Sam Winebaum

Shorts, Tops, Singlets, Base Layers and Socks Gift Guide: Tracksmith, ON, Odlo, Brooks Run Visible, Decathlon, Craft, CEP, Darn Tough.

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Tracksmith Off Roads Tee ($88)

This “deluxe” feeling Tee truly outperforms any I have worn in cooler conditions. Deluxe in its soft stretchy feel and classy styling the Off-Roads is made of a blend of 42.5 % Merino and 42.5% Tencel, a sustainably sourced wood based fiber that is also biodegradable, durable, wicking and antimicrobial. Of course we know the remarkable thermo regulating  properties of Merino.


The Off-Roads dries remarkably quickly, from soaked to dry in less than an hour for me, everytime.  

On the run the easy fit and moisture wicking has never been clammy or chilled in feel, even during a recent half in 40 F / 5C conditions where it is all I wore. A three run test had it “fresh” and ready to go for a 4th. 

The fit is long and easy in my normal medium. The styling in browns says Trail it can go Road and casual as well. 


Tracksmith Off-Roads Crew ($138)

High Performance, warmth and any activity versatility 

In a different color than last year's, the Crew is made of the same blend of polypropylene and Merino and has the same relaxed fit. While I did not test the 2021 version, I expect the same excellent performance

The Crew can be thought of in fit and look as a relaxed top as a classic "sweatshirt" with the weight of a mid layer. This means it is not a snug layer. My medium rests easy everywhere, so easy and comfortable (and fast drying) that after my runs I have left it on the rest of the day. Shown below the 2020 version.

The fabric is a new one for me, and I have tested innumerable high performance fabrics over the years, a blend of 60% Merino and 40% polypropylene.  

Wool and polypro was a staple of my 1970's run and hike kit but not Merino grade wool or this polypro. Polypro is as called out by Tracksmith here as great for wicking as it is highly hydrophobic and that it also has low thermal conductivity so holds heat well. The Merino offers warmth, breathability and odor resistance.  This last very important as old school polypro was notoriously "stinky" and quickly so. To really test I have worn the Crew for two runs, one hike and now 3 days of all day wear and it smells fine and fresh!

Enough tech stuff.  How does it fit and perform?  The long easy fit and non compressive nature of the fabric not only insulates and breathes but dries very fast. Pure merino often gets soggy and stays that way. 

Above after a run at around 50 F with a misty light rain and some wind I was amazed how dry the Crew stayed and how quickly it dried. During a hike in somewhat lower temps and dry conditions I was just as comfortable. 

A subsequent run in a hard rain did soak the Crew and unlike the sweat and light misty moisture of the first run as the Merino  became saturated, and all Merino "eventually" when really soaked absorbed water and it  took overnight to fully dry. So the polypro in the fiber mix does a superb job in normal moderately sweaty or damp conditions in evacuating moisture but there is a limit. All in all this is a great fabric for most workout conditions. 

So here we have a piece with a super broad range of utility from any kind of cooler to colder weather runs or hikes standalone as it breathes so well or under a shell as a light insulating layer and.. when done you will not want to take it off as it is so comfortable, will dry quickly if not totally soaked and is so relaxed in fit. It can easily also dress you up for just about anything. Given this broad range of utility, wonderful styling, and performance it can take the place of many other pieces such as base layers, light run jackets, casual light sweaters, and serve as a great travel option. As such it is a very solid value in a premium top.

Shop for the entire 2021 Off-Roads Collection for men and women at Tracksmith HERE

Decathlon Evadict Trail Running Comfort Tight-Shorts ($40)

Superb value in a many pocketed 2-1 short.

The Trail Running Comfort Short Tight Shorts are from Decathlon, a French brand that designs and manufactures sports products in every category (even scuba) you can imagine, all at very, very reasonable prices. The Evadict Trail running collection was developed at Decathlon's mountain sports focused design center near Chamonix.

The Evadict short has ample storage in its waistband (5 mesh pockets on the sides and front (one large enough for a phone with a small zip pocket behind it) and a large rear zip pocket large enough for phone all pockets with well reinforced top seams. It has both a compression liner and a brief along with a mesh gusset and all of this for $40, so far less than the other shorts in our super shorts with storage round up article. There is no bounce ever, even fully loaded. The liner is nicely compressive with the fit relatively snug at the waist. 

I have a 33" waist and have the medium and am fine but wish for a touch more give at the waist. I like that the length is moderate and the outer shell not as billowy as some.

After multiple washes and many runs both road and trail this summer and fall they are holding up just fine. Of all the shorts I had in 2021 it is the one.  It is by far the best value in a 2-1 multi pocketed short I have seen to date.

Brooks Run Visible Carbonite Long Sleeve ($100)

Give a gift of safety and comfort! The Long Sleeve is part of an extensive collection of high visibility apparel and accessories from Brooks.

The Carbonite Long Sleeve is packed with features to keep you visible, day and night.

  • 3M Carbon Black retro reflectivity in areas of motion that help identify you as a human and not a random sign. 

  • The reflectivity  in the Run Visible Collection returns at least as much light as 300 candles burning in the same location.

  • The long sleeve also uses a balanced use of fluorescence, contrast colors and patterns for daytime (and night time) visibility and to alert that you are a runner in motion.

  • The reflective elements in motion can be seen when lit by cars, and identified as a human form at up to 600 feet at 35mph. 

For more on the science behind Run Visible see the Brooks article here

I am surprised how breathable and low moisture absorbing the top is despite its grid like appearance of very thin mesh between raised profiles. 

It has lots of 3D surfaces for evaporation and under a winter layer for a touch of stand off insulation. I was surprised how breathable and comfortable the top was on a 70 F plus day. While it looks beefy and waffled,  it is actually very airy between the raised grids. 

The fit in my medium is easy going and the sleeves are decently easy to roll up something I look for.  

At $100 it is quite pricey even with the built in day and night safety features but you will never be caught at dusk or dawn or after dark, and really in the dark to vehicles,  if timing doesn’t go quite as planned on a run.

Pair the Long Sleeve with the super soft and comfortable Carbonite 2-1 Shorts.

Carbonite 5” 2-1 Short ($75)

Note even the lights in my kitchen and camera activated the Carbon Black reflectivity

Sam: The shorts are all about very soft and comfortable with the liner non compression and equally soft.  The liner has a secure no bounce single thigh phone pocket. The waistband is also soft and broad with four quite baggy drop in pockets on the outside including one with a key loop. The pockets run from off center to the sides. 

Of course, the shorts are very visible day or night with Carbon Black reflective strips at the lower hems front and back with the inner short providing a high visibility optic yellow to highlight  your legs in motion.

I like them so much and I am super fussy about race shorts that I wore them for my recent half marathon on a windless day with temps in the lower 40’s.  Perfect for the race and I appreciated the easy to reach pockets for my gels and the loop for my car key. I should have, and could have, worn the long sleeve top that day.

So, comfort and safety all in a single short with no compromises for either so while somewhat pricey at $75 I think it is an easy decision to consider them as a gift. 

Also available for women in a 4” length which pairs nicely with the Carbonite Short Sleeve 

RoadTrail Run Reviews of the  2021 Run Visible Carbonite Collections: men here and women here

Brooks Run Visible Fall Carbonite Collection for Men and Women 

Running Warehouse SHOP HERE

Road Runner Sports SHOP HERE

Fleet Feet SHOP HERE  

Odlo Natural + Kinship Warm Baselayer ($100)

Jeff V: Natural thermo regulation from the merino wool (52%), the Kinship is exceptionally soft, breathable, quick drying and a pleasure to wear.  Fit is on the athletic side, which means no bunching or sliding, but some may find it snug around the mid section, so I would suggest sizing up if a looser fit is desired (in my case though, I just need to lay off the Halloween candy!!).

Shop for Odlo Natural + Kinship Warm


Odlo Millennium Yakwarm Half Zip Long Sleeve Midlayer Top ($140)

Jeff V:  Straddling the line between a mid layer and base layer, the quality, quick dry breathability, versatility, anti odor properties and comfort are top notch.  I use this shirt as a baselayer on really cold days, but more often as a mid layer or even outer layer in more moderate temps (20’s - 30’s as mid layer, 40’s - low 50’s as outer layer).

Shop for Odlo Odlo Natural + Kinship Warm

 Backcountry HERE

Craft PRO Hypervent SS Tee

Jeff V:  I have a literal gazillion tech tees, but all summer I found myself prioritizing the Craft PRO Hypervent SS Tee over the others for its very cool feel/breathability, stylish looks, just right fit and anti odor properties. I like the lighter color blue, not just for the look, but prefer lighter colors that do not absorb as much sun and this blue works well for that.  Fit is true to size, though is a bit long (at least for my really short torso).

Sam: Hypervent! I am with Jeff! I most often reached for the tank version of the Hypervent T on super humid New England runs this summer and for racing over any others in my collection. 

Shop for Craft Hypervent

Craft HERE

Amazon HERE


Sam: These 3 socks have been on my feet for most of my runs this year.

ON Running Mid Sock ($20)

These medium weight socks have been on my feet for the most runs over the last 3 months. Nicely wicking and fitting they have proved durable and comfortable. The technical mesh is breathable, supportive, and has neither shrunk nor stretched. 

Also available in no-show and crew lengths. ON apparel and socks have just as high Swiss Engineered quality as their shoes!

Shop for ON Running Socks

ON Running HERE

CEP Hiking Merino Mid Cut Compression Socks ($27.95)

A sample received at the Big Gear Show, the Merino Compression Hike socks combine soft merino with some compression. Not so heavy that they can not be worn in larger volume trail run shoes, I have worn them in both Utah and New Hampshire for multiple trail runs, hikes, and road runs/

They provided excellent moisture dissipating support and some cushion. The compression is 15-20 mmHg compression on foot and arch; 22 mmHg graduated compression from ankle up so moderate and not constricting. 

As with their compression run socks and new Ultralight sleeves CEP, one of the first medical compression companies to move towards sports, has really upped their game this year. Compression and plenty of it doesn't have to be uncomfortable!

Shop for CEP Merino Compression in multiple styles at Amazon HERE

Darn Tough 1/4 Ultralight ($17)

Made of 60% Merino 40% nylon these thinnest of my 3 picks here snug fitting socks have proven ideal in warm summer conditions with great wicking and impeccable comfort.  And as always with Vermont made Darn Tough durability and longevity are guaranteed. 

Shop for Darn Tough Ultralight

Running Warehouse HERE


Amazon HERE

Backcountry HERE

2021 Gift Guides for Outerwear, Packs, Vests, and Hydration and Holidays Sales Page  HERE

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes others. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content

The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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