By Beat Jegerlehner
A large percentage of my running and adventuring gear is made by Skinfit — a small Austrian manufacturer — ever since my brother introduced me to the brand about 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve used Skinfit items in more than one hundred ultra endurance events ranging from fifty kilometers to a thousand miles of running — and even one lonely Ironman. One of my staple items is the Skinfit Aero short sleeve shirt, which I’ll describe here. Unless I go for extreme cold winter adventures (where I still bring lots of other Skinfit stuff), this shirt is always part of my gear.
What is it?
Most of Skinfit’s Aero line of clothing is skin-tight, soft and stretchy, however they’re not dedicated compression garments — which means their advanced material can do its job of transferring moisture, but at the same time it is comfortable and not constricting. The fabric looks matte — no spandex look. Recently Skinfit also started making loose-fit Aero shirts, and after trying one (in last year’s 200-mile Tor des Geants in Italy) I think you can’t go wrong either way. That said, I would encourage anyone to try out a tight-fitting shirt at least once. Given you’ll wear it in some awesome event most normal people wouldn’t be able to finish, you don’t need to be self-conscious.
What’s to like?
First off, durability and quality: I’ve worn Skinfit shirts under 20-plus-pound packs, let them sit in my luggage drenched in sweat for days, and very un-gently ripped them off my body when changing at aid stations (The only concession I make is that I avoid tumble-drying any of my sports clothing, since many dryers have poor temperature control and develop hotspots.) This shirt just doesn’t want to quit — it took me eight years and upwards of 25 hundred-mile races along with countless shorter ones to finally wear out my favorite one (a present from my brother.) And it wasn’t a seam that broke; I ripped a hole into the back. The fabric is extremely durable, and the seams are of top-notch quality.
More important though is the comfort and performance aspect — particularly the thermal properties: The aero material is, like many synthetic materials, very quick-drying. However, many shirts don’t cool enough or get too cold when it’s windy. I find this shirt to be perfectly balanced — it doesn’t heat me up — and if I do sweat has an efficient cooling effect, particularly in the skin-tight versions. But at the same time, it provides good wind resistance — wet or dry — so when getting into an area with a cold breeze I can still be perfectly comfortable. This allows me to use the same shirt in very varied conditions, something that is important especially in my mountainous runs. I’ve worn the Aero shirt racing in the desert in 100-plus-degree weather, and in cold and rainy mountain events.
Furthermore the Aero material feels nice — soft and not too synthetic. A maybe more tangible benefit is that I find I don’t chafe when wearing these shirts. That’s not because I am immune to chafing, which I occasionally find out wearing other kinds of shirts. Here I don’t need nipple guards, no lubing, and even with a heavy pack running for days I’m fine. The same can be said for the Klima baselayer shirt, which I found to work extremely well with the Aero shirt. Also, these shirts are indeed quite smell-resistant. Despite being synthetic, you’re not immediately developing your unique aroma like many synthetic materials help you do.
And they’re good for …?
I’m wearing the Aero shirt for pretty much most activities — hiking, training, short to multiday races, for temperature ranges anywhere above 20F (below 50F I usually add a Klima baselayer and possibly a shell), in humid or dry conditions. They’re also great for triathlon. I particularly liked the way the material dried out of the swim transition (Skinfit makes some highly functional one-piece suits too).
Anything I don’t like? Well, they are pricy. I think it gets offset by the durability though. The color scheme is … I guess European. Other than that, the shirt just works for me. During the past 10 or so years Skinfit has made improvements to it, but the shirt never took a step back in performance (as it sadly so often happens with “improved” versions).
Am I really that into it? Here are a few pictures over the years!