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Ex Officio: An Awesome Shirt for Adventure Travel

I spotted my first Ex Officio Air Strip shirt back in 2005 as I ran up the gangplank of a cruise ship, boarding for an Alaskan cruise. The yellow color caught my eye, as did the design, so I stopped at the vendor to take a quick look, but the panic of wanting to get onboard overrode my desire to look any longer at the shirt. After checking in and getting to our cabin, I couldn’t get that shirt out of my mind, so I talked Chelsea into disembarking with me to go look at it again.

I nearly had a heart attack at the price. “Seventy dollars!” I whispered to Chelsea. “I wonder why it’s so expensive?” The vendor overheard me, and replied, “It’s an awesome shirt, and it’ll last you forever.” I loved the color and style and the usefulness, and with a gulp, plopped down my seventy dollars, grabbed the shirt, and ran like mad for the ship again. Not only did I never regret buying that shirt, I now own two more.

So, why is it so great, and why would I buy two more?

That’s a tough question, because several things tumble over themselves wanting to be said first. The shirts are extremely comfortable. They fit beautifully. They can be crammed into a pack, suitcase, or bike trailer and come out looking amazingly good – they’ll be a bit wrinkled if they’ve really been crammed, but it hangs out quickly. They dry really fast. They resist stains. They’re easy to launder, even in a sink or bucket.

In cooler weather they can be worn as a layer over long sleeve shirts or tank tops, and they are amazingly windproof. They are awesome worn by themselves, light and cool and airy, and they are rated UPF 30. They are moisture wicking. They can be worn many days without generating offensive odors (you might, but the shirt won’t). The roll-up sleeves with buttons, and the Velcro bellows pockets with a security zipper section are incredibly useful, and hold an awesome amount of “stuff”. The shirts are really lightweight and take up no room at all when packed. They’re extremely durable and they don’t pill.

And if all this isn’t enough, they look great style-wise. They’ve got a nice tailored look to them, which makes them look good not only on the trail, but out for dinner and drinks, as well. In short, these shirts are a traveler’s dream. No wonder they are Ex Officio’s most popular shirt!

Maybe I can dye it?

That original yellow shirt is now a faded bluish-yellow color, thanks to having been washed with a cheap grocery store dress we bought in the Florida Keys, but it still works just as well. And hey, I’m thinking about tossing a tablet of yellow dye in a bucket with it to see if I can resurrect that great color.

Meanwhile, it’s the shirt I wear every day, day after day, riding my bike on our 40,000-mile trip. It dries really fast, I can wash it in the sink or with the hose and it’s dry in a few hours, and it always feels wonderful. We love the long sleeves, as it means better sun protection on the bike and no goopy sunscreen.

We’ve since each bought two more (two in lime green and two in powder blue), so we can wear them for our cycling and still have one clean for wearing after we finish our day’s ride. We’ve been hosted the last several months by a Methodist church (we are staying in the old parsonage), so we attend church most Sundays. We wear our Ex Officio shirts over our Patagonia Vitaliti dresses, and we look great.

Perhaps one of the more unusual testimonials for the Air Strip shirts comes from the time we had a chance to take photos of an alligator skinning operation. Fitted out with knee-high rubber boots, lightweight jeans capris, and our Ex Officio shirts, we sidled around the skinning and gutting tables (we’re talking 300 to 900 lb. alligators), taking the photos and trying to stay out of the way. Chelsea brushed a little too close to one of the tables where the gator had just had its foot cut off. The blood spurted out of the vein, landing on Chelsea’s shirt.

Later that night, we simply washed the shirt out in the sink with a little Dawn dish soap, hung it to dry, and it was ready to wear again before we hit our sleeping bags for the night. Now, how cool is that? (Note: Do wash them separately the first few times. The color will bleed.)

We’d still like one more each, and we’ve got our eyes on the gorgeous aqua color Ex Officio has now.

Where to buy

I’d visit Ex Officio at www.ExOfficio.com. You can search for the AirStrip shirts, and they’ve also got wonderful selections on any number of items. If you want current colors, definitely check there first.

If you don’t mind last year’s colors, check out eBay. We’ve gotten several shirts through there at unbelievable prices – there are several merchants who sell Ex Officio regularly. You won’t have much of a choice in sizes and colors, but the prices are amazing and you might get lucky. Keep checking back.