Poncho Outdoors Shirt Review
Can the "best fishing shirt in the world" tackle the dry-land world of travel and active lifestyles? A review of the new Poncho Outdoors shirt from Always Wander.
Poncho Outdoors Shirt Introduction
If I'm starting off an article with a pun like that directly in the headlines, you KNOW this is gonna be good. Right? Come along for the ride. OK OK calm down, Always Wander, maybe not - but you should definitely stick around. Today we're talking about the Poncho Outdoors Shirt. It's quite simply billed as possibly the world's best fishing shirt. And, I think they truly believe that it is. Which is good. Confidence is good. Here's the twist though - I don't fish. Crazy right? So what am I doing writing a travel gear review about a fishing shirt? Well, that's just it. All the properties that make this a great fishing shirt, I thought might make it a great travel shirt as well. Do they? Let's get after it.
In the words of the founder, most fishing shirts tend to "fit like a trash bag." And well, he's not wrong. I'd say the same for a lot of "active" or "performance travel" button down shirts. The very first thing that piqued my interest was just that - the supposed fit. If I could find a shirt with performance qualities, that fit like a real shirt? That's kind of like the holy grail for active travel.
With Poncho Outdoors, an entire team of fishermen struck out to develop the best shirt they could, that you could actually wear like a real shirt. It's got all the en vogue stuff you see nowadays: moisture wicking, odor resistant, quick dry, lightweight. It also seems to be doing it the right way in their manufacturing, with Bluesign certified mills. Beyond that, they've packed it with all the features you really need, and none of the features you don't. It's rich in these handy features - so I'll get into those for sure.
Back to my use case. When I travel, I don't always want to look like a hiker while I'm en-route. So, I'm always on the lookout for clothing (like merino, etc.) that I can wear and still l look regular. But fit is important. Also, I often take trips where I'm out and about, or even hiking and camping. A shirt that does dual duty, let's me get a couple wears out of it, allows me to be comfortable while on the move, but still stop into a bar or casual restaurant and not feel weird - is huge. Honestly, I'm surprised there aren't more homegrown reviews out there of this shirt - it's pretty eye catching from a product and value proposition standpoint. Hoping to solve that for you all here.
This is my review of the Poncho Outdoors long sleeve button down - as a travel/active shirt. Full disclosure here, I reached out to Poncho and they were kind enough to send me a shirt to review on my camping trip to the White Mountains. This is not sponsored, the opinions are my own, and no one has seen this review before posting to the site.
This page does include affiliate links. When used to make a purchase, they do help to keep this site running, but in no way affect the results of our reviews.
Poncho Outdoors Shirt Product Overview
The shirt's not exactly cheap, but I honestly don't think it should be. I also don't think it's expensive for the value and materials you get. This is a specialist shirt, and they deserve to charge a bit more for it. Compared to a lot of other travel shirts though, it's actually cheaper. It comes in a bunch of colors now (tan, army green, camo, light blue, white, gray, even a mint green). The long sleeve version retails for $69.95.
The material is wicked soft, but pretty thin. Not in a bad way. Just think about it for a minute - if you're active and on the go (or fishing), you want to be able to have a light weight shirt that is versatile. I also found the material weight made it easy to pack, and didn't make me too hot. Now that's smarter wandering. (Though for colder climates, I'd layer your favorite midweight over it while outside). I wore it both with, and without, a t-shirt underneath and was comfy both times.
Important to note - there are two fits. Regular and slim. I had the regular. For reference, I'm 5'6" and about 150lbs. I'm athletically built, but not thin/climber slim. I recently invented this category: climber slim. I wear a Gap XS in my normal day to day. I found the fit to be pretty true to size. There's some room in the arms, but that's for freedom of movement, I didn't find myself swimming in it. The back has a vent as well, and there is a mesh lining for good airflow here.
I feel like I might have a lot to cover here. In terms of the fit - I really loved it. Even without trying the slim fit, this is the best fitting travel/active/sports shirt I've ever owned. They really nailed it. And because of that - if you get one of the more city colors like light blue or mint green - this shirt is absolutely capable of being the choice for a relaxed night out. Cafes, about town, casual restaurants, bars/pubs (especially in travel or fishing/beach towns). PLUS it's got all the great performance qualities I already outlined to make it useful for the active lifestyle. I wore mine while traveling (plane plus 2 hours of driving), setting up camp, and a 3 hour low-level hike. I aired it out and then wore it on the journey home as well. At the end, it did smell a bit like it has been well used. But it did not smell terrible. A lot of the smell was my deodorant. I did hike and sweat in it after all, so I think 2 solid wears was a good run for it. I could have done 3 if not for the exercise, I think.
Next - I'm going to highlight most of the features as part of the "Good." Because that's exactly what this feature set is. Full of good and great things that help you get the most out of this shirt. Here we go:
Collar - The collar is not an oxford style, my usual choice, but it's not a free collar either. There are HIDDEN buttons that keep it in place and keep it looking good. Really great idea. You can still flip it up if needed for sun protection though.
"Safari Sleeves" - This is a widely accepted industry term, right? No? I just made that up? Well we're going to use it. It's got buttons on the sleeves so you can roll them up, and hold them in place. These are great for activities, being outside, hiking, and I'd imagine - safaris. I wanted this feature in a travel and active shirt.
Hidden Chest Zippered Pocket - There's a vertical chest pocket that is great for whatever you want. I used it for my phone at times going through security. It would be great for a passport at airports, or boarding passes if you still print them. I also used it for a lens cap, which you can see in one of the pics.
Chest Pockets - The shirt has two chest pockets making it kind of a "workers" shirt design, looks great. But what's clever here are the false buttons. Just for looks, underneath the flaps actually have magnets that allow for one handed operation of the pockets themselves. Wicked clever feature. And, the magnets are in fact salt-water proof as well so they don't rust inside the shirt.
Sun Glasses Slot - What's more, is there is a single "slot" behind the right chest pocket that is made to slide your sun glasses into instead of hanging them on the pocket itself. Means you can still use the pocket. Another clever idea.
Micro Fiber Wipe - A final hidden gem that comes in handy when you'er taking a break from your drive, hike, or fishing, is a built-in microfiber cloth under the hem of the shirt. This is so you can wipe your sun glasses off without scratching them. At this point I think these guys pretty much thought of everything.
The last thing to mention under the Good column is the washing and wrinkling. Washing it on gentle, I let it air dry. It pulled it out of the washing machine pretty much wrinkle free so I would expect the same in a suitcase. I had it folded up on my trip and it got no more new wrinkles than those it arrived with from shipping and storage (I did not wash it before I used it) - we're looking again at another quality that makes it great for travel.
I'm having a pretty hard time finding fault in this shirt. So maybe I'll call this section, "Things I would take note of or maybe change". I think in terms of fit in the arms, I would probably make the regular a BIT slimmer. As noted I still like it because it's an active shirt and it's built to still let you move. It's definitely still miles better than competitors. But that's one comment I'd make. And frankly, it's possible the Slim fit would solve this for me, but it remains to be seen if the Slim would still fit me properly around the waste.
Another thing I would take note of is really the thinness of the material. This isn't really a knock on it, but I would not expect you to be wearing just this in cold weather anyway, and most people traveling have a midlayer they bring too so it shouldn't cause you any trouble. But don't go expecting this to be a replacement for flannel - it's not designed to be and that's not a fair expectation. Active shirt, people! ACTIVE.
Finally, the last bad thing is it's just SO hard to take off! No, I'm just kidding. I've kind of always wanted to say that. It's like when you interview people and say, "What's your one self criticism that you could improve upon?". And they just can't handle saying a negative thing in an interview, so they say something like, "I think, some times I just work TOO hard and want things to be absolutely PERFECT." Ok, Pal. Get out of here with that. This concludes the "Bad" for me.
The Improvement Requests
No real requests to make of the company here. Keep doing what you're doing. They've created a well made and quality shirt (my girlfriend is a designer and she looked it over for me to give her blessing on materials and seams, etc.) and they've also done a good job with the colors and variety to make sure it's not strictly something you can wear in a swamp. Cause really, there are so few good swamps to hang out in nowadays. So, keep up the good work people. Focus on making a good product, instead of focusing on making "all the products". A shot of three of my favorite colors from the website is above.
Final Thoughts on the Poncho Outdoors Shirt for Travel
I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's most likely fairly obvious what I think about this shirt. As I tend to do before I choose a product or place, I do lots of research before I make a decision on anything. That's why I think I can provide you with so much value. Any travel gear review article I write is not only about the product I chose, but it's ultimately the output of a ton of research I've already done in the category. There are a lot of technical shirts out there. There are not, however, a lot of technical shirts that can double as a casual button down shirt. There just aren't. Some might be marketed as such in the on-page-copy - but it's all flash and no substance. They aren't banking their reputation on those statements. And there most certainly aren't a lot of urban or regular button downs that can double as technical shirts. Just doesn't work that way. While I do want to be honest and say for me personally, I would not where this shirt to a fancy dinner or club. It's not meant to be an urban fashion statement and I think the vent in the back gives it away for that. But as noted above, for pretty much anything else, you can get by with this one - especially if you pick one of the more city colors vs. the outdoorsy colors.
The biggest issue I continue to see with technical clothing, and travel clothing, is the fit. I'll get into it in another article, but merino clothing - the travel world's current darling - really doesn't have a lot of brands nailing the fit. Off-the-rack outdoors shirts don't either. As Poncho Outdoors says, they are often baggy or boxy and fit like trash bags. The Poncho Outdoors shirt is a rare combination of fitting like a proper shirt, but being packed full of features that you could use out on the water (like they market it for) or when you're wandering the globe and being active (like my chosen use case). It also could contribute to helping you being the cool parent, wearing it under your puffy down vest at the hockey or fall soccer game - watch out visiting teams! UPDATE ON FIT - I purchased another one on my own, and got the slim fit. That essentially fixed all the concerns I had on the fit previously. For fishing, you might want the extra room for freedom of movement. For a travel shirt that performs well in a variety of casual situations, or outdoors shirt for like hiking and camping, I like the slim.
For that, I'm going to have to give the Poncho Outdoors Shirt the as-yet-uninvented Editor's Choice award on our growing site. It's great, and from my research, I think it's the best combination of utilitarian design and proper fit that I've tried, and certainly even that I've found while researching hours of travel/technical clothes online.
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