I don’t normally get excited about base layers. A shirt’s a shirt. As long as it’s not cotton in the mountains, you’re good with Underarmor knockoffs from Walmart, right?
The Loki Shadow Shirt changed my tune pretty quickly. As I’ve come to expect from softgoods made by this Grand Junction company, the hoodie provides versatile and effective protection against the elements, both heat and cold. Like many Loki products, the Shadow Shirt features cuffs that convert to mitts and a hood with an integrated face mask.
And it unleashes the ninja within.
As a cold-weather base layer, the Shadow Shirt performs well. I wore mine for four days of scouting shenanigans in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in winter with temps in the thirties. When darkness fell, they dropped to about 10F before wind chill.
I was doing a lot of rappelling and jugging, and the thin synthetic material did a great job of wicking sweat. I especially appreciated the under-helmet hood, which covered my ears well enough that I didn’t need to wear an additional hat.
I also wore the Shadow Shirt on a Christmas Day jaunt up Kor-Ingalls in desert alpine conditions: heavy fog, wind and 30F. “It’s a beautiful day in Scotland,” we joked. The face mask earned its keep in the howling wind.
Where the Shadow Shirt truly shines (or shades?), however, is on hot and sunny days. It’s been a clutch piece for climbing in the blazing ultraviolet at El Potrero Chico. There are some routes like Tinewave Zero and Space Boys whose aspect and length make it impossible to escape the sun, no matter how early you start.
At first it was counterintuitive to me that wearing a hood could keep you cooler than letting your neck breathe more. When I first wore the Shadow Shirt on the very south-facing Treasure of the Sierra Madre, it made perfect sense. Protecting my neck and the base of my skull from UV kept me from overheating while waiting for yet another descending part to rap through. (Now Loki just needs to make some magical pants that make hanging belays tolerable …).
The synthetic fabric is rated at UPF 30+ sun protection, so you could climb under a magnifying glass and not get burned . It’s also treated with some anti-funk witchcraft that actually works at controlling odors. I still haven’t washed mine once after thirty days of climbing, so either my EPC crew has an unprecedented amount of tact and olfactory fortitude, or the stuff is effective.
My review of the stupendous Loki Tech Hoodie waxed rhapsodic. Were I given to assigning numerical ratings on a scale of one to ten, I’d give this a BLEAT! — there’s hardly anything on that piece that I could find fault with, and it’s been my ever-present companion day and night.
There are a few things I’m less than thrilled about with the Shadow Shirt. A thin quarter-zip would be ideal for venting extra heat while climbing or running with your back to the sun. The mitts don’t provide much warmth since they’re thin and make the sleeves bulky and overly long. If you’re rocking the Loki Tech Hoodie simultaneously, the Shadow mitts are superfluous (I tested the TH mitts down to 10F handling metal and snowcovered rock, and was impressed at their warmth to bulk ratio). Finally, there’s no pocket — the fabric is too thin to support a cell phone in the chest, but a zippered cycling jersey pocket would be handy.
Of course, extra features mean extra weight and cost, and the Shadow Shirt is both ultralight and affordable. You also have the intrinsic satisfaction of supporting a local Grand Junction company whose gear is designed by dirtbags for dirtbags. All in all, this is a solid bit of softgoods and I would happily buy another.