Experiments that Failed: RailRiders

Some things don’t work out.

You hear a lot of people swear by gear they use: this is great, I love this, I would never hike without it. But what works for others may not work for you. Here’s one that did not work for me.

RailRiders shirts are legendary, mostly for their breathability. But what they are also legendary for is stinkiness.

They stink.

More accurately, they retain your own underarm odor, noticeably, through many a washing, through sprays and spritzes, and even through MiraZyme Odor Elminator.

They stink. Apparently, from my experience, they stink forever.

I ordered an Equator top and once I got it, I discovered the other thing about Railriders that is legendary: the bizarre sizing and fit of their clothes. I exchanged it for the one size I am not (Small), which despite some odd corners on the shirt that feel weird, it pretty much fit overall. Quality is high, and most important for me, has Insect Shield (ie permethrin) infusing.

Unfortunately, after it’s very first hike, a 20 miler up and around Eagle Creek in the Gorge one sunny Spring day, it got The Stink.

Then began a month or two long process of trying to find a way to eliminate The Stink. Various washings, soaps and detergents failed. When finally I resorted to Odor Eliminator and even that failed, I gave up. I realized it would stink forever.

And you can’t resell it, because it stinks. And you can’t give it away, because it stinks.

And the quality after some use is not at all what I expected. Here’s a picture of the obvious piling under the arms with only about 40 trail miles of use on it:


I wrote it off as a total loss. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that this failure got me to try an Icebreaker merino wool shirt instead, and that is a great piece of gear, in every respect. It was the only shirt I had on my first 101 mile section of the PCT and I know I can count on it in both chill and sun.

Combining that with my long time hiking buddy (and Goodwill find), a Columbia PFG fishing shirt (which does not quite as breathe as well as a Railrider, but also does not stink), I have a good combination now for three seasons of hiking.

I do have to spray both of those myself with permethrin, but I do that to a lot of clothes now, so that’s just part of the job of getting them ready for the trail each time.

So now not only are my shirts dialed in, but I have discovered that merino has made leaps of progress – especially in durability – since I first tried it out a few years ago with some Smartwool base layer pants (which performed great while they lasted, which was not very long at all, and put me off of using merino since then.)

My next experiment is Icebreaker shorts – could they both eliminate oder and be as breathable as a kilt? The miles will tell.