Compression Tops

I have been looking for long sleeve paddling shirts and keep seeing adds for performance T’s and compression tops. I think performance T’s are just ordinary long sleeve T’s made of a wicking fabric. The compression tops seem to be much more tight fitting.

Is there any advantage or disadvantage to compression tops vs the performance T’s as paddling wear in warmer weather? Are compression tops better for a base layer in colder weather because of the tighter fit? Are compression tops just too restrictive for paddling?

Thanks for any info you could give me.


I own lots of inexpensive performance t
and I use them for kayaking - year round under a wetsuit, and also for mountain biking. The only tight-fitting shirts I have are rash guards,which are thicker and I tend to not use them so much in summer, too warm.

My opinion on performance t’s is that they are often sold at too high a price. I’ve got lots of short and long sleeve ones,various makes, all bought on closeout. None cost more than $7. Last such purchase was of military-surplus t’s (polyester) for $5 each, good for active wear.

A good paddle stroke
requires torso rotation. I’ve got some tight fitting, wicking T-shirts that don’t seem to restrict that. But, my heavier wet suit does. It will all depend on how stretchy they are.

One of the things that I have found is that the tight ones dry faster since they’re right up against your skin.

rash guards
You can always find rash guards on clearance. Just buy a size bigger than you need. They seem to shrink and get a little too tight. That way you can wear them in the summer and the winter under wetsuit. I also have a ton of under armor heat gear. They sell it in a few different feeling fabrics that all wick. They also have some compression and some not. The same advice on sizing applies to the compression gear.

Ryan L.

There’s a big difference between a rash
guard and a compression shirt. Stick with the rash guard.

skin tight for summer
In the summer, skin tight shirts (and I don’t even know the different definitions for compression tops and performance t) can be like air conditioning on the water. The shirt must be wet, and the more evaporative the shirt, the cooler it is.

A cotton shirt will stretch when it gets wet. Loose fitting wet material is just hot and muggy. If the material is directly against your skin, the cooling that is naturally associated with evaporation is transferred to your skin. It doesn’t seem to work if the material is loose and hanging off you. I have a high-wicking base-layer shirt designed as cold weather gear. In the summer, it is hot! Until it gets wet. Then it is like somebody turned on the AC.

In warmer weather
I would stick with performance T’s for paddling. I run in both types but I reserve the compression tops for when the temps drop below 55. I don’t think the compression tops would be too restrictive for paddling but would be hot unless you stayed wet like mentioned above.

btw- I agree with dessertdave on the pricing issue.

Just wear what’s comfortable for you
Stop worrying about labels and names that really mean nothing.

Compression top and performance T are just names to justify Nike or UnderArmour charging $50 for the same poly or nylon shirt that you can get for $10.

listen to Mintjulep

Not about brands and labels
They are different style tops. The compression tops fit like spandex and the performance Ts are loose fitting. I agree that brand and price really doesn’t matter. I have cheap and expensive tops and there isn’t much difference.

From what I’ve seen and felt, compression shirts are like a souped-up version of Lycra. Lycra shirts get extremely hot in hot, sunny weather–as in burn-your-skin hot–and when wet they offer no insulation against cold to speak of.

So if I were going to wear this kind of clothing again (I used to wear it frequently for cycling), I would only use it in moderately warm air temperatures, and for watersports only on hot days if I planned to go into the water. And I’d carry a shirt made of something more protective to change into, just in case.

Brand doesnt matter
While i wear mostly UA shirts the knock offs arent bad and much cheaper.Wall mart has a good selection at nice price especialy if you hit them at the right time.(now) i find that for bottom base the heat gear tights do well as a base in tempts around 65 or less. loose fit long sleeves UA work nicely for me. and i have tested the comfort and drying properties (on some nippy days no less) enough to be satisfied. color does seem to matter, not much though. the higher the temp the lighter the color. the darker colors dry a little quicker and absorb heat more so i prefer them on colder days.

I tend to have trouble finding material that is comfortable at least in shirts. and can wear UA gear right off the rack. cant say that about the other brands. if your not as picky as i am try Wall mart. you will end up with a lot for half of what i spend.

De-Compressed Lose Battle…
…of Midway (the Bulge)

My under armoire,

left its big compression,

and thus I chifforobe,

wardrobe squeezed from recesion,

and when six-pack abs,

into keg have flexed,

by cover of armoire arises,

in fight all spans on dex.