DRIFIRE is a household name in the tactical industry, thanks to its range of flame-resistant / fire-retardant clothing to the US military for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  So, when they offered us one of their Ultra-Lightweight Short Sleeve T-shirts to review, we grabbed it with both hands.

What you might not know is that the Patent upon which the company’s fabrics are dependent was first filed in December 1996 on behalf of Optimer Performance Fabrics.  The DRIFIRE company was founded in September 2004, with financial and management backing from Sterling Partners, and undertook a period of intense research and development with the aim of creating a flame-resistant (FR) fabric using the patented, moisture-management fiber blend created by Optimer Performance Fabrics.

In 2006 DRIFIRE launched its first-generation product line featuring its combined moisture-management and flame-resistant fabric for military users.  The moisture-management / moisture-wicking feature is important as it prevents the formation of super-heated moisture or steam, which would also lead to burns.

Since then, DRIFIRE and Optimer Performance Fabrics have merged to become Optimer Brands, and the DRIFIRE range has also expanded into the industrial / work-wear market, where the combination of light-weight, moisture-management and flame-resistance are also important concerns for the wearer’s comfort and safety.

Most recently, the company’s Lightweight 446 t-shirt got approval for use by aviation and armored crew members and can now be bought at The Exchange Military Clothing Stores as well.


Basically identical to the US Army issue FR t-shirt, the Ultra-Lightweight T-shirt is, as its name implies, really lightweight.  Slipping on this silky smooth and light t-shirt you immediately notice that it is extremely lightweight, soft and comfortable – but still completely opaque and robust.  So DRIFIRE clearly haven’t compromised performance for the sake of weight.

DRIFIRE describe this t-shirt as the perfect base-layer for other garments, and its impossible to dispute this.  I’ve worn this t-shirt as a base-layer under several different types of shirt, and even in a hot humid tropical environment I stayed dry and comfortable.  In fact, perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, I felt even more comfortable in the tropical environment when I wore the t-shirt as a base-layer versus when I didn’t wear it.

As I mentioned before, it is also extremely comfortable to wear.  A big part of this is due to it’s silky-feeling lightweight fabric, but its also helped by the ribbed collar that maintains it’s shape, the fact that the soft fabric prevents chafing, and by it’s use of dropped shoulders and flat-lock seams that don’t rub or create pressure points under other clothing.  Its also so comfortable to wear becuase of its very efficient moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties.

The shirt also feature anti-microbial properties to prevent odors – and it really works.  To put this feature to the test I wore the shirt constantly for 2 weeks in warm weather, including wearing it during my gym sessions and sleeping in it at night.  At the end of those 2 weeks the t-shirt still had not a trace of body odor – not even in the arm pits.

So, all in all, I’d have to say that this t-shirt is an absolute winner and I have no reservations at all about highly recommending it – and by association, the rest of DRIFIRE’s garments.  In fact, I’m so sold on them that I’m keen to kit myself out with a full set of DRIFIRE’s ultra-lightweight layering undergarments.

The Military Ultra-Lightweight Short Sleeve T-shirt retails for around $40-$45 US, but as its stocked by loads of tactical and outdoor clothing retailers, if you shop around you can probably find a bargain or a sale.  Check out DRIFIRE’s website, www.drifire.com, for their full range of products.


– Lawrence