Sunday, November 17, 2013

Crane Sports Men's Cycling Shirt (Aldi)

Ignore the pajama bottoms.  We're focusing on the shirt here.

Let me preface this review by saying that I am neither a cyclist, nor an outdoorsman.  In fact, I’m about as far from it as you can possibly be.  So then what business do I have buying compression and cycling shirts?  Well, I do play hockey, recreationally.  Quite a bit of it.  I played three years of roller hockey, year-round, as often as four nights a week, and made the jump to ice almost two years ago.  I wanted some Under Armour-ish undershirts, but couldn’t nearly justify spending Under Armour-ish prices…both because I couldn’t really afford them, and because I knew there had to be cheaper alternatives. 

So, on a trip to Aldi around the summer of 2009, I picked up a short-sleeve cycling shirt from Crane Sports, for about $5, with the sole intent of using it as an undershirt for my goalie gear during the warmer Ohio months.  All I can say about it, is that it is absolutely fantastic, and well worth the price.

Again, I want to reiterate that I have no idea how well it performs for cycling, so for all I know, they may suck for their intended usage (though I‘m sure they‘d be just fine).  But my short sleeve shirt has been washed and thrown on underneath a heavy chest protector, what has to be over a hundred times now, and not a single stitch is out of place.  In fact, the only problem up to this point, which again, has no bearings on my use of it, is that the reflectors on the back have all just about fallen off.  I’m not sure if most of it was because they were rubbed off, or just from the repeated washings, but the process probably started a few months after I bought it.  The shirt itself is incredibly lightweight, and does a great job of keeping me fairly dry underneath all the gear, even during really hot days.  This was an investment that has paid off in spades.

To top it all off, it’s very lightweight and comfortable, so I don’t feel like I’m fighting it while I’m playing.  Just to test it out, I even opted to play a couple games without an undershirt at all, thinking that would make me cooler and/or lighter, but I actually noticed I just got hotter a lot quicker.  In other words, it really does do a great job of wicking the sweat away from the body, which in turn helps you feel a lot cooler, even while you're staying active.

If you happen to stumble on these things at your local Aldi, as they tend to come up around springtime, do yourself a favor and buy one.  Or two.  My biggest concern when I bought them was just how long a $5 shirt could possibly last, especially when the name brands can be almost ten times as much.  But that was four years ago, and while I’ve cut back to just one night of ice hockey a week, and also bought a couple more similar shirts to take some of the pressure off using this one all the time, it’s still in constant rotation and is hands-down my favorite such shirt. 

Overall: 10/10.  While I do not use the shirt for outdoor sports, it has performed very well as undergarments to my ice and roller hockey gear.  Even after dozens of washings and just as many uses, there is not a stitch out of place, and though I‘ve added cheaper undershirts since then (think Goodwill), it is still a consistent part of my undershirt rotation.  The price may suggest a lower-quality item, made to only last a season or two, but in my experiences, they are every bit as reliable as the bigger name brands, only at a fraction of the cost, making it an outstanding value for the price.  Highly recommended.

Circuit Slim Jewel Cases (Dollar Tree)

Underneath that packaging, there's probably five broken jewel cases.
I feel like I’ve been giving Dollar Tree the shaft.  Even though I love the place, most of the few reviews I’ve posted about them have been overwhelmingly negative…so I guess the old adage that people are more apt to write about a bad experience than a good one is true.  So I’ll make a note to myself to start reviewing more positive products from the Tree.

However, in the meantime, here’s another negative review, because these slim jewel cases are absolute crap to the point that they should immediately be taken off the shelves because they serve no justifiable purpose whatsoever.  If they don’t all break as you’re ripping off the cellophane wrapper, then they’ll just break the moment you open them.  Seriously.  Out of the first five I purchased, all but one ripped in half the first time I opened them, and I even made sure to open them gently.  I know that even standard jewel cases fall apart some times, and it’s just a matter of setting it back on its plastic hinge, but that’s the problem--it’s the hinge that rips off, with little to no force required at all.

I honestly can’t think of a reason why you should even buy these.  I bought a few because I’m burning some DVDs for a friend, and I didn’t have an extra spindle handy, nor did I want to just give them a handful of unprotected discs.  I guess they will at least manage to protect the bottom from scratches, so that’s a plus, but I have a feeling most won’t even make it to their intended recipient with a top cover.  It’s a shame, because if these were even halfway decent, they would have been a good value.  As it stands, if you really need a slim jewel case, go to your local big-box office retailer, and just purchase their store brand.  Or if you have some time to kill, just look for similar products on Amazon or eBay.  I’ve seen high-rated cases go for about the same price per piece.  Shipping will hike it up a bit, but at least you’ll be paying for something that you can actually use.

Overall: 0/10.  A terrible, terrible product.  A vast majority of these fall apart after being opened for the first time, making them pretty much useless, unless you never plan on opening them.  So bad, they should immediately be pulled off the shelf.

NOTE: Since this review, they now offer these in 4-counts instead of five.  While I suppose they could have removed one to make a higher quality product (as it's now 25 cents per piece instead of 20), I just have a feeling their costs went up so they removed one to maintain the dollar price point.  If anyone checks out the four counts and has anything positive to say, please let me know.  I know I won't be taking the chance again.