There is no better place for me to ‘test out’ the McNair Mountain Shirts Heavy Weight and Mid-Weight than in South Canada. Calgary is one of the only cities in Canada which experiences chinooks where the temperature can go up by 20 to 30 degrees within a matter of hours from minus arctic temperatures. This is from air sweeping over the rocky mountains then down into the city. I think due to these unusual winter climes, it was an ace opportunity to see the versatility of these mountain gear ‘must haves’.
The Mid Weight
The mid-weight merino shirt is such a top bit of clothing, it is unbelievably versatile and incredibly weather resistant. It feels noticeably lighter in weight and thinner than the heavy weight - but do not let that deter you - it is still very warm in minus temperatures. Due to it being around 30% lighter in weight, it is perfect as a classic winter jacket, great for commuting, when you're flying or simply exploring a new city. The mid-weight is my staple ‘airport jacket’, as I find when you're en route to new adventures, you get pretty hot and bothered at times taking clothes on and off through customs and lugging your bags through check in. You need something that isn’t going to over heat you, but will keep you warm from your car to the terminal, and also get rid of those chills on an over-air-conned flight. When I reached Calgary, it was - 6 degrees, the city alone has an altitude of 1,076m above sea level, and is 80km east of the Canadian rockies. The climate here is very influenced by the cities elevation and proximity to the Rocky Mountains. This unusual climate suits the mid-weight down to the ground, as one hour you could be in - 10 and the next hour have a chinook and you could be in +10 degrees! Calgary has an astonishingly dry climate, almost dessert like, and it is very noticeable to your skin and your throat feeling constantly dry. Although it has super cold winters, the sun seems to always be shining with the majority of days being beautiful sunny blue bird skies! I love layering underneath the mid-weight if its really cold, but I also find it light enough to wear straight up as a winter shirt with my jeans.
The heavy weight.
The heavy weight was spot on for the sub arctic climate of Banff and the Rocky Mountains in Canada, It was bitterly cold when I arrived and my face sure felt it! However, whilst I was wrapped up in the heavy weight - my body felt cosy as. I went up to Lake Louise for a day of snowboarding, which has an elevation of 2,637mtrs, with a height of 1,646mtrs at the base. Conditions couldn't be better two weeks into the ski season with not a cloud in the sky but a big dump of powder the week before. It was a chilly -20degs at the base but up top there was an inversion and the temperature up there was +1 degrees!
Even though it was -20, I noticed you felt no wind through this shirt whatsoever, even when riding. I began the day with a thin down mid-layer underneath, but it was completely un-needed so took it off within the first 30 minutes. As it was the beginning of the season, the snow still had some thin patches down low - which threw me off on one occasion. I fell HARD on my butt on a patch of rocky ice, and thought I was going to wake up with a pretty colourful rear. However, the McNair literally ‘saved my ass’ as its long cut cushioned the fall! I spent the day snowboarding with five guys, and three out of the five commented on my jacket, saying “its refreshing seeing someone actually look like a girl on the mountain, as usually you cant tell because everyone wears baggy unisex ski wear”. The fit and cut of this jacket for male, and female is tailored perfectly to your size and shape, yet has plenty of movability for extreme sports.
The next day I drove for hours through the famous Rocky Mountains, stopping every 15 minutes to be in awe again and again at another glacier…another giant mountain…another stunning frozen lake and another forrest of snow kissed pine trees. I spent the day mooching around trying to capture the beauty of this vast place, and as this kind of nature / scenic photography isn't very active, the heavy weight shirt was perfect for this days activities in -16 degs. I could lay down on my stomach in the snow to capture shots of birds and the Arctic Silver almost blends in! I didn't feel the cold through the shirt and it didn’t dampen or feel wet. I simply stood up, the snow fell off and I brushed off the little that was left from my front. So if you’re a mountain photographer, whether that be sports or nature photography, I would highly recommend the heavy weight for snowy shoots.
The main thing that blew my mind about both of these shirts is the sheer wind proof side to them. You can be smashing down a snowy piste in the heavy weight, or caught up in a -10 city breeze in the mid weight, and no wind will get through these at all. The full length weather baffle for warmth and weather protection truly does work, and no matter how many times you may catch a button, they will not break or pop off due to the solid thread used to stitch them on. I couldn't recommend the McNair enough, this trip especially, they have really impressed me - and my down jacket was only bought out for approximately 30minutes for the entire trip. For any mountain lovers, adventure searchers, adrenaline seekers or snowy explorers - these mountain shirts really are a quality bit of kit to have in your winter wardrobe, no matter what your winter journey may entail.