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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > MEC Merino Lightweight Crew > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

Owner Review by Richard Lyon
May 9, 2007


Personal Details and Backpacking Background.
Male, 60 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Email address: rlyon AT gibsondunn DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do a week long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes of 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too. Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit more weight over foregoing my favorite camp conveniences.

Additional Reviewer Information. I've always favored natural fibers over synthetics for outerwear and merino wool is a particular favorite. Now that many manufacturers are selling merino wool garments that are intended for backcountry activities I'm always looking for new sources. I should also point out that I am cold prone, often wearing an extra layer even in temperate times.

MEC Long-sleeve CrewPRODUCT DETAILS. The name aptly describes this shirt. It's a crew-neck, mid-weight, long-sleeve shirt usable as a base layer or a light cover-up. All seams are sewn flat, and the Crew has a narrow (2.5 in/6 cm) panel of contrasting color sewn down the middle of each sleeve from collar to cuff, giving the look (but not the feel) of a raglan sleeve.

Manufacturer: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). See Company Note below.

Website: Website is available in English or French. All quotations in this Review and the photo at left come from this website.

Manufacturer's description: "This uncomplicated long-sleeved crewneck is made from super-fine New Zealand merino wool that's comfortable and not itchy. The single jersey knit has an appealing flat surface and allows lots of natural stretch for comfortable, easy movement. Excellent pill resistance means the fabric will continue to look good, wash after wash. Wool is nature's own moisture management fibre it keeps you warm even when it's wet."

Year Purchased: 2006

Year Manufactured: 2006

Size: XXL; available in sizes M through XXL.

Color: Stainless/Marine (light grey with royal blue collar and sleeve). Also available in Persimmon/Coal (orange/dark grey).

Fabric: 100 % superfine merino wool.

Weight (measured, none listed): 10.4 oz / 295 g

MSRP: $64.00 Cdn.

Warranty: "We guarantee our products; if an item hasn't met your expectations, you can bring it back." MEC extends its warranty to its advertising and advice: "We also guarantee the product selection advice offered through our catalogue, website, and staff; if an item you've purchased based on this advice turns out to be unsuitable, you can bring it back. In either case, simply return the item for exchange, refund, repair, or credit."

Company Note. MEC is a cooperative based in Canada with a number of retail stores located across that country. Before ordering online a consumer must pay a one-time $5 Cdn fee for a lifetime co-op membership. MEC sells products made by internationally recognized manufacturers as well as its own branded products on its website and over the telephone. Shipment of non-MEC branded products is generally restricted to Canada. When a product on the website is marked as "Not available online" it sometimes can be ordered by telephone. The agent will check availability at MEC's stores; if the product is so available it may be shipped only to Canada.

FIELD CONDITIONS. I have worn the MEC Crew often over the past five months, in the backcountry and around town. On warmer days in the North Texas winter (45-70 F/7-21 C) I often wore it as my only upper body garment when active, either day hiking, working in the yard, exercising at my gym, or walking my dogs. Occasionally I used it as a lightweight sweater over a cotton or merino t-shirt, in the gym or after a day hike.

I wore the Crew as a base layer, under a wool sweater or ski jacket (or both) while in-bounds or backcountry skiing and ski touring in the Rockies from December through March, and as a sleepwear top, by itself in a heated backcountry yurt and under a down sweater on a December overnight backpack. Temperatures in the mountains ranged from -30 F (-34 C) at night in January to a mid-afternoon springtime high of 65 F (18 C).

I tend to do a woolen wash every week or so or upon my return from a hiking or skiing trip, and I estimate that I've washed the Crew six or seven times. It's laundered with other light-colored woolen garments in my front-loading washer, delicate cycle, with cold water and a non-detergent soap such as Woolite or Atsko Sport-Wash. I air-dry merino garments. As do my other merino shirts, in the dry climate of North Texas the Crew dries completely overnight when laid flat. I haven't yet washed the Crew in the field.

EVALUATION. The Crew has performed well in its various roles. True to MEC's description it has a flat weave that aids insulation and reduces the opportunity for snags on branches or from dog nails. Maybe because of its bright color, to my eye the Crew appears somewhat shinier than my other merino tees, but it's still handsome enough to wear under a sport jacket to a cocktail party. I like the look of the contrasting sleeve color. The jersey knit is soft against my skin.

Faux raglan sleeveSize XXL fits me well, and I appreciate the extra length in the body and sleeves in the cold weather. It has passed my shirttail test, never having come out of my trousers from stretching or skiing. (My long torso makes this a common problem for me with shirts). If my Crew is representative these shirts are sized small, as mine is about the same size as XL (my usual size) in similar shirts I own from other makers. I also think the fabric's a bit heavier than other merino shirts of mine sold as base layers, an observation borne out by weighing the various shirts. (MEC does not supply fabric weight.) I didn't find it too heavy for warm-weather base layer use, though. The arms do bunch up occasionally from stretching, and the feel of the sleeves just below my shoulder is more noticeable than in a shirt with a true raglan sleeve construction. In the photo at left note the narrow width of the stripe and the full seam across the sleeve at the shoulder.

MEC advises that the Crew may shrink up to six per cent from washing, but I haven't noticed any (and I usually do notice any shrinkage in sleeves and body length). I've also seen no fading, loose threads, distortion, or other visible deterioration from use or care.

Wicking and insulation are the true tests for any base layer top, and I have no complaint at all with the Crew. It's warm enough as a solo tee shirt at 45 F/8 C when hiking, and warm enough to serve as a single layer under my down sweater in my quilt (a Nunatak Back Country Blanket) at 20 F (-7 C). At the other end of the temperature spectrum I wasn't too warm or too sweaty when skiing at 65 F (18 C) in the Crew and a lightweight (though insulated) parka. Even my in-bounds skiing involves much hiking. My preferred venues, Alta (Utah) and Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee (Wyoming), and my quest for the steep and deep regularly require climbing and traversing to get to the powder runs, and I almost always ski with a pack. The Crew wicked sweat away without any moisture buildup. As with other merino tops the Crew excels at avoiding smelling bad, even after two warm and vigorous backcountry ski days.

Overall the Crew is a solid performer in the field and a welcome addition to my backcountry wardrobe.

What I Like

Durable and functional
Good looking and good fit
Great value, the least expensive quality merino top I've seen.

What I Don't Like

I'd prefer full raglan sleeves, for a more comfortable fit.

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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > MEC Merino Lightweight Crew > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

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