When you walk into a Starbucks and the barista babe says “that shirt’s got it goin’ on,” should you take such a comment seriously? In this case, I took the wardrobe eval as gospel because I’d received confirmation from Lisa just the day before that yes, the polo shirt draped over my manly torso is indeed fine. Now my questions are, will I ever take the shirt off, will anyone catch me checking my look in the mirror every fifteen minutes, and will my bride let me return to that particular Starbucks?
A few blogs ago I wrote about trying to pick a warm weather sun shirt that looked better than the old blousy button-down I’ve been wearing for years during backcountry skiing days. That ratty thing was offending baristas from here to Italy. Upgrading — now.
I like something with a collar that flips up for sun protection, and a neck that opens for venting. It’s most often got to be longed sleeved and ostensibly impossible for a mosquito or fly to bite through, with a relaxed fit that provides cooling as you move and is not too clingy. A few finds:
NRS sent over their guide shirt.
Definitely one of my favorites and best pick for an average to cooler day of spring backcountry skiing. Claimed sun protection of UPF 45 is awesome, but requires a slightly thicker and heavier fabric than my other choices, making this shirt a bit warm for the truly scorching days. Definitely bug proof, good collar, long front zip for venting.
For the sake of true gear head-ism I wish the following had not happened. Now I have to admit I was in Target the other day looking for a bathrobe. While involved in this quest for the ultimate, I happened to glance at the men’s athletic wear. Their Champion brand mesh paneled zip-t running shirt was on sale for $4.98, no lie! I’d like to say this thing is junk at that price and province, but it is actually pretty good. I bought two. Not sure how bug proof the shirt’s mesh areas are, and I’m certain it’s not as sun protective as the NRS nor as flattering as a polo. But hey, if you’re on a budget check it out. (They didn’t have any robes, by the way.) It appears the Target Champion stuff is a semi-rebranded version of these guys. Whatever, it works.
While none of the base-layer style zip T’s I’ve seen really fit the bill for hot weather hiking with sun and bugs, as well as restaurant sitting afterward, a few come close. The main thing is that they’re thin, so you don’t feel like a hotdog that’s been on the 7-11 cooking rollers for six hours. One interesting option in this genre is the Smartwool Microweight zip, which provides the comfortable moisture management of wool along with a pleasant feel and good odor control. Honorable mention to the OR Sequence zip T, which, while a bit heavy for our category, will work as a summer shirt in cooler climes, such as hanging out in the Colorado alpine during a backpack trip.
Lastly, you can always go to the thrift store and purchase an old button-down cotton dress shirt. I did that for years and will probably do it again. In that event, please keep your cameras stowed. Better, go modern — you might get a kiss from your wife and a free espresso at Starbucks.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.