Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Field Test: McAlister Waterproof Fleece-Lined Jac-Shirt

On a trip to hunt Arkansas' flooded timber this past January, I took the obligatory trip to Mack's Prairie Wings in Stuttgart, duck hunting capital of the world. Or as a friend and colleague (and Arkansas native) puts it, duck hunter capital of the world, a critical if slight alteration. The hunting at the Dixie Duck Club had been fantastic, but the problem with great hunting is that you have to find something to fill the rest of your day, because the Maker's Mark just won't hold out. What better way to kill time than to empty the contents of your wallet on things you didn't know you needed?

I saunter in to Mack's thinking I'll just have a look around. $200 later, I leave feeling like I have just ate too much bourbon chicken from the seedy Chinese buffet squeezed between the nail salon and the dry cleaners in some nondescript strip mall on the outskirts of Cleveland. Spending fairly large sums of money, unexpectedly and without a clear plan of what I intend to do with the newly acquired product always sends me into an upward trajectory of confused regret. Why did I buy this? Will I still be able to afford my car payment? Might we lose the house? And so on, and so forth. It's like buyer's remorse that has metastasized into buyer's epilepsy.

On my inaugural visit to Mack's Prairie Wings, I purchased two things that I figured would serve me well as an Eastern Shore outdoorsman, the first being McAlister's Waterproof Fleece-Lined Jac-Shirt. The first thing I noticed as I lifted the jacket off the rack is how heavy the thing was; it's weight is surprising given that it looks like a shirt. After trying it on, the fit of the XXL seemed best suited for under-layering, so I made the purchase, delighted to find that the Jac-Shirt was 20% off. 

I am not a fan of bulky camo hunting coats. I don't like the singleness of their purpose (as I am not the fellow to wear camouflage to the local watering hole), and I just don't like how they fit. I am not interested in wearing anything that anyone might be able to confuse with a parka. It helps that I tend towards being warm, which alleviates some of the need for goofy looking clothing (as I don't need any help from garments in that regard).

The McAlister Jac-Shirt that I purchased is a dark olive color, perfect for days afield. The outer shell of the Jac-Shirt seems to be a cross between moleskin and fleece, and is quite soft, but also sufficiently tough. A winter of hunting, stacking wood, and household outdoor chores has seen the shirt hold up quite well, with no rips, pulls or tears in the fabric. True to its name, the garment boasts the warmth of a jacket, but wears like a shirt, something I really enjoy and appreciate.

Another feature of the shirt that I appreciate is a huge left chest pocket, that has a vertical opening, complete with a strong magnetic snap for keeping things in the pocket, and off the muddy floor of a goose pit. The pockets are designed to easily tuck away duck and goose calls on lanyards, to keep them from swinging around when not in use. I find the pocket also works remarkably well for iPhones, flashlights, and my wallet. The magnetic enclosure is stronger than you might expect, and closes with a confident thunk.

The Jac-Shirt is almost too good at keeping me warm, and while it may appear to be a three season addition to the closet, for me, it will remain only a winter option. It is not very breathable, and can be sweat-inducing on days that climb into the upper 40s, or even in colder temperatures when activity will keep you moving. But for a chilly day spent peering at the sky from a goose pit, the Jac-Shirt will henceforth be in heavy rotation.

The Jac-Shirt is also waterproof, in that it keeps you from getting wet; but as the Jac-Shirt itself gets wet, it gets still heavier and once wet, it takes quite some time by the wood stove to dry out completely.  The only real complaint that I have about the McAlister Jac-Shirt is the cuffs. Weird place to lodge a complaint, I know, but the cuffs on the Jac-Shirt are cut ridiculously tight. I do not have large wrists (or at least, I have never been accused of having large wrists), and the cuffs are so tight that I have to punch my hands through the ends of the sleeves. It gets even tougher with layers on, and trying to wear gloves with the Jac-Shirt can be difficult, because you cannot tuck the gloves neatly into the cuff. Perhaps this is intended to make the fit of the garment more 'shirt-like,' but these cuffs are much tighter than any shirt I have. Normally I would have my better half move the button over a hair, but the button on the Jac-Shirt doesn't leave much room for this modification. So the designers at Drake should definitely take a look at the cuffs in any future re-designs of the Jac-Shirt.

The McAlister Jac-Shirt is a versatile outer layer that doesn't have to be kept in a silo with the hunting gear. It's a great casual winter coat, that serves equally well in the duck blind as it does paired with khakis while watching the annual Centreville Christmas Parade. For those who especially don't like and don't need the bulk of heavy winter jackets, the McAlister Jac-Shirt is a nice addition to the winter wardrobe.

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