Digging through vintage racks and perusing far-flung corners of the internet in search of gear from the past is a perennial pursuit. But donning gear that predates the modern Internet can have some functional drawbacks—especially in the backcountry. It's true, retro styling is forever cool. But staying warm and dry is essential.
That’s why the latest Apex Collection from Vancouver’s own Mountain Equipment Company, or MEC as it’s better known, just made a bid for the top of our unofficial 'gear we’d trust in the backcountry AND would happily wear in the city' list.
The collection features full outerwear kits for men and women, with plenty of function and style to go around. Prices range from $190 to $550 CAD.
“The designs are based on some of our best-selling ski styles from the ‘90s and really capture the spirit of the era,” MEC Chief Product Officer, Adam Ketcheson, tells us. “However, we’ve made the collection using the latest materials and fabrications.” Ketcheson explains that while the past served as design inspiration, the updated functionality represents the future of the MEC brand.
The Icefield Jacket is the most breathable shell in the company’s lineup and is perfect for staying dry while hoofing up the skin track in a storm. The Toray® electrospun membrane makes this capable shell up to 50% more breathable than standard 3-layer jackets, according to MEC. Meanwhile the Salopettes bibs provide slightly more coverage than traditional styles.
Longtime MEC devotees will recognize the Weeping Wall 30L Backpack—the longtime customer favorite sees a few key upgrades, too. A dedicated snow safety pocket up front holds all your avalanche-ready essentials while a floating, removable lid adds versatility. And the outer is made of a blend of nylon and Spectra® fibers that’s stronger than steel by weight.
Perfect for deep season belays, throwing on over your shell during a transition at the summit, and early mornings the heated seats haven't fired up yet, the St Elias Expedition Down Parka is the warmest jacket in the entire MEC lineup.
MEC strategically placed Pertex® Endurance panels in high wear areas for increased durability. To stay dry and better manage moisture, MEC swapped the 800 fill down that makes up the bulk of the jacket’s insulation with 80g Thermolite® Micro, a more breathable alternative that’s less prone to wetting out.
Dispite the beloved retailer and brand seeing ownership, name, and unpopular logo changes in recent years, with the Apex Collection, MEC seems to be very much back on its bullshit, in the best way possible.
“MEC has 50 years of heritage in the outdoors and in the backcountry, but the Label had lost its way over the last 10 years," says Ketcheson. "We got caught up trying to be all things to all people, especially in technical apparel." Now though, the "goal is to sharpen the brand and stay authentic by using the archives as a roadmap to what makes us special.”
The first product to don the updated mountain logo, the Apex Collection feels equally worthy of the brand’s storied past and bright future. “Closely following the logo launch was a design audit of our product heritage to re-discover our design language,” Ketcheson explains. “The timing was perfect to refine classics from the ‘90s but with modern materials, fits, and features. The Apex Collection is not about retro-product but rather re-discovering our DNA and celebrating the mountain re-launch.”