Tag Archives | Gear Review

Gear Review: Dragon X1S Transition Lenses

You can go dizzy from all goggle choices out there. Not only are there dozens of manufacturers to choose from, but there are a whole slew of variables to take into account: Do you want flat or spherical? What color lens? How do they fit on your face? With your helmet? Do they fog? What about optical clarity? Peripheral vision? And how do they look on you? (Because, as we all know, that’s what it’s all about. *kidding alert*)

For me, though, simpler is better. I don’t even want to think about my goggles, once they’re on my face. Heck, I don’t even want to think about them before I put them on. So I want a goggle that’s, as they say, grab-and-go. One that’s easy-peasy, fits well, and doesn’t cause me any grief.

For the past few years I’ve been a devoted Smith IO/S goggle wearer. I actually liked them quite a bit; they fit well with my Smith helmet, don’t fog, and have a cool strap that looks great with my helmet and jacket. And frankly, the lens swapping system is pretty simple. It’s head and shoulders above the old system where you had to line up the lens and insert it into a pretty unyielding frame. Granted, it takes a bit of getting used to. But with some practice, it’s actually pretty easy to deal with.

My Smith IO/S goggles.

My Smith IO/S goggles.

Then I got a new Giro helmet and suddenly, my goggles weren’t that great anymore. They just didn’t fit the way I wanted them to. Plus even the easy lens changing system was becoming a bit of a drag. I mean, sometimes a sunny day can turn into a flat light day in a matter of hours. And if you have the wrong lens in place, you’re stuck.

One of the members on TheSkiDiva community mentioned how she loved her Dragon X1S Transition goggles, so I was intrigued.  These are supposed to change to accommodate varying light conditions. That’s right: the company claims they automatically darken in bright sunlight and lighten in cloudy or snowy conditions. According to Dragon’s website, the darkness of the lens tint will vary between 76% and 16% Visible Light Transmission (VLT). A high percentage rate signifies a lighter lens tint, which allows more natural light into the lens in overcast, shaded or low-light conditions. A lower percent signifies a darker lens tint, and is typically best for glare control in sunny conditions.

Photochromatic lenses are nothing new. But in my experience, the lenses just didn’t seem to offer enough of a change to make them that effective. Would these do the trick?

Dragon X1S goggle

Dragon X1S goggle

I had the opportunity to try the Dragon X1S Transitions at the on-snow industry demo days at Stratton in February, and liked them a lot — so much so that I ended up buying a pair. And yes, I have to say that I agree with my fellow forum member: the goggles work as advertised. The first day was sunny and bright, the next day less so, and they really performed. What’s more, I found the clarity of the lens first rate. Peripheral vision was good, too, and I didn’t have any fogging problems. Even better: they work well with my Giro helmet, and they don’t pinch around my nose, which the IO/S always did. The silicone-backed strap is also heftier and more non-slip than the one on the IO/S. A downside: the strap isn’t as graphically pleasing as my old one. But then again, it can go with a lot of things quite easily. So maybe that’s a plus, after all.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

I’ve used these now for a month or so, and I have to say I’m still quite pleased. They’re comfortable, easy to deal with, and I don’t even have to think about them at all. Which to me is a major plus. What’s more, they’re great with the flat light we have here in New England, as well as the bluebird days you’ll find out west. And I never, ever, ever have to think about which lens to choose for the day. Which is a pretty liberating experience.

Right now the X1S Transitions are available with a yellow lens, though I think next year they’ll be offering them in a rose lens, too, if that’s your preference. The rep told me the yellow one is better for flat light days, which we get plenty of here in New England.

For more information on the Dragon X1S Transition goggle, go here..



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Gear Review: Kulkea Powder Trekker Ski Boot Bag

We skiers are a hardy bunch. We have to be just to get to the hill, schlepping our skis, poles, boots, helmets, layers, goggles, gloves, and so on.

A good boot bag can make a huge difference. I’ve been on a quest for one for what seems like forever, and I think I actually may have reached the end of my search. Kulkea sent me their Powder Trekker bag to review, and I’m so glad they did.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 8.57.41 AM

First, let’s get this out of the way. Kulkea is pronounced “cool-kee-ah,” which means “to go” in Finnish —though the company isn’t Finnish at all. It’s located in suburban Boston, MA, and was founded by two brothers, Steven and David Abramowitz, who have a Finnish mother (they actually have dual US-Finnish citizenship). David is a former attorney for a public telecommunications company and Steven a former marketing exec. The company began in 2009 when David decided he needed a better way to haul his gear. After working with designers, skiers, and assorted people who provided loads of input, they launched the Kulkea line of bags. I met Steven at the Boston Ski Show a couple years ago, and was intrigued by the company’s products.

Which leads me to the Powder Trekker. The bag features what Steven calls Kulkea’s “Intuitive Packing System.” According to Steven, this means it’s designed to provide a place for everything, and truly, he isn’t kidding. The Powder Trekker is engineered to keep you from losing your stuff while keeping it readily accessible. For example, there’s a zippered compartment on top that’s half lined with fleece to protect your goggles, the other half unlined for keeping your gaiters or balaclava. There’s an insulated compartment in front for your lunch, water bottle, and other smallish items; this also contains a transparent zippered compartment for things like foot warmers, lip balm, sun block, etc. And there’s a wide-mouthed main compartment for your layers, ski pants, and bulky items. The other bags in the line (alas, not the Powder Trekker) even have a separate compartment for your right and left gloves, so you’ll always know where they are. This would’ve been nice for the Powder Trekker, but it’s a downsized version of their larger Boot Trekker bag, so I guess they had to sacrifice something to gain some space.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 12.59.40 PMNonetheless, the Powder Trekker still has plenty of room. One of the reasons is that it has a retractable sling that holds your helmet on the outside of the main compartment. This opens up a lot of the interior for your other stuff (it also keeps your helmet well ventilated). And unlike other bags that hold your boots in a triangular pattern that encroaches on the inside, Kulkea bags keep your boots at right angles in two side-zipped outer compartments that are easy to get to and don’t squish your other stuff.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 1.11.15 PM

The Powder Trekker is also extremely lightweight — it’s made of durable, water resistant nylon which is much lighter  than my previous bag, which was made of a heavier high-density polyester. And it’s extremely well made. All the seams are double reinforced, plus there’s generous amounts of high quality tarpaulin on the bottom, sides, front and back of the pack for water protection and durability.

Another plus: the straps are padded so they’re comfortable and don’t dig into your shoulders. There’s a quick release buckle that lets you unclip the straps rather than trying to remove the bag by lifting it off. It also keeps the straps from slipping down your arms when it’s on, which I find pretty annoying.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

I’ve been through a number of bags and really, this is the best one yet. It’s well made, easy to pack, easy to haul, and I love all the compartments. The bottom line is that even though the Powder Trekker has less cubic volume than the bag I previously used (3200 cu.in. vs 3570 cu. in.), it holds stuff more intelligently and provides more room than I had in the past. Incidentally, I used my previous, larger bag as an airline carry-on without a problem, so I anticipate I won’t have any difficulty with this one, either — though it might require removing the helmet from its outer sling. The verdict: Two ski poles (way) up.

IMG_3678

BTW, we’re giving away a Powder Trekker bag on TheSkiDiva forum right now. The contest is open to Ski Divas only, so if you’re a registered member, head here for a chance to enter. We’ll take entries until 5PM (Eastern Time) on December 15, and the winner will be randomly selected later that day.

For more information on Kulkea, go here. MSRP for the Powder Trekker is $119.95.

 

 



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2015 Mountain Top Picks: What The Divas Loved This Year

You’ll never find a lack of opinions on TheSkiDiva.com. We have views on just about everything ski related: gear, apparel, resorts, you name it. After all, we Divas aren’t ones to hold back. If there’s something we love, we make sure everyone knows it. And if something doesn’t make the grade, well, we let it all hang out, too.

That’s where our Mountain Top Picks come in. Each year, we vote on the best of the best from the past season. And though there’s no awards ceremony, no fancy statuette, not even a cheesy certificate, the winners get the honor of being named a Diva favorite (they can even use this neat little logo, if they like). And really, isn’t that enough?

MTP-2015

So now, for your reading pleasure, here are TheSkiDiva.com’s selections for this 2015’s Mountain Top Picks.

The winners are as follows:

[Drum roll here]

Ski Gear
Favorite ski for hard snow: Blizzard Viva 810 Ti
Favorite ski for powder: Rossignol Savory 7*
Favorite All Mountain Ski: Volkl Kenja
Favorite Ski Boot Brand: Dalbello Kryzma
Favorite Ski Goggle: Smith IO/S*
Favorite Helmet Brand: Smith Variant

Ski Apparel
Favorite Brand of Baselayers:  Icebreaker*
Favorite Brand of Socks: Smartwool*
Favorite Jacket Brand: Marmot
Favorite Brand of Ski Pants: Arc’teryx

Ski Resorts
Favorite Eastern Resort: Okemo Mountain Resort
Favorite Western Resort: Big Sky
Favorite Resort, eastern Canada: Mont Tremblant
Favorite Resort, western Canada: Whistler-Blackcomb*
Favorite European Resort: Chamonix

*Second year in a row! For a list of our 2014 Mountain Top Picks, go here.

Congratulations to all!



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Gear Review: Partial Face Masks

Remember when you were little and you’d stick out your tongue and your mom would say, “Watch out or your face will freeze like that?”

It’s been so cold here in Vermont that this has almost felt like a real possibility. Temperatures have been in the single digits and below, and there’ve been times when it seemed like I could end up with a permanently affixed expression.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate. But below zero temps are not to be taken lightly. Leave your face unprotected, and you could end up with frost bite. I suffered a spot on my cheek a few years ago, and it left me with a small, permanent mark. I’d prefer not to have that happen again, so on really cold days you need a face mask. Yeah, I know — not the most flattering look, but really, it beats the alternative.

That said, face masks have their own set of problems. Conventional masks can cause warm air to back up and fog your goggles. What’s more, they’re just sort of icky. I hate the way your breath condenses on the fabric around your mouth. It’s wet, uncomfortable, and just plain gross.

Lately I’ve been using something that I think is a whole lot better: a partial face mask. This covers your cheeks, nose, and upper lip, leaving your mouth exposed so your breath can escape. No more condensate backing up into your goggles, no more wet fabric on your lower face.

So I have to give two ski poles up to the FaceSaver Mask.  I learned about the FaceSaver from a friend of mine who lives out west. It turns out that it hasn’t yet made it to stores outside of Utah, Idaho, and Colorado, but you can  order directly from the company’s web site — which is what I did. Made of fleece-lined neoprene, the FaceSaver comes in junior/extra small, small, medium, and large, and velcros  around the back of your head. It’s sturdy, comfortable, easy to use, and I can attest that it works perfectly. My face stays warm, and my goggles don’t fog up. I use this in combination with a neck gaiter to cover my face below my mouth, and I’m as warm as toast.

FaceSaver, goggles up

FaceSaver, goggles up

FaceSaver, goggles down

FaceSaver, goggles down

FaceSaver isn’t the only partial mask out there. I recently learned about another that’s now looking for funding on Kickstarter. It’s called the FaceGlove, and it comes with interchangeable straps that fasten either around your ears  or around your head. The FaceGlove is available in a heat moldable material or as a more conventional soft shell. You can find out about it here.

Do I recommend partial face masks? Yes. I’m a convert. A great way to stay warm, dry, and protect yourself from frostbite.



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Gear Review: Columbia’s Lay-D Down & Diamond TurboDown Jackets

One of the perks that come with being a member of Columbia Sportswear’s Omniten team is that they sometimes send me cool gear to try out. In the past year or so, I’ve received base layers, gloves, boots, hats, fleeces, and more — all the stuff you need to have fun in the snow.

Trust me, this is a nice team to belong to.

Two of the things I’ve liked best have been a couple of the jackets I’ve received: the Columbia Lay-D Down and the Diamond TurboDown. I wear these a lot, so I thought it was about time I gave them a review:

The Columbia Lay-D Down

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 6.17.47 AM

Winter can be tough here in Vermont. We’ve had some extremely cold temperatures this year — well below zero with wind chills as low as -30°F.  Clearly, if you want to ski, you have to be prepared for the worst. Which means wearing a really, really warm jacket.

I don't want to  look like this.

I don’t want to
look like this.

That doesn’t mean I want one that makes me look like the Michelin man. I mean, who would? Which is why I love the Lay-D Down. Wind proof and down filled, the Lay-D Down is toasty warm but stylish, too. See the picture above? Looks nice. That’s the actual color of my jacket, too.

So here are some of the features I really like:

• It’s very, very warm. The Lay-D Down has 550 g of down insulation (80% duck down, 20% feathers), plus the Omni-Heat™ lining. This is a layer of silver dots on the lining that Columbia says reflects your body heat. I can’t say if this is true or not, but the jacket is plenty warm. So that could be part of it.

There are five pockets — two slash pockets on the outside, and three on the inside. This gives me a lot of room to stash stuff, which trust me, I need.

Pit zips. Too crass? Okay, underarm venting. Whatever you want to call them, they’re great. If I get too warm, I can open up to cool off. A real plus, in my book.

A nice, high fleece-lined collar. I usually ski with a neck warmer, except when I don’t. And when I don’t, I can zip this up   for some extra warmth around my chinny-chin-chin.

Powder skirt. Snapping this closed helps keep the warmth in —  another good thing on a cold day.

Cuffs with thumb holes. Same as above. Keeps the cold air from traveling up your sleeves, for extra warmth.

Removable hood. When I get a jacket, this is the first thing to go. I don’t like hoods for skiing, but I like having the option to use it when I wear the jacket off the hill.

Any downsides? Yes. I wish it had a chest pocket on the outside. But really, that’s about it. I have four ski jackets, and this one is  the one I reach for on colder days.

 

Columbia Diamond TurboDown

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 6.33.02 AM

Columbia introduced its line of TurboDown jackets last fall, and they’ve been getting a lot of buzz ever since. The name refers to the insulating layer, which is sort of like down on steroids. It’s a combination of goose feathers and Columbia’s synthetic Omni-Heat insulation fill.  According to Columbia, the polyester-based insulation wicks sweat better than down, moving moisture away from the body when you’re involved in aerobic activity. And the layer of down on top of this traps body heat for extra warmth.

There are a few different TurboDowns available, depending on the amount of insulation involved. Columbia sent me the Diamond TurboDown shown above. Here’s what I like about it:

It’s extremely lightweight. Seriously, it’s hard to believe that something this light would be in any way warm. When you pick it up, you hardly even feel like you’re holding anything. You find yourself thinking how can this thing possibly work.

• It’s very warm.  Here’s why it does work. The jacket has a combination of 40 g Omni-Heat synthetic insulation and 850-fill goose down, plus the same Omni-Heat silver lining as the Lay-D Down. So even though it’s very light, you’re not sacrificing any warmth. It’s kind of hard to reconcile the two thoughts in your mind, but trust me, it’s warm.

Love the color combo. The pink zipper really pops against a beautiful blue. I get a lot of compliments when I wear it.

You can scrunch it up and fit it into its own pocket, so it doesn’t take up much room in your backpack or duffle or whatever, if you’re traveling. I love this.

The Turbodown can be packed in its own pocket! Cool!

The Diamond TurboDown can be packed in its own pocket! Cool!

• The down is treated to stay puffier even if gets wet, so you stay warmer in a wide range of conditions. Nice!

Any downsides? Just one: The hood isn’t removable and the jacket doesn’t come without one. As I said in my Lay-D down review, I’m not a hood person. But this is pretty small potatoes.

And that’s pretty much it. No, I haven’t worn it skiing. I use my Lay-D Down for that. But for being outside in the cold, this is a good option. You might want to check it out.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

Bottom line: I’d recommend either one. Both are high quality, very warm jackets, and they look great, too. Two ski poles up!

 



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A Review: GetOutfitted.com, Ski Apparel Rental Made Easy

GObadgePicture this: you’re a family of five living in Florida who wants to go on a ski trip, and you don’t have any ski clothes or equipment. Or your kids have outgrown their jackets and you don’t what to shell out a fortune for your annual trip to Summit County. Or your friend wants to try skiing for the first time, but doesn’t have appropriate ski wear.

Until fairly recently, there were two choices: you could either forget the whole deal and stay home, or you could open your wallet and let the bloodletting begin.

Not good.

That’s where a new company called GetOutfitted comes in. GetOutfitted will rent you whatever you need for a ski trip for a short time and have it delivered to you free via FedEx to wherever you’re going.

That’s the key: have it delivered free to wherever you’re going. I know there are local ski shops that’ll rent out apparel or gear – sometimes one, sometimes the other. GetOutfitted does both online, so there’s no packing, no schlepping, no running around pulling things together. A true one-stop shopping experience.

When GetOutfitted contacted me and told me about their service, I thought, ‘Genius! This is something I’d like to find out more about.’

So I did. Here’s the story: GetOutfitted was started by Julian Flores, a former school administrator, in 2013. “I came up with the idea after my wife rented a designer dress online from Rent the Runway,” he said. “Outside of fashion and film, the web rental economy is strangely underdeveloped. I’ve lived in Colorado for a long time and never took full advantage of the all outdoors has to offer in this state. GetOutfitted lowers the barriers of entry to the outdoors so people like me can enjoy the outdoors and try new things.”

GetOutfitted offered me the opportunity to try their service free of charge. Here’s what I learned:

The online experience

If you’re like me, you want this to be simple. It is. Directions on the GetOutfitted site are clear and the graphics are good. It’s easy to navigate and figure out what you have to do to make your selection and pay your way.  There are loads of pictures of the items they rent. For clothing, you can dial in your selections by color, brand, size, or even by choosing “warm, warmer, and warmest.”  Or you can choose a pre-selected package.  Whatever works.

After that, you just choose how long you want to keep your items – 3 days, 5 days, or 10 days — enter your shipping and billing information, and bingo! Your shipment is on its way.

Shipping and receiving

GetOutfitted apparel arrives beautifully packaged.

GetOutfitted apparel arrives
beautifully packaged.

This is really nice. The company will ship your order free via FedEx to wherever you want it to go. If you’re renting a condo in Vail, no problem. Which means you don’t have to cram a lot of stuff in your suitcase. After you place your order online, you get a confirmation email that tells you that your shipment is on its way and when you can expect it to arrive. When you want to send it back, no problem. They provide you with a package that you just drop in the mail, pre-paid. Easy, peasy.

Product

You can rent anything you need for a ski vacation: jackets, pants, midlayers, base layers, goggles, socks, even a camera. And yes, you can rent skis or snowboards, too. Product selection is good, and even better, it’s not junk. There are a lot of high-end brands. In clothing, there’s Patagonia, Obermeyer, Marmut, Dakine, Helly Hanson, Burton, and more. I ordered the Regatta jacket and the Malta pants, both from Obermeyer, and was very impressed. The cost: $36. for three days for the jacket, and $30. for the pants. Customers also have the option to purchase gear insurance for their items in case damage occurs, but the company says they’re pretty understanding about accidents. That said, thoroughly damaged items will be charged to the customer for their remaining value, so keep that in mind.

I loved the jacket & pants sent to me by GetOutfitted.

I loved the jacket & pants
sent to me by GetOutfitted.

For skis and snowboards, GetOutfitted partners with local ski shops to fulfill either a performance or premium package that includes boots, poles, and skis — helmets, too, if needed. The local shop will deliver the items to your door and fit you, as needed.  Right now this service is only limited to locations serviced by Black Tie rentals, so it’s only available in western locations. This may change in the future.

So here’s what we all want to know: is it gross to wear something that’s already been worn by someone else? No. According to the company, every item is professionally cleaned so that it looks, feels, and performs like a brand new item each time it’s used.  Be careful, though — you may fall in love with the items you rent. That’s okay, too. GetOutfitted offers its customers a buy option, in case you do. Pretty sweet.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

Pros:

This is a smooth, stress-free way to get ski apparel and gear for an occasional ski vacation. I was impressed with the entire experience. The clothing was top quality, it arrived quickly and beautifully packaged, and yes, I fell in love with the items I received. If I were in a situation where I needed either clothing or equipment for a limited period of time, this would definitely be the way to go. It’s one-stop shopping with minimal hassle. My cup of tea.

Cons:

I’m stumped. Truly. The only thing I could think of, and this is because I’m pretty short, is that they could offer women’s ski pants in shorter lengths. A wider variety of colors might be nice, too, to go with some of the jackets. But really, that’s pretty minor stuff. For just a few days of wear, really, what’s the difference?

Would I recommend this service? Absolutely.

So two ski poles up to GetOutfitted. Good job, guys!



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2014 Mountain Top Picks: TheSkiDiva’s Third Annual Best-Of Awards

MTP-14

The Ski Divas are a passionate group. When it comes to skiing, we don’t hold back. Anyone who goes to our forum knows they can find lively discussions about ski gear, apparel, resorts, and any number of things related to skiing. And while there are as many opinions as there are Divas (we’re more than 4,000 strong), we can usually find a lot of common ground.

That’s where our Mountain Top Picks come in. Each year, we vote on the best of the best from the past season. And though there’s no awards ceremony, no fancy statuette, not even a cheesy certificate, the winners get the honor of being named a Diva favorite (they can even use this neat little logo, if they like). And really, isn’t that enough?

So now, for your reading pleasure, here are TheSkidiva.com’s selections for this year’s Mountain Top Picks.

[Drum roll here]

The winners are as follows:

Ski Gear
Favorite ski for hard snow: Volkl Charisma
Favorite ski for powder: Rossignol Savory 7
Favorite All Mountain Ski: Blizzard Black Pearl*
Favorite Ski Boot Brand: Dalbello
Favorite Ski Goggle: Smith IO/S*
Favorite Helmet Brand: Smith

Ski Apparel
Favorite Brand of Baselayers:  Icebreaker*
Favorite Brand of Socks: Smartwool*
Favorite Jacket Brand: Arcteryx
Favorite Brand of Ski Pants: Mountain Hardwear
Favorite glove or mitten: Hestra Heli Mitt

Ski Resorts
Favorite Eastern Resort: Sunday River
Favorite Western Resort: Powder Mountain
Favorite Midwestern Resort: Nubs Nob*
Favorite Resort, eastern Canada: Le Massif
Favorite Resort, western Canada: Whistler-Blackcomb
Favorite European Resort: Val Gardena
Favorite Women’s Clinic: Rippin’ Chix

*Second year in a row! For a list of our 2013 Mountain Top Picks, go here.

Congratulations to all!

 

 



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Gear Review: Free Country Spire Jacket

Have you ever heard of Free Country outerwear?

To be honest,  I hadn’t until recently. That doesn’t mean much. If I had a nickel for everything I haven’t heard about……oh, never mind. You know the rest.

Anyway, Free Country has been around since 1990 and sells in chain stores like Kohls, JC Penney, Boscovs, Peebles, and more. Not long ago they asked if they could send me a jacket to review, and I told them sure; send me something  really, really warm. I get cold pretty easily, so for me, the warmer, the better.

Here’s what they sent: their Spire 3-in-1, a system jacket:

Free Country Spire Jacket

Free Country Spire Jacket

 

It features a zip out liner, which you can wear separately, if you like:

Liner

 

I’m a big purple fan, so I like that. But purple with aqua? I’m not so sure. But that’s just me; everyone’s taste is different. That said, the fit is good. I’m 5’1″ 110 lbs, and the jacket wasn’t  too tight or too loose, too long or too short. The sleeves were the right length, too.

Yes, the jacket is warm. I wore it out skiing on a cold day and stayed pretty comfortable. All the same, there were a few  things that kept me from falling in love. First, there are no underarm zippers, which are a great way to regulate body temperature if you get too warm. This is kind of a deal breaker for me.  Second, there aren’t enough pockets, and I always have a lot of crap. Although the exterior has two hand pockets and one chest pocket, there are no pockets on the interior of  the outer shell or the zip-in liner. Yes, the liner has two exterior hand pockets, but you can’t reach them when the liner’s in place. And since they don’t zip shut, I’m concerned that things could fall out.  Third and finally, there’s no inner powder skirt, which can help keep the snow out, and body heat in.

My guess is that the lack of these features helps keep the price down. On the company’s website, the jacket is priced at $110., down from $160.  Free Country seems to run a lot of specials, too, so they’re not as expensive as a lot of companies out there. And for a lot of people, that’s a big plus.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

Free Country’s Spire 3-in-1 is a good value for someone who skis occasionally and wants a jacket that 1) doesn’t cost an arm and a leg,  2) is very warm, and 3) has an inner liner that can be worn by itself (two jackets in one!).  If the surfeit of pockets or pit zips doesn’t bother you, then go for it. You’ll be fine.

 

 



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Gear Review: Chaval Outdoor’s Response-XRT Glove

I’m one of those people whose hands are always cold. No matter what the temperature, no matter if I’m indoors or out, I have icy fingers and cold hands. To make matters worse, I suffer from Raynaud’s Syndrome, which means every now and then my fingers turn white and go completely numb. It’s not pretty — and it’s very uncomfortable, to say the least.

So keeping my hands warm is a real challenge. Mittens are warmer than gloves, so when I’m skiing, my usual set-up is Black Diamond’s Mercury Mitt, a very toasty, though bulky, mitten  I discovered a couple of years ago. When it’s really cold, I add glove liners. And when it’s really, really, really cold, I’ll throw in a chemical heat pack, too. The problem with this is what I gain in warmth, I lose in dexterity. And I look like I’m wearing lobster claws.

Oh, for something super warm that lets me pick up something I drop on the ground!

Enter Chaval Outdoor’s Response-XRT heated gloves.

I’ve long been curious about heated gloves, but I always thought that the ones that’re out there work for only a few hours before losing their charge. Then you’re stuck with no heat and a glove that isn’t all that great in the cold.

Not good.

So when Chaval  sent me a pair of their Response-XRT gloves to review, I was hopeful — but a little bit skeptical, too.

According to Chaval, these gloves operate differently from any other heated glove on the market today.  Instead of complicated wiring that can  easily break down, they use a polymer film that changes its electrical properties in response to heat and cold. Simply put, the film acts like a thermostat to automatically adjust heat levels so your hands are never too warm or too cold. But unlike a thermostat, it’s not bulky. Chaval claims its gloves will heat three times longer than any other brand.

Now you’re talking. But let’s  see if these babies work.

Out of the box:

First of all, you gotta love the graphics. When you open the box, you see the words CONQUER THE COLD on the underside of the lid. Whoa, this is one confident company. It certainly  made me hope for the best.

Out of the box

But I move on. The gloves are seriously great looking. Well made, good quality construction. The outer shell is nice, soft, water resistant leather. There’s a generous gauntlet with a bungee closure to keep out the snow. A wipe spot on the thumb for well, you know.  Inside the shell, there’s 3.5 ounces of cushy insulation. But the best thing is what’s not there: no big battery pack, no annoying wires.

The box also contains a charging device, a net bag to for glove storage, and a very thorough, easy to read sheet of directions that tells you everything you need to know about how to charge the gloves, make them work, and take care of them properly when not in use.

A note here: Chaval is introducing activeDRY, a new charging device that they say recharges the glove and dries the inner glove cavity at the same time. They claim this reduces drying time by up to 50% and helps prevent unpleasant odor and bacteria growth. The gloves I received did not have this with them, but if it works as advertises, I think it sounds pretty good.

And a caveat:  I have small hands, and the gloves I received are currently available only in unisex sizing — which means “Men’s.” If that works for you, good. For me, no. The gloves were way too big. I mentioned this to the company, who assures me they plan to offer smaller, women’s sizing next year.

How they work:

It’s easy. First you charge them up. This takes from five to seven hours, and according to the directions, will become more efficient the more you do it.

To put them on, you disconnect the charger (obviously), snap in two connectors in the glove, and turn them on using a button on the cuff.  The button looks like the “play” button on a video player, so it’s easy to identify. It actually lights up so you can tell that it’s on. Once you’ve had enough, or if you want to preserve the battery,  you shut them off with the off button, which looks like “pause.” I don’t know how it could get easier.

Chaval says its gloves have a maximum operating temperature of 62°F, although the heating duration per charge depends on the required heating output, the ambient temperature, the user’s physical condition, and the charging condition of the batteries.

Also worth mentioning: when you put them on, you do not feel any wiring around your hand. There’s a stiffish sort of plate in the gauntlet (I think this must be the battery pack) and a small one in the back of the hand, but that’s it. Essentially, there is nothing to interfere with your movement or comfort.

Were they comfortable? Yes. Were they flexible? Could I move my fingers? Yes and yes. And now, the important part: Were they warm? YES! And they stayed warm. I was out skiing for four hours with a wind chill of about 10°F, and my hands were not cold. A major triumph. What’s more, I could move my fingers and actually do things with them. Hooray!

Well, I told you they were a little big!

Well, I told you they were a little big!

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

For people who have cold hands and don’t want to resort to bulky lobster claw mittens, glove liners, and chemical packs, the Chaval Response-XRT is a godsend. They kept my hands toasty warm the entire time I was out skiing. If I could encase my entire body in this glove, I would.  And I like the dexterity, too, which I don’t get in mittens.

One big drawback: the price.  At Chaval’s website, they’re listed at $389.97. So yes, a lot of money. For some people, this is going to be a deal breaker. But this is one of those quality of life issues. If you, like me, always suffer from cold hands, don’t like the conventional set up, and feel it really takes away from the enjoyment of the day, then these gloves could  be worth it. Another thought:  put them on your birthday or Christmas list. That way someone else will buy them for you.

Chaval is running a contest now to give away free pair of gloves monthly over the next few months. That’s even better. The drawing dates are December 18, January 15, and February 12. To enter, go here.

 



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Gear Review: Columbia Millenium Blur Jacket

A few weeks ago I posted that I’d been chosen as a member of this season’s Columbia Sportswear’s Omniten team. To put it mildly, this doesn’t suck. Columbia sends me boxes of great gear, and they’re taking me on a trip to Park City in January. It’s like Christmas, but I don’t have to buy presents for anyone else. Not bad.

One of the first things they sent me was their Millennium Blur jacket. I’ve worn it skiing about seven or eight times now, so I think I’m finally ready to give it a review.

First, take a look. This is one gorgeous jacket, isn’t it? They sent it to me in what they call “Red Hibiscus” (how’d they knew red was my favorite color?), though it also comes in “Hyper Purple” and “Abyss” (black).

CMjacket

Right off you can see there are a lot of things to like. The fabric is delicious — a nice stretchy soft-shell that looks and feels fantastic. It actually moves with you when you ski. And it’s water- and wind-proof, which are both important out on the hill. There are also five exterior pockets — two on each side, two chest pockets, and a small pocket between the wrist and the elbow on one of the sleeves. All this is A-plus, in my book. There’s also a nice, roomy hood, which I promptly removed (I’m not a big hood person, though some are), and  a high collar lined with fleece, which you can zip waaaaaaaay up to keep your chin nice and warm. Another feature: it has those stretchy-inner-sleeves-that-come-down-over-your-wrist-and-have-thumbholes (is there a name for that?). Whatever they’re called, I love them.

Something else that I think is a must for any ski jacket: underarm zips. No ski jacket should be without them, and you got ’em here. These are great thermal regulators. If you get too hot, just unzip. Instant relief.

On the inside, LOTS more pockets (gets better and better, doesn’t it?), and a powder skirt to keep the warm air in (and the snow out). And see those little silver dots? That’s Columbia’s Omni-Heat technology. It’s supposed to help regulate your temperature by reflecting and retaining the warmth your body generates. There’s also 60g of polyester insulation.

columbia-women-millenium-blur-jacket-1

 

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

I love this jacket. I’m a bit of a nut about pockets, so that’s a big plus with me. Plus I love the way it feels when I move. It’s not restricting in any way. I also like the way it’s cut — it doesn’t look big or boxy, so I don’t feel like I look like a refrigerator. Also good: it fits true to size (I take a small) — not too tight, not too big. And the length is good too.

So I’m sure you’re all wondering about the Omni-Heat technology (otherwise known as ‘the little silver dots on the inside’). Does it keep me toasty warm? Is it the warmest jacket I own? No. That honor goes to a hefty down jacket I wear when it’s in the single digits. Maybe it would be, if it had even more insulation. Still, this is a jacket that’s fine for most ski days. Yes, I still need to layer up underneath. But I live and ski in Vermont. It’s cold, and I’m a person who gets cold easily. And it’s not just any cold: it’s a damp, bone-chilling cold. Staying warm is an art form.

My rating?  Two Ski Poles up! But I think you can tell that from the big smile on my face, right?

 

Jacket



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