More warm stuff

SportHill makes a bunch of clothing aimed at active outdoor users. They’re Zone3 stuff is aimed at cold weather (0 -40 degrees F) and since it is aimed at active wearers has enough lycra and stuff to be great. You can totally replace multiple layers with clothing like this and be more comfortable. I certainly find them more comfortable than the one bit of cycling specific cold weather tights I have. They’re windproof to 35 mph and are a comfortable 4 way stretch fabric with a waist tie, zipper side pockets, and zippers down by the ankles. The XC Pant made of 3SP. Skiing, Skating, Biking, and not nearly as geeky as cycling clothing. They also make the more “jeans like” (a bit of a stretch thinks I) ATV II. A new favorite company and product.

A bunch of years ago I bought a jacket that looked like wool on the outside and had PrimaLoft insulation. Hailed as a replacement for down, I simply thought the jacket looked nice on me and wasn’t very heavy. Sadly at the time I could almost never wear it because it was too warm. I was a lot heavier then, almost never got cold and didn’t expect this light jacket to be so warm. All these years later where getting cold seems to be a daily affair while I sit, I bought another jacket with PrimaLoft in it, only this time it’s working for me. I have a really nice down jacket called the Sub Zero from Mountain Hardwear it’s the third jacket of theirs that I own. This year I added the Torque since I knew my commute would be changing. Last year I did the train all winter (lots of standing on cold, windy, train platforms and walking to and from stations) this year in order to spend more time with my son at night I’ve been driving. Driving requires a lot less insulation, and I wanted something simpler than the layered (fleece jacket with shell over) to get in and out of. Since this jacket was on the clearance rack it joined the party. It has a lot of nice features for snow activities or commuting and is warm enough to not require a middle layer beneath. I should add that last year there were times when I wore the middle fleece layer, the down jacket, and the shell over it (to protect it and add even more warmth) with the upside being that once I was in the office I wasn’t sitting around swaddled in layer upon layer, but still managed to not freeze waiting for trains at the station platform, which I honestly think is the coldest, windiest place on earth. (If you sit inside with the trains I had to take you were not, repeat *not* getting a seat, because there’s some hard as nails commuters out there. It was either harden up, or stand for close to an hour and a half. I split the difference, and used tech to my benefit). Anyway, from my long removed from the product line Ethereal shell (at least 10 years if not more) to this jacket I can recommend Mountain Hardwear as a great line of hardworking outdoor gear. Two of the pieces use their waterproof, breathable Conduit membrane (which they claim uses “interconnecting molecular conduits to actively draw moisture vapor away from your body”). I’m sure I wouldn’t know, but both pieces are comfortable.

Some last generic bits of whatever this has become… I’ve come to love so called “micro-fleece” tops. I can layer them over t-shirts or wear them as base layers. The brand hasn’t mattered too much… some wear longer than others, but they often cost a lot more. I love stuff from Patagonia, although I can’t afford it until a store clears it out… and I also love the companies focus on taking care of their people and the environment as best they can. Check out Yvon Chouinard’s book. There’s also a free talk on iTunes from him that is well worth checking out.

Why all this? A friend asked…

Warm stuff

Two nifty technologies that are making my winter more comfortable. One is super technical material called Outlast. “Outlast® technology’s phase change materials (PCMs), incorporated into clothing, interact with the skin’s temperature to provide a buffer against temperature swings. PCMs are materials that can absorb, store and release heat while the material changes from solid to liquid and back to solid. This is known as a phase change. Water changing from solid (ice) to liquid is an example of this phenomenon. During these phase changes large amounts of heat are absorbed or released.” Rather amazing stuff, and it works in real life in my experience.

Another great bit of tech, which I wish was more widely adopted the boa lacing system. I had a pair of winter cycling shoes that were not cutting it. Simply put my foot was cold far to early an often, and worse, they did an awful job of insulating the bottom of my foot from the metal, cold conducting cleat just underneath it. Another less problematic annoyance was that getting in and out of them was painful. All these winter sports shoes have ankle cuffs that seal the boot, but in doing so have made it difficult to get your foot in and out. Fortunately I tend to do it only once a ride so I ignored it as a problem and accepted it as the way things had to be.

I was so annoyed the other day by the cold emanating from the cleat, that I stopped mid ride at my LBS and asked the winter hard core what the recommendation for footwear was these days. I didn’t expect to be able to do anything since stocks of that sort of stuff is generally low by this time. But to my delight they had a pair of the recommended shoes in my size albeit the road version (booo), and they were so much better than what I had that I switched right then and there. One of the things that made them better was the boa lacing system. Pull the knob and they release and the slack allows the boot to open wide. Get your foot in, and a couple of turns and the lacing system has gathered the slack and now allows you to fine tune tension. Amazing. I’m now looking for other footwear that uses this system I enjoy it so much.

The reason the road version isn’t as good as the mountain version is simple. The mountain version is far more walkable. Anyway, I’ll make that change down the road, for now, a serious improvement.

Now these shoes bring both these products together, but there are other bits and pieces of them spread around. Worth checking out.

One last tip. Cycling clothing is generally overpriced x4. It’s a crazy industry. Many winter sports share the same requirements, so look around for stuff that works for runners and skiers etc. Chances are it’ll work for you as well, and be far less expensive.