Product Testing - Deep Thoughts on Ski Wear (Rubicon Puff, Capilene, R1, and ski socks)
We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our athletes and ambassadors are responsible for putting the latest designs and fabrics through the paces before we'll add a new product to our lineup. But just because something reaches our shelves doesn't mean testing is over. Once a new item shows up in our catalogs, our Customer Service staff gets busy ground-truthing the latest offerings. They know the questions our customers will be asking, and turn that attention to our gear.
Product Report - The outfit: Rubicon Puff Jacket, Cap 2 Crew, R1 Flash Pullover, and err . . . some socks.
Activity: Skiing--Squaw Valley, California
Tested by: Andrew Marshall, Patagonia Mail Order Customer Service
The powder flu, similar to the bottle flu, tends to strike quickly and unexpectedly in these parts. Lucky for us here at Patagonia, a field day makes for quick remedy. I headed up to Squaw Valley on Friday the 25th with two other Mail Order cohorts, Corey “Chief Squaw Jr.” Engles and Prescott “Spot My Landing” Fields, for a stormy, steep and deep powder day. Temperatures hovered in the mid to upper 20’s with steady snowfall and virtually no wind—a perfect day to put the Rubicon Puff Jacket to the test.
[Cory points out the goods. Photo: Andrew Marshall]
I wore a Cap 2 Crew Neck and an R1 Flash Pullover underneath the Jacket, but finding the right combination of base layer and mid layer to go under an insulated shell has proven a challenge. The most comfortable mid layer I’ve found so far is the R1, but what goes underneath the R1 is just as tricky. Unfortunately, the Cap 2 Crew neck proved too warm for all the hard work we were doing, despite cooler temperatures. I guess the warm desert air hasn’t made me as soft as I thought it had. I think a short sleeve Cap 1 or Cap 2 would have been a better choice.
The other hard part about combining a mid layer with the Rubicon Puff Jacket is the amount of space between my body and the jacket. The Cap 2 and R1 are quite form fitting where as the Jacket has a baggier, more casual fit. This leaves a fair amount of dead air space on the inside that I feel like I need to take up without adding much bulk or extra insulation. The answer: a baggy t-shirt over the R1. Extra style points in the chalet and extra points for me personally whenever I can make a cotton t-shirt, a flannel shirt or blue jeans function on a technical level. I think it rings some sort of nostalgia bell for me to work these into my outdoor wardrobe…the flannel especially. Thanks dad.
But back to the outerwear…The outer shell of the Rubicon Puff is just plain awesome, not to mention the surprisingly stylish interior. It shed a constant downfall of snow flakes and an endless spray of powder over every square inch, all day long, without even a hint of moisture on the inside. Chief Squaw Jr. and Mr. Spot My Landing managed to stay warm, but contrary to myself, their Puff Rider Jackets were slowly taking in more and more moisture.
The outer fabric seems to be super durable as well and in my opinion, takes insulated jackets to a new level. Trees, brush, ice and rocks have lost the reputation they once had as the Rubicon seemed to thrash back at them with equal vigor. In short—it makes “ripstop” seem like a bad joke.
The hood fit well over my helmet and stayed nicely out of my peripheral vision while still allowing a comfortable range of neck movement. I love how the magnetic buttons on the storm flap practically close by themselves, but the lowest button and the highest button could benefit from a stronger closure of some sort.
My biggest complaints about the jacket however, are in the details of the powder skirt and the audio pocket. The powder skirt needs to secure in the front as well as the back. Even without a circus quality cartwheel or full blown “yard sale” the constant stream of pow pow floating over my boots and into my lap could not resist migrating towards my belt buckle (a Tech Web Belt buckle no less--the perfect Patagonia ski pant compliment). I think some sort of pant attachment option in the front of the skirt, maybe similar to the way the Rashguard attaches to the board shorts, would be great.
Hate is such a strong word, but I’m quite sure I hate the audio pocket design on this Jacket. I don’t like to have to open my jacket to access it and I feel like a blind guy at the juke box when I’m fishing around on the outside of the jacket trying to feel the click wheel on my Ipod. Even worse, when I do open the jacket to access it, I have to disconnect the cord which is running through the silly little loop, past the silly little button hole (what headphones were we using when we came up with that feature?) then pull it out of the constricting little pocket to see the screen and access the wheel.
The design of the audio pocket in the Primo Down Jacket is far superior—a clean, simple, easily accessed zip-pocket within an external chest pocket and a hole for the cord to run inside the jacket. That is all we need. Period. It fits all devices, is easily accessed without opening the jacket and for the click wheel fishermen who would prefer not to even open a pocket, they can still “fish” away.
One final, but most important, piece of equipment I have been unofficially testing for 25+ days of skiing this year are the LW Everyday Socks. Although a true “ski sock” has been…um…hard to find… around here for several years, what I like best about skiing in these socks is the dry feeling of a cotton sock in a tighter, more technical design.
I have tried the LW Alpine Socks as well as the LW Crew Socks and I find that Wool/Nylon/Poly socks tend to leave my feet feeling somewhat clammy in my ski boots. I have also found the mighty length of the Alpine sock to twist rather uncomfortably around my calf. What would make the Everyday sock a great ski sock is another 1-2 inches in height and the same material as the bottom of the sock (or slightly thicker) down the front of the shin. I think I’ll call it the LW Ski Everyday Sock.
Powder hounds: check out the Rubicon series…this fabric rocks.
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