High Gear puts GoLite, Pearl Izumi and Smith Optics to the test
December 14, 2013
With temperatures dropping and visibility an issue at times on the hill, we're looking at a few items to keep you warm and help you see clearly out in the snow.
GoLite Demaree hooded down jacket
Back East, down jackets are almost an oddity, but up here in the High Country, they are more of a staple. We got our hands on GoLite's Demaree 800 fill down jacket, and it came in handy in the last few weeks, with temperatures dropping below zero. The Demaree is downright cozy; the goose-down fill feels like being wrapped up in a sleeping bag. But perhaps best of all, at $129.99, it rings up at about $140 cheaper than similar jackets from Helly Hansen and Patagonia, among others. Besides living up to its name with lightweight outdoor apparel, Colorado-based GoLite keeps costs low and works toward sustainability. A few years ago, the company pulled out of big-box stores to open its own chain of retail shops, in order to lower costs.
Since getting my Demaree, it's quickly become my go-to dog-walking jacket. Even on some of the colder days, I've hit the trail with just a T-shirt underneath the jacket — no outer shell — and it's held up great. Made in part of recycled materials, the jacket is effectively windproof, and the fleece-lined pockets are an added bonus. The only real drawback I found was that there is no drawstring to tighten the hood. Typically between sizes, I went for the larger option, which otherwise fit great. The hood does have elastic, and even without the drawstring it still fit pretty well.
You would probably want to use the Demaree as a mid-layer only on the coldest of days, or when participating in an outdoor event that involves less movement; otherwise, you're likely to sweat. That said, I once skied almost an entire season with just a down jacket and a rain shell. If you've never had one, they are just that warm. All and all, two thumbs up for the overall design and utility. GoLite apparel is available at retail shops in Silverthorne and Boulder and at http://www.golite.com.
Suggested retail: $129.99 with hood, $109.99 hoodless
Smith Optics Vice goggle
Some years ago, a ski instructor friend said to me, "You don't have spherical lens goggles?" His tone had a hint of, "How can you ski without them?" Truth be told, I thought I did rather well for the 25 or so years I've been on skis. But after trying a couple of Smith spherical lens goggles, I'm sold. The difference between spherical and nonspherical lenses is in visibility and light distortion. While more expensive, spherical lenses allow for a wider field of view, specifically improving peripheral vision, which is essential on a ski slope. Like the name implies, spherical lenses are rounded, designed to simulate the lens in your eye. A flat lens will bend light, creating distortion. The spherical lens allows light to pass through the way it's supposed to.
In simple terms, a spherical lens helps you see more clearly. This week, we looked at the Smith Vice. Listed both as non-gender specific and as a women's model, these are great for someone who doesn't want an oversized pair of goggles. The Vice is considered medium-size by Smith standards and would be a good choice for someone with a smaller head. The spherical lens provided a great field of vision that was very crisp and clear. They come with a single lens but have the option for a variety of replacement lens colors. Lenses are easily interchangeable with this model, and the three-Layer DriWix foam padding conforms well to your face while maintaining breathability.
Smith's patented Vaporator Lens Technology and 5X Anti-Fog Inner Lens passed with flying colors. These are solid goggles.
Suggested retail: $170 online, $140 at selected retailers
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Softshell Glove
I've often been reluctant to wear thicker gloves while biking for fear of not being able to grip well while shifting or braking. While demo-ing fat-tire bikes in the snow a few weeks ago, I was grateful for the P.R.O. Softshell gloves I had from Pearl Izumi. They call it "atomic fit," which basically means the gloves are designed to conform to the natural curve from your palm to your fingers — Columbia incorporates a similar design with some of its ski gloves. It's supposed to help maintain circulation and keep your fingers in a more natural position. Whether all that's true or not, I don't know. I'm not a doctor. But I did notice that with the Pearl Izumi gloves, shifting gears was pretty easy and the gloves didn't feel bulky or get in the way. When skiing, I was impressed by the windproof softshell. They held up on a pretty windy day.
That said, the gloves were great and very breathable when I was engaged in a physical activity that kept the blood flowing; but when I was at rest on a chairlift or just going for a walk in colder temperatures, my hands got a little chilly. It's a great glove for winter biking or spring skiing, but they wouldn't be my choice for a below-zero day on the ski slopes. The waterproof insert held up pretty well when tested under a faucet, but after repeated testing I noticed a little moisture coming in from the seems around the tips of the fingers. Still, that was a fairly extreme test. I'm confident they'd hold up well for normal splashing while biking or in snow while skiing. They aren't the most affordable gloves out there, but past Pearl biking gloves have held up well; durability shouldn't be a question in the longer term.
Suggested retail: $75
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