Summit County gear review: Mixing it up with The North Face, VZ and Lange
February 3, 2014
This week, as we head into the peak of the ski season, we've put together a mix of gear we've been wearing on the hill since the start of the year. There's no real unifying theme; these are just a few pieces we like and that have become go-to choices for charging the mountain. We're looking at a mid-layer from The North Face, goggles from VZ and boots from Lange.
Together, I guess you could say we've got you covered from head to toe.
Men's Pemby Hybrid Jacket from The North Face
The name says it. Part fleece, part puffy synthetic vest, the Pemby Hybrid Jacket from The North Face is the best of both worlds, and it's one of the company's "athlete's picks" for a reason. It offers the versatility and, more important, breathability you want in a mid-layer, and it can double as a shell when those bluebird spring ski days start rolling around.
A full puffy — synthetic or down — jacket is great as a mid-layer if you want to stay extra warm on the coldest of days, but they generally lack breathability and can leave you sweaty before long. A fleece jacket, on the other hand, is a solid choice to insulate, but wear it by itself and the wind will go right through. The Pemby Hybrid combines the warmth of a synthetic core vest with the breathability of The North Face's FlashDry fleece sleeves. Unlike traditional fleece, the FlashDry sleeves are soft on the inside with a smooth weather-resistant exterior designed to wick moisture away from the body. The synthetic core is filled with The North Face and PrimaLoft's Thermoball insulation technology. Thermoball synthetic filler is designed to replicate the warmth and lightweight packability of down with all the advantages of a synthetic.
We found this jacket to be pretty amazing at keeping the core warm even on the coldest of days. And the FlashDry sleeves absolutely helped manage moisture generated from a hard day of charging the slopes. While The North Face suggests the jacket can be used as a shell, with its fleece sleeves it may be better suited to mid-layer use. It could, however, be a solid around-town option on a milder winter day. The jacket's thumb-hole cuffs may take a little getting used to but are definitely useful when combined with a shell and ski gloves. The cuffs can also be rolled back fairly discretely when not being used.
All in all, this is a really solid choice as a mid-layer. The North Face's Hyline Hybrid jacket offers a similar design, with 600-fill natural down instead of the Pemby's synthetic fill.
Fishbowl Snow Goggle from VonZipper (VZ)
We've talked about the advantages of spherical lens goggles before, but the Fishbowl goggles from VZ take it to a whole new level. The name is appropriate. The lens looks huge, popping out like a bubble, but the goggles actually fit a medium-sized face surprisingly comfortably. The field of vision the large lens offers may be second to none. With their rounded shape, spherical lens goggles are designed to provide a wider field of vision — specifically when it comes to peripheral sight lines — but some goggle designs can counteract the benefit with thick frames or excessive padding. The Fishbowl goggle is really low profile, and the lens size nearly puts the frame out of the wearer's line of sight. Extra space in the arch of the nose makes the large-lens effect especially noticeable. And, unlike less-expensive flat-lens goggles, spherical lenses don't distort vision. At least in that sense, the Fishbowl name is a bit of a misnomer. There's no distortion whatsoever. We were impressed by how much we could see when we took them to the hill. And with a variety of mirrored-lens options they look pretty cool, too.
Lange RX 120 Ski Boots
When it comes to performance, a lot of snow pros opt to keep their feet in Lange boots. The name is trusted in the ski industry, and this year's RX 120s won't change that. It's a high-performance boot recommended for expert skiers.
When buying a boot there's a lot to think about. Rushing a boot choice can lead to buyer's remorse pretty quickly and make skiing downright unpleasant.
The process starts with flex rating, or how much a boot will give or move when pressure is applied. A lower flex rating will have a little more give, allowing for more forward and backward movement in the ankle, whereas a higher flex keeps the foot more firmly in place.
While the feel from one manufacturer to the next might vary, even though the ratings are the same, the idea is that there is a range. A beginner, or someone looking to charge the park, might go for a lighter rating to have that range of motion, whereas a racer or a more aggressive skier will opt for less flex. Ratings typically range from around 90 to 130 or 140.
That puts the RX 120 in the firmer range. Its 100 mm last, or width, makes it a solid choice for someone with a medium to narrower foot. The mono-injection shell also gives it a durability that an aggressive skier can appreciate.
The boot's more upright or neutral stance is worth noting. It might not be the most ideally suited to someone looking to really charge downhill full time.
Lange says the design provides more efficient power transfer and less quad fatigue, but it may take some getting used to for someone accustomed to a forward-leaning boot. Still, for a serious skier, this boot could be a great match. Lange's "out-of-the box" fit liner is designed to provide a firm fit right away.
Combine them with a Surefoot custom liner, and these puppies will fit like a glove without question; they might even make you ski better.
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