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Product Testing: Ski Wear (Rubicon Puff, Capilene, R1, and Ski Socks)

 /  Feb 15, 2008 5 Min Read  /  Design

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

Skiing_017The 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]

Rubicon_puffI wore a Cap 2 Crew Neck and an R1 Flash Pullover underneath theJacket, but finding the right combination of base layer and mid layerto go under an insulated shell has proven a challenge. The mostcomfortable mid layer I’ve found so far is the R1, but what goesunderneath the R1 is just as tricky. Unfortunately, the Cap 2 Crew neckproved too warm for all the hard work we were doing, despite coolertemperatures. I guess the warm desert air hasn’t made me as soft as Ithought it had. I think a short sleeve Cap 1 or Cap 2 would have been abetter choice.

The other hard part about combining a mid layer with the Rubicon PuffJacket is the amount of space between my body and the jacket. The Cap 2and R1 are quite form fitting whereCapilene2asthe Jacket has a baggier, morecasual fit. This leaves a fair amount of dead air space on the insidethat I feel like I need to take up without adding much bulk or extrainsulation. The answer: a baggy t-shirt over the R1. Extra style pointsin the chalet and extra points for me personally whenever I can make acotton t-shirt, a flannel shirt or blue jeans function on a technicallevel. I think it rings some sort of nostalgia bell for me to workthese into my outdoor wardrobe…the flannel especially. Thanks dad.

But back to the outerwear…The outer shell of the Rubicon Puff is justplain awesome, not to mention the surprisingly stylish interior. Itshed a constant R1_flash_2downfall of snow flakes and an endless spray of powderover every square inch, all day long, without even a hint of moistureon the inside. Chief Squaw Jr. and Mr. Spot My Landing managed to staywarm, but contrary to myself, their Puff Rider Jackets were slowlytaking 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 rockshave lost the reputation they once had as the Rubicon seemed to thrashback at them with equal vigor. In short—it makes “ripstop” seem like abad joke.

The hood fit well over my helmet and stayed nicely out of my peripheralvision while still allowing a comfortable range of neck movement. Ilove how the magnetic buttons on the storm flap practically close bythemselves, but the lowest button and the highest button could benefitfrom a stronger closure of some sort.

Upper_atic_2My biggest complaints about the jacket however, are in the details ofthe powder skirt and theaudio pocket. The powder skirt needs to securein the front as well as the back. Even without a circus qualitycartwheel or full blown “yard sale” the constant stream of pow powfloating over my boots and into my lap could not resist migratingtowards my belt buckle (a Tech Web Belt buckle no less–the perfectPatagonia ski pant compliment). I think some sort of pant attachmentoption in the front of the skirt, maybe similar to the way theRashguard attaches to the board shorts, would be great.

Hate is such a strong word, but I’m quite sure I hate the audio pocketdesign on this Jacket. I don’t like to have to open my jacket to accessit and I feel like a blind guy at the juke box when I’m fishing aroundon 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 todisconnect the cord which is running through the silly little loop,past the silly little button hole (what headphones were we using whenwe came up with that feature?) then pull it out of the constrictinglittle pocket to see the screen and access the wheel.

Lw_everyday_sockThe design of the audio pocket in the Primo Down Jacket is farsuperior—a clean, simple, easily accessed zip-pocket within an externalchest pocket and a hole for the cord to run inside the jacket. That isall we need. Period. It fits all devices, is easily accessed withoutopening the jacket and for the click wheel fishermen who would prefernot to even open a pocket, they can still “fish” away.

One final, but most important, piece of equipment I have beenunofficially testing for 25+ days of skiing this year are the LWEveryday Socks. Although a true “ski sock” has been…um…hard to find…around here for several years, what I like best about skiing in thesesocks is the dry feeling of a cotton sock in a tighter, more technicaldesign.

I have tried the LW Alpine Socks as well as the LW Crew Socks and Ifind that Wool/Nylon/Poly socks tend to leave my feet feeling somewhatclammy in my ski boots. I have also found the mighty length of theAlpine sock to twist rather uncomfortably around my calf. What wouldmake the Everyday sock a great ski sock is another 1-2 inches in heightand 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 EverydaySock.

Skiing_027Designers: don’t be afraid of the ski sock, we’re almost there.

Powder hounds: check out the Rubicon series…this fabric rocks.

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