Given the warm winter most of us have been suffering through on the west coast, it’s a miracle we got the chance to test any snowboard equipment at all this year.
But the powder finally arrived (however late), and even though it’s deep into April, we’ve got at least a month of rideable backcountry stuff here in California and desinations north. So I took to the trees to test a clothing system from Homeschool Snowboarding. The company will have some new clothing arriving for the 2013 season, but it’s keeping these pieces I rode — a jacket, a pair of pants, a fleece hoodie and a two-piece base layer — in the line for next year.
Homeschool is based in Oregon, which is known for its particularly wet mountain conditions — the slopes can get socked with fog and pelted with rain even in the depths of winter. You can buy its gear in places where the weather isn’t as harsh, but Homeschool sticks to its hometown roots by making clothes tuned for optimal breathability in any conditions.
Homeschool’s line of snowboarding-specific winter wear uses Cocona, a material that infuses cloth fibers with active carbon particles derived from recycled coconut shells. This is used in lieu of supposedly less-breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex. Homeschool’s Continuum Trifecta, a combination of Cocona-based outer shell, base layer, and mid layer, is designed to keep riders warm, dry, and comfortable on any mountain, regardless of how crappy the forecast is.
Base Layers: Airbreather Moto Top and Airbreather Pant
Designed to insulate, wick away sweat, and stay odor-free, the Airbreather top ($65) and pant ($60) base layers represent the first part of the Continuum Trifecta. As the against-the-skin layer, the four-way stretch material felt nice and soft, and it did breathe well. The waffle-pattern inner layer was effective at keeping me sweat-free where it made contact, but the Airbreather’s loose fit hampered the fabric’s ability to wick away sweat efficiently. The odor-resistance was underwhelming as well — the bases needed a wash after their second use.
WIRED Soft to the touch. Breathable. Colorful print is pretty sweet.
TIRED Too loose to effectively wick sweat. Odor resistance is not so… resistant.
Mid Layer: Shevil Full-zip Cocona Fleece
Level two of the Trifecta, the Shevil full-zip fleece hoody ($85) keeps flying the breathability flag; the Cocona polyester and stretch-poly mid layer is extremely comfortable and, yes, it breathes very well. The hood is big enough to fit over a helmet or make you look like a badass, and the cut is slim enough to let it fit underneath an outer shell with no problem. It’s fairly thin as far as insulating layers go, so if you’re riding in extremely cold conditions or you’ve just got thin blood, you may want to look for a thicker layer. The Shevil also represents a leap above the Airbreathers base layer clothes when it comes to odor-resistance — the fleece went through weeks of wear before it needed a wash. Hey, someone’s gotta test it.
WIRED Breathable. Very odor-resistant. Large hood is comfortable.
TIRED Too thin for frigid weather. Lacking a chest pocket, or zippered pockets.
Outerwear: With Teeth jacket and Revolve pant
HomeSchool’s most impressive offerings are its outerwear pieces. The With Teeth 2.5-layer jacket ($325) and the Revolve 2.5-layer pant ($275) are both made of Cocona Xcelerator material, which is breathable while staying fully waterproof. Both the jacket and pants have a much softer feel than you’d expect from a shell, and an inner mesh layer helps retain some warmth. Beneath a simple, low-profile outer design lies a wealth of details riders will appreciate: magnetic pocket closures, elastic cuff bands that are easy to use with gloves on, and a hood with a wind-blocking faceguard, which kept my lips from going numb on the mountain. The Xcelerator material was weatherproof, and combined with taped seams, powder skirt and Riri Aquazip zippers, the jacket and pants shed snow and the occasional rainfall with no problems. The big story, though, is how breathable this stuff is — this may be the most breathable set of snowboarding shells I’ve ever worn. Excess heat was never an issue, even on snowshoe hikes up in the backcountry. Whatever the material couldn’t breathe, the shells’ wide zip vents did. The Revolve and With Teeth felt phenomenal in conditions ranging from whiteout to bluebird.
WIRED Extremely breathable. Soft touch. Excellent styling with smart design features inside.
TIRED Waterproof zippers tend to stick before they’re broken in.