I had an interesting opportunity in the recent arrowhead 135 race to put some of my gear through the wringer. Because i loaned some of my own 'good stuff' to tom for the race and had to go with the back-up equipment, i also had the opportunity to compare a few things. here are a handful of my thoughts:
- Ibex clothing: this stuff is amazing. all but one or two pieces of my outfit were ibex and tom's entire ensemble was. he wore ibex short sleeve baselayer, ibex arm warmers, medium weight long sleeve baselayer, ibex soft shell jacket, ibex bike shorts, leg warmers, and soft shell pants. my wardrobe was similar except for the short sleeve baselayer (nike drifit compression top) and armwarmers (swiftwick), and the fact that my ibex long sleeve baselayer was the heavy weight version. amazingly, despite temperatures as cold as minus 35 without wind chill, i never felt the need to wear any of my insulating layers. more amazingly, although i got damp, i never got wet from sweat as i have in the past. the outer softshell jacket was totally effective as a wind break but seemed to vent far better than any hard shell or even wind jacket that i've ever used, at least in extreme cold.
- Louis Garneau 0 degree cycling shoes and Patagonia socks : Lake makes a shoe that is touted as being the best for winter cycling but is quite expensive. i bought these last year because i got a deal on them and am glad i did. I wear the one pair of super socks in them and then neoprene shoe covers over them. Yes, my feet were cold when it was 30 below and i had to walk once to stimulate circulation - but i was pretty psyched with the warmth the system provided.
- Fenix HL20 headlamp: Jason had these at abu dhabi and i snuck one back. they're one battery LED lamps with three brightness settings and a flip down diffuser that allows for the user to go between a narrow 'spot' and more even, less focused light. the low light setting will run for 10 hours or so on one battery while the high power one will last 2-3. i gave my fenix lamp to tom for the race and was envious the whole time - he enjoyed the night riding, especially the downhills, while i struggled with my headlamp which was bright but didn't allow much focus and lasted only slightly longer on four batteries. And the fenix light weighs in at less than 50 grams. awesome!
- ColdAvenger face mask: I got one of these for the arrowhead last year and loved it. During that race, however, my goggles froze and i had severe problems with the flash freezing of my eyes. going into this years race i did extensive experimentation, thinking that the mask might not have effectively channeled my exhale far enough from my face. I tried many arrangements (including a breathing tube that funnelled my breath far from my body) and was somewhat relieved to learn that it wasn't the masks fault, and figured my eyes and face just produce lots of moisture which causes the freezing. i was glad that i was going to be wearing the mask again this year, but in the end gave it to tom since after all i wanted him to have the best chance to make it, and that means the best gear. besides, i wasn't really sure how big of a difference it would make. It makes a big difference. my face and lips were frozen just riding the mile to the start line. I ended up making it to the finish with just a regular neoprene face mask and lots of vaseline and chapstick, but my face was always cold and i always wished i'd had two masks, one to lend and one to use myself. Next year tom better have his own damn ColdAvenger.