Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snowpocalyspe Gear Review

As you may know, the Mid-Atlantic region just got hit with the second Nor'Easter in less than a week.  This has given me the chance to wring out some gear.

Troy-Bilt 5524 snow blower: I bought this about five years ago directly from the manufacturer.  At the time it was their smallest two-stage unit, with a 24" wide by 18" high cut.  It's worked spendidly this week, though the 5.5 HP engine did get bogged down a bit at one point by the heavy wet snow we got this time.  As long as I took care not to try and force it through too much snow at a time.  I believe that the current model is a little more sophisticated than mine, e.g., it has a crank to adjust the chute.

Wall's Blizzard Pruf Jacket : This is a traditional cotton canvas work jacket with a hood that I picked up at WalMart last year.  Carhartt and Dickies sell similar jackets.  It's fleece lined and warm into the upper 20s with no extra layers underneath.  Because it's cotton, I sprayed it down with a NixWax water repellency treatment, which helps a little.  I wore it for several hours out in blowing snow yesterday and I stayed warm and dry, but even after brushing off most of the snow, it got wet once I came inside and the snow melted.  It takes a long time to dry, too.  Good for work around the house but I wouldn't want it in the field if I expected foul weather, unless I had a shell or poncho to put over it.

Mountain Hardwear Alchemy Softshell Jacket
: I bought this at REI last Fall and have worn it a lot while commuting.  It's very water resistant -- unless you're in a sustained downpour it'll keep you dry.  It's also windproof.  I wore this over a wicking t-shirt, flannel shirt, and my REI Polartec 200 fleece vest when I went out last night to clean off the cars again and wound up staying outside for about a half hour to do one more run with the snowblower.  Even though it was in the 20s with a strong wind I stayed warm and dry.  I wore it again today when cleaning up after the snowplow came through and it was plenty warm.

If I was sedentary in this weather the Alchemy wouldn't be warm enough, but for strenous activity it's fine.  The main thing I'd change on this jacket would be to make the cut a bit less slim in the sleeves, to facilitate layering over a fleece jacket.  Also, pit zips would be nice, and the next softshell jacket I buy will probably have a hood.

Orc Industries PCU Level 5 Softshell Pants:  These are USGI technical softshell pants. I ordered these factory direct on February 2nd, after Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow.  They arrived yesterday.  I wanted something that I could wear over jeans, BDU pants, sweats, or even just long johns that would be water resistant, wind proof, and more breathable than my German surplus rain pants.  I am quite pleased with them.  Note that these are not waterproof, but the only moisture that made its way inside was when I sat on a chair with some snowmelt, and even then my behind didn't get too wet.  They are very windproof, as well.  IMO, these make a good, less expensive alternative to civilian technical pants.  Unlike some civvie softshell pants, these have no fleece lining, so they're just a shell.

One feature of these pants that I took advantage of are loops inside down near the hem on each leg.  I used these today to tie on some paracord stirrups to hold the pants down over the tops of my boots to seal out the snow.  I didn't do that yesterday and they rode up exposing my ankles.

Military Morons has a good review of the Orc pants here, which find I very on-target.

REI merino wool hiking socks: I wear these or similar socks from Wigwam every day, unless I'm wearing sandals.  Comfy and warm, even when wet.

Merrell Outland Mid-Height Boots:
These are waterproof and although not insulated, in combination with my REI merino wool socks are warm enough down into the teens when I'm active. They come up a bit over my ankles so for this storm I could've used higher boots.  (Once I made paracord stirrups to prevent my softshell pants from riding up this was a non-issue.)  The Merrells have good Vibram soles which provide good traction on slippery surfaces.  The one downside to these boots is that they are not very breathable, resulting in sweaty feet if it's warm.

1 comment:

Cliff said...

Dave, as I read through you post and visited the I was very grateful to find lawyers like you! I enjoyed your post, keep up the great work!