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I used the new Wild Things Snowkite Jacket this weekend at the Ozone Snowkite Masters. Wild Things is a clothing company highly regarded in the mountaineering world and their new jacket certainly upheld their standard of quality.
The first thing that struck me was its simplicity. The jacket is a shell pull-over, which has its pro’s and con’s. This allows for there to be no zippers (or pockets) on the lower part of the jacket, leaving everything located over the waist harness soft and flexible. This reduces wear on the cloth and extends the jacket’s life by minimizing the jacket’s exposure to abrasiveness, when the rigid zippers are pressed between packed snow/ice and the harness. It is slightly inconvenient to have to pull through the jacket to get it on or off (this tempted me take off my helmet, goggles, and hat, but it wasn’t necessary because the large front zipper opens wide enough to fit everything through). This was no big deal because once I dawned the jacket, I didn’t need to take it off until the end of the day.
The dual component ventilation system on the Wild Things Snowkite Jacket works through both the eVent ® cloth used on the jacket and the two mesh-lined breast-pockets. To my understanding eVent ® is the top material in the industry today; it is more breathable and waterproof than Epic ® or Gortex ®. Having seen an in-store display that “proved” the superiority of this material, I made it a point to test it outside a controlled environment. It’s easy to overheat while kiting, and even worse is to begin sweating. In temperatures above 20 Fahrenheit, I normally only snowkite in a shell/light jacket (over a long sleeve t-shirt). This weekend, temperatures were above 32 degrees and I wore a light sweater in addition to the Wild Things Jacket and t-shirt. I felt hot at times and opened the ventilating pockets when I would normally open the arm-pit vents on my Goretex ® North Face ® jacket. I admit, I sweated much less under this jacket than my own. Having kept my underarm dray, the eVent ® used on the Wild Things jacket successfully kept the rest of me dry (yeah, the snow was melting).
To keep wetness out, the jacket incorporates the eVent ® material, taped seams, rubber sealed zippers, and system that hugs the harness hook/handle-pass leash. Wild Things has thought of almost everything. If I were to add any feature, it would be to extend the bottom of the jacket down further around my abdomen. While the system worked well as it was, I had a couple of spills that brought the bottom up and exposed my stomach to chilling snow. All together, this jacket has kept me more dry than any jacket I’ve previously warn snowkiting (even ones with snow skirts).
Ok, now for the extras. For all of you that jam to an MP3 player while snowkiting, the Wild Things Jacket has two interior mesh pockets. They’re located on the chest, away from the harness-abrasion danger zone. I used my iPod all weekend without any trouble. The hood on the jacket has great elasticity, allowing it to fit snuggly around my head when my helmet is off, then expand to fit over it (it even goes over my massive Giro Bad Lieutenant) when the helmet is on. As for the feature which needs improvement: I had trouble using the zipper with my mittens on. This could easily be remedied by tying a longer, thicker piece of cord through each zipper.
You’re probably wondering about the kite stuff. Well the holes, or “portals,” on the front and back make it a kite jacket. The back one allows for you to clip a handle-pass leash through the jacket back while you fit your waist harness hook through the front one. Both wholes are great for keeping snow out and making everything snug. The front hole is backed by padding and has Velcro on the inside, which is used to secure the spreader bar and keep the hook in the access port. The system takes a few seconds to set up [done by putting on the waist harness (sorry, no seats allowed), dawning the jacket, placing the hook through the port, flipping up the bottom of the jacket to attach the Velcro, and finally flipping it back down]. The access port allows for the use of both traditional “donkey dicks” for the chicken loop and the then ’06 Ozone kick’t setup.
I was very impressed with the Wild Things Snowkite Jacket. I haven’t tried the Ultra Nectar version, but I have tried slitting holes for my harness hook (hey, Chasta does it) and wearing the harness over my jacket. The snowkite jacket worked much, much better.. The Wild Things Jacket kept the wet out, me without sweat, and had a simple, intelligent design. I’m sold on the benefits of a snowkite jacket, and would recommend this one to anyone.
*Note - This jacket was produced in limited quantities and was the first version. I understand that a second version may be on the way. Contact Wild Things for more details.
For More Information, Visit: http://www.wildthingsgear.com/