The Winter Eskater’s Guide to Jackets

It’s that time of year again folks.

North America is beginning to ice over, the days are getting darker and shorter, and the majority of eskaters are packing it in and getting tucked into their computer chairs, preparing to argue with each other on Reddit for the next 5 months.

(Yes, this is where I live and yes, I did ride that day)

This is also the time of year when the hardy among us get in some of the most intense, exciting, fun, and at times, serene rides of our lives. I am a staunch advocate for eskating in the winter time. There is something strangely satisfying about floating down the street on my EUC alongside banks of snow, while surrounded by Christmas lights, with the smell of a wood fire lingering in my helmet.

Of course, this is not possible with your run-of-the-mill outfit. The clothing required for winter riding must be as specialized, hardy and deliberate as the brave men and women who choose to ride in these conditions.

Seeing as this is my third winter commuting in New England snow, I figured it was about time that I begin to share some of the knowledge that I have gained over the past couple of seasons. It’s tough enough to ride along through the cold nights of winter, so let me try to make that journey a little less cold, and lonely, by sharing my experiences with winter gear so that you can learn from my mistakes and excel from my successes (and look at that sweet, sweet gear porn)

(Boston rider “Ghost” was happy to snap his winter load-out for our guide)

To kick-off the guide, I will start by talking about the core of every winter warrior’s arsenal, the jacket. But not to worry! In future weeks, we will go on to tackle the topics of gloves, shoes, pants, and head-wear.

The Jacket


(Rarely captured footage of the NYC eskate crew voguing) 

I have seen winter eskaters in all manner of jackets, from the thin flexible Columbia fleece, to the giant Canada Goose Arctic Expedition parka.

For the purposes of this guide, I will try to call out the features that I find make the best eskate jacket, rather than the particular models of jacket that I recommend (though I will give some specific recommendations as well).

The Must-Have List:

The perfect eskate jacket should have the following features:

-Cuts wind
-Insulates you to keep warm (down is key here)
-Covers and seals at your neck
-Covers some of your upper leg
-Resists abrasion if (god forbid) you take a digger on some stone-cold asphalt
-Is waterproof

Since wearing a full-face helmet is one of the easiest ways to keep your head warm during cold weather riding, a hooded jacket is not necessary, and may even get in your way unnecessarily. I personally recommend looking to cold-weather motorcycle and snowmobiling jackets for eskate purposes. These jackets typically feature warm, wind-proof design with a tight fit around the neck, and occasionally have some armor built in as well.

Baby, are you down, down, down, down, down.

With regards to warmth, down is king. Pound-for-pound, down is warmer than synthetic material, which means that less can be used to keep you warm. This means a jacket filled with down will be warmer than if the same amount of synthetic insulation were used and allows you to be lighter and less bulky on your commute.

Some things to keep in mind:

-If your jacket features flaps on the side of the hood with buttons on them (such as in the above image), they will flap against the side of your helmet at speeds over 20 mph and drive you insane. Ask me how I know.

Some motorcycle jacket manufacturers *ahem* Revzilla *cough* insist on adding these, non-removable, “features” to their motorcycle jackets, so it is important to keep an eye out for these flaps when purchasing a jacket online or in-store.

-If your jacket has tight fitting or bulky cuffs, you may be unable to comfortably fit gauntlet-style gloves into/over them. Typically sizing up your jacket from what you normally buy will prevent this issue (and leave you some room for additional base layers.

-Days get shorter in the winter, so you may find yourself riding in darker conditions more often. Choosing a coat in a brighter color, or finding a model with reflective piping can be the difference between a driver seeing you on a dark roadway or not.

My Recs:

I have had particularly good luck with the following jackets:

The Fly Racing Snow Outpost Jacket

This jacket features a very warm, snow-mobile centric design that keeps wind out, particularly well at the neck, and features reflective piping and bright colors that will make you stand out like THE GODDAMN SUN when car headlights hit you. No, I am not exaggerating, this jacket makes you look like a part of an EDM festival at night, and remains quite visible during the day (at least in the bright orange color that I chose).

It also features reinforced seams as well as reinforced panels to prevent wear from (it’s like they made this for eskating) backpack straps, as well as on the elbows and forearms. This jacket also has one of the best collars for eskaters that I have had the pleasure of using. It comes up nice and high to meet the bottom of your helmet, and features insulation all the way to the edge of the collar. This ensures that your neck is toasty warm and that pesky, cold winter air has even less space to get in. I ride with this jacket into 10-20 degree fahrenheit conditions without issue.

The Land’s End Expedition Winter Parka

When winter gets REALLY cold, I always find myself turning to this coat. With a temperature rating from -34° to -5° Fahrenheit, a 100% waterproof shell with seam-sealing, and 600 fill power down with a downproof quilted lining, this jacket is a godsend. The 100% nylon shell ensures that it will stand the test of time and abrasions that you might run into on the road. The ample pockets ensure that you have room for all of your eskate gizmos and gadgets (I hardly ever need to bring a backpack along with this jacket).

All of these features are great, but one of the best features of this jacket is its optional “Tall” cut. I HIGHLY recommend that you get this jacket in a “Tall”, unless you are fairly short, as it extends the bottom of the jacket to cover some of the user’s upper leg as well. One of the biggest problems with riding at-speed in the winter is wind-chill, and the part of your body that will feel this the most, from my experience, is the front of your thighs. Having a jacket that can cover up this key vulnerability is an invaluable tool for an eskater, and a feature that makes this jacket the core of my winter arsenal

TL;DR

Get a coat that:

  • Is long/large enough to make room for layers and covers your waist
  • Is abrasion resistant
  • Blocks wind
  • Is waterproof
  • Has goose down for maximum warmth
  • Covers your neck and seals tightly to prevent wind egress
  • Has bright colors and/or reflectors for nighttime visibility
  • Does not have the “hood flaps of doom”

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on winter commuter gear. Feel free to comment on this article with your favorite pieces of winter gear and I will make sure to include them in the guide.

Until next time, stay warm out there skaters!

Protect your Bean! The Triple 8 DH Racer Review.

Hey guys, Drew here!

It may be colder than the arctic tundra here in Boston, but that hasn’t stopped me for a second when it comes to eskating. Based on community feedback, this week’s article will be a review of a particular gear piece that might be the most important part of any eskater’s arsenal.

(Just some proof that I do indeed leave my house every once in a while and don’t spend the entire day on /r/electricskateboarding as some have alleged)

“Wear a helmet!”

“My best friend/mom/uncle/neighbor/cat died from a fall when he wasn’t wearing a helmet.”

“You look like an idiot skating without a helmet!”

These are just some of the phrases that will greet you when posting a helmet-less picture on a popular eskate forum. As with most hobbies in their infancy, eskating is primarily only done by the most technologically literate (read: nerds) among us, and as a community of nerds, it is only natural that there is a fetishization of safety that comes with the territory.

I expect that these more aggressive tactics of “helmet-less hate” will begin to lessen as eskating attracts more of a mainstream audience, but until then, I will be engaging in a continual search to find the best in safety gear specific to the unique requirements presented by eskaters.
That brings me to today’s review item, the Triple 8 Downhill Racer.

(If I didn’t know any better, I would assume this picture took place on a back-country snowboarding expedition)

When trying to decide on a helmet to purchase for my eskating needs, I had a few factors in mind:

  1. I wanted the helmet to be full-face with a visor to protect my eyes and face from the wind (because let’s be honest, no one likes skating around blind due to teary-eyes)
  2. I wanted the helmet to be light and streamlined for ease-of-use and transport
  3. It needed to be comfortable to maximize the time I would want to spend wearing it
  4. I wanted something that looked DOPE
  5. Affordability was a must, but I would have to balance cost vs quality closely, as protecting my head was NOT an area where corners should be cut.

This reminded me of an old favorite helmet used by myself and others during my DH (downhill) days, the Predator DH, but upon looking at the price ($450 for the newest version!) I noped out real quick.

It was then that I remembered that Triple 8 actually makes a more budget helmet specifically for downhill skating, the Triple 8 Downhill Racer. A quick trip to Amazon and $150 later, I had the helmet on it’s way with free 2 day shipping.

Looks:

(The side profile on this helmet sure is sexy.)

The first thing I noticed when unboxing this bad boy is how gorgeous the lines on this helmet are. Contrary to traditional, bulky mountain biking helmets, the Downhill Racer looks sleek, refined, and has a great finish. This is partially due to its fabrication process, which starts on a mold made originally for paragliding helmets. This gives the helmet a much smaller profile and a much larger field of view in front of you, perfect for seeing cars coming from the side, or looking up out of a speed tuck.

I opted for the black version with red and white pinstripes. These graphics, combined with the tinted visor, make for one badass looking helmet.

Fit:
I have a pretty large head, I typically wear a large or XL motorcycle helmet, so I opted for the Large/XL option for the Downhill Racer. I can report after getting a few rides under my belt that this helmet feels very small on my face. My chin is constantly in contact with the bottom of the helmet, and it makes me question the effectiveness of the full-face protection that it is said to offer. If I reach up and push down on the helmet, compacting the soft padding at the top, I can get a pretty good fit, but this quickly reverts when my hand is removed. I am hoping that this is a problem that goes away as the helmet “wears in” a little more.

Besides the issue with the chin, the rest of the helmet fits comfortably, with no pressure on the crown, sides, or back of the head.

Ventilation:
One thing that this helmet is NOT designed to do is provide adequate ventilation when stationary. At stops I find the visor fogging up immediately, and even when putting up the visor, I still fog up my glasses easily. This appears to be mostly due to the tight fit at the bottom of the helmet, which allows no air from exhaling to escape, forcing it to go up and into the visor-area of the helmet. Additionally, the helmet appears to be a closed system with no ventilation ANYWHERE, something that is very rare to see on a full-face. It is also worth noting that these data points come from some cold-morning commutes during Boston winter. It is entirely possible that this issue disappears once the weather improves.

At-speed, this helmet does a great job of staying fog-free, if you keep the visor cracked a little bit in order to let a breeze in.

(The sleek, no-vent look has great visual appeal, but really backfires from an airflow perspective)

Comfort:
Constructed out of a hand-laid fiberglass shell, this helmet is also EXTREMELY light. Tipping the scale at 2 pounds, it almost feels like you are wearing nothing at all on your head. The full-face coverage also gave me the confidence to hit higher speeds than I would have ever felt comfortable attempting without a helmet.

As mentioned before, the helmet does not have any points of tightness or discomfort, save the pressure on the chin from my abnormally large head. Airflow is poor when stationary, but improves at speeds of around 10-15 mph. Where this helmet excels is in eliminating wind-noise. It is here that the streamlined nature of the Downhill Racer really hits its stride, providing a quite ride up to my maximum testing speed, 22 mph.

(The inside of the helmet is the very picture of comfort. The EPS foam and velvet lining makes for a luxury experience)

Price:
At $150, this helmet is a steal. Similar helmets like the Sector 9 Cannonball and TSG Pass, come in well over the $200 mark and offer many of the same features as the Downhill Racer while weighing more. It is worth noting that this helmet meets CPSC 1203 bike and ASTM F1952 downhill mountain bike racing standards, but is a one-time-use EPS foam helmet. This means that you WILL have to replace this helmet after taking a hard spill or dropping it from a decent height, as the inner foam will crack, compromising the safety of the helmet.

Price: Great, Comfort: OK, Protection: Great, Quality: Great, Ventilation: Poor

I hope you liked this gear review. If you have any thoughts on what I have written or have a specific piece of gear that you would like to see reviewed, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at [email protected]

Until next time, let the good times roll!

-Drew