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01-26-2012, 02:36 PM #1
FREERIDE SYSTEMS Jacket Reviewed: All you need to know, with details.
As with any semi proper review, I wanted to get some time with the jacket before I posted up. After three months of wearing the piece almost every day, ranging from 40 deg and downpouring rain, to 6 degrees and fierce wind, from skiing to commuting to riding the mtb in the snow, I’m ready to post a review.
I have been trying to base more of my purchases around where the product originates lately, and when I found out about Freeride Systems, a technical outerwear upstart with the balls to make and manufacturer garments in the USA, I had to take a look at their goods.
If you only want the cliff notes, here they are. Freeride Systems offering, the Shavano polartec laminate softshell jacket is a worthy purchase for the price. In fit and function, you can tell it was designed with alpine sports in mind. The high collar and insulated hood that fits over a helmet are standout features that make the jacket worth it by themselves. The price is very reasonable for what you get. My quibbles with the jacket come from the stitching on the shoulders and the chest pocket. I would purchase the jacket again, and think the quality of manufacturing will get better as the company refines its methods. I would still take my early production jacket with its minor flaws over any similar technical piece from TNF or Eddie Bauer/First Ascent.
Model: Shavano 2L polartec Windbloc
I am 6’, 175lb. I have long arms and an average torso for my height. If I’m not skiing, I’m riding a 6” trail bike around, so my upper body is slim, and my legs are disproportionately large. In all, a common build for the active skier/rider on this site. On Mike’s advice, I purchased a Medium. The fit is, in a word, perfect. I can wear the jacket with nothing but a base layer underneath and it does not flop around or look baggy. I get cold easily, and with the generous cut, wearing a down sweater like a nano puff or similar under the jacket is no problem. In all, the cut allows for substantial layering under the garment. The sleeves are cut on the long side, which I appreciate when cinching them over gloves, or riding my bike. The sizing runs on the large side, so if you are slimmer, and usually in between sizes, consider sizing down. Again, the medium, at my size, is still a generous cut. The Shavano does not restrict movement at all in the shoulders or upper body, and is a good piece for anyone that values freedom of movement in their gear.
When I first zipped the jacket up, I could tell that a skier designed it. The collar has a very high cut to it. Zipped up, I can easily tuck my nose into it and shield my whole face. I hate wearing anything around my neck like a neck warmer or mock neck because they feel constrictive. The coat is not restrictive even with the collar all the way up, and is a great shield from the elements.
The hood is the second unique feature on the jacket, and it’s a great one. The hood is double lined. It has soft fleece inside the polartec outer. Take note, the hood is HUGE. Perhaps, it is bigger than it needs to be. But, being able to put the hood up with no effort over my size L helmet, even with the jacket zipped up all the way is great. It really increases warmth right off the bat. Without a helmet or hat on, the hood is a bit floppy. You can sinch it down, but be aware of the “clamshell” effect. Since this is only a casual wear quirk, and the functionality of an insulating helmet hood rocks, I don’t care about how it looks walking around town. I doubt you will either.
The polartec material has lots of stretch, and a super plush inner finish. It feels much like a Patagonia R3 or MH monkey man fleece inside. The outer layer is highly abrasion resistant. I’ve fallen in the jacket on trails, bashed the arms gate training and generally given it what for, and the polartec material is good as new. The wear panels are well placed, and if you ski EC trees, you’ll appreciate how easily they deflect saplings and small branches. This is not a jacket you have to worry about ripping. It is substantial.
Breathability is high. I have not gotten clammy in the jacket, even in 40 deg rainy weather. The polartec does not have a rated water repellency, but the jacket has kept me dry in rainstorms. With the nylon shoulders and elbows, this should keep you dry inside and out skiing in a heavy snowstorm. It is certainly not a raincoat, nor does it purport to be. That said, I am very happy with its water repellant coating.
In terms of warmth, for me, a very cold person, the jacket is adequate with a base layer and light fleece into the mid 20s, and warm with a base layer and mid fleece to the high teens. I was training gates with a down sweater and this over it in the single digits and was toasty. The jacket has excellent wind stopping qualities, and moderate insulation. With its generous cut and proper layering, this could be the only winter outer you need if you favor breathability and mobility over water resistance and insulation. The hand pockets are generous and a single pocket holds a wallet, bulky cell phone and keys no problem. Inside the jacket, you can stash bigger things in between the pocket and the shell, kind of like a Koala pouch. I can put a small U lock in this way, and not have it flop around while riding.
The jacket has held up well to the use I have put it through. It has a very simple, functional look to it. I certainly wouldn’t call it “techy”. It is understated, and the branding is not obnoxious. My jacket arrived with some unfinished threads. Not perfect, but a couple minutes with scissors and a lighter finished everything to my standards. I find the same issue on $300+ jackets as well. The inside of the jacket is unlined. Simple describes the look and finish. The zippers are large and zip easily even with gloves on. They have thick teeth and do feel a bit childish, which you soon forget about when unzipping the pits while trail riding with one hand on the bars.
My nitpicks are not with the concept or features of the jacket, but with the construction. Mine was very early in the production run, and I would bet Mike makes them better and better each production run. The beauty of a small company is how quickly they can integrate feedback into the product. Every day I commute I have a heavy pack: two law school textbooks, a laptop and a water bottle. The shoulder stitching is starting to pull out. I trim it down, but after a couple days it pulls out again. For most users this will not be a problem, particularly with the typical beacon/shovel/probe/bacon load out. I find it annoying, and stitching in a different location, or a thicker, more wear resistant thread would fix this. It could also be an early production run issue. I know that Mike stands behind his products constantly tries to make them better. With any first run product there will be issues, and this is minor in the scheme of things.
The chest pocket is not attached to the inside of the jacket. So, if you put the coat on with something in the pocket, often you have to adjust the pocket and unfold it before you zip up. Tacking the corner of the pocket to the coat would fix this issue.
In all, I think Mike has done a bang up job on the Shavano. It is light, breathes well, and has unique features that really shine in the winter. I would not hesitate to give him my money and support Freeride Systems again. If you don’t want bling, and want something understated that works, this is a great choice. I look forward to trying one of the Gore 3L jackets to compare and contrast.
Let me know if you have any other questions, but this pretty well covers it. Sorry for the length, I just started typing, and this happened.
01-26-2012, 07:54 PM #2
Yo, Hunter, I got a Shavano, too, and love it. One of the first things I noticed was that high collar while out on a cold windy day. Haven't got enough mileage on it for things to wear thin. I know, though, that Freeride Systems is going places. Having weathered years of issues to iron out in the construction details of our skis, we have pulled together a stellar product and I know Mike is on the right track. I love Americans making ski-related goods in America. It can be done and should be done a lot more. And people should support Freeride Systems so they can become an American manufacturing powerhouse.
01-26-2012, 08:50 PM #3
I'm still young, but buying American products and cutting out overseas products has become very important to me. Why buy a taiwan sweatshop jacket, when for less money you can have a better engineered Merican' product, and speak in person to the person you are giving your hard earned cash to.
I know Mike will iron out the jackets as he gets more feedback. I'm sure you have put the original 188 bro up on the wall next to one of your new rocker carbon layup creations and marveled at what a strange trip it has been, and how refined your product has become. I hope this encourages more people to go the Freeride Systems way. When I lived in CO, the trend was to put those stickers that said "Native" on your car, board or face. If those people actually have CO pride, they will support a local company with a good product.
01-26-2012, 09:45 PM #4
Thank you both. I do strive to design, engineer, cut and sew the best garment possible with some of the best fabrics available. Believe me when I say I listen, consider and take action on most of the feedback I receive. I believe in the Smith Optics customer service and warranty replacement model. I have used it myself and now that they have a Polarized I/O lens I will go back to my I/O from the Zeal. (never got rid of the I/O)
300, I am hoping that the pocket issue you describe is in the lower half which I know is not secured (the top outside corner should be stitched into the yoke seam). Because we have fewer fabric pieces in our jackets, we have less opportunities to lay down stitches on the interior. However, I will determine that once you send me pics. The thread issue is new news to me and I await pics on that to see what is up. I do use a BP1 ski carry system for boot packing with the weight of either 186 or 196 skis and dukes and I have not seen it on my personal jackets. Rest assured that those shoulder seams are serged first with a 4 thread machine and then rolled and double needled for a flat felled seam through two layers of fabric. (jibberish talk for beefy and a couple of levels of fail safe measures). I can certainly switch to nylon non wicking thread but it is static and does not give in certain situations where poly or blends will and is needed. Ultimately, those threads protect the fabric.
If I can produce a jacket up to par with the performance of a carbon Lhasa I will feel pretty blessed. Believe me, I am pushing for it and heed all feedback.
That feedback process is going on right now with the design of a custom waist/inseam ski pant features discussion in a TTalk thread. I cant wait to post the pictures from the 4th sample that everyone in the thread has contributed towards.
Thanks to all who invest their hard earned money on freeride systems goods. I can tell you that the bulk of the dollars stay right here in the Colorado economy.
01-26-2012, 10:31 PM #5
300 just got the pics. I am happy to report on both of these. 1) the pocket. Your pic below shows it as it is designed. If we were to sew the pocket completely around into the main body fabric we would have a rectangle of thread on the front of the jacket right in the middle of the chest. The top outer corner is stitched into the yoke seam. the bottom is loose. So, the whole pocket does not flap around. The best way to remedy this is to slightly shake as you are zipping. That will keep the pocket bottom inside the jacket. I do that myself and don't even realize when I do it now.
2) the shoulder seam will hold up. I checked the jacket where I have been carrying a pretty heavy ski/binding set up and I do not have the same problem. Now, 30lbs of law books, that may be a different story and looks like you could be wearing the backpack straps on the outer edges of the shoulders. You may consider making a chest cinch for the backpack to keep the pack straps centered on shoulders instead of flaring to the outside over the seam. Wearing to the outside and mountain biking with that much weight is going to create some stress when straps are directly over the seam. However, if that entire seam (both threads) came completely out, it is in an area that can be resewn (even with single needle machine) and repaired pretty close to OEM condition fairly easily. A repair that could be done locally for prolly $10 or less or we would handle it for you. And, if you lost both threads there is still another seam hidden below, so you would not instantly have half a vest or anything like that. Do trim those off so that there is less friction with pack strap and def get a chest cinch if not already equipped.
01-27-2012, 11:19 AM #6
thanks dude! Like I said, it was no big deal, just pointing it out for the sake of the review. The stuff is super bomber, and I hope the pictures show that hard use really doesn't put a dent in the jacket. I end up going through jackets pretty quickly, but this one will be around a while.
Also, This pic is a great way to see how soft and fluffy the inside of the jacket is. It is seriously cozy! Very plush against the skin if you are wearing short sleeves under it for a high output activity.
I certainly hope to see more people rocking the freeride systems/bro or freeride/ON3p combo. Support your roots, ya know?
02-05-2012, 10:20 PM #7
Here's Craig last week in a red Freeride in Summit County CO trees. Thanks for pic Craig.
the local's choice
02-06-2012, 09:21 PM #8
I fit ever gets cold and snows here again, I'll review my jacket in detail.
That 'if' seems so freakin far out there after skiing today.
03-08-2012, 10:44 PM #9
So, is the Nylon overlay on the forearms and elbows just for show? The answer is no!
The pictures show the result of sliding on steep boilerplate about 50' and being stopped by a bunch of rocks. Thought I broke my arm. No main body fabric penetrated. My arm not so lucky, but not broken. Freeride Systems is the team jacket for the highest based SAR team in North America. Jackets constructed in Colorado.