When it comes to modern technology, I’m as plugged in as an Amish toaster. It’s not that I fight advances, it’s just I’m either too cheap to invest or I don’t see the need to upgrade from what I’m currently using. I won’t even get into how long it took me to give up my flip phone, but let’s just say I dragged my heels a little bit on that one.
When it comes to riding, I can appreciate the latest advancements in snowmobiles but up until this past winter I wasn’t sold on investing in quality gear. I belonged in the land of misfit toys because I would borrow anything regardless of the condition of it just to get in the mountains to ride. At one point I was outfitted with a light jacket, Walmart snow pants (complete with cheesy clip-on suspenders from my closet) and a rough-looking pair of snow boots I intercepted from my neighbor who was on his way to Goodwill.
I honestly just thought being cold was part of the experience.
You mean everyone doesn’t pour water out of their boots at the end of the day? Who knew?
Then last fall my “friends” sat me down for a little intervention and convinced me it was time to retire what I considered to be snow gear and to finally do it right. With several quality brands available today I was given one piece of advice that I really took to heart. I was advised to shop around and when I found a company I liked, to go all in and become brand loyal. They didn’t want me mismatching a jacket with bibs from another manufacturer just to save a few bucks. Man, do my friends know me well. They said by going with the same manufacturer I will not only look right, but my gear will fit right because it was designed to all work well together. That’s a good tip for everyone because they’re not wrong.
Finding Castle X
The Back Country Series from Castle X has been very popular out West lately in the mountain states where I ride and has opened a lot of eyes to those in my area not as familiar with the company that is based in the Midwest. I liked what I was seeing and followed my friend’s advice and went all in by stuffing my online shopping cart with a heavy-duty three-in-one coat, bibs, gloves, boots and yes, even a pair of Castle X brand socks. The results after just my first trip on the snow was a firm slap to my forehead as it finally occurred to me I didn’t need to be cold when I ride. After a season that ranged from minus 16 degree F mornings to 40 degree F afternoon temps, the versatility and quality products make me a Castle X fan for life.
It’s called a jacket, but in reality it’s a full winter coat. The three-in-one high performance polyester/nylon outer shell Thrust Jacket was what initially led me to this brand and it didn’t disappoint. With too many features to list, I’ll just touch on a few of my favorites such as the backpack-friendly Ventec sleeve and two-way core vents with snow blocker mesh, integrated goggle wipe and internal Lycra hand gaiters.
Inside is a puff-style 3M Thinsulate water-resistant insulated inner jacket that can be worn separately or together, which combined is how I wore it the majority of the time. Compared to what I was wearing the season before is like comparing a diesel truck to a Ford Edsel.
The ultra warm, durable polyester/nylon shell with premium 3M Thinsulate water-resistant insulation Polar Bib from Castle X was a game changer for me. Worrying about a suspender clip failing when I would stand up on the sled was in the past. The Gusseted knees with action flex panels provide a non-binding fit and I had no idea removable molded memory foam knee pads were even possible. The benefit of going with the same brand is clear with the inner snow gaiters that have a snap to attach to my boots to keep the pant legs from riding up.
Charge Boa Boots
Speaking of boots, next to the jacket my favorite upgrade was the Charge Boa Boots with Castle ColdShield technology including the DRY-X waterproof membrane. Having warm and dry feet at the end of the day was a foreign concept to me until now, but my favorite quality is the quick release Boa system. Slip your foot in, press in the dial on the front and twist to tighten a thin cable until the boot is tight. It’s that easy. No more messing with laces, which makes me wonder if Castle X would design schools shoes for my 9-year-old that synch up this easy. And yes, as mentioned earlier, I even picked up a pair of Regulator name-brand socks just to complete the all in experience.
Lastly, I went with Epic Gloves that again use 3M Thinsulate water-resistant insulation, plus a synthetic sure-grip palm. There are features that I didn’t really understand or know much about (such as molded neoprene action panels on fingers and a padded knuckle panel), but I just know they work. Castle X calls it an adjustable weather blocking gauntlet shock cord, but I just see it as a great way to keep snow from getting anywhere near my wrist.
There are plenty of items to still tempt me on the Castle X website, especially this time of year with its sale prices so it’s safe to say I’m only getting started. However, what I invested in for this past season was the perfect start to upgrade me from what I was wearing to what I really should have been wearing all along.