2 SEASONS IN THE ARCTIC WITH “STORMR” An equipment review, by the crew of Empiricus

“STORMR” Product review from a sailors perspective.

By Capt. Jesse Osborn and the crew of SV Empiricus. 2012-2014

In 2012, I was preparing to sail the fabled Northwest Passage. Having the right foul weather gear was going to be important. As I discussed this with a friend, he told me about this new company called Stormr who was making cutting edge outdoor clothing. We looked at the website and read about the products. Neoprene clothing sounded cutting edge indeed and the products looked really sharp.

The 2012 Kodiak Crew, just before castoff.
The 2012 Kodiak Crew, just before castoff.

I was intrigued and called the Stormr staff on the east coast. Together, the staff at Stormr and I came up with an exchange, that would help our equipment needs, while providing some real time, hard-usage data on their line of clothing.

The first set of gear we received was a set of Stryker Series Bibs and jacket, along with gloves and beanie. I was working at the time on Alaska’s North Slope. So I called my eldest son Isaac, asking him to retrieve the box and do some preliminary testing.

The first thing Isaac did wearing the gear was to take it into a cold shower. He was happy to make a “bone dry and warm” report. Then the following day I got a message from him. “Testing underway at the waterfall.”

Isaac's testing begins
Isaac’s testing begins

Here was Isaac’s test as he relayed it to me. He took the beanie hat and filled it with icy cold glacier fed water, then put it on. Once the water in the hat warmed up, which took less then a minute, his head was warm and stayed that way.

A hatful of ocean
A hatful of ocean
The hat test
The hat test

Next he laid down in the river and reported that he was completely dry for a surprising amount of time. Then the water crept in between the jacket and bibs He was cold at first, but soon the water trapped beneath the suit warmed up and he was comfortable again.

Isaac in the icy water
Isaac in the icy water

From the sounds of it, this “Stormr” gear would take a wave and keep a helmsman warm in cold conditions. But if this were to be the primary gear onboard, we would have to take testing a lot further…

A week or so later, I came home on the airplane from working up north. I had worked a night shift and had only slept a couple hours on the plane before driving home to Seward, where I met Isaac, who had the gear ready for testing. I donned it over thin sport pants and a cotton t-shirt. It was late at night and the temperature was well below freezing.

The harbor test
The harbor test

With the camera rolling and wind biting, I used a friend’s sailboat as my testing platform. Isaac filmed from the dock, while I climbed around on deck, wearing the “Stryker” series bibs, jacket, gloves and beanie.

The first thing I noticed was the flexibility of the gear. Although it hugged my body, it flexed quite easily. This allowed low crouching moves and crawling, without limitation of movement. Also there was no excess clothing mess to snag on winches and cleats. The gear was quite pleasant to wear and though it did not matter for our purposes, the look was stylish as well.

Satisfied by the ease of wear, I swung around in the rigging then stepped to the stern for the next stage of testing: a winter plunge into the harbor.

I fell backward off the stern rail, simulating a man overboard scenario, landing face up. Submerging just for a moment, I popped to the surface with ease. The suit was buoyant which was nice, because I could concentrate more on breathing than swimming. Once the water ran off my face and I got a few breaths, I could talk again.

Having jumped into many cold bodies of water without Stormr gear, this experience was pleasantly different. Besides my face, I was completely warm. Instead of suffering a shocking full-body freeze, the cold came in trickles, through my neck and up from my waist. The wrist seals worked perfectly and my arms stayed dry for a very long while.

Swimming in Stormr
Swimming in Stormr

Feeling satisfied with that, I took a swim, and let my body movements swamp the suit. I could swim quite well in the gear, but after a couple laps back and forth, the arms held water in, making them heavy. Still, if I lifted my arms, the water drained down so I could swim again.

I knew what Isaac was talking about right away, when I felt the water warming inside the suit. The wrist seals provided a good fit, allowing very little cold water to flush through the suit. Once the water inside was warm, so was I. This is how a wet suit works, of course, as well as neoprene gloves. Get them wet inside and you will be warm. But the trick is keeping the suit tight enough and sealed enough, to retain the same water. I noticed when swimming aggressively, new water flushed the torso area and I was temporarily robbed of body heat.

After nearly 3 minutes in the water, my feet were freezing (I was wearing rubber boots), but the rest of my body was still warm. This convinced me that my comfort was not from adrenalin or excitement but insulation. I was impressed once again with the gear and climbed out of the water onto the dock with ease.

I say with ease, because some survival suits, including work suits, like the Mustang for example, will retain more water than a cold tired man can lift. In fact I have talked with men who went into the cold Alaska water in a survival suit and could not get back in the boat, even with the help of 2 grown men.

Easy exit
Easy exit

The water drained from Stormr’s jacket and bibs within seconds of standing upright. I found that raising my arms and lifting my heels to dump the boots completed the draining process and soon I was light and mobile. I stayed warm too, with not even a shiver.

I am a big believer in self-rescue, so I was quite happy with the ease of exit and suit drainage.

Waiting to freeze and getting bored
Waiting to freeze and getting bored

Now soaked through completely, with cotton under layers (usually a big no no), I walked the windy cold dock, waiting for my heart rate to drop again. I knew from growing up in Alaska that a fair amount of cold can be dealt with by working hard and burning calories, but being wet like this, when not exerting yourself, could be a deadly scenario in conventional clothing.

I walked along the dock and waited to get cold, but boredom set in before that happened. In fact I was quite warm with the water trapped inside the suit against me and the insulating neoprene, holding in heat and blocking the wind.

It occurred to me that a person who swam to shore wearing Stormr clothing would have a much better chance of survival onshore, then without it.

Quite satisfied from the test results. Isaac and I made back for the truck and I tried one more test on the way, by peeling off a glove. Within a few seconds my hand stung with cold, as the water and wind sucked the heat from my hand. I tried to get the glove back on but my fingers were frozen and had lost dexterity. It was clear that the rest of my body would be disabled and hypothermic by now, without being protected by Stormr.

I sent Stormr the footage from that test and this is the resulting video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCSiNKDDkPk

After a nice time off and time with my boys, I returned to the frigid arctic and packed the Stormr gear for extreme low temperature testing. After a couple weeks of working, we got a nice cold snap and the weather sat at -35-40 degrees for a couple of days – a perfect opportunity for cold weather testing.

The first day, I donned the gear over base layer polypropylene undergarments and took a walk out on the frozen riverbed. Of course these conditions were well beyond the scope of Stormr’s intended usage. But I was curious none the less and wanted to know just how far I could take the gear before it failed completely.

Soon my eyelashes froze together, but still I did not shiver, nor feel the bite of the cold on my body. Another surprising note was that the gear continued to be just as flexible at -40 degrees. That was most impressive, as plastics, rubber and synthetic materials are prone to cracking like potato chips in those temperatures.

The first thing to truly get cold were my hands. The thin Stormr gloves were protecting my skin from frostbite, but began to ache from cold. I returned to camp having spent abut 15 minutes in -40 degrees, suffering no frostbite and no gear failures.

A couple of days later I set out for another test and took a climb up our 4-storey snow pile behind the work yard. It was a bit warmer, maybe -28 degrees Fahrenheit, when I sat down in the snow, testing the direct contact insulation qualities. Ask anyone who has worked in the far north, how to best get cold and “Touch something” will likely be the answer. In this test, Stormr did very well indeed and I sat in the snow comfortable to boredom, before returning to camp. The coldest parts of me were my toes and face, neither of which were protected by Stormr gear.

The third arctic winter test was conducted the following morning, in similar temperatures, where I wanted to test the water repellency and characteristics and ice glazing in extreme cold. So, I asked the camp cook to dump a bucket of water over me, while I stood outside with the hood up. She was a great sport, and had a good time dousing me, just outside the kitchen doors behind our housing unit.

The water poured down my head and shoulders, but none touched my face, due to the sturdy, well shaped hood. Believe me, I would have known if water got on my face, because moments later, it froze, breaking off me like pieces of eggshell within 10 seconds or so. I stayed for a few minutes and all the ice fell away, leaving me dry and warm, like the water never happened. Satisfied with that, I put the gear away. But testing would continue in the spring.

When I returned back to Seward and latitude 60 degrees north, I shared the test details with Bixler McClure, a friend, fellow sailor and one of the blogging authors at alaskagraphy.com.

First time sailing in Stormr.
First time sailing in Stormr.

He took me out on his vessel SV “Carpe Ventos” for a Stormr test sail in Resurrection Bay. Although this gear was not specifically designed for sailing it handled the job well. That sail and video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u9K8SllxFk

THE MAIN VOYAGE

In the summer of 2013, I sailed with a mixed crew from Kodiak, Alaska. We were all using various models of Stormr Gear as our primary cold weather and foul-weather protection. (See below for the specific models we used).

Will sets up his video equipment for some documentary footage.
Will sets up his video equipment for some documentary footage.

We crossed the following bodies of water before hauling the boat out in the Arctic for winter: the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Chain, the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Amundsen Gulf, Dolphin and Union Strait, Coronation Gulf and Dease Strait. On that voyage, we encountered gales, freezing rain, snow, fog, and heavy ice conditions while venturing past latitude 72 degrees north, skirting the polar ice shelf.

DSCF2314

The gear was used heavily by all crew, on all shifts, which varied from 2 hours to 8 hours, depending on crew size and weather.

Crew at work in the gear. as we sailed East, into the Northwest Passage
Crew at work in the gear. as we sailed East, into the Northwest Passage

While exploring the arctic, following the sailing season, I used the full set of Stormr gear for whitewater packrafting down the Bloody Falls of the Coppermine river. You can read about that adventure on my blog in the following 2 links.

https://empiricusembarks.com/2013/11/10/bloody-falls-and-battered-fools/comment-page-1/
https://empiricusembarks.com/2013/12/05/safe-home/

Mooring to a berg with ice screws
Mooring to a berg with ice screws
Samantha tending reef lines at the main boom
Samantha tending reef lines at the main boom

In July of 2014 my fiancée and I alone returned to the arctic, to continue the voyage from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, on a northerly route through the Queen Maud Gulf, Simpson Strait, Rae Strait, James Ross Strait, Franklin Strait, Bellot Strait, Prince Regent Inlet and as far north as Lancaster Sound at 74 degrees north before taking a southerly turn from Lancaster Sound to Navy Board Inlet, Eclipse Sound, Pond Inlet, Baffin Bay and Davis Strait, ending in Aasiaat, Greenland.

IMG_0021

During the 2014 voyage, Stormr gear was tested to an extreme level, where conditions were cold enough to freeze fresh ice on the ocean at night. The local native people said it was the worst ice conditions in over 25 years and a very cold summer. We lived in our Stormr gear, working on deck, climbing the rigging, going on shore for excursions, gathering firewood and rowing the tender.

Our shifts were longer and more frequent due to the short crew. We also tested a new piece of gear, the Stormr surf top, which became our favorite top in short order.

Off season testing in Alaska, May 2014, crossing the gulf of Alaska on a delivery mission.
Off season testing in Alaska, May 2014, crossing the gulf of Alaska on a delivery mission.

During usage and testing I have spent some 1600 hours at sea or otherwise outdoors, fully clothed in Stormr attire. So after all this usage, we had a pretty good handle on Stormr’s overall performance. In the following paragraphs I will share what we learned about each piece of gear.

The Stormr Stryker bibs
The Stormr Stryker bibs

BIBS. “Stryker Series” review.

• The 2013 bibs, were somewhat tight in the mid section which was remedied in 2014 with a wider cut. But I never had a problem with the original dimensions.

• Of all the gear, the bibs were most versatile. Flexible and tough, the knees held up to deck work as did all the seams. In fact, we had zero seam failures through out the voyage on any piece of gear.

• The leg pockets were strong and ample. I was able to carry small spare parts, cordage, wire pliers, shackles, etc. in the pockets, with comfort. Even cold metal tools were no problem as the pockets are over sewn to the bib leg, leaving an insulating layer under the pocket.

• The pant pockets were cut nicely, but I mostly forgot they were there. Reason being, when you work in crouched positions, items in a front hip pocket will limit mobility and become inaccessible, until you stand, or straighten that leg.

• The chest pockets are great! Just large enough for an iPhone, iPod or digital camera. The positioning made it easy to access either pocket through a half-zipped jacket.

• The leg zippers and Velcro flaps held up well to repeated use and abuse. Most of our gear zippers cycled between 20 and 100 times per day, shift-depending, with zero failures.

• The chest zipper was quality, but could not be opened from the bottom. Usually this would not be a problem. But at expedition-level sailing, a chest harness is worn over the outer layer to prevent you from falling overboard. The harness must remain on while on deck and relief breaks are brief. So accessing the fly of your pants, when relieving yourself, could be tricky, as well as time consuming. The best solution I found, was to leave the bibs unzipped all the time when wearing a jacket or surf top. This helped prevent sweating, and provided access to the fly, even when in chest harness in place. There were only a few times I was cold enough to warrant zipping the bibs all the way while wearing a jacket or surf top.

Recommendations for Stryker bibs.

1. Add double thickness padding in the hip areas, for added warmth and comfort.

2. Elimination of front hip pockets (hand pockets).

3. Integrated webbing style harness in the upper torso, for clipping in, without wearing an external harness.

4. Add a 2-way zipper to the front opening for fly access. A women’s model would greatly benefit from an access hatch in the seat, using a large horseshoe shaped zipper. This way crew can get relief, without disrobing, harness, jacket and bibs.

5. Add high visibility reflective patches to the chest, back and legs for safety at night, man overboard recovery and crew situational awareness

6. Add a velcro patch to the upper back, where different color, or name label patches could be installed. This would personalize the gear inside the boat. It would also help differentiate crew members from one another in dark and stormy conditions, thereby contributing to safety and communication.

“Typhoon” jacket review.

Some of our sailing crew were outfitted with Typhoon jackets for testing and use.

Dan working in Stormr Typhoon 2013
Dan working in Stormr Typhoon 2013

Here is one crewmember’s perspective of the mens Typhoon jacket.  Will Says…

I like the product but it does need some refinements. The biggest criticism I have is the zipper and where the zipper comes in contact with your face. I also think the collar should be a bit higher and separate from the hood so that even when the hood is down you can have the collar up over your neck. The zipper has very sharp edges that contact my face. There should be a soft layer protecting from this or a zipper garage The zipper itself does not seem high enough quality or not right for the application. Too clunky and not water proof. A ykk vislon aquaguard zipper might be better. How about adjustable cuffs like the stryker?
The neoprene is great but it traps a lot of moisture inside if you start heating up and gets really clammy. I think a solution to this would be some underarm zippers so you could dump that hot moist air while still keeping your front zipper shut and protected from rain. Moisture management is critical. 
Also a small visor type brim on the hood could keep a lot of rain and splash out of your face.
I love that abrasion resistant material that is on the stryker lineup but missing on the typhoon. 
Integrated webbing harness?
Last thing I can think of, how about a drop hem on the rear?

Overall men’s Typhoon jacket review.

• The jacket, is fully waterproof like all Stormr clothing.
• The color is bright and material is resilient.
• This jacket has no wrist seals, which let in more wind and or water, which seemed negative initially, but could be donned much faster, then the Stryker jacket, which has wrist seals.
• The zipper closure at the chin may chafe the face. It is also quite cold to hold the metal zipper against the chin. Most crew with this jacket could not keep the collar zipped due to this problem.
• The fit was a bit baggy.
• The hand pockets did not seal out weather completely.

Recommendations for the men’s Typhoon jacket.

The following recommendations are for a “sailing specific” Typhoon jacket.

1. Back the main zipper with a wider internal gusset or upgrade the zipper, to block the wind and prevent zipper chafe to the chin.

2. Install partial wrist seals, that do not constrict the ease of donning, but block some wind and splash up the sleeves.

3. Install small flaps to cover the hand pockets, to prevent rain water and spray from entering.

4. Install a webbing type harness that meets each end, near the zipper, so crew can snap in to the jacket harness, as opposed to the bib harness when being worn. This should not interfere with the zipper function, as it may be used for ventilation.

5. Add high visibility reflective patches to the chest, shoulders, arms and back for safety at night, man overboard recovery and crew situational awareness

6. A Velcro patch could be used on the upper back, where different color, or name label patches could be installed. This would personalize the gear inside the boat. It would also help differentiate crew members from one another in dark and stormy conditions, thereby contributing to safety and communication.

“Stryker” Jacket review.

The Stryker Jacket
The Stryker Jacket

• The fit and finish of this product is excellent. It looks great and feels great to wear. I got a lot of positive comments on the Stryker jacket.

• Only one zipper failure was encountered and that was after 2 seasons of hard use. That zipper did not break, it was torn, due to snagging and was located on the outer, chest pocket.

• The wrist seals worked very well and did not restrict blood circulation.

• The pockets were conveniently located and stayed dry under all conditions except complete submersion. All pockets were very well thought out and useful.

• The hood was excellent. In fact, I usually do not like hoods. But the Stormr hood follows your head movements. You can look up or down, side to side and the hood will not restrict visibility. I really liked this feature!

• This jacket was very warm under all conditions with little insulation. Yet allowed room for additional layers underneath, as well as hooded tops.

• The wrist seals slowed down the speed of donning. This is very important when sailing oceans, over multiple days and shifts. We experimented, by cutting the wrist seals out of one jacket, which worked very well to fix this problem.

• I really have no complaints about the Stormr Stryker series jacket, but I do have some recommendations to adapt this design for serious use at sea.

Recommendations for Stryker jacket

The following recommendations are for a “sailing specific” Ocean grade Stryker jacket.

1. Install a webbing type harness that meets each end, near the zipper, so crew can snap in to the jacket harness, as opposed to the bib harness when being worn. This should not interfere with the zipper function, as it may be used for ventilation. We experimented with this solution onboard Empiricus with good results.

2. Add an extra high collar, independent of the hood, that covers from the back of the head, angling down to cover the ears and midway up the nose in the front. The collar should have a smooth soft lining that will not chafe the face, nose and ears, even after hours of head turning. It should loosely surround the lower half of the head and stand up stiffly, whether the hood is worn or not. Headphone or speaker pockets like those used in motorcycle helmets would make this a comfortable shelter in any bad weather and create a warm space around the head, without reducing mobility, or visibility.

3. Add high visibility reflective patches to the chest, shoulders, arms and back for safety at night, man overboard recovery and crew situational awareness.

4. A Velcro patch could be used on the upper back, where different color, or name label patches could be installed. This would personalize the gear inside the boat. It would also help differentiate crew members from one another in dark and stormy conditions, thereby contributing to safety and communication.

5. Alter the wrist seals, so that a small gusset exists, to reduce water entry to the wrists, but does not restrict speed of donning or the wearing of a watch.

Stormr Surf Top VS Gill Ocean Racer Smock A DIRECT COMPARISON.

As it turns out, I was already the owner of a “Gill” brand Ocean Racing Smock – see the link for details. http://www.gillmarine.com/tr/products/oc1-racer-smock-1529/2129

This product is top of the line quality and very similar in design to the Stormr Surf top. Both items were worn in similar conditions, while sailing the Northwest Passage in 2014, between Cambridge Bay, Nunavut and Aasiaat, Greenland. Here are the notes.

Gill, Ocean Racing Smock

Gill Ocean Racer Smock.
Gill Ocean Racer Smock.

• Easy to get on and off, due to a large open cut that allowed my shoulders to fit through and latex seals, that stretch quickly and easily when warm.

• A little baggy overall, due to the large cut, which allowed for more insulating layers underneath.

• Reflective material provided good visibility at night and in foul weather.

• Wrist seals did not restrict circulation to hands.

• Nice high collar, independent of hood that covered the ears and nose, This provided excellent head protection, from wind, snow and spray.

• Cold around the neck and wrists, due to latex seals having no insulating quality.

• Limiting in what undergarments could be worn. Due to a latex neck seal, a hooded sweatshirt could not be used. This diminished my available insulating garments, to shirts and sweaters only.
• A warm hat, scarf and gauntlet gloves with thick wool undergarments were necessary under nearly all conditions, to stay warm.
• Pocket zippers were loose and unsealed, allowing water inside.
• No hand-warming type pockets, or usable storage.
• Hand pockets set too far back on the sides to be of much use for anything.
• Hood thin and cold, also obstructs view.
• Fleece lining in high collar rubbed my nose raw in fully closed position.
• Latex seals will stiffen, when stored in a frozen environment. This makes them brittle and prone to cracking, when removing from storage. I warmed mine in hot water to keep them from splitting.
• Smock provides zero buoyancy in water.

Stormr Surf Top.

My favorite.  The Stormr Surf Top
My favorite. The Stormr Surf Top

Link. http://stormrusa.com/product/surf-top/

• Stretchy material allows for a sleek fit and smaller overall size, which eliminates a baggy midsection.

• Front pouch pocket/tunnel pocket is fantastic for hand warming, small tool and camera storage. We absolutely loved the pouch front pocket. I often stored spare glove liners inside the tunnel.

• Donning somewhat difficult in common size range. Stepping up from a size Medium to a Large was very helpful for me. l suggest going up one size for sailing purposes, as surfers will not be using undergarments the way sailors will.

• Wrist seals were warm and did not restrict circulation to the hands.

• Very warm overall. Surprisingly warm in fact. Most of the time I wore a single or double layer of wool undergarments and was completely warm, in sub-zero temperatures.

• Adjustable neoprene neck seal allowed for a hooded sweatshirt to pass through at the neck.

• The hood was fantastic and the same as a Stryker Jacket hood in performance as quoted above. (“The hood was excellent. In fact I usually do not like hoods. Bu the Stormr hood follows your head movements. You can look up or down, side to side and the hood will not restrict visibility. I really liked this feature!”)

• The Surf top, like all other neoprene based Stormr gear will provide some degree of buoyancy in water and will retain heat when wet through.

• There are no reflective tape or patches on the surf top.

• Velcro closure on pouch pocket sticks to cloth glove liners.

• Wrist seals interfere with rapid donning and removal.

• Minimal ventilation may trap moisture from hard work and sweating. (See general usage tips below)

Overall comparison between Stormr Surf Top and Gill Ocean racing smock.

For cold climate sailing I found the Stormr Surf top far superior to the Gill Ocean Racing Smock. The key elements in my decision are;

1. Superior warmth.
2. Less need for undergarments.
3. Resiliency and reparability at sea (Aqua seal or neoprene glue).
4. Flexible and slim fit.
5. Neck seal that allows hooded undergarments.
6. Positive buoyancy.
7. Warm even after submersion.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are for a “sailing specific” Ocean grade Surf Top.

1. Install an integrated webbing harness around the upper torso, for clipping in at sea.

2. Replace the thin pouch pocket material with a full thickness neoprene pocket.

3. Eliminate Velcro from pouch pocket flap and replace with simple overlap, sewn at edges, or a zipper under a standard neoprene flap.

4. Install partial wrist seals, that do not constrict the ease of donning, but block some wind and splash.

5. Install a webbing type integrated harness around the upper torso, so crew can snap in.

6. Add high visibility reflective patches to the chest, shoulders, arms and back for safety at night, man overboard recovery and crew situational awareness.

7. A Velcro patch could be used on the upper back, where different color, or name label patches could be installed. This would personalize the gear inside the boat. It would also help differentiate crew members from one another in dark and stormy conditions, thereby contributing to safety and communication.

8. Add an extra high collar, independent of the hood, that covers from the back of the head, angling down to cover the ears and midway up the nose in the front. The collar should have a smooth soft lining that will not chafe the face, nose and ears, even after hours of head turning. It should loosely surround the lower half of the head and stand up stiffly, whether the hood is worn or not. Headphone or speaker pockets like those used in motorcycle helmets would make this a comfortable shelter in any bad weather and create a warm space around the head, without reducing mobility, or visibility.

Review of ladies Typhoon jacket, Surf Top and Stryker Bibs.

By Samantha Merritt

Women's Typhoon Jacket
Women’s Typhoon Jacket

Okay, I loved the color right from the first time I saw the photo of the jacket. The plum color is rich, fully saturated and looks great. I had lots of compliments about the jacket on looks alone.

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Overall the quality of the coat was excellent. All of Stormr’s products boast great zippers, and Velcro closings. And their hoods are the very best. The hood on my jacket went up easily over hats and toques without causing the coat to ride up. This version of the jacket had a zipper guard on the top of the collar which prevented any chafing, so I didn’t have any problems of that sort like the men did the year before.

I did get some fraying and pilling on the outside of the jacket on spots where my harness rubbed (a backpack would have done the same).

I wish the fit was a bit more forgiving in the sleeves. The sleeves were tapered down to the wrist, probably to give the coat a more feminine look, but it made it tough to add layers underneath, and even with minimal layering I found the sleeves tight. The jacket was equipped with thumb keeper loops, which I never used. I have long arms and after trying the keepers once, I found they were too tight and pulled on my shoulders. I think they are a faddish waste of sewing and not really useful on a jacket of this sort. The armholes at the top also got bunchy and tight if I wore more than a thin hoody under it.

The jacket certainly lived up to its name when a wave broke over the bow and soaked me head to toe. (The surf top was still damp from my previous shift so I was wearing the jacket.) I had been looking forward and got an unexpected face full of ocean. The rest of me remained dry and warm, though, even through the zippers.

After we finished sailing I took this jacket with me to Iceland, where it was perfect for trekking and hiking in Iceland’s tempestuous climate. The day I went hiking, the winds were howling at 25 -30 knots and the rain blew sideways on us. Temperature was about 10 Celsius. I was toasty and dry, inside my coat.

The pockets that were on the jacket I used all the time, especially the inside zip one, for lip balm and my cell phone or wallet. But the side pockets, while sporting good-quality zippers and water resistant, were overall not very practical. Anything more than a credit card and they were hard to zip back up, as they hit right at hip level and the widest part of most women. Especially tough was if I wore the jacket with the bibs. More pockets, such as a zip bulgy pocket on the sides, would be great on a coat like this.

The Inuit know that zippers and slits in fabric make for a cold garment, and their anorak-style parka is the cat’s pajamas when it is really, really cold and windy. So although the Typoon jacket had a fully gusseted zipper, the wind would howl through the zipper in spite of the backing behind it.

I think it was the lack of a zipper that made the Surf top warmer, overall. It was my go-to choice on cold days (and most days were cold days). I wore the medium size one and was able to layer two long-sleeve merino undershirts and two wool sweaters under it without bulging or filling up the arms. Even though it was made out of thinner neoprene, I found it warmer overall than the Typhoon jacket. I loved the great fitting hood. Even with my bibs underneath this top never felt bulky or tight. The length was good although I would have loved about 4 inches more on the backside to provide more windproofing. The sleeves have an inner sleeve cuff which seals very snugly to your wrists – which normally would be a big no-no for me – but Stormr does neoprene very, very well. This cuff never felt tight or restrictive, and my wrists stayed warm and dry. I did end up cutting the cuffs out, only to facilitate donning and removal of the top, the only real downside to it. Well, more colors other than black would be good, too. And a big collar to block the wind – my ideas on the hood echo Jesse’s as described above.

The bib overalls worked very well for me. I don’t think I would add a u-shape zipper on the backside, but I would make the suspenders clip on instead of slip over your shoulders so you can drop the bibs without taking off your jacket. The seams of the bib overalls, although taped and waterproof, let in a bit of a breeze, noticeable if you are topsides on a sailboat in sub-freezing temps for two or three hours. The fit was excellent, flexible and just right in the legs. I think more curvy women might need more room through the hips – they were tight on me there and the hip pockets bulged out there. I loved the thigh pockets that were in these bibs and used them all the time.

I wore the bibs frequently while flying in the Arctic in late May – the transition season. The temperature was often just around freezing and rain and snow mixed precipitation was common. The bibs kept me warm and dry while getting to and from the plane, and I could unzip them at the chest and legs while flying to stay cool. I had many compliments on my gear and the locals saw immediately how useful the bibs would be for fishing and boating.

None of my Stormr gear ever got smelly or stained, even after weeks of use, working up sweat, with no washing. We dried out our clothing between shifts, and at the end of the season I just washed my gear in the shower and hung it up to dry. It only ever smelled a bit like a wetsuit, like neoprene, which is unsurprising given that’s what it’s made of! Other than the pilling on the jacket, it looked pretty well new at the end of the year.

Day after day.  Ice Wind and Stormr.
Day after day. Ice Wind and Stormr.

DSCN0386

Stormr General usage tips

As I mentioned before, the Stormr clothing we tested insulates very well and is made to not breathe. So if you are working hard in these models, you will likely sweat. This is not a problem, as long as you know how to deal with it. Here is what we learned regarding sweat prevention.

1. Wear thin base layers of wool. I used military surplus wool pajamas that were fantastic. Trendy base layers of polypropylene were less effective. They felt clammy after hard work and provided little warmth once the gear was removed. Wool dries fast and is warm when wet. It also dries from body heat between shifts.

2. Change base layers after hard work. For instance, if I was to pull anchor (by hand) I would wear the least amount of insulation I could. Then I would do the hard job, come back inside and change to dry wool base layers. With a little forethought you will never be stuck at the helm with sweaty wet undergarments. But remember, even if you do, you will still be warm under the neoprene.

IMG_0016

3. Turn your garments inside out between shifts if they are damp inside. The outside can stay wet, with no consequence. But drying body moisture from the inside between shifts is a must. The fabric will not hold much, but just enough sweat or water that has not evaporated, can dampen fresh base layers. So flip them inside out whenever they get damp inside. Don’t worry they dry quickly.

4. When taking off your bibs and boots together, go firemen style. Turn down the bibs and roll the works, down over your boot shanks. They will dry fairly well this way, packaged and ready to wear. The elastic nature of the material will hold the boots standing up. So all you have to do is drop your feet in and pull up the bibs.

Walking on Ice flows was much safer in Stormr.
Walking on Ice flows was much safer in Stormr.

Conclusion.

All outdoor gear has its trade-offs. The key to successful usage is understand how it works. The Stormr neoprene clothing traps body heat very well, partially because ventilation is minimal. This makes moisture control tricky, but with a little practice in layering I was very pleased. For me, this was a small sacrifice in effort, for the rewards of positive buoyancy and toasty warmth in the cold Arctic oceans.

Rowing the tender into Pond Inlet, having transited the Northwest Passage
Rowing the tender into Pond Inlet, having transited the Northwest Passage

By Capt Jesse Osborn
And the crew of SV EMPIRICUS
http://www.empiricusembarks.com

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