Winter of 2021-2022 was nothing short of a dud here in Montana. It began with a late start to snowfall, far above normal temperatures and minimal precipitation. So much so that early December days normally spent aboard a mountain snowmobile shredding pow still saw motorheads braaping out their two-stroke enduro bikes.
Once winter did finally remove her veil after Christmas, we were excited to try out a new set of Castle Flex Backcountry Series riding gear.
The gear features removable 150g Thinsulate insulation attached in key points through the body and the sleeves to avoid bunching. This liner is not only found in the jacket, but also in the pants, where its length is cleverly shortened to not add bulk at one’s boot.
On normal mountain riding days in the teens below zero to teens above, we removed the liners. On random minus 32-degree Fahrenheit trail-bound test-riding missions, a swift install of the liners provided great help in keeping the core warm and adding protection to the knee/leg area as the brisk wind whipped by.
With its four-way stretch polyester material, fitment of the size large coat and medium pant held true to expectations. It was also very adjustable to expand/contract via the shock cord, powder skirt and Velcro-adjustable waist to keep the fit from being bulky.
Adaptability was also found in the bibs, where removable suspenders allow you to wear them as pants if desired. Even the knee pads are removeable. These molded, closed-cell pads offered some of the best coverage/protection I’ve had the pleasure of wearing.
At the bottom of the pant legs, Kevltec fabric reinforces the material at key areas without adding weight. This bottom cuff can also be rolled up to avoid dragging in the snow for those with shorter inseams. (Castle does offer these in a short 32-inch or tall 37-inch inseam as well.) The gaiter for wrapping around the boot is also plentiful to fit large boots with the Velcro/snap being secure with a grippy bottom ring.
Showing additional flexibility, the adjustable hood and stretch powder skirt are each removeable. Interestingly, the Flex coat has two D-rings on the bottom hem, allowing you to choose on which side you prefer your tether cord to hang when crawling all over the machine in the trees.
The sealed seams and windproof/waterproof material generally did their jobs admirably. There was the occasional ride, though, with lots of snow on the seat and falling from trees where I could feel some chill through the butt of the pants when seated. But the rear of the coat featured a dropback design to assist in keeping me warm and dry. The Ventec zippered vents in the arms and body helped to keep air flowing when I got lathered up while not allowing snow to pass through when open.
Not sparing any details, the heavy duty YKK Aquaguard zipper further helped keep the wind at bay. Other external zippers for vents or pockets also featured welcome weatherproofing, while the internal pockets were lined with supple Spandex. To keep comfort levels high and chafing low, cuffs are lined with fleece and the insulated adjustable collar includes a valuable chin-saver placket.
If one wishes to look and feel good on the snow, the Castle gear is a champion. Some gear can feel bulky, stiff, or bunch up in the joints – but not a day went by that this gear held me back.
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