Prior to last season I had never worn any sort of protective vest under my jacket when riding. Sure, I have taken a handlebar to the ribs a time or two before, but I’d never had any moments that really made me think twice in terms of needing extra upper body protection; no real, major scares. But one of the benefits of this profession is testing gear that you may not purchase yourself, and in doing so giving an honest review from a viewpoint of healthy skepticism.
When I first tested the HMK Protective Vest w/ D30, I decided I had nothing to lose – I didn’t deem it a necessary piece of gear given my typical riding adventures, but I also knew that it is a practical piece of equipment given the many unknowns of snowmobiling or ATV riding.
According to specs the vest offers superior body protection by utilizing lightweight armor plates placed in memory foam for optimal shock and puncture absorption. A zippered front allows easy on and off, while adjustable straps allow a rider to customize their fit – the removable arm pads hang down over shoulder blades. HMK’s special D30 technology provides an outer fabric designed to take an impending force, while an inner lining provides shock absorption – essentially limiting transmitted forces from reaching a rider’s protected areas.
During first rounds of testing the vest appeared big, but once cinched it became more comfortable. After spending time adjusting layers, it became virtually unnoticeable when layered with other gear.
The armor plates that are embedded in the vest feel sturdy, but not overly bulky. They are hard to the touch, but will also bend and contour with body parts or if pressed firmly. On the front of the vest two long panels are on each side of the zipper with “hyper armor” plastic vents angling outward. Upon closer inspection, the plates are also dotted for further ventilation.
I detached the removable arm pads after a few test rides with them – perhaps either due to my inexperience with wearing a vest or my slightly less than brawny shoulder muscles, I was never really fully comfortable wearing them. However, the convenience of the easy strap on/off system made bringing the pads along in a separate bag an easy option. Even after detaching the arm pads, a shoulder cone remained over my shoulder blade that I felt would have provided protection during any accident.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the mesh black outline with orange sides easily matches nearly any attire color scheme. But if it doesn’t match your current attire, it’s covered under a jacket anyway.
Overall I have no complaints. I cannot testify that I wore the vest every single time I rode last season, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do so. For the sake of my safety, it probably should be worn regularly – on a few rides it did save me a few sore ribs when I either misjudged a ditch jump or needed to brake fast, but luckily nothing dramatic occurred.
I would compare the vest to the safety belt in a car – it’s not overly uncomfortable to wear and although you may never need it, you will be glad you had it on should the event arrive that you do.
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