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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, June 13, 2013

CAMP Contest skimo Race Suit review..lycra again

The CAMP "Contest" Ski Mountaineering Race Suit..used not racing.

Yep, Lycra again!

If nothing else, reading Cold Thistle will give you an idea  that the envelope can be pushed on how modern high tech gear is supposed to be used and where you might find a place for some of it in your own clothing and hardware systems.  Much of it can be used far outside the original design parameters.

Point in case is skimo racing gear like this CAMP suit or some of the reviews coming up in the future of long distance running gear.

Let me clear up any false impression that I might  have unintentionally left here on CT in the past.  I am not a skimo racer or a bike racer.  I have done races in both venues.  But if you are thinking I  am competitive, I am not.  I push hard  and I race...but only against myself.   I am how ever, an alpinist.  Which  I consider in my own egotistical away, better than a mountaineer.  Obviously I write a alpine climbing blog.  So I think my opinions are worth sharing with the world ;)  Your mileage may, very well, vary :)

Which brings us back to Lycra and  eventually, if you have a little patience, to the CAMP skimo racing suit pictured above and other suits and clothing like it.

Ever felt like you needed to climb in just your base layers on a hot day on the glacier?

Fact is, Lycra is better looking and given the right fabric blend and specific pattern, not a bad option on hard rock or a hot glacier.

Clearly Lycra is not the best option in clothing for ever situation in the mountains.  In the recent past  I have used Lycra as a base layer, a light insulation layer and a wind shell depending on what has been required and the  current environment.  Some times all three on the same trip.

As I mentioned in the previous post on Lycra this last week had been one of the most comfortable ski trips I have done.  Temps ranged from around 25F as the sun came up to as  80F by mid afternoon. in bright sun out of the wind.     It was a wide range of temperatures.  Only going above 11K required the addition of a Patagonia Micro D pullover when I was stopped.  Impressive performance IMO.
If you needed more in the wind a Camp Flash pull over would do more, nicely enough.

Above is another versatile ski rig that is mostly Lycra. A Patagnia Piton Hoody used with a Dynafit Movement pant. One of my favorite sets of clothing for a number of outdoor pursuits.

Micro D is here:

Flash is here:

For base layers under this suit I used a tech short sleeved shirt and tech briefs.  Not much between you and the environment.  That I painfully realised the first time I took a spill on the pavement hard snow because I hadn't brought ski crampons.

Same basic  set up Brian used on his c2c speed run up the Gib Chute but in a Crazy Idea race suit.

It is worth paying attention to what is being worn and why.

Check out the usual suspects (the guys out doing it) on the web.   More here on skimo specific clothing:

Look closely at what they are using on their own back country missions.

So why am I about to start raving about a once piece race suit? 

After all, one piece suits are notorious for poor ventilation and hard to control your temperature in.  Too hot generally by design or too cold in only Lycra because the material doesn't offer enough insulation.  How do you ventilate and breath in a once piece suit?  Hard to head the call of nature in one as well.

I've used well designed one piece suits often in my climbing career to good effect.  All the way back to early Goretex versions in 1977.    But never a one piece in such an aerobic situation.

Never at a really high level of physical out put.  Enter Lycra one piece suits fitted correctly and with the additional insulation and breathable material required.  It all starts to make sense.

Stuff a bunch of food/skins/gear into a kangaroo style pocket system (as they have above or below) and you profile will look funky and fat no matter how skinny you are...or aren't.  Get over it.

 The one and only time (a local ski mo race)  I have ever had sweat running down my forehead and snow blowing hard enough to blind me while at the same time freezing on my outer layer all at the same time, I was in Lycra.  And I was comfortable.  As long as I didn't have to stop for long!

The Flat Bellied Stallion?

The jokes never end and  the questions don't stop.  Takes some confidence to wear Lycra at any age, in any style.  It generally isn't flattering to the human form.  Unless of course your human form is what the current society norm considers attractive.

Here are two classic views and the casual uneducated observation.

Big gut! This guy shouldn't be in Lycra.

Big gut! This guy shouldn't be climbing in Lycra either.
(same combo I ski in btw)

Truth is I have had a big gut in the past.  No reason to deny it.   But for the most part, chemo and radiation during cancer treatment eliminated it.  Damn near have abs in both these pictures an no spare tire there.  I had friends laugh at the pictures from this winter in the Dynafit Movement pant and the Patagonia Piton Hoody combo.  And now in the Camp Speed suit.  No gut hanging out there isn't.  Just extra gear, food and fabric no matter what the first impression is.  Not Gym Jones fit either.  If you spend your life worrying about what people think you'll likely miss most of a well lived life.

I take my time with pictures generally.  Simply to help me get my point across.  But I am at least as vain as the next guy (likely more) when it comes to how I look and am perceived by others.

Below is a picture looking down across my abs from above, while wearing the CAMP Contest suit.  The Cliff Bar Shot Block that is sticking out is just  the tip of the iceberg.  I have 10 Gu packets, 4 Shot Blocks, sun screen, lip balm and my freakin camera stored in the first layer of pockets inside my suit.  It may look a little funky but if you are trying to stay up on the calories and keep moving at the same time you have to work on a system to do so.  Some use gel flasks.  Right now I am using, and really like, the simplicity of the pocket system the Contest suit offers.  You will have a "spare tire" fully loaded, but with the end result of easy access to your fuel and other essentials while moving.

The suit is easy to use no matter what you might think of the aesthetics of such a garment.  

I know what I look like in and out of Lycra.  It isn't always a fashion show.  But it is always about how fast and how far can you go if you are pushing yourself and your gear.

Looking down at my boots.  I can stomach a "spare tire" for the easy access.

The "junk" in a a well designed skimo suit.  My Gels and Shot Blocks are in the "outside pouch"  Accessed through the zipper via either the top or bottom slider.  There is another layer of pockets big enough to take the smaller race skins behind this "pouch".  And finally a transceiver pocket behind all of them. Four pockets total inside the suit.

There is also a separate pee zipper below all the pouch pockets. 

On the outside there is a small zippered breast pocket and two huge, elastic closed chest pockets intended for short term skin storage.  I used them for used Gu wrappers, gloves and my camera on this trip.  The current colors may be not all that flattering for you physical  profile but this suit really works as advertised if not even better!

I set my own PB using this rig on Rainier recently.  You might not want to  be too critical on first impressions.

More interesting to me is that not only was I never passed on the uphill (which is extremely unusual) I actually passed a lot of folks both going up and coming down.   Much of that "speed"  was the difference in weight of my entire kit.  But it also had as much to do with how capable my clothing was on the extreme ends of both hot and cold. 

If it makes that big difference for can only imagine the difference it might make  for you.  I write a blog but I am no fitness animal in the mtns.  Far from it.  When I can easily drop anyone else on the trail I am more than happy.  It seldom happens these days.  For skimo I have "bought" my fitness for the most part by using  cutting edge, lwt boots, skis and clothing..

I had one goal using this suit.  And that was to climb with the least amount of effort.   If I can turn Rainier into a half day's effort you likely can do even more with similar gear.  

No hood on this suit.  Which I can't really applaud for the application but like much better than with a hood.  Even though no question I would want and use a hood  if the conditions required it.  I am admittedly not a skimo "racer" although I like taking part in the local races.  For me the majority of the time a hood isn't required or needed.  So I am glad to see a suit without the hood.

The stand-up collar is my favorite.

The collar is a high stand up version with plenty of coverage on the neck.  My actual preference over a hood.  Easy enough to add a thicker head band, hat or helmet.  Short of really nasty weather my preference to dump excess heat is through my head and neck first.

Speaking of dumping heat.  Both the under arms, which features tiny holes in the fabric. 

under arm vents

And the back panel, via a mess panel are there to dump excess heat on the uphill and work exceptionally well imo.

The entire black back panel is open weave nylon mess.  Directly under your pack which really helps me control my body temperature on the uphill.   And easily protected with even a light wind shell or my favorite Patagonia Micro D pull over.

Funny how the good clothing works so easily in a "systems" approach over a broad spectrum of conditions and clothing choices.  The Micro D  or a simple base layer is one of the basics for me skiing, especially on the down side of the ski track.

As you can see from the length of this blog post there is a lot involved in the features of these race suits.  And for the asking price of $400 per suit there should be.  But I originally thought $1000 was a lot of money for a TLT boot and now I think the price is a steal for the weight and performance involved.  Same on a "race" suit.  Like the TLT P the suit is another piece of highly technical gear I will use  almost anywhere in the mountain now if a ski boot is involved and I want to eat right on the effort.

Finally.  One of the things that make or break a pair of pants for me BC and touring is the cuff.  Movement pant and the Dynafit buckle system is a serious PIA to me.   I like simple.  Simple because I want the boot easy to get at and easy to adjust.  But I also don't want snow in my boot.  All of which is a problem for a TLT user.  Or at least in my experience it is.  For races to date I've used simple tights.  Easier to hit the top buckle latch and not deal with Velcro/ cutting holes in one's pants and what to do with the buckles when open.  The Movement pant is decent.  But not fast to hit the hole in the pant leg and a true bitch to get on and off.  No my favorite thing to use when in a hurry.  So I have used several simple soft shells.  Notably the Arcteryx Gamma LT pant as well.

CAMP suit is simply brilliant on those lines.  The buckle slips in and out via a open and reinforced seam.  It is the very best method I have seen yet to utilise the TLT buckle system.  I was forced to put one small hole for the cuff  buckle latch to go through and lock the boot in down hill mode..  If I am not in a hurry, easy enough to use and latch/unlatch in the field.  Durable and a slick system to keep snow and crap out of your boots with the boots wide open in walk mode. 

Simple round hole I put in with a wood burner.  Lycra is reinforced at the point and a soldering iron seems an  obvious tool for the choice.

CAMP isn't the only one making race suits.  Or the least expensive.  I've not used any thing else for a similar purpose other than the two piece Dynafit system they made for the recreational racer in previous winters.  The Dynafit Movement pants and jackets are really good imo.  I use them both.

But the once piece suits are a big step up in performance.  There is a reason they call them "race" suits.  But the label doesn't mean they are only good on race day,

Dynafit Movement Pant and jacket

The CAMP Contest Race Suit

• Competitive Ski Mountaineering
• Constructed from durable, lightweight Lycra and mesh panels
• Double layers on the knees for warmth and durability
• Dedicated external pockets for fast access to skins and gels
• Internal pocket for avalanche transceiver
• Kevlar reinforced cuffs with reinforced elastic stirrups
• Dedicated slots for back boot buckles are compatible with all boot models
• Full chest zipper for temperature regulation and quick-zip for emergency evacuations
Holy smokes Batman! The new Contest ski mountaineering suit is optimized for competitive ski mountaineering like super suits are designed to combat villains and protect the victors. Lycra construction is lightweight and breathable and the mesh backing helps with temperature regulation even during the fastest competitions. Every detail has been tended to with dedicated skin pockets on the chest positioned at an angle that makes getting skins in and out fluid and natural, a dedicated external pocket for gels, an internal pocket for a transceiver, full-length chest zipper, stirrups, and back cuff slots designed to be compatible with all boot models. Suits like the Contest have become so perfectly optimized that many racers now wear their suits as a base layer even on casual back country days.
ID: 1519
Sizes: S - M - L - XL
Weight (M): 480 g, oz

$399.95 USD

More here on the skimo race suits I do know a little about.

Bottom line?  If you really want to preform better in the mountains, this is speed you can buy.  People need to simply get over their aversion to Lycra based sportswear.  Lycra isn't a right, it is a privilege to wear.  But the privilege is not for the typical reasons most consider before sliding Lycra on or avoiding it in the store.  It is a privilege to be able to go fast, safely in the mountains.  Any gear that helps you do that is a very good gear imo.

I have to remind myself of that fact as well, every time I pull my Lycra out of the gear room.
The use might be skiing, or a run, a Tri or a bike ride.  Either way using Lycra is always worth the extra effort.


Kerwin. said...

Can you give some explanation as to your layers underneath the lycra suit?

I just bought a Dynafit Speed Up suit, cant wait to try it out!

Dane said...

I asked Brian the same thing prior to our last trip. His suggestion and what we both used on Rainier in June "For base layers under this suit I used a tech short sleeved shirt and tech briefs. Not much between you and the environment."

Depends on the weather obviously but we had some good differences on both ends of the spectrum. Brian added his puffy on the summit and down for a short bit.

Bummer if you miss getting the layers right and are too cold. Hard to change in the field. And good that the Lycra has such a good over lap on temperature ranges.

Anonymous said...

The big issue with the suits is fit. I'm tall and skinny, and the larger sizes are too wide; the smaller sizes to short. With a one piece there's no adjusting for longer arms, or legs. This prevents some of us from even considering them, despite their other advantages.

Dane said...

No doubt OP suits are difficult to size. But might be worth checking several different brands out to see what they offer that might be different.

I have a large CAMP suit and think I need to try on the Medium baggy lycra is no real fashion statement :)

jake said...

Dane, you say that large is baggy on you. What is your height/weight?

Dane said...

6'1" 190#