Gear Review: IceRock Apex Jacket and Bib
Morgan Gamache boosting large in his IceRock apparel. Photo Braaap Films
You may have heard of IceRock, an emerging snowmobile outerwear brand that’s been around since 2014. Though the name may be new, the brand is manufactured by Choko Design, an Eastern Canadian snowmobile clothing and accessories company that has been in the snowmobile outerwear game since before the last Ice Age.
But as anyone from out West will tell you, mountain riding requires a less insulated outwear that offers more freedom of movement than what is needed for trail riding—the soup du jour back East. I suspect that the bigwigs at Choko didn’t want riders to be confused about their line of offerings. Hence, a mountain specific line with a different name—IceRock.
IceRock offers four different styles of jacket for men and two for women, each with their own colour schemes. I got my grubby mitts on a set of Apex Jacket and Bib Pants, in the always fashionable choice of black. Straight black is their best option, since it never goes out of style (just ask Johnny Cash). And some of the other colourways lead me to think that the designer must be the kind of rider who wears a visor helmet and whose skis never leave the snow. But that’s a matter of preference I suppose, and to be true, the boomerang colourway that you can see Morgan Gamache sporting on the cover of Braaap 15 is a little more freeride inspired. Let’s just say that IceRock has room for improvement in the ‘cool’ department here.
Moving on to function, the Apex Jacket and Pants share a ton of really great features. The material is a tough and durable nylon, coated with a Teflon surface treatment that works incredibly well at shedding moisture. I don’t know how long the coating will last, but it’s been amazing for the first handful of rides out of the box. Snow just does not stick to it.
Like most other sledding outerwear brands, IceRock uses its own waterproof permeable membrane which it calls Nortex, which works similar to the more famous Gore-Tex. However, Nortex differs in that it is designed to start breathing at a lower relative humidity of 40%. That means that it begins to breathe earlier than other brands, allowing the fabric to release pent up humidity sooner.
Does this mean that you’re not going to sweat at all if you’re breaking trail all day long like I did my first day with the gear on? No, it’s not a miracle fabric. If you’re digging your sled out constantly, clearing trees and packing down trails with your feet, you’re going to get sweaty. But it does work well, and the proprietary membrane could mean the difference between getting sweaty or staying dry under normal circumstances like active riding. And, along with Nortex doing its job, the large vents make short work of releasing excess heat and moisture when you’re really working hard.
Otherwise, the fabric is certainly waterproof and windproof like any new garment should be in half-dozen days that I tested the gear. And it was remarkable how dry the outer material stayed even when it snowed all day and the other fellas were caked in snow from getting stuck and wading through the deep snow punching trail. The jacket also sports a removable powder skirt (aka cummerbund) that does a good job of preventing wind and snow from sneaking inside your jacket from below.
The jacket sports a ton of ventilation options, including long pit-zips that can be operated with a pack on (crucial) and even a back zip that you can crack open to let a little moisture and hot air escape where it tends to build up between your back and backpack. All vent zips are backed with a highly breathable mesh.
There are a ton of pockets on the Apex gear, but my favourite by far are the bellowed thigh pockets. These are great for a couple of reasons. First, because the pocket material is on the outside rather than the inside, whatever is in them doesn’t have the tendency to jab into your thigh all day, which is really nice. But probably more important, because the inside of the leg material is smooth (rather than protruding inwards with contents) there is no resistance, which means that the pant leg can slide up and down easily as your body moves. This small detail makes a huge difference to your ability to move freely around as you hop from side-to-side and around your machine, which pays dividends in energy levels by the end of the day. Small detail, big difference.
The jacket sports a number of pockets as well, including a couple of chest pockets that are easier to access than the traditional front pockets that are covered by a pack waist strap when riding in avalanche terrain. There are also a couple of small pockets on the sleeves of the jacket, although I struggled to figure out exactly what I might want to put in those. All pockets on the jacket and bibs are sealed up tight with waterproof, welded zippers.
The jacket sleeves are a good length, although tall-and-gangly sledders out there will likely find them a bit short, even in XL. Good thing most sledders are built tough, because the IceRock gear is tailored with room to fit even guys that don’t exactly hit the gym too often. Which is great because the gear fits just about anyone without feeling tight, and skinny guys can just cinch it in a bit. The sleeves end with lycra inner cuffs that are soft and prevent the outer sleeves from riding up during major wipeouts.
Oddly, the Apex Jacket comes with foam shoulder pads installed, which I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. I guess they are there to make wearing a pack more comfortable? Well, if that is a problem for you then my recommendation is that you probably need a different pack. Fortunately they are removable, and I filed them straight into the trash. The Apex Bib also comes with a thin kneepad installed which is a great feature offering a little added protection for those who don’t want to ride wearing kneepads.
Another thoughtful detail put into the Apex line is articulation though the sleeves and legs. The slight curve built into the garments through those areas fits a rider’s natural posture better, and effectively reduces the amount of bunching and stretch on the fabric when you flex and extend your elbow and knee joints. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you bend and straighten your legs and arms a million times in a day sledding, pre-curved sleeves and legs significantly reduce resistance to movement and go a long way to helping you stay fresh all day.
All in, the Apex Jacket and Bib is a great combo for staying warm and dry in the mountains. The material is super tough nylon that maintains flexibility for ease of movement. A Teflon coating does a great job of keeping snow from clinging to the surface of the material, which is half the battle in staying dry. The other half is accomplished with a combination of plentiful venting and a very breathable waterproof membrane. A lot of thought went into this jacket, with detail such as waterproof, welded zippers, generous pockets, and niceties like stretchy inner cuffs and a soft neck collar. Overall, the IceRock lineup has room to improve in style, but in terms of function, the Apex Jacket and Bib will do what it’s supposed to, and well—which is to keep you warm and dry in the mountains.