FXR Ranger and the Mono Suit Debate | Mountain Sledder
Mountain Sledder | On 26, Mar 2015
What happens to a sledder that they decide to start wearing a mono suit aka onesie?
You know who I’m talking about— you’ve seen these guys around. There aren’t too many riders willing to toss convention to the wind and rock a mono, so those that do tend to stand out from the crowd. Were they dropped as babies? Do they have a passion for the colour purple? Do they suffer from some debilitating personality defect in which popular opinion fails to register? OR… is it possible that they are the enlightened few who have figured out how beat the system? Hmmm.
Opinions on the mono are pretty polarized. Most people either think they’re super cool or that they look like a clown suit. It’s kind of like the Apple vs PC debate, Beta vs VHS, Stallone vs Schwarzenegger. Both sides think they know which is better, but only one side is actually right!
To issue an informed verdict on this debate, I had no choice but to jump into a mono to see for myself what the lack of hype was all about.
So I grabbed the FXR Ranger Mono Suit, which is the crème-de-la-crème in the FXR lineup. The Black/Yellow style is not the most subtle of the three available, but I wanted to soak in the impressions of my fellow riding companions and I felt that a good amount of “flash” would be in order.
The suit, which is thankfully un-insulated, protects the rider from the snowy and wet environment with a proprietary waterproof/breathable laminate called HydrX Pro, which seems to do the job quite nicely.
The shell material is thinner and more flexible than some other sledder garb brands, which allows generous mobility. The weight of the suit is reasonably light considering how much material is in play. Having seen what quality of outerwear is available to the skiing and snowboarding backcountry user, I can’t help but feel that the sled outerwear manufacturers have a lot of room for improvement in the stiffness and weight areas of their offerings. The Ranger is no exception to this by comparison—but having finished my rant about that—I will say it does lie well on the positive end of the weight/stiffness spectrum.
The Ranger is decked out in a Michael Jackson-esque number of waterproof zippers, all of which serve a great purpose—not just for style. The main zip runs slightly offset from neck to crotch, allowing easy in-and-out, with a bottom zipper car for easy number 1’s in the field. Each leg features a thigh-high 2-way zip for ease of boot doffing and donning, and for cranking the air-conditioning when things get really hot.
Speaking of heat, I was surprised to find that the Ranger handled a wide range of temperatures with aplomb, debunking a major concern I had about the onesie. The suit has no less than seven waterproof zip vents—one large chest vent front-and-centre, two large armpit vents, two smaller arm vents, and two big inner-thigh vents. All vents are backed with a snow-proof insert, which blocked incoming snow even while riding in deep pow.
With all the venting, there just isn’t room for any chest pockets, which is only a minor loss. The suit has two hand-pockets at the hips that are thoughtfully lined with fleece, and two more pockets farther down near the outside of the knees. These seem a little awkwardly placed and I don’t think I’d actually want anything in there while I was riding, but they could be handy for a set of keys or such.
The cuffs are made with attention to detail, with a generous opening for thicker gloves, and a closure flap that prevents the weird looking pleats you can get on other jackets when the cuff is sealed tightly. They also have a cozy optional Lycra cuff extension to help keep out snow. The legs cuffs offer a gaitor that fits well with a lace attachment point so they stay put when walking around in deep snow. The cuff is secured with a snap over the waterproof leg zip.
Other quality features include a crucial tether attachment point, lightly padded knees, an adjustable/removable hood, and a stretchy lower-back section that accommodates movement for easy mobility.
In terms of sizing, I feel like the Ranger is well-sized for the North American sledder market. At 6’3” and 180lbs, the Large size fits me well, although I could have moved up to an XL if I really wanted a little more length. I don’t like my pant cuffs to drag on my running boards though, so the Large was perfect. The baggy fit of the mono suit would also accommodate a sledder with a considerably bigger waist size quite easily as well. Removable suspenders inside the suit help to fine-tune the height of the waist to accommodate for different leg lengths.
My biggest concern was that the mono suit would overheat easily, which did not prove to be the case. The seven vents did a fantastic job of regulating the temperature especially while moving. The vent inserts worked at keeping even powder snow out, and I could ride all day with the vents open if I wanted.
Another unfounded concern I had that was that the weight of the legs would cause the suit to pull down on the neck and shoulders. I found this to be absolutely not the case. In fact the biggest difference I felt was a lack of confined feeling through the waist and body. The Ranger suit has great mobility, and it kind of felt like I was wearing a pair of extreme pajamas all day.
There is one downside, and it’s that you can’t remove the top ever, even if you’re headed straight to the restaurant for dinner on the way home from a late day of riding. What that means is that you’ll end up with the top rolled down and the arms tied around your waist to keep them up. Either that or you’ll be eating in your long johns! I guess the solution is for the mono suit wearer to pack a spare pair of jeans in the truck for après riding activities.
What I liked most about the mono suit was simply never worrying about getting snow down my back! I could fall over and carelessly flop around in the snow like landed fish, which is quite a freeing feeling. Especially for a guy like myself who likes to try to ride a little bit above his ability level and ends up spending a fair amount of the day hauling himself out of the snow and back onto the sled.
At every point, the FXR Ranger feels like a high-quality piece of outerwear. It has great finish, fits well, and is flashy enough to appeal to even the most discerning wannabe pro out there, with more subtle styles available for Joe Sledder.
At a retail price of $650, the Ranger offers good value when you consider that it replaces bibs and jacket, which could cost upwards of $800 or more.
There remains two camps of rider out there, those who rock a mono suit and those still stuck in the medieval era of outerwear. Though the mono suit wearer remains firmly in the minority, I smell a sea change. As for me, I’ll be hanging with my mono bros. Sure, in the meantime I might take some jabs out there from wet-assed 2-piece conformists with closet jealousy. But that’s cool, because I don’t listen to them complaining about being hot and/or cold and/or wet either. And I know that once they try it, they might never go back. It turns out that the mono guys aren’t crazy, or peculiar, or anything else. They just like great outerwear.