CKX Sidehill Zero One Piece Suit Review
Age hasn’t been kind to me, and it has been made clear that my sometimes bare ass would benefit from the coverage of a one piece. So I was excited to be asked to test and review the CKX Sidehill Zero for Mountain Sledder this year, as its two-toned, sleek design had been on my short list.
It’s easy to pick a killer-looking suit, but that won’t help you much in the backcountry unless your goal is to look great in spring when they find your frozen body. Staying warm means staying dry. And staying dry means keeping the elements out while providing enough breathability to regulate body temperature. This is as important to a comfortable day of riding as it is to your survival. With that in mind, it’s time to find out how the CKX Sidehill Zero One Piece stacks up.
CKX Sidehill Zero One Piece Suit
On first impression, I was genuinely surprised by the quality of the construction of the CKX Sidehill Zero. It’s important to note that CKX produces the Sidehill One Piece in both a lightly-insulated shell and a more heavily insulated option. I was provided the 60 g lightly-insulated version. My impression is that it is thin and light and lacks the poof-y bulk of other insulated snow gear.
On snow, the fabric is heavy enough to resist mild abrasion if slaying tight trees is your thing, yet compared to other jackets and pants I’ve tested the material still feels light.
Meanwhile, an internal suspender system keeps the suit light-feeling and well-supported, and helps keep the top half from dragging on the cabin floor when you’ve stopped for a mid-day break.
Articulated seams at the knees and elbows make moving from side-to-side on your sled easy and unrestricted.
The quality of construction of the CKX Sidehill seems good overall, with the exception of the zipper dongles—three of which have broken over the course of zipping up and down so far this winter.
Mono suits are all the rage right now, and outerwear manufacturers produce a seemingly endless choice of suits in a variety of colours, styles and tech materials. Many of the designs currently available are a little too reminiscent of the insulated suits of the 80s and 90s for my taste though, and I’m too much of a minimalist to have some brand name splashed across my chest or back.
Fortunately, my CKX sample suit is a simple two-toned bright blue and gravel grey, with orange zippers. The look is clean and striking, and branding is subtle and stylish.
I’ve had the chance to get out and ride through all of January’s weird weather changes. There were temperature inversions at the beginning of the month, with average temperatures well above zero in the sun-soaked alpine. And there were warm and wet snowy days, with a few bitterly cold days mixed in as well.
Waterproofing and Breathability
CKX advertises their fabric’s Voltez membrane to have an 8K resistance to external moisture/wind and a 5K resistance to internal moisture. I take this to mean 8000mm/5000mm, as millimeters are the industry standard for measuring water resistance. For comparison, outerwear waterproof ratings typically range between 3000mm on the low-end and up to 28,000mm for premium garments that can cost $1000 and higher.
With that in mind, I was a bit leery venturing into the backcountry knowing that the Sidehill is on the lower end of the spectrum, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that for the most part, the suit has provided me with a dry and comfortable experience. However, during a few days of riding in a big storm that dumped headlight deep blower pow, I was pretty wet by midday.
At the beginning of my testing I was admittedly overly cautious, and over-dressed with base layers and multiple mid-layers. When I did that, I found that I would overheat and begin to feel dampness inside the suit. Fortunately, the Sidehill has two chest vents that, when opened, quickly disperse the heat and humidity that doesn’t make it through the Voltez membrane. The vents are in a position to allow good airflow, even with my Highmark Spire avalanche vest on.
In my opinion, mobility is the second most important outerwear performance criteria. Sledding in the mountains is a highly physical activity. We often find ourselves moving in unconventional ways—whether attempting an aerial maneuver, sidehilling a tree-covered drainage or being ejected over the bars like I sometimes do. I want outerwear that allows me to move freely and that isn’t at risk of tearing apart under the strain of housing my aging, fat body.
More youthful (read flexible) riders will appreciate the CKX Sidehill Zero One PIece as much as I do, because this suit allows for completely unrestricted movement. The internal suspension system keeps the suit right where it is meant to be throughout the entire range of motion.
Durability is the next deciding factor for me. Nothing is worse than spending your hard-earned Canadian pesos on sled gear, just to have you looking like a Tibetan prayer flag by the time your tricky tree line ends in the alpine.
After more than a month of abuse, I see little-to-no evidence of the outer shell coming apart or showing signs of not being up to the task. CKX uses tough Cordura reinforcements in high abrasion areas such as the knees, inseam and seat.
So, if (unlike me) you like to sit around and watch people ride, rather than test the limits of your own machine, you can rest assured that the CKX Sidehill will stand up to several seasons of ass time.
I appreciate that, for the price, the CKX Sidehill Zero One Piece Suit offers a ton of built-in features that really set it apart from the competition.
This suit has pockets upon pockets. Pockets on the arms, sides, legs and inside; you will never be shy of places to store things. I counted ten pockets, but there are so many that I lost count! Each sturdy, sealed zipper has a CKX-branded dongle that makes pulling zippers up or down easy—even while wearing gloves. Unfortunately, a few of these have imploded as mentioned earlier.
A metal clasp keeps your pant leg fastened to your boot laces. This coupled with the waterproof gaiter, and I have yet to get any snow or water in my boots. The wrist cuffs are adjustable and also incorporate a liner.
I’m a huge fan of the removable hood. When I am filming for the day, it is great to be able to quickly cover my head to keep it dry and warm. The hood incorporates a clever clip-and-zipper system that keeps the hood in place if you choose to use it. It’s a touch that wasn’t necessary, but looks and works great. The neck collar is lined with fleece—a soft and warm addition.
Another detail that I love about the Sidehill Zero is a Velcro system that allows the user to adjust the length of the leg to keep the cuff from dragging under their boots and eventually wearing through. This has been a problem with almost every pant I’ve worn over the years. So far, CKX has found a solution that appears to be effective. To me, this one feature is most likely to save a person the need to replace their suit prematurely. Smart, CKX…smart.
Full-length leg zips, boot lace hooks, safety switch ring, integrated knee pads, front chest vents, reflective patches and internal headphone routing are all appreciable features that aren’t commonly found on other suits at this price point.
CKX Sidehill Review Summary
- Bright, stylish look without being over the top
- Comfortable fit offers ease of movement
- Huge list of functional features
- Lower waterproof rating
- Difficult to find stock currently
I want to really like the CKX Sidehilll One Piece Suit.
It has a great look with a huge list of features. The colour selection is bright and noticeable without being over the top. Cool. The fit and feel of the Sidehill is amazing and provides better than expected mobility. Wicked. All of the little details added to the CKX Sidehill Zero One Piece make it look and feel like it should cost twice as much.
So far, its performance has held up and I feel like you are getting a lot of value for the $490 CAD price tag. I have to say that the CKX Sidehill exceeds my expectations.
The one problem I have with this mono suit is the nagging feeling that its going to leave me in trouble if I get soaking wet and cold. The best advice I can give is to plan your base- and mid-layers with the realization that the waterproof/breathability rating of this suit is on the low-end of the spectrum. If CKX can upgrade their 2020 outerwear line to use a membrane that is on-par with Gore-Tex or eVent, then the CKX Sidehill Zero would be a no-brainer for me.
I love the direction this young company is going in and appreciate the innovation they are trying to incorporate into their products. I’m excited to see if they can offer a one piece suit in the future that can compare favourably with the waterproofness ratings of the premium suits, but closer to a price that everyone can afford.