Gear Review: TOBE Privus Monosuit
Opinions on monosuits are fairly polarized. People seem to either love them or hate them. But those in the latter camp are usually just that: haters who have never actually tried one. Those that have can agree that monosuits are pretty great, but the fact remains that not all are created equal. It’s time to take a look at TOBE Privus monosuit to see how it stacks up.
Gear Review: TOBE Privus Monosuit
TOBE made its name as one of the first outerwear companies in modern times to focus on building monosuits for a progressive snowmobiling population. The company was founded by Tomas Berntsson (TOBE, get it?) back in 2001, and ever since has committed to building quality outerwear with a clean and bright Scandinavian aesthetic. TOBE isn’t afraid to blur the lines between sledding and the ski and snowboard worlds, but the company remains dedicated to backcountry snowmobiling first and foremost.
Today, you’ll find a lot more in the TOBE lineup than just monosuits. The manufacturer produces a full spectrum of outerwear including jackets, pants, boots, gloves, layering and casual wear, all in one very hefty catalog. In the monosuit category alone, TOBE offers no less than nine different styles of monosuit (three for kids) in 2018, each with as many as six colourways. That’s a lot of monosuits!
Let’s clear something up right away. The Privus monosuit is currently available in Winter 2017, but will not carry over into Winter 2018. However, it is strikingly similar in specification to the TOBE Vivid monosuit, which will continue to be available in 2018. So let’s take a look at it knowing that it won’t be around forever, but that a monosuit with virtually the same specs will be if you’re not quite ready to pull the trigger on one this winter.
The Privus sports a two layer Sympatex Cordura shell, with a 45,000mm Sympatex waterproof/breathable membrane. What is Sympatex you ask? Good question. I read a bunch of scientific stuff that I didn’t really understand about it on a TOBE webpage devoted to the topic. But wait! Even better, there’s a cool video that shows the rigorous testing that TOBE outerwear must go through in order to be certified by Sympatex. Trocken! (That means “dry” in German, duh).
If what they say is true, then it sounds like Sympatex performance isn’t degraded by dirt and oil like other waterproof/breathable membranes such as Gore-Tex. I’ve yet to meet a sledder who didn’t have at least some oil smeared on the front of his jacket, so that’s gotta be good news.
In addition to Sympatex, TOBE uses YKK Aquaguard waterproof zips in the Privus, and all seams are sealed to make sure no moisture can find its way in.
The Privus monosuit uses Cordura brand material for its outer shell. Cordura has a reputation for manufacturing the toughest fabrics. How tough? Well, during testing I had the misfortune of getting bucked and flipping my sled at high speed, and landing back on it upside-down while the track was still spinning at top speed. As a result, I got a serious paddling from the track which left a couple skid marks over a foot long tattoo’d on the ass of my Privus. Other than a little melted rubber, it looks none worse for the wear! The same cannot be said of my buttocks.
In addition to a tough outer shell, TOBE double-stitches seams, and Kevlar reinforcement patches cover the knees, inner calf, and leg cuff openings for extra durability. These guys are serious about building a tough product!
TOBE doesn’t list the actual weight, and my wife keeps the bathroom scale out by 5lbs so I didn’t get a real weight of the Privus. But I’m not sure what it would even mean to me if I did. I can tell you that it’s quite light for the quality of its build. Lighter than other monosuits I’ve tried. And it doesn’t feel heavy when you’re wearing it. Lighter in fact than most sledding outerwear I’ve tried.
Although my Privus isn’t insulated, there is an insulated version available. But if you’re riding mountains, stick with the uninsulated version. It keeps the weight way down and makes the suit more versatile. The Privus does have a mesh lining which helps with breathability.
In my years of testing sledding outerwear, I’ve discovered that it’s not just the weight of a piece that can make it feel heavy, but also the stiffness. A stiff outerwear can restrict your movement, making bending over, hopping side-to-side and wading through deep snow more difficult. Although stiff fabrics may not directly contribute to weight, they certainly feel like they do.
TOBE seems to have this relationship dialed. The Privus is an excellent compromise of tough fabric that doesn’t weigh too much, yet still manages to remain flexible and easy to move around in.
Monosuits have GOT to have good ventilation, and this is where the Privus and the Vivid vary. The Privus has only two large armpit vent zips, and instead features thigh pockets where the Vivid has an extra set of vent zips. So far this has not been an issue for me through the cold winter that we’ve been experiencing here in BC, but I must say I’m a little concerned about staying cool enough come spring. If you do a lot of warm season riding, you might prefer to look at the Vivid monosuit. If having plenty of pockets is key for you, the Privus is the ticket.
The Privus—like most of the TOBE lineup—fits tall and slim, which is a rare phenomenon in the snowmobile outerwear game. I would normally wear an extra large just to get enough height, but I have a size large Privus that fits perfectly. For myself, sizing up for height usually results in excess material around the shoulders and waist, which doesn’t do me any favours.
If you are on the short and/or wide end of the human body spectrum, you’d probably be better off with one of TOBE’s jacket and bib combos that can overlap to provide a more tailored fit.
There is a REALLY COOL “Size Guide” feature on the TOBE website that can help you choose the right size monosuit for your body type. You can scroll through images of a number of people of differing statures to find someone close to your own build. The guide then shows pictures of that person wearing three different sizes, to give you a feel for the overall fit you might expect from each. You can also flip through images to see the fit from all sides. It’s an awesome customer service feature and one that I wish more companies would offer! If you’re bored, look through them all. My favourite is of the 5’5”, 128lb girl swimming inside a 4XL monosuit… so gangsta!
Other Key Features
Like all TOBE monosuits and jackets, the Privus comes with a hood. I’m totally on board with this decision, as I like to cover up when we’ve stopped for lunch and it’s snowing hard. Plus, I feel like a hood helps keep snow out from your neck when you’re riding. The good news is that the hood is removable for those who don’t care for them.
Yes! Suspenders are amazing. The Privus suspenders are well padded and you can’t even tell they are there when you’re riding. They do a great job of prevent crotch sag that might tie you up otherwise. And if you want to roll down the top in the cabin, the suspenders will stop your suit from hitting the floor. They come with a sternum strap that keeps the straps in place and prevents them from sliding down over your upper arms while you’re riding around.
Integrated leg gaiters are nice and snug and have a metal hook that ties into your boot lacing to stay in place, even while wading around in the deep stuff. Stretchy spandex hand gaiters keep your sleeves in place, and a well designed arm cuff keeps snow out with a hook-and-look closure.
The Privus sports 6 external pockets: Two at the hips, two on the thighs, one chest and one on the sleeve. There are a couple inside as well for your phone and goggles.
Wrap it up
So how does the Privus monosuit perform? It’s awesome. I love being able to flop around in the snow without getting it all up my back, and I never have to worry about my jacket riding up with my pack anymore. Now that could be said for any monosuit, so where does the Privus shine? Well, it’s very lightweight and flexible. Mountain sledders are active and like to move around a lot as they ride, and that doesn’t need to be made any more tiring than necessary.
Comfort-wise, so far the suit has behaved like a perfect little micro-climate inside. It’s been dry and warm but not too hot. A lot of that has to do with proper layering and the cold wintery weather we’ve had so far. But I’ve been surprised at times when I thought I should be getting more sweaty than I did. We’ll have to wait a see how it performs in spring conditions with only two vents.
Overall, I feel like TOBE put everything they could into building this monosuit, and I can’t imagine anything I’d change to make it better if I were the one doing it. I’m sure there will be room for improvement in the future as materials get stronger and lighter and manufacturing processes improve. But for now, I think the Privus is about as good as it gets.