Mountain Lab Kneepads Review
For this review, we’ll have to look back to mid-winter last year, when Mountain Sledder was loaned an pre-production pair of Mountain Lab Kneepads to test out. Now, I’ve personally tried many different ways to keep my knees and shins from barking off various parts of my sled while riding, including: volleyball kneepads, the sticky kind of pads that go on your sled’s body panels, a hockey-style shin guard, and even going without.
With all that experience in my back pocket, here’s my review of Mountain Lab Kneepads after a bunch of days riding last winter.
Mountain Lab Snowmobile Kneepads
First, let me tell you why all those other types of kneepads I’ve tried didn’t past muster, and that’ll give us a starting point for my evaluation of the Mountain Lab product.
Like many a mountain riding rookie, I started out riding without kneepads at all. The glorious freedom of movement was incredible! But as I started riding harder and pushing myself, the tendency to slam my kneecaps and shins into the sled and running boards at regular intervals had me longing for a functional pair of kneepads to take the brunt of my ineptitude. Plus I heard the pros wear them, so I had to get with the program!
Times were tough in the beginning, and my sledding gear consisted mostly of what I already had on hand. For that reason, some old Nike volleyball kneepads I had kicking around fit the bill nicely. I rocked them hard for about three seasons, but eventually I could no longer overlook their three fatal flaws:
- They were constructed out of a soft padding, so they didn’t do much to take the edge off the bigger hits
- They had a tendency to inch their way down to my calf throughout the day, requiring regular adjustment
- My wife stole them for work
Sled Body Panels Kneepads
Moving up in the snowmobile world, I tried out a pair of sled body kneepads—the kind that you stick to the body panels of the sled rather than wear. Genius! They offer protection from smashing your knees on the body panels, but since they are attached to the sled instead of your body, you don’t suffer any lack of mobility. Win! Or so it seemed at first.
But out on snow, reality set in. Before long, the kneepads slowly started to peel away from the body panels. Basically, the double-sided tape used to install the kneepads wasn’t quite as hardy as I’d hoped. But the deal-breaker for me came when my boot slipped one day and I barked my unprotected shin off the running board in spectacular fashion, drawing blood and some unholy language. That was it.
Hockey-style Shin Guards
Next I tried some kneepads that provided full knee and shin protection and looked bit like a hockey shin guard. The problem with these was mostly bulk. They were too wide and thick, and walking around with them on I felt like a cowboy who’d been in the saddle too long. As a result, my Burandt hop-over technique went from okay to oh no.
The other problem was that they just wouldn’t stay in place. They kept rotating outward. Also, it was difficult to bend my knee all the way with full mobility. Basically, they were a steaming pile. Next!
Mountain Lab Kneepads
Finally, I landed on a solution that addresses all my beefs pretty well.
The Mountain Lab Kneepads offer great protection. They have a thin, but firm and comfortable padding underneath two, form-fitting hard plastic pieces that cover the kneecap and the shin separately. The hard pieces are hinged with a rubber piece that allows the unit to effectively flex as your knee articulates.
The padded material is perforated throughout to help move hot air and moisture from stacking up against your shin. Naturally, wearing a product like this will run a little warmer than nothing. But the soft material is a combination of polypropylene and nylon, so no worries about it getting soaked.
The fit is great and it feels very natural. Thankfully, the 35mm (1.5”) wide straps have a broad range of adjustability, so the Mountain Lab Kneepads should fit everyone with calves from skinny to pretty thick. If you have crazy thick legs, try them on first just to be sure.
The pads themselves are about 30 cm (12”) long from the middle of the kneecap to the bottom of the shin pad. This means that on all but the tallest of folks, the shinpad will extend slightly into the boot top, which actually helps hold the kneepad in place. Tall sledders will still get good coverage from knee to boot.
For all the protection these kneepads offer, they are still pretty low-profile. I think the Mountain Lab Kneepads strike a good balance between offering enough protection yet not being overly bulky and restrictive. They’re not excessively wide either.
As for weight, these kneepads are surprisingly light! I almost want to wear them for hockey and watch my skating go from Milan Lucic to Connor McDavid.
Staying in Place
The Mountain Lab Kneepads do a good job of staying where they should, considering that an active rider’s knee is flexing and extending continuously all day. That’s a tall task. They do still have a slight tendency to rotate outward a little bit, but I’d say they do a better job of staying put in that regard than anything else I’ve tried.
The kneepads also stay up well, which I think is a combination of the strap above the knee locking them in place and some support by the boots.
The Mountain Lab Kneepads retail for $60 CAD. I think that’s a pretty good price for a product that is simple and works well for its intended purpose. I really can’t think of anything I would do to design these to be better at this price, and that’s rare.
Mountain Lab Kneepads Review Summary
I wish these had existed when I first started riding in the mountains. They would have saved me a lot of trial and error as I worked through the many different ways to keep my knees and shins from harm. But then I’d have never known the difference, and I’d have a couple less scars to reminisce about.
Sometimes you have to put in the effort and experience a lot of bad, so you can appreciate what’s good. Or in this case, you can just take my word for it and go sledding instead. It’s up to you.