Friday, September 14, 2018

Product Review: Arctic Horse Tongass Long Rain Riding Skirt

All opinions are my own; I have not been asked or reimbursed in anyway for sharing my experience with this product.

Their Claim

As written on the Arctic Horse website:

"The Tongass Rain Riding Skirt forms a 100% waterproof breathable pocket around your legs and captures the combined total heat from your lower body AND your horse. So when the wind + rain roll in and the temps drop, ta-dah: INSTANT dry oven (and bonus: that hay you fed your horse to keep him warm is keeping you warm now, too)! 

Riding Skirts are bound by the laws of nature to be way warmer than pants alone because you're combining multiple heat sources (you + the horse) and trapping it under one big waterproof air pocket.
{Air pockets trap heat: it's why thermos' keep things hot, mittens are warmer than gloves, and sea otter's fur keeps them toasty in Arctic waters}.
The reasons skirts work better than small heaters in separate pockets (read: pants) is due in thanks to the laws of thermodynamics, the properties of heat convection, and something called the “inevitable heat death of the universe theory.”
Layering a waterproof Tongass Rain Riding Skirt over pants gives you all of the close contact your riding pants afford, with the warmth and dryness of a breathable shell on top."
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My Experience

My Arctic Horse Tongass Long Rain Riding Skirt was a Christmas gift from my husband last year (purchased from Riding Warehouse). I've taken my dear sweet time testing it prior to writing this review because, in my opinion, for gear such as this you can't really screw around and test it once or twice and call it good. A sample size of 1 or 2 isn't phenomenal science after all! And when a product is marketed with claims about keeping you warm and dry in cold and wet weather, you've really got to test it in cold and wet weather again and again to be sure you've run it through the gamut of weather possibilities. Cold. Cold and wet. Cold and windy. Cold and windy and wet. Windy and wet. Total deluge. Check, check, check, check, check, and check.

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FIRST IMPRESSION: From the first moment I tried it on, I felt giddy. It's well-made, well-tailored, and the way it moves with you when you move is beyond cool. In some ways, I felt as if I'd been transported back a few centuries into the shoes - or skirts if you will! - of one of the protagonists from the various fantasy-quest books I so enjoy.

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THE DESIGN: The exterior is softshell-esque to the touch while the inside is brushed fleece. The zipper is a 2-way (zip down from the top or up from the bottom), heavy-duty one that is also sealed with rubber for extra weatherproofing. The pockets, also zippered, are fleece and deep enough to hold a myriad of trinkets (phone, the small tripod I use to film my riding sometimes, remote for my dog's e-collar, etc.) and/or your gloved hand. There are elastic straps to help keep the skirt stable in winds or when riding at speed and snaps to hold the skirt up to make mounting easier. Additionally, the skirt has belt loops if you need to cinch it to your body for a closer fit.

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MY HORSES' REACTIONS: My horses are accustomed to me "torturing" them in various ways. I do this in an effort to help them become them tolerant of as many things as I can and to help minimize their reactions to novel stimuli. As such, they didn't bat an eye when I mounted up for the first time wearing the skirt. The most reaction I received was a very uncertain ear locked onto me for several seconds after mounting as they tried to ascertain whether the additional fabric touching them was a source of danger or not. Spoiler alert, it wasn't and each of them settled within a few steps.

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PERFORMANCE: My first many rides with the skirt were in cold, dry weather. From short rides of 10-20 minutes to longer rides of nearly 20 miles over 2 hours, the skirt performed admirably keeping me warmer than I'd ever been on a winter ride! The biggest difference in my comfort that the skirt contributed toward was having warm toes - this is something I struggle with in the winter no matter my sport or activity. The skirt allowed the heat generated by the horse to keep my entire body warmer, which, in turn, kept my toes warm. That alone was enough to sell me on the skirt right then and there.

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The next level of testing came from riding on a windy, cold day. I mostly flatted Griffin on this day through all gaits with many transitions. Much to my surprise and pleasure, the skirt was remarkably stable despite a steady wind of 8 to 14 mph! In fact, it was so stable that I even did a few small jumps on that day (nothing crazy due to the footing conditions).

Surprisingly, the skirt moved very little when jumping an 18" cavaletti on a windy day. 

Satisfied with how the skirt performed in the cold and the wind, I began trying to plan my rides on days with rain. Try as I might to get out while it was raining, it proved hard to accomplish! I was able to ride in a drizzle a few times - and I stayed dry! - but I wasn't sold on a drizzle as a complete test of the skirt's waterproofing abilities. Many things are water resistant in a drizzle, but the question remained how it would do in a deluge.

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Finally, on a ride this summer with a friend, I got to find out! From the moment we set out on the ride, it was pouring rain. Fortunately, (ha!) the worst of the rainstorm was yet to hit and we were able to ride in it. I had donned my skirt and was SO IMPRESSED to find that it did indeed keep me dry through the heavy rain. It worked so well, in fact, that I had a literal puddle in my lap where the fabric bunched as I rode. I tried to take a few photos, but with my phone in a plastic bag and my hands very wet, it wasn't the easiest. Regardless, the verdict was in - the skirt WAS waterproof and DID do well in a complete downpour at a walk and trot.

Pros

I stay warm. This was a bottom line for me. I love riding in the winter but I do struggle to stay warm sometimes - my toes especially. This skirt keeps me WARM. In fact, sometimes I've been quite hot. It's a delicate balance sometimes for temperature control, but that's more a me/my body's temperature regulation thing than a qualm with the skirt.

I'm SO excited to have this skirt for the upcoming winter - my first with the horses in Canaan Valley! Bring on the brutal arctic temps! I know I'll be warm whether I'm riding or mucking stalls - something my toes are very happy about. Because yes, this skirt is just as great to wear not-riding when performing other barn chores; that warm bubble of heat around your body is far superior to any combination of winter pants I've had for any winter pursuit. (So long as you're in an area that doesn't involve trudging /post-holing through deep snow where pant legs would obviously be better.)

I stay dry. I'll admit, I was skeptical that it would be truly waterproof. I'm an outdoors gear whore (see: my various outdoors sporting activities and lifestyle) and am very accustomed to companies claiming something is waterproof when it is merely water-resistant. Well, ladies and gentleman, this skirt is WATERPROOF. I tested it in a few rain showers and one full on DELUGE and was dry underneath. Color me shocked and completely thrilled. The day of the deluge I literally had a puddle of water in my lap where some of the skirt fabric was bunched up while I was in the saddle. I just stared at it in amazement, incapable of believing for awhile.

It serves as a quarter sheet for the horse. I've always pondered purchasing or making a quartersheet for my horses but never pulled the trigger. Well, now I've got two in one! I enjoy having this feature for those particularly crisp days.

It looks really f-cking cool, and I always receive compliments. Every time I wear the skirt, without fail, at least one person tells me how badass/medieval/cool it looks. And I agree wholeheartedly. It's a huge perk to look good while being warm and dry in a world where most clothing that keeps you warm and dry means you're definitely sacrificing some semblance of "attractive". But also, in a society that is so recently focused on girl power and feminism, it feels so empowering to put on this skirt and ride around, perform barn chores, or stand along the sidelines of a clinic.




Cons

Overall, I've found very few cons with the skirt. And honestly, I doubt the cons I do have will be shared by many others unless you're also enjoying a faster-paced endurance conditioning ride in a summer storm. Regardless, I wanted to note them here.

At a canter on trail it does flap a bit resulting in my knees getting wet. I don't half-ass my rides just because it's raining outside. I'm conscientious of the terrain and keep to areas with more secure footing when it's wet as much as I can, but I still pursue training miles at a trot and canter in inclement weather because it's valuable training. I've competed in a few rainy endurance rides, and I'm grateful I had knowledge of what limitations my horse and my gear would have ahead of time instead of finding out in the moment. After all, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail! Personally, I'd rather be prepared for as much as I can to narrow the window of failure as much as possible.

The skirt inevitably flaps about some at a canter. In heavier rain, my legs will get damp around the knee where skirt exposes my legs while the horse is in motion. It's not the end of the world, but I do get a bit wet! That said, I'm much drier than I would be without the skirt which I greatly appreciate. Nothing chills me to the bone more than being soaked through to the skin in a cold rain.

Sometimes in our humid Appalachian climate, it's too hot. Summer rain can be chilling compared to non-rainy days, but with the humidity we still often experience on rainy summer days, adding a heavy skirt to my riding attire for the sake of being dry is sometimes overboard and quickly causes me to overheat. But honestly, on these types of days I easily overheat in a raincoat, too. So I usually just opt to be wet if I'm going to ride in weather like that and prepare by wearing natural fibers (merino usually) against my skin so I don't become too chilled.

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Final Verdict

10/10, 5 stars, 2 enthusiastic thumbs up!

I LOVE this skirt for both its form and function. It keeps me warm and dry and looks completely badass. I absolutely recommend this product to anyone in a winter clime or an area that receives a lot of rain. Arctic horse has other skirts, too, that vary in their targeted function (just warmth instead of warm & dry), their material, and in their length. They are pricey, but the workmanship and quality are worth it. The ladies at this company do a bang-up job and charging less would be an injustice. Thank you, Arctic Horse Team, for creating such an incredible alternative product for riding in inclement weather.

25 comments:

  1. A great review! Thanks for testing it so thoroughly lol. If I end up somewhere colder than Vegas, I'll for sure look into it!

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  2. It really does look fabulous! Definitely adding it to my xmas wish list :D

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    1. Oh, it would be so perfect for you with your winter weather!

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  3. Thanks for the review. I've been eying those......

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  4. Okay I'm thrilled to see this review but I'm also not because I want one twice as bad. Damn it all.

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    1. Girl, you've got major skill with a sewing machine - make a poor woman's version with fleece?

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  5. I really want one of these. Idk how they look with dressage gear, plus it really doesn't get cold enough here... But it does rain a lot!

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    1. Just remind me to bring mine when I visit in November and you can test it out!

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  6. Okay well now I want one!! Great review!

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  7. I definitely think this would make winter riding more bearable! Really nice review and I appreciate you testing it out over time!

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    1. It really does make the cutting Arctic winds of winter easier to deal with on so many levels.

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  8. They don't make one big enough that would fit me so until I can lose weight I've been snagging fabric samples from Seattle Fabrics to make it myself. I've already made a prototype fleece only one, which I agree, is awesome in cold weather! I just need a waterproof one!

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    1. Hell yeah having initiative and making your own! That's freaking awesome.

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  9. I want one now! Heck I wanted one when I saw you got it earlier this year... or whenever that was. Very cool, and I was curious if you'd used it for summer rain to stay dry. Glad to see you thoroughly tested that too!

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    1. I'm great at putting things through the wringer!

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  10. Sandy has one of these and I absolutely love it. If I ever get another horse, this is top of my to-buy list.

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  11. Liz! This is seriously the most thorough review I've ever read of the Tongass. First, thank you for taking the time to write this!! Second, I'm super happy to hear you loved it this much, AND, that it performed up to your expectations. Funny seeing your a biologist, as I founded Arctic Horse, and I'm a biologist as well!

    We're in Alaska, and always trying to do horses and field work in clothes that were supposed to be waterproof and durable, and never were, and that's how this whole company got started! To make real gear. I was so sick of being out in weather and being miserable.

    I love that you tested it in pouring rain. I can't tell you how many fabrics I tried, before I found an actual waterproof one, and would RUN to get my horse every single time the weather was miserable to test them. I'll shoot you an email, but I just have to tell you how much you made my day to come across your gorgeous blog and review of our Tongass Rain Skirt!

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    1. You're very welcome and thank you for making a product that is so hardy! I live in an area that is much like Alaska in it's weather patterns and it's flora/environment (quite a rare gem). I struggle with the same weather woes a lot of Alaska does so this skirt is so perfect for me through about half of the year. And it's really cool to hear that a biologist stepped outside of the math-science realm to get a artistic and creative and develop such a sweet product!

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  12. You're very welcome and thank you for making a product that is so hardy! I live in an area that is much like Alaska in it's weather patterns and it's flora/environment (quite a rare gem). I struggle with the same weather woes a lot of Alaska does so this skirt is so perfect for me through about half of the year. And it's really cool to hear that a biologist stepped outside of the math-science realm to get a artistic and creative and develop such a sweet product!

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  13. Amazing review. I too agree with everything found. As for the warmer weather don't they now have a light weight rain only no fleece skirt now? Maybe that would work. I love my skirt. I look forward to buying another one.

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    1. Correct! Since the publishing of this post, they have released more mesh-lined skirts. I hope to eventually nab one of those for myself for the summertime deluges. =)

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