Core Concepts winter gear review

Ever want to shout “Oh, oh, you don’t even know!” to someone? That’s kind of how I feel about the whole #snOMG extravaganza going on east-ward on the Atlantic Coast. [For those that don’t speak Twitter, the hashtag (#) indicates a ‘trending topic’ and snOMG is a reference to the crazy awesome ‘oh-my-gosh’ snowstorm that recently hit the East Coast.]

I feel like I can wave my MegaTough flag for this one, because Houghton rarely ever gets on the news when we get a foot or two of snowfall. That’s because it happens all-the-time. Every winter, we can expect at least one, probably more like five, snowstorms that will strike us. It’s one of those “ain’t no thang” mentalities, though. You get so used to snow, that it’s not a big deal to park your car in a snow bank when you’re rolling down Agate Street. It’s what I call “Yooper braking”- Stop signs are optional, it pays to have a manual transmission, and you’re insane if your car doesn’t have snow tires. Anyway, I digress.

If you live in the Keweenaw, where there aren’t any malls within a 100mile radius, and no one knows what Vera Wang does for a living (but everyone has stock in Cabelas), you learn to live the Yooper life. You do what you can to stay warm, and that’s about it. No time to be trendy (and I don’t “do” fur, thankyouverymuch). The running joke of the college kids up here is: “Man, I don’t want to go home [to the metro-area], because I can’t wear a hooded sweatshirt and thermal underwear to the bar!” I’d argue that people leaving the UP have issues with re-mingling into society [kind of like how people who are released from prison have a hard time…]. I own a pair of camo bib coveralls, a winter coat that has a built-in ammunition belt, and the thickest wool socks you’ve ever seen. So when I stumbled across Core Concepts through Sonja‘s blog, I was… intrigued.

The claim to fame at Core Concepts is that they make “top notch performance outdoor layers that function no matter what you’re up to – double black, single track or a quick run at lunch.” Designed for multi-sport, multi-climate and 100% capable. Shah! Like that’s possible. So I thought. I asked the very friendly folks on the west-coast if they’d like a field tester in the Great Lakes region- someone who would use-and-abuse their gear in the extreme seasons of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. That someone was me, of course. I love new gear. I also love trying to ruin new gear (whether intentional or not). I received a big box chock full of awesome gear, and wanted to head out right away to test its limits.

So yesterday, Adam and I went galavanting around the Keweenaw to find some last-minute gifts for the special people in our lives. We were not very successful. However, we did venture to The Lake to see how the ice was shaping up, and to try out my new gear.

We stopped at Great Sand Bay to hike around a bit. The temperatures by The Lake were a good fifteen degrees lower than in town, and that may have been even colder with wind chill. It was blustery. But the freezing rain didn’t stop me! I pulled on my new Powder Play bibs and buttoned them up. These are my first-ever pair of “snowshoeing” (ie active-wear) bibs I’ve owned. [I have a pair of hunting bibs, but they are definitely men’s, superlong, superbaggy, and camo. Not the most stylish, but I suppose I fit in with Yoopers when I’m wearing ’em.] Regardless, I am trying to revamp my outdoors style, so the Powder Play bibs were nice. Next time, I’m putting them on before I leave the warmth of my apartment, though. I also donned my Core Concepts Double Shot jacket [which received mega-compliments since I got it] and braved the winds.

I was impressed with how well the bibs fit. It was almost as if the Core Concepts designer got my torso measurements and designed the bibs around me. The pant legs were a little short, but the bib comes with a built-in gaitor that hugs the boot. Next time I head out, I’m wearing my taller boots so that the gaitor and boot make a better barrier.

I should explain the other pair of bib overalls I own. These were purchased as a gift from my dad when I was in middle school, so I could enjoy going hunting with freezing my buns off. They droop and sag and if I’m just wearing the bibs, I am guaranteed to get snow infiltration. Not the best. The Powder Play bibs were so well fitted that I’d be hard-pressed to get any snow inside them. Awesome!

The jacket was definitely wind-stoppable. Both the bibs and the jacket are made with Core Concepts “Shelter Stretch”- which is a three-layer fabric for active cold weather use. Waterproof (20K) and breathable (15K). The zipper for the jacket is protected with a button-over flap to keep water out, too (and the zipper is pretty robust itself).

I received a jacket, bibs, and shirt from Core Concepts on Thursday. I was super geeked to open the box from Idaho and see all the cool stuff inside, but was definitely worried about the cream colored coat. I don’t do white well. I am a dirty, messy, clumsy girl. I swore that I’d spill coffee on it right away and ruin it forever. But, interestingly enough, four days later, it still looks clean. Hmm… something’s not right…

So, after the hike-around, I came home and decided to make a little video to “test” the waterproofability of the jacket. Of course, being the clutz that I am, I wanted to test it with something I knew it would come in contact with eventually: Coffee. Check it out:

So far, I’ve gone for two runs, a hike, and attended a holiday party with my Core Concepts Sprint Crew top. And I haven’t washed it yet. I took the tags off and put it on. It really hasn’t left my skin. But, it doesn’t even stink yet! Three days, no stank… that’s pretty good in my book. But I’m not giving up on it yet.

I’m taking the whole kit-and-caboodle out for a ski tomorrow. I’ve never worn bib coveralls to go skiing, so it should be interesting!

I’m leaning towards the side of “I love this gear.” There are a few modifications that I’d need to make in order for it to be absolutely perfect for me, like the length of the Sprint Crew sleeves (they’re a little too short for me, so I don’t get to utilize the thumbies. I love shirts with thumbies!), and the length of the pant (also a little short). The length of pant is a double-edged sword. I don’t want them to be too short, or else snow will sneak into my boot. But, if they are too long, then the bottoms get all icky when I’m walking around town and the sidewalks are covered in slushy snow! So, there’s got to be a good balance. Who knows, maybe these bibs have it. I’ll have to test them more to find out for sure.  I am also going to do some in-house modifications when I am at my mom’s over break. I will make sure to post any alterations on here for ya’ll to see!

The best thing about Core Concepts is the incredible functionality of their stuff. They do stuff differently. My shirt, for example, turns into a ‘fanny-pack’ if I don’t want to wear it anymore. No more tying the shirt around my waist by its sleeves! The coat is super cute. I would totally still buy it if I were a business professional and had to wear dress clothes to work every day (by the way, I don’t have to wear dress clothes to work everyday). But, the fact that the coat is windproof, waterproof and breathable means that I can be fashionable and live in the UP at the same time. Never thought that was possible. Seriously. When I was an undergrad, I had a hideous camo green down coat (made by Cabelas) that went down to my knees, and (of course) had those camo-hunting bibs. Now I actually look posh. Maybe I will be bringing sexy back afterall… to the Yoop.

*Luckily, the residents of the UP are blessed with an amazing taskforce of snow removal personnel. At all hours of the night, you can count on hearing the beep-beep-beeps of the dump trucks (yes, dump trucks) as they fill their back ends with snow. The road commissions up here know their stuff!


About megankillian

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. I love biomechanics!

Posted on December 20, 2009, in In Training. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. YouTube video does not like me.

    Love those bibs – they look fantastic. I wish they weren’t over $200, though!

  2. Thanks for the review. Some great shots of the gear, and the perfect setting for a test! I hadn’t heard about Core Concepts, so will check out their guy stuff. Enjoy some snow for me (used to live Upstate NY, now in California where it was 78 yesterday!).


    • Do check out their guy stuff! It looks supa-stylish.

      and 78 degrees! Yikes. Not my kind of weather for December [unless I am in the southern hemisphere 😉 ]. I guess I like winter too much.
      Have fun in California and have a great break!

  1. Pingback: Night Snowshoeing in the Keweenaw « in training

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