TekVest by Klim Review (Jim Tucker)
Published on March 14, 2014 in News & Updates, Snowmobile Tech
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What’s the one piece of safety gear you can’t leave home without? Is it the helmet shield or goggles? Is it the snowmobile suit for its warmth and protection? Is it the helmet, the big daddy of all protective gear? It just may be the one thing that you’ve seen or heard about, but never used. I’m speaking about the motorsports protective vest.

I’ve ridden since 1969 and up until a few years ago had a spotless record for safety. The newer machines make it so easy to ride faster, further, and longer, but one solitary day or one wrong decision can be a game changer in the way we look at how we ride. For me it was one such day in Maine a few years back.

While riding along a trail, and moving at what I would consider a brisk pace, we suddenly came upon a downhill. I was leading the pack, as usual, since my riding partners feel that I should be the “decoy” that encounters danger first, although not because of my riding ability or wayfinding.

With no signage visible, the trail made a hard turn to the right. To make matters worse the turn was off camber and very hard-packed. I panicked and thought I was heading into a grove of trees straight ahead. I pumped the brakes hard, turned the skis right and just at that moment the carbide of the left ski dug in and over the side I went.

I was ejected from the snowmobile and skidded down the trail on my back. Meanwhile the sled was stuck on its side with the ski sticking upright like a beached whale, flipper up high. I got up, and as most gear heads would do, worried about what kind of damage had been done to the sled, having no concern whatsoever for myself.

After the initial shock, I righted the sled. She fired right up. Whew, dodged another bullet! After checking for any loose body parts, mine this time, and finding nothing missing or broken, we headed on our way.

Upon returning back at the cabin that night I had a slight pain on my left side, which turned out to be a cracked rib. Nothing major to worry about but still a painful reminder of what one moment of lost focus can do.

I should have known better than to grab the brake hard with skis turned, it was a classic rookie mistake. Man and machine paid the price. Know this: You should brake well before the turn and have the right amount of speed to negotiate through, or exercise gentle braking while turning. ‘Nuff said there.

That evening I had nightmares about what might have happened if things went differently. A large tree could have been in my path, a big rock or icy cliff preparing to swallow me whole, or another sled coming the other way. Such is the nature of snowmobile nightmares.

On the drive home from our otherwise fine riding trip, I reasoned that the more riding one does the closer one is to having some type of mishap. It’s all about the laws of physics and playing the odds. But is there a safety device that just might help if that one-time lapse of focus should happen?

TekVest full snowmobile Review

I’d been thinking about getting a vest for a while, even before the trip, and with that last episode still ringing in my mind I know this was the perfect time to explore that option. I did my research for the type of riding I do and chose the TekVest by Klim as the protective garment of choice.

Tekrider manufactures the vests to Klim’s specifications. There are many types of vests out there, some with way more protection, but I wanted core body protection with freedom to move my arms. A lightweight platform with maximum breathability was also a priority. I ordered the Klim TekVest and at $270 it was a deal in the world of vests.

Now for some quick stats: The TekVest weighs 2.15 lbs, as measured on my calibrated scale, is very breathable and has a large YKK zipper installed. The protection factor of this particular model is not the highest out there; it’s designed for trail riders, not the racing community.

Needless to say, the TekVest delivers core body protection way above what the bare shoulders can endure. It also has reflective piping on the backside and really strong Tivar plastic panels top and sides for those nasty curves Mother Nature can throw at you.

As the resident Popsicle of the group I can attest to the fact that when worn under your snowmobile jacket, it keeps you warmer. Much appreciated on those minus 30-degree days. Wearing the vest late last season kept me toasty, I never reached for one more layer of clothing. Some folks say they just wear the vest and a lightweight pullover and that keeps them plenty warm. Different strokes.

As I began to delve deeper into this realm of body protection I turned to the Internet for more info. Searching my favorite snowmobile site some intrepid rider posted a thread asking, “Anyone wear a protective vest?” This brought out a flood of responses that I wasn’t prepared for.

Folks chimed in about all the stories they knew or heard of people getting injured while not wearing protective gear, or saved due to wearing a vest. You have to read them to believe it, as they range from gross operator error to just one of those perfect-storm stories, but two threads stuck out like a sore thumb.

One rider chimed in by saying there was never anyone that regretted wearing one after having a mishap, or the ER doctor saying, “It would have been way worse if you were not wearing that vest.”

Mountain riders have been using protective vests for years as the backcountry has way more booby traps and mines than we flatlanders see. Just think of it as insurance against unforeseen events.

Hits:

  • Survivability is there in spades.
  • Warmer than not wearing it at all.
  • Looks like you have way more muscles than you really do!
  • Self-confidence spikes up.
  • Zero maintenance required.
  • Doesn’t hinder handlebar or upper body movement.

Misses:

  • Another piece of gear to bring along.
  • Somewhat bulky but you get used to it.
  • Can be too warm on the late March, April rides.
  • Expensive but what is your hide worth?
  • Taking jacket and vest off to have lunch is somewhat awkward.

So to wrap it up, I have a TekVest and won’t ride without it. How about you?

Rated three out of five carbides for its protection and confidence improvements and quality construction. Not quite light enough to make it feel like you have nothing on, and bulky to transport.

RELATED STORY: Tekvest: Peace of Mind While Snowmobiling


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