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Reviews > Clothing > Accessories > The Warmfront Base Model > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes

The Warmfront™ Mens's (chest warmer)
Test Report Series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: January 29, 2008
Field Report: April 8, 2008
Long Term Test: June 6, 2008

warmfront ir 1
The Warmfront™ on the author

Tester Coy Starnes
Gender Male
Age 45
Weight 238 lb (108 kg)
Height 6 ft (1.8 m)
E-Mail starnescr@yahoo.com
Location Grant, Alabama, USA

Tester Biography
I live in Northeast Alabama.  I enjoy biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities but backpacking is my favorite pastime.  I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo.  I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer.  My style is slow and steady and my gear is light.  However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability.  A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.

Initial Report: January 29, 2008
Product Information
Item The Warmfront™ Men's (chest warmer)
Manufacturer Warmfront
Year of Manufacture 2008
URL http://www.thewarmfront.com/
Size Men's L (one size fits all)
Listed Weight N/A
Measured Weight 2.4 oz (68 g)
Color Black
MSRP 24.99 USD

Product Description
The Warmfront™ is a rectangular shaped piece of  wind resistant fleece with a neck strap attached.  It is designed to be worn in the front (like a bib).  The main part of the Warmfront™ is approximately 14 inches (36 cm) wide and 20 inches (51 cm) tall.  I measured it at 24 inches (61 cm) tall but measured from the top of the shoulders and not the neck.  The neck strap measures about 16.5 inches (42 cm) long by 2 inches (5 cm) wide and is made of a more stretchable fleece than the body of the Warmfront™.   It has a simple hook and loop fastener that extends on past the end about 2 inches (5 cm) which makes the neck piece about 18 inches (46 cm) long in all.  The single paper that came with the Warmfront™ calls it a men's chest warmer.

Initial Impression
The Warmfront™ arrived exactly as depicted on the Warmfront website.  I hate to say it, but after looking at it and trying it on, it reminds me of a oversized baby bib and looks silly on me.  However, as far as functionality goes, looks can be deceiving, and this will most likely be worn when wearing bike clothing which look goofy to me (and on me) anyways.  As for specifics, the website says "The Warmfront™ is made in the USA from the best technical Malden Mills fleece that blocks the wind, yet breathes and transfers perspiration from your body so you don’t get cold and wet from sweat."  I'll say this much, the name Warmfront is rather telling in describing what the Warmfront™ is supposed to do.  The Warmfront™ was designed for cycling and or other sports in which the wearer will be facing cold wind from the front.  I ride a recumbent bike (Bachetta Cafe) most of the time now and ocasionally a road bike (Trek 520).

Instructions
None, nada, zilch...but in looking at the Warmfront™ is is pretty obvious how it should be worn.  Simply put the big block of cloth towards the front and hook the neck piece around my neck.  To be fair, the single paper in the packaging has a photo of the Warmfront™ on a dummy (LOL...manikin) which pretty much shows all the instructions needed.  I won't have to worry about putting it on backwards.  It is even impossible (well, almost) to put on wrong side out becaue the hook and loop would be to the inside and hard to fasten.
 
Fit
The only place that fit is really a concern is around the neck.  As I mentioned, the neck piece is made of a fairly stretchy fleece, and it is a good thing it is, because, it has to stretch quite a bit to allow the hook and loop fastener a good overlap on my 17.5 inch (45 cm) neck.  However, once on and fastened it does not feel suffocating.  I do think I am at the upper limit for a comfortable fit but someone with a skinny neck may well find it fits loose. The photo below shows the fit on my neck.

warmfront ir 2 
neck piece fits but is definitely not too big...
Future Testing
I plan to wear the Warmfront™ on all of my early season bike rides.  I will see how well it protects my torso form cold wind.  I will also use it some when hiking if it works well for that application.   The website says it is good for biking, skiing, boarding and moto (motorcycle, 4-wheelers and dirt bikes).  Since I don't really do the later except occasionally ride my neighbors 4-wheeler I will use it anytime I need protection from cold wind. 
 
Anticipated Testing Locations and Conditions
Most of my testing will be while riding my bikes on the local back roads here in Grant Alabama.  I generally ride for at least an hour and sometime closer to 3.  I usually ride anywhere from 10 to 30 miles (16 to 48 km) depending on how many hills and or mountain climbs are involved.  I try not to ride my bike in the rain but have got caught out in some a few times.  

I will be making several short overnight hikes and a few longer hikes over the next 4 months. I will be testing in the southeastern US with trips into the local mountains of Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.  However, most testing would be done in Northeast Alabama and much of that will be on my bike.  Elevations will generally be less than 4000 ft (1219 m).

Winters in the southeastern US are generally mild, with some short stints of very cold weather. I generally see some rain while backpacking, often in the form of sleet and ice in the winter.   

This concludes my Initial Report.  Please check back in approximately 2 months for my Field Report to see how the Warmfront™ is doing.  I would also like to thank BackpackGearTest and Warmfront for letting me test this half-vest (I think that is an appropriate term). 
 
Field Report: April 8, 2008

warmfront 3
Author hiking in rare Alabama snow

Testing Locations and Conditions
All my hiking and biking was in Northeast Alabama save for one bike ride on the Silver Comet bike trail near Rockmart Georgia.  I used the Warmfront during 322 miles (518 km) of bike riding spread over 22 rides.  The longest single ride was 38 miles (77 km) on the Silver Comet bike trail and the shortest was 8.5 miles (14 km).  The coldest ride started at 34 F (1 C) but ended at 71 F (22 C).  And no, I'm not that slow, however, we started fairly early and it just happened to be the 38 mile (77 km) ride which took 4 hours because we stopped for lunch and to take pictures.

I also used the Warmfront on several day hikes, mostly when it was too cool for bike riding.  I did not keep the exact number but around 10 would be a conservative estimate.  One 8 mile (13 km) hike was in snow.  It was 28 F (-2 C) when I started but warmed to 36 F (2 C).  However, a strong wind made the whole hike rather chilly except for a few times when climbing the steep sections of the trail.  The rest of my day hikes were mostly in cool but nice spring weather with temps in the mid 40s F (around 7 C).  A couple of these hikes were so warm that wearing the Warmfront was not practical at all.

I used the Warmfront on two overnight hikes.  On the first trip the low was 34 (1 C) but the hike in was quite warm at 55 F (13 C).  I wore it some the next morning when it was much cooler.  The low on the second trip was only 57 F (14 c) so I just used the Warmfront as a pillow at night.

Field Performance
The Warmfront has worked really well, but before I go any further I will say it worked much better for bike riding than hiking.  I think this was mostly due to the fact that while hiking I am real slow so if I need extra warmth on the front I need it on the back.  On the other hand, when biking, I was going fast enough that I really did need the extra protection in the front.  When hiking I usually had my pack on to help keep my back warm but when I stopped for a break my back really felt cold as soon as I removed my pack.

When biking I found the Warmfront felt great in any temps below about 60 F (16 C).  When hiking I found it too warm at temperatures much above 40 F (4 C).  That's quite a difference and more than I expected but again it all falls back to the wind I am riding against when biking as opposed to much less when walking.

So how did it feel when wearing the Warmfront.  I wore it between layers most of the time but did wear it next to my skin on some of the warmer hikes and rides when I only had on one shirt.  When worn next to my skin it felt very good.  And since it was warmer when worn this way it did get a little damp from sweat, but surprisingly, except for the neck piece, it still felt dry.  Only after taking it off and examining it closely could I see the darker sweat areas and then fell the dampness with my hands.  I found it strange that I couldn't tell it was wet while being worn. 

The most noticeable thing was how warm it made my neck feel.  This was great on cold days but irritating on warmer hikes and rides.  In fact, I often took the Warmfront off due to my neck sweating when I could have continued to wear it otherwise.  I also found out that when riding my bike I needed to wear it under a layer. This could be a shirt or my light wind jacket but if I just wore the Warmfront on top it would not stay put at all.  In other words, it would slowly work its way up and blow around to one side to where it was not protecting my midsection.  But interestingly, when worn under a jacket, I could unzip the jacket most of the way down and it still stayed in place very well.  When walking with it over the top of my shirt the shoulder section would not stay in place.  However, when worn on top but under a pack, the shoulder straps did help keep the Warmfront in place.

warmfront 4
Warmfront layerd under a shirt and jacket

Fortunately, I could easily take it off or put it back on between layers. I would need to pull the lower corners down and out and fiddle with getting both shoulders covered properly but it was easier than I expected.  This came in handy on several hikes and especially on my bike rides off the mountain.  I needed the Warmfront on the fast ride down but not for the climb.  One time I was crazy enough to tackle the mountain twice and I was soaked by the time I reached the top the first time.  I ended up wearing it on the first descent, taking it off for the first climb, putting it back on for the second descent, taking it back off for the last climb and then back on for the ride home on fairly level roads.  Even when worn under my pack I found I could remove the Warmfront without needing to take off my pack.  This came in handy when hiking up long steep trails.  I never tried to put it back on under my pack but in theory it could be done.  

Care and Durability
So far the Warmfront is not really showing much sign of wear, probably due to the fact that it has been worn between layers most of the time.   I have washed it twice but only because the neck section was starting to get smelly both times.  There has been no shrinking and the hook and loop fastener is still holding well. The first washing was at night so I hung it over a chair and it was almost dry before I went to bed just a few hours after hanging it up.  The next washing was at mid-day and I hung it out on my deck.  It was completely dry three hours later when I checked it.

Suggestions for Improvement
I can't help but think that a little more overlap on the back side would make it work better.  I am thinking along the lines of a dickey if anyone is familiar with that item of clothing.   They generally come with a hood but I am not suggesting a hood.  Then again, maybe a dickey style in a hooded version, and one like I am testing but with a tad more shoulder overlap would offer more choices.  After all, everyone does not like nor need the same type garment.

Summary thus far
Overall I am impressed with the performance of the Warmfront.  It did an excellent job keeping me warm on many cool bike rides.  And while I felt it was less than ideal for hiking, it still provided needed warmth on the front side while my back was somewhat protected by my pack.

Future Testing
With spring weather well established I don't foresee as many opportunities to use the Warmfront over the next couple of months.  My most recent bike log entry gives a hint of what to expect. Part of it reads "62 F cloudy, light breeze. Back to the Cafe.  Legs felt tard so I took it easy.  I guess the recent hill climbing is more than I am used to.  The Warmfront was too warm so I took it off at mile 5.  I pretty much soaked the neck."  However, it will still be cool in the mornings and I plan to ride my bike some during this time frame so that I can continue to evaluate the Warmftonts performance.

This concludes my Field Report.  Please check back in approximately 2 months for my Long Term Report to see how the Warmfront™ is doing.  I would also like to thank BackpackGearTest and Warmfront for letting me test this product.

Long Term Test: June 6, 2008

Testing Locations and Conditions
All testing has been in Northeast Alabama, either on local back roads or in local woods.  During this latest phase of testing I have used the Warmfront for several bike rides and on 2 overnight hikes.  Actually, I didn't wear it on the hikes but rather used it as a pillow since it has warmed up so much since the Field Report.  Many of the rides included a 600 ft (183 m) climb and all were on quite hilly roads. 

In looking back at my training log, the coolest ride was on an early morning, 13 mile (21 km) ride on April 15th.  It was 41 F (5 C) when I left the house but warmed to 53 F (12 C). That was the only ride here lately in which I was able to keep the Warmfront on during the entire ride.  I also see that I last used the Warmfront on May 1 on an early morning 20 mile (32 km) ride which started at 9 AM and at 57 F (14 C).  But even on that ride I took it off at the halfway point as it was getting warm fast.  In fact it was 72 F (22 C) by the time I finished this ride at around 11 AM.  All told I rode about 370 miles (596 km) on 24 different rides but since I usually took the Warmfront off after about 5 miles (8 km) I estimate that I actually wore it around 120 miles (193 km).

Long Term Test Results
As outlined above, the warm weather really hampered my ability to finish this test with a lot of usage.  However, this same weather allowed me to really appreciate on of the best features of the Warmfront.   And that would be the ability to take the Warmfront off while riding.  I usually remembered to remove it while I was stopped for a quick drink and break before heading up the mountain but I am also notoriously forgetful and would often forget to do this, only to  notice I was getting rediculoulsly hot for some reason...  However, once I noticed the problem, I could easily reach back and unfasten it and slip it out from under my shirt.   I could then let it sit in my lap for the rest of the climb since I was going so slow there was no danger of it blowing off.  I did need to put it under my legs a little more securely the few times I took it off when riding faster. 

Due to the warm weather and trying to get as much use as possible I will say the Warmfront handles sweat fairly well.  Even when I soaked the Warmfront my chest felt reasonably dry but my neck felt uncomfortably damp.  To be fair, this was mostly because the neck was fastened fairly tight.  And since I would usually take the Warmfront off when I got hot I didn't really test the wicking ability all that much.

Care and Durability
I did wash the Warmfront a couple of more times during the past two months. It still has not shown any signs of fading or shrinking.

Summary
As I stated at the conclusion of the Field Report, a dicky style would be a welcome addition to the range, or at least a little more shoulder coverage on this model.  But other than that, it does do a very good job for what it is designed to do.  I really liked being able to ride fast while keeping my torso warm, then as conditions changed, being able to quickly remove the Warmfront.  I doubt I will need to use it for the next several months but as soon as the mercury drops again this fall I will be glad I have the Warmfront to make my riding warm and enjoyable.  For such a small article of clothing it does make a big difference!

This concludes my testing of the Warmfront.  I would like to thank BackpackGearTest and Warmfront for letting me test this product.
   




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