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Reviews > Health & Safety > Accessories > Zamst Knee Brace ZK 7 > Test Report by Richard Lyon

ZAMST KNEE BRACE ZK-7
Test Report by Richard Lyon

Initial Report April 11, 2014

Long Term Report September 3, 2014


PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

Male, 67 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 200 lb (89 kg)
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Bozeman, Montana USA

I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, most often in the Rockies.  I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp.  Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences.  I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Three-season trips often focus on flyfishing opportunities.

Additional information pertinent to this test: Three years ago I sprained my left knee and, despite the fact that medical science pronounced it healed, on long days, particularly those involving steep descents, the knee has become painful. The Brace's impact on this knee will be the focus of my testing this product.

INITIAL REPORT - April 11, 2014

THE PRODUCT


Zamst-frontThe Zamst Knee Brace ZK-7 is made entirely of fabric - no metal. The manufacturer calls the material "Flyweight Tech," and in a brochure that accompanied the Brace identifies its components as nylon, polyurethane, chloroprene rubber, polyester, and acrylic rubber. All fabric is stretchy, the mesh back panel particularly so. Two 2-inch (5 cm) strips of stouter material are sewn at the sides and stretch across the back to add to stability. Going around the Brace reveals four-piece construction - front panel with kneecap hole and adjusters (see next paragraph), rear mesh panel, and a one-inch (2.5 cm) panel on each side. The front piece has five individual panels of various sizes and shapes.

The Brace has four hook-and-loop fasteners that allow micro-adjustment to the user's knee and leg. Two sit immediately below the doughnut hole for the kneecap and two crisscross at a 45-degree angle atop the first pair.

All fabric is black on the outside and all save the mesh and the second (from the top) front panel are bright blue on the inside. The product brochure warns that the dyes may bleed.

Manufacturer: Nippon Sigmax Co. LTD
Website: www.zamst.us
Size: Large [Available in sizes Small through 4XLarge.
According to a chart on Zamst's website, the user determines size by measuring the circumference of his or her thigh 6.5 in (16.5 cm) above the center of the kneecap.]
Height, measured: 11.5 in/29 cm overall; from the center of the kneecap hole, 6.0 in (15 cm) to the top and 5.5 in (14 cm) to the bottom.
Weight, measured: 6.0 oz/170 g
MSRP: $79.99 US
Warranty: "We stand behind our products. If you have any questions or concerns please contact Customer Service." A toll-free (US) number is provided.

This product appears to be Zamst's most fully-featured knee brace. Listed features include the adjusters (called i-Fit, short for individual fit), the Flyweight Tech fabric, V-Tech (for ventilation), a Kneecap Stabilizer, Exo-Tech QUAD (four-way ligament support for ACL, MCL, LCL, and PCL), and ROM-Tech pre-curved design (for range of motion).

TRYING IT OUT

Zamst - backThe Brace's maiden voyage took place last Sunday when I skied at Bridger Bowl, our local ski hill, for about six hours. Temperatures hovered near freezing under overcast skies with an occasional snow shower. Altitude was between 5800 and 7000 ft (1800-2100 m). At Bridger some climbing or traversing is needed to access certain runs, so the uphill wasn't always assisted by a lift.

I wore the Brace over a pair of lightweight merino long bottoms and under my Norrøna trollveggen Bibs [subject of a recent Owner Review on this site]. As it's a single piece I affixed the Brace at home, before putting on my ski boots. Adjusting the Brace's straps below the knee hole was easy. I fiddled with these while standing up straight and with my knee bent, settling on an intermediate fit slightly closer to the former.  My knee pad (standard safety equipment when on telemark skis) fit easily over the brace.

After about thirty minutes of skiing I no longer noticed I was wearing the Brace. It stayed in place throughout the day, and I had no ache in the knee after almost a full day of aggressive skiing. (I skied with some younger friends, all of them on alpine skis. None had respect for anyone on tele skis. I had a tough time keeping up.) In the parking lot I removed the Brace when I changed out of my ski boots. I noticed no discoloration or imprint marks on my leg at the kneecap or where the top or bottom of the Brace had been. The Brace was slightly sweaty on the inside.
When I returned home I found no staining on my base layer.

Back at home I tried wearing the brace wearing shorts and low-cut hiking boots, primarily to see if I could pull the Brace on without removing the boot. That task was easily accomplished.

INITIAL LIKES

Lightweight
No metal
Easy fine tuning
No discomfort

INITIAL DISLIKES

None

LONG TERM REPORT - September 3, 2014

My initial impressions have been bolstered by five months' frequent use. I am pleased to report that the Zamst ZK-7 has become a regular part of my hiking kit.

FIELD USE

Zamst-Crazies Backpacking use has included a five-day, four-night service trip in the southern part of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, Montana, and overnight trips in the Absaroka Range, Montana, and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Temperatures ranged from just below freezing to about 85 F (30 C). Except for some rain showers on the first couple of days on the service trip, the weather was outstanding Montana summer sun followed by cool nights. I have also worn the brace on about a dozen day hikes and another dozen fishing days, mostly in clear weather but with the occasional rain squall, in temperatures from 50-85 F (10-30 C). My general rule is to wear the brace whenever significant uphill or downhill hiking is expected - most of the day hikes - or when I plan to fish for more than a couple of hours. When returning home after a day hike or fishing I'll stash the brace in my day pack. On work days (and in addition to the service trip these included several of the dayhikes, which involved local trail maintenance projects) I always wore the brace.

Trail work days mean long pants, with the brace underneath. Other day hikes I wore the brace with hiking shorts, as in the photo at left. Until this past week it's been too chilly to "wade wet," a flyfishing term that means without waders, so the brace was under GORE-TEX breathable waders.

OBSERVATIONS

This is the first brace (for knee, ankle, or other joint) I've worn regularly, as a preventive measure, since regularly getting my ankles taped for football or baseball in college, more years back than I like to count. Since then all earlier use of any brace has been remedial, immediately following an injury, most recently a knee sprain about five years ago. So the Zamst is something of a test run for me. As I shall recount, all signs point to continued use.

This brace is very easy to adjust using the hook-and-loop straps and fasteners. Of course "adjustment" has been simple for me - neither knee has swollen or otherwise changed in size during the test period. Still, these straps allow a quick fit and easy on and off, facilitating removing and re-adding the brace for lunch stops, swimming, or rest periods. This is a big improvement over any brace with metal, as most of those I've used in the past have had. I do need to modify an observation from my Initial Report regarding ease of use, however. While I can pull the brace easily over trail runners, if I'm wearing any footwear with a higher cuff, mid-level or over-the-ankle hikers for example, I need to remove the boot before slipping on the brace. A minor inconvenience.

Comfort is exceptional. Not once has the brace pinched anywhere on, above, or below my knee, nor has it impeded movement. I know it's there only if I'm thinking about it. When checking the scenery, swinging a pulaski, hiking up a steep switchback, or doing any other activity that requires concentration or involves more pleasant thoughts than counting my steps, the brace is like hiking shorts - I know I'm wearing it but it doesn't rate a second thought. On warmer days, particularly when worn under waders, there's a slight perspiration build-up on the back of my knee, but so far that hasn't been unduly unpleasant - no worse than sweaty socks. I do prefer to remove the brace at day's end and once in a while at long breaks, but not from discomfort, merely to air out both brace and joint.

Maintenance has been almost nil. I have washed the brace once, in my front-loading washer with non-detergent soap, and then air-dried it in my basement. Otherwise I've simply aired it out in the back of the car on the way home, and then tossed it into my day pack. Nor has wearing the brace meant extra cleaning of clothing, notably hiking pants, that have come in contact with the brace.

In my opinion this product's most praiseworthy trait is its durability. Its grip appears to be as strong as when new, and I have yet to see a loose thread or other deterioration. The Flyweight Tech fabric is tough stuff. I'm looking forward to many more seasons of service from my Zamst.

And a good thing too. I applied for this test expecting to wear the brace on my left knee, which I sprained some years back. But arthritis in my right knee (the technical medical term for this phenomenon is "old age") became more acute than any lingering effects of the injury, so that's where the Zamst resided during my summer athletic endeavors. (See the photo above, with the Shields Valley and Crazy Woman Mountains in the distance.)  While I did no scientific testing, I definitely noticed that the knee was far less sore after hiking with the brace than without it.

My Likes and Dislikes (actually lack of Dislikes) remain the same as in my Initial Report. In summary - a first-rate product that has performed its advertised task admirably.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

My Test Report ends here, with
thanks to Zamst and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity. I'm glad someone's looking after aging outdoor athletes, and glad to see that Zamst offers products for other antique body parts.
 


Read more reviews of Nippon Sigmax Co. LTD gear
Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon

Reviews > Health & Safety > Accessories > Zamst Knee Brace ZK 7 > Test Report by Richard Lyon



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