Monday, January 26, 2015

Product Review for H2O XPRESS® Men's Softshell XTREME Fishing Parka and Bib

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*****Updates on 1/26/2017*****
I have owned these for right at a year and a half or so. The jacket zipper is ruined and will not zip up. Additionally, the lining of the pants has ripped really bad, which may be my own fault. Most importantly, the waterproofing of these isn't nearly as good as some brands. It's ok for mist and even steady rain. However, if you are sitting in water or let it pool up, it will soak through.

Starting in 2013, I made more of an effort to get out in the early months, while the average southerner was in a deer stand. Sometimes the weather was decent, and I could simply add layers. Other days....not so much. When the weather was downright nasty, rain and wind in spades...I relied on my Frogg Toggs. And, let me tell you, they have been a colossal failures. I have had 3 sets and they have ALL come apart at the seams. Literally. The pants rip and the crotch. The zippers fail on the first zip-up.

For the last 2 years, I have relied upon my eclectic assortment of snow skiing gear to keep me warm and dry. I found that decision to be...unsatisfactory. My ski equipment isn't made for a constant barrage of rain. It isn't meant to resist flying crankbaits. And, it wouldn't cut the wind. A lot of that DID have to do with the age and overall condition of the gear.

So, I decided that I would save up any birthday and Christmas money I received and put it towards some equipment. The first thing I looked at was the BPS 100MPH gear. But, the cost was prohibitively expensive. While I appreciate how well the BPS stuff is made and how it guarantees warmth well into freezing temps, I wasn't on board with HUNDREDS of dollars. I also didn't need to stay warm in sub-30 degree weather. I am hardcore, but if there is ice on the water, you can count me out. What I did need was superior rain and wind-repelling material that was heartily made and would resist every hook in the boat being magically attracted to it. Last, but not least, red isn't my color. Red is for the OTHER half of the State of Alabama.

That got me looking at Academy. I already liked their house brand stuff. I have had GREAT luck with their H2OXPress Ethos Rods, which I reviewed here.

Initially I looked at their cheaper set, which costs around $150 for the bibs and jacket. I am a real short guy, so I need extra short bibs. But, I have very wide shoulders and need an X-large jacket. My local store NEVER has the set I need. The day I went shopping for them, sure enough, they didn't have the sizes I needed. But they DID have the combination I needed in the XTREME set, which was significantly more expensive(another $60 or so, which is a lot to me). Initially I was skeptic, but I tried them on and compared them to the regular XPRESS set. I was amazed at the weight difference in favor of the XTREME. It felt a lot lighter. Additionally, it had neoprene cuffs to keep water from going up your sleeves. I had a little money (at the time), so I went with them.

Here are the spec's

Designed with double-layered, reinforced material, the H2O XPRESS® Adults' SSX XTREME Softshell Fishing Bib provides optimal coverage to help you stay protected from the elements. The bib features a 100% polyester shell and a nylon and spandex trim for comfortable wear, 2 fleece-lined hand warmer pockets and 2 large, exterior cargo pockets. Reflective shield heat seal on the back.

Features and Benefits for the Bibs

  • - 100% polyester shell with an 82% nylon and 18% spandex trim for comfortable wear
  • - 4-pocket design with 2 fleece-lined hand warmer pockets and 2 large, exterior cargo pockets
  • - Double-layered, reinforced material at the seat, cuffs and knees
  • - Leg openings with hook-and-loop closures offer adjustability
  • - Water-repellent zippers
  • - Stretchy side gussets support mobility
  • - Reflective shield heat seal on the back between the shoulder blades
  • - H2O XPRESS® logos on the left chest and down the right arm
  • - SSX logo on the right of the back
With a hook-and-loop storm flap, water-repellent zippers and windproof construction, the H2O XPRESS® Men's Softshell XTREME Fishing Parka offers a great choice for cold-weather comfort. The parka features fleece-lined hand warmer pockets, long sleeves with interior waterproof neoprene cuffs and a 3-point adjustable, vented hood to help you stay warm and protected from the elements. Reflective shield heat seal on the back. Front-zip closure.

Features and Benefits for the Coats

  • - 100% polyester outer shell with an 82% nylon and 18% spandex trim for cold-weather comfort
  • - Windproof construction with polyester fleece-lined hand warmer pockets
  • - 2 large exterior cargo pockets, 2 water-repellent chest pockets and 1 water-repellent arm pocket
  • - Water-repellent, zip-up front closure
  • - Long sleeves with interior waterproof neoprene cuffs
  • - Vented collar
  • - Double-layered, reinforced fabrication at the seat
  • - 3-point adjustable, vented hood
  • - Full-length hook-and-loop storm flap
  • - H2O XPRESS® logos on the left chest and right arm, with an SSX logo on the back of the right shoulder
  • - Reflective shield heat seal on the back between the shoulder blades
I have now worn them in the rain and high wind as well as sub-30 degree weather and I can tell you I am THOROUGHLY impressed with them.

I like the understated color (black) with the nice logos on the sleeves.

I LOVE the waterproof cuffs.

The set is amazingly light. That may come at a cost to warmth at extra low temps.

I have slung jigs and crankbaits into them and SO FAR I haven't had a hook get stuck. That's going to change as they get older, of course.

The pants are very easy to put on and off, even with shoes.

They have double zippers with a velcro flap on top.

The set is very light and very roomy, without binding up.

The pockets are very roomy and easy to access. This is important if you are wearing gloves. The pockets are also deep, allowing me to put my phone and other things in there and have easy access without worrying about them falling out.

They cut wind at 60MPH with ease. I was pretty surprised by this, but I was able to run down the lake wide open without having the wind cut into me.

For a little over $200, you can have a set of of bib/jacket that can rival the best. Is it as good as the BPS stuff? Honestly, I don't know. But the BPS jacket is $250 BY ITSELF. I am sure that BPS really shines when the wind, temp, and rain gang up on you, but that's for a more hardcore fisherman than I. I am on a budget and I cannot see spending $500 on that.

I was able to wear a single set of Underarmour cold gear under jeans and a pullover, plus this set in 10MPH winds and rain in 30 degree all day without getting cold. That's good enough for me. The main point of emphasis is the COST. Also, I have the ability to take it back to my local store if I have issues. That wouldn't be the case with BPS.

Based upon new updates, I have downgraded these to 3 out of 5 stars