Thursday, January 12, 2012

Planet Bike Snack Shack, Borealis Glove Review

Okay, I've been rocking the Planet Bike Snack Shack and Borealis Gloves for all of the late fall and now into "winter", (if we can call what we've had a winter so far!). I would have chimed in sooner, but for the strangeness of the weather, which was preventing a full on test, especially for the gloves, but be that as it may, I will continue onwards.

Planet Bike's Snack Shack: It's a top tube bag!
Snack Shack: First up I have my thoughts on the Snack Shack. This is a typically shaped top tube bag for endurance pursuits. It resembles a small motorcycle gas tank in overall shape. I suppose in some ways it is a gas tank!

Well, you can actually use it for a lot of things, which I'll get to in a moment, but first, here are the particulars on this bag.

  • Holds a claimed 43 cubic inches of volume. 
  • Has a white lined interior, which is supposed to make finding your things easier. 
  • The bag is padded and holds its shape when empty. The outside features reflective piping and a small Planet Bike logo.
  • Dual Pull zippers and Velcro fastener make the bag secure and easy to close and open. 
  • Two Velcro attachment points: One in the front, and one in the middle of the bag, underneath. 
Impressions: The Snack Shack could be a .......shack for your snacks, but I used it for what I typically use a top tube bag for: A place to hold my small point and shoot camera, cell phone, or maybe a small multi tool. Sometimes I even used it to hold a small head lamp battery for a light I mounted on my handle bars.

The Snack Shack on my Mukluk
My brain is filled with little sayings I've heard throughout my life. One of which is, "No matter how big your garage is, you'll fill it up." What's that got to do with a top tube bag? Well, sometimes the bigger the bag is, the more stuff you "stuff", and maybe that isn't a good thing. To that end, the 43 cubic inches of the Snack Shack was a lesson in what I really needed versus what I wanted to carry.

I don't mean this to sound negative. Actually, I thought it was a good thing. I could bring my all important point and shoot, a small multi tool, and the aforementioned small battery pack for my back up trail light, and that was it. Sometimes I put a cell phone and the camera in there. Once I stuffed my much larger Panasonic LX-3 camera in there, which barely would be swallowed by the Snack Shack. Point is, you may want more room, but if you don't, the Snack Shack works for a few smaller items. Need more? Planet Bike does a bigger top tube bag called the Lunch Box.

I could get in a ton of gels, energy bars, and candy in the Snack Shack. Enough for a six hour ride, so if that is what you want to use this for, it will pack a fair slug of calories. Even abusive loading, as with my LX-3 camera, showed no ill effects on the Snack Shack, but I wouldn't recommend it on a regular basis.

In use, the bag opens and closes really easily with the dual pull zips. I had to slam the lid down on the bag a few times when I needed both hands on the bars suddenly, but with the Velcro fastener, the lid, although not zipped, didn't allow things to bounce out of the Snack Shack. That's a nice touch. The white lining does help in dim lighting or at night when you are looking for that last morsel of food.

Conclusions: For the asking price of MSRP $16.99, the Snack Shack seems like a pretty great value, and I think it is. My only concern was that the reflective piping showed some flaking of the reflective material, but overall the construction and performance of the Snack Shack is impressive. If the size works for you, I can highly recommend it. One caveat: It may not be compatible with frame bags, or even the same frame bag on different bikes may cause an issue with compatibility. Check your bags before buying to make sure this will work with your set up.

Planet Bike Borealis Gloves
Planet Bike Borealis Gloves: Next up we have the winter glove system from Planet Bike called the Borealis. This is an all new re-design of this model for 2012. The Borealis is a system of an inner fleece glove and an outer "mitten" that can be worn as separate components or together for the ultimate warm hand protection against the elements.

Features are as follows:

  • Two pieces for wider temperature ranges. The inner and outer layers can be combined for coldest weather, or worn separately into warmer temperatures. 
  • The outer glove/mitten has a windproof back panel and forchettes. The glove/mitten outer is water resistant, and features a Neoprene cuff/pull tab with a hook and loop closure. Reflective piping on the outer.
  • The inner is a simple fleece glove.
Impressions: The fall weather first called out for the inner liner only. In crisp, cool weather, these inner fleece gloves worked well to ward off chill, but they definitely are not wind resistant, and of course, wetter weather isn't their friend either. So, actual versatility is somewhat limited to dry days with regard to the inner liner.

I thought the fit was a bit short in the fingers, but otherwise was okay. My only other concern was with the fingers, which were slippery without any tacky or textured areas to use for smoother aluminum controls like STI levers. Off the bike this manifested itself as slipperiness on car steering wheels, as an example.

The outer glove didn't really get the ultimate, below zero cold test, but we got close enough on a few days to get an idea here. The unique grouping of the last two digits on the hand and independent index and middle fingers was nice for drop bar riding and didn't seem to bother me in regard to keeping warm. In fact, I thought the outer of the Borealis was enough for me to keep warm in most any reasonable situation for cycling. The fit was loose-ish, which I tend to prefer with regard to a winter hand covering.

With the inner combined with the outer, I found the "toast level" was a bit too extreme for my tastes, but more importantly, I thought the fit of the size XL was a bit restrictive. The too tight feeling was unpleasant, in my opinion, and I would recommend going a size up, if you can, if you think you will really need both layers together. I don't see myself ever using the two together, as my hands were warm enough with just the outers here, but everyone has different needs when it comes to cold weather.
The Borealis inner fleece liner glove
Conclusions: Essentially, with the Borealis, you are buying two pairs of hand wear items. One is basically a cool weather ride, fleece glove, and the other is for more serious cold protection. Adding both together could be the ultimate in cold weather hand wear for a cyclists, if the fit is okay for you. Because of this, I strongly recommend you try on the Borealis first with both layers to see if the fit is to your liking.

The inner liner is best suited for dry, cool days only, and it isn't a great casual wear item due to the slick, slippery texture of the fleece. The outer is a definite winner in my mind, and if you already have a thin, wool liner glove, it may be the ultimate weapon against cold that you are looking for. I found the outer only to be just fine for me, but I have a bit higher tolerance to cold than your average bear. I will say that the outer is comfy by itself, and works really well for drop bar riding.

The bottom line here is that the Borealis isn't a bad system, but an improvement or two in the inner liner would be welcomed, in my opinion. Fit with both pieces together might be an issue for folks with larger hands. Still, for the MSRP $41.99 asking price, this is a lot of glove. Competing models seem to be significantly more. Check out the Borealis at your local bike shop and see if it might work for you.

Planet Bike sent out these gloves and the top tube bag at no charge for test/review. I was not paid, nor bribed for my review, and I strive to give my honest opinion and thoughts throughout any review here. Thanks to Planet Bike for letting me check these items out!


Nater said...

Hey Ted,

What is the seat bag you're showing in the photo of the Snow Dog?


Guitar Ted said...

@Nater: Well, in a post not long ago, (Muk vs Muk), this got discussed in the comments. Apparently it may be an old, (as in 25-30 years old), Kirtland seat pack.

That said, I really do not know what it is. I found it at the shop where I work 10 years ago, and it had been there a long time prior to that, in a pile of unwanted gear. There is no branding on the bag whatsoever.

Nater said...

Thanks Ted,

I'm looking for a large-ish seatpack like that for the one long gravel grinder I do each year (BALLS ride) and don't want to spend the $$$ for a Revelate bag.