A friend of mine once said, “the right equipment makes a difference.”
Or lets put it this way: the WRONG equipment is Really Annoying and can hinder your riding. Not to mention causing you all kinds of unmentionable problems.
Back in the days when the dinosaurs roamed, I was still wearing cotton shirts, ancient breeches with thick leather patches on the knees, and a helmet so very hot that my brains instantly boiled and I got a headache. Ring around the forehead, remember that? That’s when we even wore helmets.
My, how times have changed. Manufacturers have created garments that wick sweat, move comfortably with you, with seams in all the right places (and none in the wrong places), and UPF 50. No more chafing or binding. And rather than struggling with boot hooks and getting leg cramps halfway into wrestling our boots on, we now have the miracle of boot zippers! Thank you. And helmets with venting technology. Wow. I’m so grateful for these small things.
Now if only horses came with iDrive, seat belts, and automatic collision avoidance systems. Or maybe a translator!
On the other hand, maybe we don’t really want that translator…
But back to equipment recommendations. It’s hot here in California, and some new riding equipment has made my life better (cooler! more comfortable!) and I thought I’d pass it on to you. NOTE: This is not a paid endorsement and I’ll tell you the unvarnished truth. Really.
Best Shirt: Kastel Denmark. These shirts retail for about $75, are widely available, and they come in a rainbow of colors
(http://www.kasteldenmark.com/product-category/charlotte-collection-womens-uv-protective-shirts/charlotte-signature-shirt/). I normally wear size 6 or 8 in a shirt, and I can wear either the S (snug) or M (a little looser). They are a very stretchy, thin fabric, with mesh under the arms and along the under side of the sleeve.
The fabric is UPF 50, so no need for sunscreen, yay! Except on your face, of course. When I sweat (which I do when I ride!), it dries instantly. The only downside to these shirts is that I need to pretreat the underarms before I wash them (machine wash and dry) to be sure they don’t hold the smell. Just telling you the whole story…The good news is these shirts really breathe, wick and feel so light you almost feel naked and I love not having to put sunscreen all over myself.
Fortunately for the rest of the world, while I feel almost naked, I’m actually much more clothed.
Best Breeches: Animo Laguarda or Nisotta. Sadly, these are expensive at about $369 and $399 respectively. They are also only available at http://www.usanimo.com and a few tack stores. There are low-rise versions from Dover Saddlery, but I find the low-rise difficult to wear (always pulling them up). What is wonderful about Animo? Several things. 1) Fabric – light but strong, breathes amazingly, stretches, flattering, wears well, better than ANY other on the market. I have Kentucky, Equiline, FITS…and I’ve tried other brands, too, but they don’t fit me well. 2) Construction – Italian tailoring. Beautifully made, with clever and cool looking details, seaming so that nothing anywhere is annoying. The center seam NEVER EVER annoys you. This is the only brand I have ever worn that is never annoying. The lower calves have a soft silky fabric that stretches and is long enough for anyone, even long legged or large calved women, so no velcro fasteners to irritate you, either.
I could compose a love song to Animo breeches. If only they would go on super sale…
Helmet: I am newly in love with UVEX. I have been wearing Tipperary and they are fine and well vented, but Uvex is even better vented and it has a cool dial in the back to finesse the fit. The chin strap is more adjustable and fitted, too. It is a more fitted look than Tipperary and I like that.
Cooling Vest: Some people swear by these but my own experience was disappointing. I bought a Cool Medics vest a couple of years ago. You soak it in cold water. It then becomes cold and heavy and it does cool you down – initially. It all weighs you down. I found it very heavy to wear, and while initially quite cooling, it felt hot after about 20 minutes because the inner layer was warmed by my body and started insulating me. They don’t work for me so I can’t recommend them.
Sunglasses: Too much UV exposure for your eyes may lead to cataracts and macular degeneration. We don’t want that! So wear sunglasses when you ride, good quality ones that won’t shatter if you happen to fall off (God forbid), and that are polarized to reduce glare from sand arenas or hot trail rides. After trying many pairs, I’m happiest with Maui Jim. Light weight, stay on my face, don’t slip; I don’t even notice them, except that they keep me comfortable. Worth the cost.
There are, I’m sure, many more products out there to keep you cool and comfortable but the important idea is this:
Ride in what works for you. Life is too short to feel uncomfortable.
If it doesn’t fit, rubs you in the wrong place, or you can’t breathe in it, donate or sell it! And find something that fits and feels comfortable. Riding is supposed to be fun!