Have you ever been told you’re full of hot air? Well, even if you haven’t, there’s a new product out from the U.K. that allows you to make use of it: Exotogg.
What is Exotogg and why does it matter? The product is a clever take on a long-proven technique for cold-weather protection, one that works perfectly for cold-weather motorcycle riders.
Briefly stated, it is a serape-style air-inflatable vest made of soft but tough TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). The whole thing weighs but 9 oz more than the air you put in it. It is also ultra-portable to pack in your saddlebag or back-pack able to be folded down to about four inches square.
Insulation technology, be it for a building or clothing, has a common theme: create dead air space between the cold and the space you wish to keep warm. The low density per unit/volume of air makes it an inefficient medium for heat transfer, so it is a good insulator.
Throw in resistance to exterior water and you’ve got the whole package. The Exotogg checks all the boxes, with adjustability for fit and level of heat retention desired, as well as moisture exclusion. The manufacturer points out the air alone is 10 percent more efficient insulator than goose down and the Exotogg cannot get soaked and lose efficiency unlike goose down filled items. To see the lab data that backs up the efficiency claim, go to: www.exotogg.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Exotogg_TestedInTheLab.pdf
It is long-known fact that in severely cold weather, it is essential to preserve central body core temperature to prevent hypothermia. Two environmental factors are in play when the threat of hypothermia is present: the ambient air temperature and wind velocity, which amplifies body core heat loss. Throw in the rain and the evaporative effect of the rainwater on your body makes things even worse.
On a hot, humid day in midsummer, that wind velocity effect makes getting out on a motorcycle a cooling, refreshing experience. On a cold day, it generates what is known as wind chill effect and makes the cold feel colder to your body and accelerates body heat loss.
For snowmobilers or snowbikers, this effect is demonstrated on about every ride. For example, riding a snowmobile where conditions are calm, with an air temperature of 10°F above zero at a speed of 50 mph on one of those nicely groomed trails available now is equivalent to being out in air temperature of 17°F below zero according to the chart from the National Weather Service.
On the first day I put the Exotogg through its paces, wind was calm and the air temperature was 36°F. Not as cold as most days I’ve gone snowmobiling in, but cooler than most days I tend to motorcycle in.
Out on the open road where I held my V-Max at 60 mph for sustained periods and with no windshield to reduce the air velocity, that means I was riding in the equivalent of only 17°F above zero. Nippy, to say the least, but at least the cloudy skies weren’t providing any rain.
After an hour or two, I began to feel the cold in my hands despite wearing my Thinsulate lined buckskin riding gloves. Even my insulated riding pants began to betray the fact that this wasn’t mid-August anymore. Also, even with the vents closed on my helmet, I was reminded that this would have been a good day to slip on a balaclava to protect my face and neck a little more than my cotton mock turtleneck base layer.
My core temperature, however, was nicely preserved with four full exhalations having inflated the Exotogg inside my lightweight snowmobile jacket. To add to the challenge for the Exotogg, I folded the interior storm flab inside my jacket’s main zipper back out of the way, so the air infiltrating through the zipper would duplicate the effect of using the Exotogg with a jacket not equipped with main zipper storm flaps.
Here’s how the thing works: pull the vest on over your head like a serape. Then, apply the hook-and-loop side straps to suit your size and body shape. Put on your riding jacket and either leave the Exotogg in place uninflated as a wind and a waterproof base layer or uncap the inflation valve at the top right corner of the vest and give it three or four full breaths to create a comfy, body-hugging layer of insulating dead-air space around your torso. Did you overinflate it a bit? No problem—uncap the valve and press the green “Y” shaped valve cap down inside it and squeeze out the excess air.
There are no heating elements to fail or break, no batteries or charging devices required and a five-year manufacturer’s warranty and a 60-day “no quibble” return policy. That warranty is nice to have, but the only moving part in the whole product is the Marine-grade two-way inflation valve. Everything I inspected on the product for this review shows great attention to detail.
For us cold-weather motorcycling fanatics, this product is excellent for warmth and comfort. It also offers some subtle but perhaps very important potential side benefits. For example, if I were an ice fisherman, I would not venture out on the ice without the Exotogg on with its air-inflation at the max for both warmth and added buoyancy it could provide in the event of a fall through the ice. Though it is not offered as an approved flotation device, that much extra air would seem sure to help in an emergency like that.
As I rode, it also occurred to me that a cushion of air around my body such as the Exotogg provides may even offer some degree of impact protection in a fall. It isn’t offered as impact protection, but it seems to me that some potential cushioning effect may be possible.
As a former paramedic—and still licensed as a registered nurse—a use that most folks may not consider apart from the most outward-bound types is as an emergency air splint. It isn’t certified as a medical device, but it may be an option in an emergency situation. Having used air splints in my past, it occurred to me that the Exotogg, well-inflated, and properly applied could function well as an emergency stabilizer for a possible long-bone fracture or another injury.
Or, if you’re a camper or backpacker in need of a sleeping bag cushion, the Exotogg may serve nicely when well-inflated and laid out flat on your ground cover. It also could serve as a trail seat cushion or protective cushioning for laptop or camera gear when the going gets rough.
Just how good is this thing? Developed in 2017, it is the winner of the UK Outdoor Industry Award 2019 for Clothing. Just when I thought there was nothing new under the sun—or snow and ice, for that matter—along came an innovation called Exotogg. The suggested MSRP is $147 US or £99 and comes with a slick nylon carrying bag.
Learn more at: www.exotogg.com