Monday, February 23, 2009

First Look: Musto LPX

No, it wasn't a typo. There's a new [insert letter here]PX from Musto.

There's been talk about LPX for some time now (going back to METS last year, at least) and we've finally gotten our hands on it here at the shop. LPX is a three pronged lineup: there's a jacket, waist trousers and shorts. Just like its fellow "PX-ers", it's a full on Gore-Tex product with the full range of waterproof, windproof and breathable performance features.

Unlike MPX or HPX, this new line is trying to carve out a path away from the ocean/offshore market (although, it would probably serve nicely out there in the right conditions). LPX is targeted to both warmer weather conditions and buoy racing and it fits somewhere in between both, as its own category.

This gives it a fair amount of competition in both arenas -- Henri Lloyd's Breeze Performance and Musto's Caribbean have been holding court for years in the lower cost warm weather category. Comparing LPX to them is unfair though, since the materials and performance of LPX are far superior and the cost of the Breeze and Caribbean is far lower.

In buoy racing, Musto's MPX Race, Henri Lloyd's Shadow and Gill's Keelboat line have been around for years. Comparing LPX to this group isn't entirely fair either, because LPX is a more minimalistic option and won't necessarily stack up with this group, feature for feature.

So where does LPX really fit in? It's definitely got more buoy racing/technical blood than it does warm wear, which is why we'll be featuring it in our buoy racing section on the website and in our catalog. I'll be making comparisons to both categories here though, just for giggles.

Let's start with the construction of LPX. To do that, we have to clarify a change made to Gore-Tex products this year. Gore has gone and rebranded the materials used for the marine market -- it's probably to eliminate some of the questions about different Gore-Tex products, but it could also be a Marketing guy trying to justify having a job. In the future, you'll see four types of Gore-Tex used:
  • Gore-Tex Performance Shell (Offshore)
  • Gore-Tex Pro Shell (Offshore/Ocean)
  • Gore-Tex Paclite Shell (Lightweight)
  • Gore-Tex Soft Shell (Buoy Racing, Lightweight)

    LPX, at least the version we have in hand, will be the last of that group, the Gore-Tex Soft Shell. Soft Shell is designed for reduced layering and improved freedom of movement -- then again, every fabric in the marine market claims that to be their goal. Everything leading up to actually getting our hands on the LPX line said that it was going to be made of Gore-Tex Paclite (which is a well known brand in the outdoor market), but there seems to be a switch. I have an email in to our Musto reps to see what's up with that -- stay tuned.
    (Editor's Note: word is that it the fabric is, in fact, a 3-Layer Paclite, unique in the marine market to Musto for 2009.)

    It's noticeable from first picking up the jacket that it's definitely light. In the interest of science, I weighed the LPX jacket on our postal scale against its rivals to see how it stacked up:
  • Breeze: 1lb 0.6oz
  • LPX: 1lb 2.3oz
  • Carribean: lb 3.6oz
  • Shadow: 1lb 4.6oz
  • Keelboat Racer: 1lb 9.0oz
  • MPX Race: 1lb 12.4oz

    Not bad really, when you consider that the LPX should perform at a way higher level than both of the warm weather jackets because of the materials used. It should be noted that the Caribbean, Shadow, Keelboat Racer and MPX Race all have integral hoods adding weight -- LPX doesn't.

    One nice feature on all of the LPX products are the reinforced patches that have been included in high chafe areas. Normally, you'd see Cordura used for chafe protection, but Musto went one step higher and uses an extremely hard wearing “Keprotec” fabric that incorporates Kevlar into the weave. The jacket features a somewhat unique placement of these patches -- they go from the cuff about halfway to the elbow. It's a nice touch.

    I've always been a big fan of the scrim/lining on the inside of Musto's Gore products due to the ease of getting in and out of the garment. There's no double liner to fight with or get bound up in.

    For the younger crowd or folks looking for more protection on the legs, the shorts end up a little below the knee on me -- I was looking at a Large and I'm right around 6'0" - 6'1" depending on what convenience store I'm walking out of.

    So, what are the downsides?

    Well, the price of LPX is nothing to sneeze at -- we're still waiting on final confirmation of the pricing, but it looks like the jacket is going to be in the $300.00+ range, the waist trousers somewhere in the $250.00 range and the shorts around $180.00.
    (Editor's Note #2: final pricing just in -- the jacket is $299.00, the waist trousers are $219.00 and the shorts will be $179.00.)

    Since it's brand new to the market, we can't say for certain that the increased durability and performance will make up for the extra cost... but they SHOULD. The nice thing about products carrying the Gore name is that they undergo increased scrutiny to protect the Gore brand, so for the extra scratch you do get a better product that will have a much longer life. Also, Musto has always been good to its customers in the event something does go wrong. Basically, it's a great example of the saying "You get what you pay for".

    It lacks features compared to other buoy racing kits but it has a similar price. The cuffs on the sleeves of the jacket and the legs of the pants are not as refined or tight closing. There's no hood on the jacket and its a little shorter in length for overlap protection. Again, this is why it's tough to classify -- it's a minimal version of the buoy racing products.

    There are little things -- I would have liked to see a full fabric cuff adjuster instead of the more minimal plastic tab that they use. I'm sure they're plenty durable, but the tab still look like a good snag will just rip it off. The cargo pocket on the shorts is up/down as opposed to side/side -- up down is easier to get open with one hand but tougher to close. Additionally, it's easier for things to spill out...

    LPX is good stuff -- the jacket and trousers should find their way out there; the shorts might have some trouble due to the price. The line is going to have a niche market, but if you're looking for a really premium set of lightweight gear, there's not going to be anything close. And for the price, there shouldn't be...

    Expect to see it on the website soon -- we'll update with links when it's ready.
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