Whether you call it a body protector, safety vest, or XC vest, the end result is the same: it’s pretty much time for me to get a new one.
My current one is only 3 years old, which is on the shorter end of the recommended replacement period. Yes, vests do indeed have a limited lifespan. If what people say/buy/sell on facebook is any indication, it seems like not many people know that they have pretty much the same “replacement requirements” that helmets do. From British Eventing:
Body protectors should be replaced at least every three to five years, after which the impact absorption properties of the foam may have started to decline.
If you should have a heavy fall, your body protector should be checked immediately for dents. The foam will expand back to its original shape within 30 minutes; but if a dent is showing on examination, then it’s likely that this part of the garment has lost its impact absorption properties and should be replaced.
Hidden damage that a body protector may have sustained is also a good reason for avoiding second-hand garments or those with unknown histories. Taking good care of your body protector means that it will last longer within the three to five year recommended lifespan. So don’t leave it lying around at the yard or in the lorry to be chewed and trodden on. Spending too much time in a hot car or damp tackroom won’t do it any good either.
When not in use, body protectors should be hung on a clothes hanger. Doing up zips ensures they keep their shape, while closing Velcro fastenings will help prevent them becoming clogged with horse hair and hay particles.
Most body protectors are made from heat sensitive PVC nitrile foam, which is why they feel increasingly comfortable as they soften and mold to the wearer’s body.
Lots more info about body protectors can be found here, if you’re interested in reading up. Many people like to keep their XC vest in their trailer or car – that’s bad. Don’t do that. Also if you’re wearing an old ass Tipperary, or have taken a few tumbles in your current one, love yourself enough to buy a new one. It’s as if we think that since it’s not covering our head, it isn’t as important. I’ve been guilty of that many times too. In reality though, proper protection for your body is obviously really friggin important. And putting an air vest over top of a damaged, old, or sub-par body protector does not make it more safe either. I won’t even start on my thoughts about air vests though, ain’t nobody got time for that.
It’s not so much the age that is the driving factor for me buying a new one. It’s 3 years old, I haven’t fallen in it, and I store it inside (ok a few times it’s been forgotten in my truck for a few days because I am a hot mess of a person). But anyone with particularly keen eyes will notice in the banner picture of the blog that a little bit of orange is showing at the chest strap of my current vest. This means that it’s a bit too small. For more information on properly fitting a vest – go here.
That vest was a pretty snug fit when I bought it and I’m a bit… er… fluffier than I used to be. If I tighten those chest straps to where they really should go, I legit have a hard time breathing. So either I get to breathe or I have to set the strap in a place that isn’t ideal. Neither of those are good choices.
I’ve been really happy with my current vest, the Airowear Outlyne. It’s a bit bulky, but basically any BETA 3 approved vest will be. Thorough protection requires a certain amount of bulk – example being approved helmets vs unapproved hunt caps. Foam takes up space. I definitely want another BETA 3 vest, and knowing that the Airowear brand fits my shape well (they have different cuts/sizing for men, women, and teens) I have been eyeballing their AirMesh model since it came out. The idea of better airflow is really appealing, since I live in the devil’s armpit.
The only bummer is that it doesn’t come in navy. – black or dark gray only. Airowear, why you gotta go harshing my navy vibe? Granted, the one I’ve been wearing is half navy and half gray, so whatever. The color isn’t that big of a deal (does any eventer actually say that and mean it? No.). I haven’t quite decided which color I want yet, although there isn’t a huge difference between the two since the gray is pretty dark. I can certainly overanalyze this decision past the point of oblivion though. Either way, a new vest is definitely on my radar as an upcoming purchase.
Anyone else buy a new vest/body protector lately, or currently shopping?