G-Form Armor for Snow Sports: Our first take

G-Form allows you to take the hits and keep on shredding

G-Form is a low-profile but effective base layer body armor that’s flexible under normal use, but stiffens up upon impact to protect you from the falls and collisions.

Wearing a helmet is now the norm on the ski slopes, but rarely does impact protection extend down below the neck. G-Form, best known for its protection products for mountain bikers, wants to see its gear be used during the winter months by skiers and snowboarders.

The base technology that makes G-Form’s body armor different from traditional foam padding is the use of non-Newtonian material that the company calls rate-dependent technology, or RPT.  Under normal conditions, the molecules in the foam slightly repel each other, allowing the material to be soft and flexible. When a sudden force is applied, however, the molecules bind together, absorbing and redistributing the shock throughout the entire material. This means that the armor will flex with your body while you’re wearing it, but becomes both hard and shock-absorbing in a fall or collision.

This type of technology has been around for years and has seen application across contact sports gear to motorcycle armor to even phone cases – not just from G-Form but other companies like D3O. G-Form even makes a limited selection of iPhone and tablet cases, did a drop test with an iPad from 100,000 feet. G-Form’s leading market, though, is in sports protection and has customized Poron XRD non-Newtonian material with a unique molding process.

“Our proprietary molding process allows us to design pads that conform to the athlete’s body, whether it is a relatively flat surface like a hip, or an acute angle like a knee or elbow,” Michael Taylor, VP G-Form product development, tells Digital Trends. “The unique molding process allows deep channels between pad sections, that we call zero-flood, which means a more flexible pad.”

G-Form brought us out to the ski resorts of Utah to try on its armored base layers first hand. With 10 resorts with a 1-hour drive from Salt Lake City airport, we were sure to get a sample of all conditions from hard pack to powder. The benefits of armor are obvious on hard pack and ice – the surface is solid with little give, and falling hurts.

The Pro-X compression shirt ($130) (womens) has pads at the ribs, sternum, shoulders and clavicle; the Pro-G board and ski shorts ($110) protect the hips, thighs, tailbone and sit-bones (the $100 womens-specific shorts do not include sit-bone armor); and the Pro-X knee ($70) and elbow ($70) options are essentially sleeves that cover the joint. There are also pads that either separately cover the shins or integrate shin armor in with the knee armor that come from the biking line.

Armor coverage on the knee and elbow sleeves are excellent, but some might wish for more armor on the shirts and shorts. Snowboarders in particular may want a larger armor patch in the seat not just for protection, but for comfort while sitting in the snow.

How well do they work?

There’s little question about the effectiveness of the non-Newtonian armor material. There’s been plenty of demonstrations at how well it absorbs and dissipates shock across various applications; G-Form has its video showing how effective its product is at protecting the delicious candy shells on M&Ms.

As for an on-mountain test, a completely miscalculated path originally intended to go between two trees ended up being a demonstration in human Pachinko. The ground was soft thanks to the foot of new snow at Powder Mountain, but the trees weren’t as kind, providing for a nice test case for the shoulder armor. There was some soreness after the impact, but it would have been much worse without the armor.

The armor will flex with your body while you’re wearing it, but becomes both hard and shock-absorbing in a fall or collision.

There are many options for armor, but the real differentiating factor between G-Form’s offerings and foam or hard pads is how well does it perform the vast majority of the time when it’s not taking hits on your behalf. In our mind, the real test is how well the armor stays in place and whether or not it hinders your movements or is uncomfortable to wear.

“Our pads are specifically molded for each joint,” adds Taylor. “While some might use one pad size for everyone, we scale our pads based the joint geometry of each size. In addition, our pads are directly sewn to our sleeves, shirts and shorts, which provide comfort and fit that removable pads can’t match.”

Proper fit is essential for armor to stay in place, especially in sports where the wearer is constantly in motion. If armor is too bulky to fit over your mid and outer layers, or is uncomfortable, no one is going to want to wear them. Thankfully, the G-Form pieces are low-profile and comfortable. Compared to the impact gear of yesteryear, properly fitting G-Form armor base layers are almost unnoticeable. The fabric that plays host to the armor pieces are made from a moisture-wicking material and don’t feel all that different from other polyester-based base layers. It’s worth noting that the G-Form pieces are designed to be worn as close to the body as possible. We found that the armor best stayed in place when worn only over undergarments.

“We use a combination of a moisture-wicking spandex and technical mesh for most of our products,” says Taylor. “This keeps the athlete cool and dry (whether worn on its own or as a base layer), as well as keeping the pads in place.”

Of course, like any piece of activewear, it’ll need regular washing after use – something G-Form has taken under consideration with its molding process that creates a seal on the pad surface, allowing them to be fully machine washable.

“Traditional pads can get pretty stinky,” says Taylor. “We test our pads through 125 wash cycles. Assuming two washes per week, that’s over two years.”

Getting a full set of G-Form is an investment much like your helmet or anything else that goes in your ski or board bag. A full set of the armor will cost around $380, which in our opinion is completely reasonable given that it could potentially save one from injury. Beginners in particular, who are more prone to falling, will get extra use out of the armor. Parents who want the next best thing to bubble wrapping their children can opt for the same type of protection but in youth sizes.

“Our goal is to make pads so comfortable that kids chose to wear them, even when their parents aren’t watching,” Taylor says.

This year will also see G-Form expand into baseball and grow its downhill mountain biking lineup that is its bread-and-butter. Taylor details, “In 2017 we will be introducing Elite Knee and Elbow pads which meet the demanding CE 1621 Downhill Bike Standards. Also, we are very excited to bring our knowledge of impact protection to baseball. As anyone who has stood in the batter’s box knows, confidence makes all of the difference when you are facing an inside fastball.”

Highs

  • Low profile and mostly unnoticeable
  • CE-rated protection
  • Stretchy material molds well to most body types
  • Can be used for other sports

Lows

  • No spine protection option available yet
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Outdoors

Snooze soundly anywhere you lay your head with the best sleeping bags

A proper sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a camping or backpacking trip. Here are our picks for the best sleeping bags on the market to help you choose the correct bag for any type of outdoor adventure.
Computing

Style up your MacBook Air with one of these great cases or sleeves

Whether you’re looking for added protection or a stylish flourish, you’re in the right place for the best MacBook Air cases. We have form-hugging cases, luxurious covers and padded sleeves priced from $10 to $130. Happy shopping!
Outdoors

Here are all the best rain jackets on the market right now

From high-tech, lightweight shells to modern-looking, waterproof trench coats, check out our list of the best rain jackets built to keep you dry and looking stylish in any season.
Deals

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…
Photography

These are the sci-fi inspired digital binoculars you didn’t know you wanted

Binoculars haven't changed that dramatically over the years, but Canadian optics company NexOptic is hoping to change that with its DoubleTake digital binoculars which replace the usual eyecups with a 5-inch HD display.
Emerging Tech

Where are they now? A look back at last year’s Top Tech of CES winners

What happened to the 14 prize-winning products we singled out as the coolest things we saw at last year's CES 2018? Join us as we take a look at what the past 12 months has meant for them.
Outdoors

North Face’s new waterproof fabric makes Gore-Tex look downright primitive

Futurelight, the new high-tech fabric from The North Face, promises to be the most waterproof, breathable, and eco-friendly fabric ever created, eliminating condensation to completely change the game for outdoor pursuits.
Mobile

Goal Zero Yeti Tank and Yeti Link expand home power storage options

At CES 2019, Goal Zero expands its ability to store power at home and while traveling with the introduction of the Yeti Tank and Yeti Link, as well as redesigned Sherpa battery packs and a new Nomad 5 solar panel.
Emerging Tech

This iceless cooler looks like a Mars rover, keeps beer cold for a week

Furrion's Rova uses lithium-ion batteries and a compressor to keep beverages cold for up to a week with no ice, meaning you can skip the 7-11 run and cut straight to camping. It also charges gadgets and looks straight out of a Halo game.
Outdoors

Cyberfishing Smart Rod Sensor transforms normal fishing rods into data recorders

The Cyberfishing Smart Rod Sensor, on display at CES 2019, upgrades normal fishing rods into smarter versions of themselves. The device will work with a companion app to record data, including fishing hotspots and trophy fish details.
Emerging Tech

You may soon be able to summon an autonomous wheelchair like an Uber

At CES 2019, autonomous wheelchair company Whill unveiled its vision for a world in which people can summon its wheelchairs by app, in locations such as museums, airports, and city centers.
Emerging Tech

Furrion’s luxurious smart yacht looks like the perfect vessel for a Bond villain

Forget smart watches and the like: when it comes to the biggest smart technology at CES 2019, the literal answer can be nothing other than the 78-foot, high-tech luxury smart yacht, Adonis.
Emerging Tech

Look forward to your morning commute with one of the best ebikes available

A proper ebike is perfect for commuting or a trek along the trailhead, with most offering pedal assistance and a long-range battery. As more brands offer their own take on this innovative way to get around, it's hard to distinguish the…