Snow can be an insidious enemy. Wait wait wait! Come back. I still love snow. But we have to acknowledge that it has some less than adorable qualities. You know, like, sliding down mountainsides and working its way into your pants. You can try bibs and powder skirts, but if you really want to keep snow out, a onesie is the only option. The new TOBE Novo Mono Suit (onesie is so much better!) puts top-notch materials and construction together into a snow-proof body fortress.
Let’s start off by being very clear about the purpose of the TOBE Novo suit: this is not an ultralight piece for uphill duties. TOBE designed it for snowmobiling. It’s bomber in every way and HEAVY. TOBE combines multiple weights of Cordura fabric with a 45,000mm-rated Sympatex membrane. Extra-burly Armortex Kevlar is added to the knees, inner calf, and cuff. Stitching looks like it could hold up a bank, blow the vault, and drive away in a Mack truck.
Inside, TOBE sews in a pair of comfortable, well-padded suspenders to the waistline. This lets you strip the upper half but keep your pants on. The main, YKK Aquaguard zipper runs from chin to nuts and is offset to the right a bit. A second zipper on the left opens and closes a gusset that increases the diameter of the collar for extra room.
You get three external pockets and two internal chest pockets for phones and the like. Chest and thigh vents are placed in consideration of the wearer’s body position on a sled. There is a nice hood with standard adjustments. Do not expect to fit it over a helmet of any size. It’s unlikely you’d want to anyway.
Ankle gaiters are solid pieces with metal hooks to hold them down. You also get wrist gaiters. I’m usually not a fan, but these were well-designed and comfortable, as far as wrist gaiters go. I still chose not to use them. TOBE also sews on a kill-switch ring for safety’s sake.
How we tested
I took the TOBE Novo suit up to Granite Hot Springs outside of Pinedale, Wyoming. The springs are about a 10-mile sled from the parking lot. It was snowing the entire ride and the area was in the middle of a storm cycle, so there was plenty of fresh snow to play in.
Wearing a large Novo, we set out for the hot springs. Despite having absolutely no insulation beyond its mesh liner and a base layer, I stayed warm as we rode through 15° weather toward our destination.
After some time in the hot springs, we headed over to a spot by the river to grill up some lunch. Stomping through hip-deep snow along the river shore, I stayed completely dry. Nothing snuck through the ankle gaiters. Just for giggles, I did a trust fall into the snow (it caught me) and rolled around. The Novo, being a onesie, kept me completely dry.
Because it was cold, I didn’t have a chance to test ventilation while riding. I did play with the Novo indoors a bit. Vent zips were smooth and the mesh backing kept things from flying open. For human-powered adventures, I don’t like mesh in my vents. For sledding, it’s almost essential. Meshless vents are trouble at 50mph.
Wearing a onesie is a liberating experience. There is no waistband to worry about. Your pants can’t fall down and your jacket can’t ride up. You’re simply surrounded in pure, waterproof comfort. I usually don’t think about the gap between my bibs and my jacket because it’s rare that snow sneaks in. But every once in a great while, I do something stupid and my belly gets wet. So I keep that worry deep in the back of my head. TOBE eliminates that worry.
Sledding can put a beating on fabrics. So, while I understand and appreciate why TOBE chose such burly deniers for the Novo, it can limit its usefulness. If you’re just a sled head, damn, it’s good. If you’re shuttling for turns, the Novo can work. But any sustained, human-powered endeavors might have you seeking a lighter face fabric. There are better ways to cover your ass if you’re skinning.
At $799, the Novo ain’t cheap. But consider, for example, the cost of a full Gore outfit from another brand. One top brand will suck $1100 out of you for bibs and a jacket. (Incidentally, their onesie is $150 more than the Novo.)
The Novo will be available in Fall of 2017 as a 2018 model. If you need one right-freakin’-now, TOBE offers other options, like the Vivid mono suit, with similar materials and features. Get one from Amazon or direct from TOBE.
TOBE puts together a phenomenal onesie for getting out into the backcountry on a sled. I happen to know that Mason from Weston Snowboards lives in a TOBE whenever they take their snowcat into the hills. If I had a TOBE suit, I would look for reasons to wear it.