Looking for a ski or snowboard back protection vest? Then check out this Dainese Soft Flex Hybrid review. It’s a comfy zip up top that protects your back and ribs without feeling obtrusive.
Ski or Snowboard back protection vest: Why?
I have been snowboarding since 2002 and have never worn a back protector. A few of my friends wear them all the time, although they have had back issues in the past.
It’s not like I don’t consider safety. I have worn a helmet and wrist guards pretty much since I started and both have saved me from a few injuries. But my back has always remained unprotected.
This changed in January when I joined a snowboard camp in Morzine which would include lots of freestyle. Anticipating hitting kickers, boxes and possibly rails I thought more protection was required.
Dainese Soft Flex Hybrid review
Dainese are an Italian brand that specialises in protective equipment. They started out in the motorcycle industry in which they are still a market leader.
Since then they have branched out into cycling, equestrian and winter sports. They now offer a large range of clothing and protective gear.
Comfort and fit
Many back protectors consist of the protective element with a variety of straps to keep them in place. This never really appealed to me and looked uncomfortable, particularly when combined with an avalanche transceiver, and/or trouser braces.
Fortunately, the Dainese Soft Flex Hybrid is a ski & snowboard back protection vest. So you wear it like an extra layer with just one strap across the tummy and hip area which holds it all in place (the protection not your gut!).
I have a 42 inch chest and was on the cusp between large and XL. In hindsight I probably should have gone for the larger size as it was a bit tight, but not enough to be uncomfortable.
During this Dainese Soft Flex Hybrid review I pretty much forgot I was wearing it while snowboarding. It is fairly comfortable, mostly unobtrusive and doesn’t ride up to interfere with the other layers I wear.
However, come lunch time or the end of the day it was a pleasure to take it off. This is mainly because it feels a bit too tight when sat down. In the seated position the holding it all in place (gut this time!) aspect means I know I am wearing it.
This Dainese Soft Flex Hybrid review would not be complete without talking about the level of protection provided. It uses a combination of rigid plates with soft flexible protection.
This uses hard shell technology made from thermo formed shock absorbent Polystyrene over your spine. This provides extra protection in critical areas.
Outside these zones this ski and snowboard back protection vest uses super flexible Crash Absorb memory foam. This adapts to your body and moves with you which makes the vest so comfortable. There are two overlapping layers which move independently following the anatomy of the spine.
During the freestyle snowboard camp I had plenty of crashes to test the back protector. Three stand out where I believe the Soft Flex Hybrid helped.
The first was catching a heel edge off a kicker when I under-rotated a backside 360. I came down straight onto the flat of my back. It was a hard hit but I got straight back up from something that would probably have badly winded me.
The second was a brutal toe edge when riding switch. It caught me by surprise and I came down hard on my chest on an icy early morning piste. The rib protectors softened the fall and as I scorpioned over the rigid back protector stopped me bending too far and possibly injuring my back.
The final big crash was in a little powder. I didn’t see the raised edge of the piste and clipped it at the apex of a fast heel side turn. It catapulted me onto my back whipping my head back. But the top of the back protector stopped my head going back far enough to cause whiplash and cushioned my fall.
Should you get a ski or snowboard back protection vest?
This is entirely down to you and your riding style. If you are prone to back injuries then it seems crazy not to give yourself a little extra protection.
Also if you are doing a lot of freestyle then having additional padding dials down the impact of any crash. On this one trip I think I avoided a lot of bruising plus a winding, whiplash and over extended back muscles.
You never can tell whether protection has stopped an injury or not. But if I was doing another dedicated freestyle week I would certainly be wearing the Dainese Soft Flex Hybrid.
Dainese Soft Flex Hybrid review: Conclusion
This is a great bit of kit that is far nicer than a traditional strappy style back protector. I feel the sizes come up slightly small so if you are on the cusp of a size go large. Having said that nothing beats trying it on.
The combination of the rigid and flexible segments mean you have extra protection where you need it but without the discomfort that solid protection can cause. The flexible sections conform to your body and move with you meaning it does not impair your snowboarding.
If you are looking for a ski or snowboard back protection vest then I’d certainly recommend the Dainese Soft Flex Hybrid. Coming in men’s and women’s versions the RRP of £180 it’s not the cheapest, but its lightweight, comfy, easy to use and provides excellent protection.
You can buy the Soft Flex Hybrid from various retailers or direct from Dainese: www.dainese.com/soft-flex-hybrid
Thanks to Thomas Humpage Photography for the pictures of me snowboarding. Beneath the jacket I was wearing the back protector.