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Arctic 180s Ear Warmer
[Originally written for BackpackGearTest.org, this review was current at the time it was written but should now be considered out-of-date. It is likely this product has been improved based on test results such as those reported here and experiences from other users. It is also possible that this product no longer exists or has been superseded by products produced at a later time. This page is included for historical purposes as an example of a gear testing report I had submitted.
Only minor updates such as email addresses, links, and formatting have been made as necessary to accommodate inclusion of an older report into this web site.]
Please note, there is a three day progression of comments here:
Initial Comments - March 14, 2001
The Arctic 180s arrived in a box that seemed much too big. The large size of the box accommodated a folder with a letter to the tester from Amanda, the customer care representative, and a full color product sheet that appears to be designed for prospective retailers. The enclosed Arctic 180s came in a smaller box and packaged as if direct from a retailer including a survey card and a "ComforTemp DCC" insert.
The 180s I received were black though they are also available in navy, gray, red, and cheetah. They are primarily Polartec 300 but the ear portion is lined with "ComforTemp" insulation which is soft to the touch on the outside but almost foam rubbery if you feel the backside of that material.
You can feel the back of the ComforTemp material because the ear portion forms pockets which can hold headphones that are designed to be used with the 180s. The headphones (and 180s) are available from their web site, www.bigbangproducts.com.
The 180s weigh in at 1.5 oz. The product sheet indicates .15 lbs which I believe is the ship weight which includes the box weight.
It was not immediately obvious from looking at the 180s how they worked but by reading and following the instructions, they opened up and adjusted to my head as advertised.
When I put them on the first time, they immediately began slipping off my head. I had caught my hair under the 180s and removing my hair from under the 180s reduced the tendency for them to slip down immediately.
While wearing them around town, I find that the band in back of my neck rubs against the neckline of my clothing and tends to catch a bit. The 180s tend to slide down and expose the tops of my ears. It's possible that the band just does not shorten enough for my head and neck. At its shortest, I can still get four fingers between the band and my head. Perhaps the band is designed to fit closer. While there are instructions for how to adjust the fit, there are no instructions for exactly how it should fit once adjusted other than "SQUEEZE sliding band for a comfortable fit."
My first attempt to fold the 180s exposed a small workmanship problem. There are hinges in the plastic band that allow you to fold the 180s into a nice small package. When folding one of the hinges, one of the plastic pieces that form the band got pushed through the seam between the fleece and the piping that forms the edge of the band. There is now an approximately 1 cm split in the seam.
While that area of the band that split does seem to be a stress point during folding, there does seem to be enough play in the material to cover the protruding plastic. I believe that there just wasn't enough fleece caught in the seam with the piping when it was sewn together. This flaw does not in any way affect the ability of the 180s to perform as advertised. With all of the materials on this band being black, I might not have noticed the split seam it if I had not felt the hard, smooth, plastic protruding from the fleece.
This does seem to be a problem that would be covered under the terms of the Limited One Year Warranty advertised on the box.
While I'm not sure that the 180s will be a good solution for me (note the slippage problem described above), I do very much like the concept. I have never been comfortable wearing any sort of headset that goes over the top of my head and the concept of one that goes behind the neck is great. Also, when hiking, my ears are often freezing while the rest of my head is hot. Using these 180s rather than a fleece headband would certainly help me address just the problem at hand without getting all sweaty from the rest of the headband that is just too hot for me.
March 15, 2001
As directed by the letter from Amanda, the Customer Care Representative at Big Bang Products, I gave her a call when I had a couple of questions. She wasn't there but returned my voicemail message promptly. I had the following questions:
I believe the Arctic 180s will make a good replacement for my fleece headband while hiking on day trips. For overnight trips when I often sleep using my headband, I will likely still use the fleece headband as the plastic frame of the 180s is not conducive to sleeping.
One of the nice features of the 180s for around town is that they barely show under long hair and for those of us with shorter, more styled hair, they really do not mess up your hair like a headband or hat.
While Iím not riding my bicycle at this time of year due to road conditions, I did try on the 180s with my bicycle helmet and found that they did not interfere with the fit. I believe the 180s would be a good addition to my bicycling gear as well.
April 9, 2001
[This is a follow-up to my earlier report on the Arctic 180s. There, I had mentioned that the first pair I received had a workmanship problem.]
I was sent a replacement pair as promised and have since been using them for a couple of weeks. In that time, I have had no similar problems. I returned the original pair to Big Bang Products.
Last updated, July 10, 2010.
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