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New Zealand Adventure Riding Jacket and Pants

New Zealand's weather is very changeable. One day you can be enjoying 28° with beautiful blue skies and the following day can be 5°, cold and rainy. If you have the right gear to keep dry and warm it is entirely possible to have a great day on the bike whatever the weather. However, one sure-fire way to make your riding trips utterly miserable is to have inadequate riding gear that allows you to get wet and cold to the bone.

Photo 1 of Adventure Riding Jacket and Pants
A High Country pass as a fast moving front passes through. Midday temperature was below 0 degrees and snowing.
Photo 2 of Adventure Riding Jacket and Pants
The same spot 24 hours later. Midday temperature was 17 degrees.

Adventure Gear - Layered Or Shell

Many conventional or low priced adventure jackets and pants use a layered system. This is where the garments have an outer abrasion protective layer, a waterproof layer and in some cases a thermal layer. Commonly these layers are removable. As long as the waterproof layer is in good nick, these types of jackets will keep you dry. However, the outside of the garment is not actually waterproof, only the waterproof layer on the inside is. What this essentially means is that the garments can become waterlogged and heavy when riding in rain. On cold rainy days it's like riding around with a wet heavy icebox attached to your body. In my early days of adventure riding I experienced this first hand and can assure you it is a very unpleasant experience, especially when enduring this on multi day trips.

Technology for riding garment construction has evolved considerably over the last few years. A very successful and modern method of producing adventure riding garments is to adhere a waterproof membrane (normally Gore-Tex) to the inside of the jacket’s outer layer. This essentially creates a waterproof “shell”. The rain doesn't soak into the garment itself as it is blocked by the outer layer. The result means you stay warm, dry and don't have to muck around with removable waterproof liners. Brilliant!

For countries like New Zealand where rain can be regularly encountered, having a modern shell type garment is a great option. There are an increasing number of manufacturers now producing modern shell style garments. Klim have certainly lead the way in this department but there are other reputable companies that also offer this style. As I write this, Icon have just released their Raiden DKR series which offers waterproof shell construction jacket and pants at an exceptionally good price.

If you only head away on the bike on fine weather days or very infrequently ride in the rain, then conventional layer system jackets and pants will likely be prefectly fine. There are a high number of layered jacket options to choose from in a wide range of budgets and styles.

Adventure Jacket And Pants Ventilation

Ventilation is so very important when riding off-road in hot weather to avoid overheating. Overheating invokes fatigue and wears you out very quickly. The ventilation applies to both the jacket and pants. If you compare road riding gear ventilation to adventure riding gear ventilation there is a massive difference in the size of vents and the number of vents.

Some of the modern road riding gear looks fantastic but it has insufficient ventilation for adventure riding and will cook you from the inside out if you try and use it off-road. If the type of adventure riding you do will see a good portion of time riding off-road then try and get gear with the biggest vents possible. You’ll be so glad you did on the next stinking hot summers day!

Adventure Jacket and Pants Recommendations

When I first started adventure riding I purchased a low-priced Dririder adventure jacket and pants. With all the costs of setting up an adventure bike and all the riding gear this was really all I could afford. While the gear was waterproof at the start, it only took a few months of regular riding for the waterproof liners to start leaking. I vividly remember a High Country trip where the rain was pounding and the rain started seeping in through the waterproof liners. I soon learnt the definition of pure misery when I became wet and cold to the bone! I learnt a very valuable lesson on that day about cheap gear not being suitable for dealing with New Zealand’s extreme weather. 

Over the years I've tried a number of different brands and while there is some good gear out there, nothing has held up against New Zealand's extreme and changeable weather like Klim gear. It is unquestionably very expensive gear, but staying warm, dry and being able to enjoy the riding whatever the weather makes it worth every cent.

A good example of comparing riding gear in New Zealand's extreme weather was a group ride in January 2016. Six of us took on the challenge of the RemoteMoto 11 day Rocky Ridges  Exploration Route. This route is a challenge in good weather so the barrage of rain, hail, snow and freezing temperatures was a true test.

Long story short, 11 days later; only two riders made it to the end and completed the Rocky Ridges route. It was no coincidence that both of us were wearing Klim gear.  The four other riders had riding gear that simply wasn't up to the task. They became cold, wet, miserable and ended up bailing out on day #5. 

Snow storm on the Rocky Ridges Exploration Route 2017
Photo 3 of Adventure Riding Jacket and Pants

In closing, if you are going to sink your teeth into the more remote parts of New Zealand that generally present the most extreme weather variations then investing in good quality gear is something you will never regret.