Gear Review: POC Spine VPD 2.0 Vest

POC Spine VPD Vest 2.0

Find POC’s Spine VPD 2.0 Vest here on: Evo.com

POC Body Armor Concepts:

POC challenges themselves to provide and combine their gear with stellar protection, comfort, and lightweight flexibility that is reliable in a range of activities.  Overall they strive to produce the highest quality protective gear for action sports enthusiasts with a lightweight low profile design that simply works incredibly well.  The company presents two different concepts of back protectors; VPD material protection and Multi-impact hard shell systems.  Each concept has been derived as a result of various needs of athletes along a wide spectrum of impact prone sports.  In this review, we will focus on the VPD material and it’s ability to protect the spine during high risk activities like big mountain skiing, snowboarding and biking.

BigMtnSki VPD Review

Big mountain Telemark skiing in Portillo, Chile.

 Materials and Procedure:

The Spine VPD Vest 2.0 is made from an innovative material compound named Visco-elastic Polymer Dough, hence “VPD.”  POC uses this technology because of it’s highly dampening, shock absorbing properties and claim that there are few back protectors on the market that rival the Spine VPD products, for they reach the highest standard (Level 2 “High performance”) of the CE 1621-2 motorcycle standard.

The actual VPD material within the vest is removable.

The actual VPD material within the vest is removable.

The Spine VPD Vest 2.0 has been tested in the big mountain atmosphere of Portillo, Chile and will be compared to other various types of back protectors found on the market.

Back Protector Parts

The vest, the VPD protector, and the waistband.

Technical Features:

  • 3D molded VPD 2.0 back protector which outperforms the highest level of the motorcycle standard 1621-2 Level 2
  • Highly breathable mesh
  • Removable, adjustable, and flexible waist band

SIZES: S, M, L 
CERTIFIED EN 1621-2 LEVEL 2

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 12.59.24 PM

Sizing Chart

COST: $200.00

Find POC’s Spine VPD 2.0 Vest here on: Evo.com

“The Spine VPD 2.0 Vest gives you full back protection with great flexibility and freedom of movement and is tested according to the highest level of the 1621-2 motorcycle standard. The VPD 2.0 system offers a high level of protection with extreme shock absorption as well as a unique capability to adapt its shape to your body. The vest is made offlexible and highly breathable mesh and has height adjustable and removable waistband and two width options, which secures a perfect fit. The back protector is easily removed for washing.”  (POC’s product description on their website)

Analysis:

The Spine VPD 2.0 Vest is one heck of an innovative design by POC.  It is the trippiest back protector I have ever seen, used, or even heard of.  The back protector, like advertised, is the most flexible on the market.  It will literally bend back on itself if you try flexing it, although they don’t advise bending the material too sharply, for it could reduce it’s effectiveness.  In fact, it’s so flexible, when I first got it, I had doubts about it’s actual protective qualities.  Don’t let this mislead you’re decision however, because, in short, after testing it for a week in Portillo–skiing as hard as I could for as long as I could,this product’s counter intuitive properties truly impressed me with it’s performance.

VPD Flexibility

Flexing the dough.

The thing about the Visco-elastic Polymer Dough is that although it is unnervingly flexible, it hardens on impact.  In addition it becomes more flexible when exposed to warmer temps and stiffer when exposed to cooler temps while still retaining it’s protective impact hardening regardless of the temperature.  This means that while wearing the vest, your body heat slightly warms the green protective plate which consequently molds to the specific form of your spine.

When you fall (on your back) the material stiffens the most where it is directly impacted. The back protector is extremely efficient, providing instant protection for exactly where you need it–exactly when you need it.  While skiing, riding, or biking around (anything other than falling) the VPD material is in its more flexible “doughy” state and you barely notice it.  The whole system–vest, protective VPD plate, waistband and all–is incredibly lightweight.

If pressed slowly, it will even mold yo your fingerprint!

If pressed slowly, it will even mold to your fingerprint!

The best way of explaining this concept is if you’ve ever played with cornstarch and water.  When these two compounds are mixed, they form a substance that can act both as a solid and as a liquid.  When the mixture is at rest, it acts as a liquid filling whatever shape and volume of it’s container, however; when swift, direct pressure is applied it instantly hardens acting as a solid body.  This type of substance is labeled as a “non-newtonian fluid” because it doesn’t adhere to the rules of physics as Newton describes them.

An example of the cornstarch and water mixture phenomena.

The cornstarch-water example is an exaggeration of how the VPD material works.  No, Visco-elastic Polymer Dough is not a liquid at rest, but it is relatively soft and flexible and uses the exact same concept as cornstarch and water to protect your spine.  Upon impact, it instantly hardens.  This allows it to be low profile, lightweight, and uber-protective unlike other bulky, or lightweight but low protective alternatives on the market.

It's quite comfortable to wear, I rarely notice it.

It’s quite comfortable to wear, I rarely notice it.

VPD is also an incredibly shock absorbing material.  If all it did was harden and disperse the impact of a collision, VPD alone would not be nearly as effective as a protective material.

“…when exposed to impact the material stiffens and has extreme energy absorption properties. Most of the protector systems available on the market are designed to just pass the specific CE-Norm test. However, this means that low energy impacts are transferred almost directly to the body. Our VPD back protector functions progressively and adapts itself to the force of the impact.” (Quote from POC’s Body Armor Concepts)

See POC’s Body Armor Concepts page on their website here: Body Armor Concepts

Modeling it's flexibility.  Notice the upright shape compared to the bent over shape.

Modeling it’s flexibility. Notice the upright shape compared to the bent over shape.

Finally, to even further increase the effectiveness, flexibility, and efficiency of their product, POC uses a dual-density combination of VPD material in it’s back protector plates.  The area of the plate directly over the spine receives a higher density VPD than the area surrounding the shoulder blades and lower back.  This is done to maximize the freedom of movement and shock absorbing properties of the material.  There are also ventilation holes in the surrounding lower density VPD areas to prevent overheating.

IMG_1887

You can see the higher density VPD material along the center of the green plate.

Conclusions:

The Spine VPD 2.0 vest is well worth the money.  POC has obviously put in the research and time to design one of the most innovative, highly protective, and incredibly comfortable back protectors to date.  I’m very impressed.  Ironically, one of my very first runs at Portillo, I booked it through some variable snow, lost control, and fell through some rocks.  I put a core shot in my skis, but not my back thanks to POC.   My trip was saved and I had a great time.  I rarely took the vest off for lunch partly because I would forget it was on, and partly because it was actually quite comfortable to wear.  The vest is nice compared to other VPD products offered because you wear it like a shirt, you don’t have to worry about the shoulder straps slipping off, and its a nice streamlined fit. 

The Spine VPD 2.0 Vest is Brain Labs tested and approved.  We highly recommend this product.

 

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