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Reviews > Clothing > Hats, Caps and Visors > Jacks R Better Down Hood > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Jacks 'R' Better Down Hood
By Raymond Estrella

November 19, 2013


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 53
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 213 lb (96.60 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: Jacks 'R' Better, LLC
Web site:
Product: Down Hood
Size: one size
Year manufactured/received: 2012
MSRP: US$ 49.95
Weight listed: 2 oz (58 g)
Actual weight: 2.47 oz (70 g)
Color: Black
Insulation: 800 fill-power goose down
Fill weight listed: N/A
Loft observed: 1.5 to 3 in (4 to 7.6 cm)

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The nicely priced Jacks 'R' Better Down Hood is a neat little multi-use hood that I use for keeping my head warm when using quilts in low temperatures. But it can also be used to add a hood to an existing jacket or vest, and can be used with Jacks 'R' Better's wearable quilts. Please read on for the details.

Product Description

Down hood views

The Jacks 'R' Better Down Hood (hereafter referred to as the hood) is just that, a down filled hood. It is made to be used as a stand-alone head covering for warmth in camp or while sleeping, or along with the company's wearable quilts.

The inside and outside of the hood are made of 1.1 oz 30d ripstop nylon with a DWR (durable water resistant) application. It is made with two one-inch (2.5 cm) high baffles to keep the 800-fill down in place. And there is quite a bit of down to be held in. I measure the hood being up to 3 in (7.6 cm) thick in spots!

The edge of the face of the hood has a drawstring sewn in with a cord-lock at each side. The drawstrings can be used to draw the hood closed and to tie the hood under the chin of the wearer. There are no snaps or other closures.

The outside bottom of the hood is edged with 1 in (2.5 cm) high Omni-Tape. (Omni-Tape is a brand of hook-and-loop fastener that has both "hook" and "loop" on each side. This results in much less snagging than is the norm from other "hook"-side tapes.) This edge matches up with the Omni-Tape on the wearable quilts mentioned earlier, and when mated makes a quilt a hooded serape/poncho/jacket.

Jacks 'R' Better also sells a Collar Modification Kit that consists of 24 in (61 cm) of Omni-Tape and instructions to modify any stand-up collar found on jackets or vests so that they will accept attachment of the Down Hood.

By turning the hood inside out the Omni-Tape edge may be hooked to itself, keeping it from attaching itself to any wool or fleece in my pack.

Field Data

Anaway Lake, coldest trip of the year.

I used the Jacks 'R' Better Down Hood on six winter backpacking trips. Three of the trips were along the Red River north of Halstad, Minnesota, two were in Chippewa National Forest and one was in Smoky Hills State Forest in north central Minnesota. My son used the hood on three winter camp-outs. Terrain was frozen ground for half the trips and the rest was on deep snow. Temperatures encountered ran from lows of 15 F down to -24 F (-9 to -31 C). In the picture above the Down Hood is sitting next to the head of my bag. Here is a shot of my son on a cold night. (In both pics a Jacks 'R' Better quilt is being used as a top bag too.)

One bundled up boy.


Black-eyed pea
As may be seen from my reviews here and elsewhere I am a big proponent of backpacking quilts. Starting with warm weather models I have slowly kept taking them down in temps until I now use a quilt all the way to 0 F (-18 C). As a quilt has no hood to keep my head from freezing one thing that I always have on hand is a warm hat. Once it gets real cold I need the warmest head covering possible. Enter the Down Hood.

A down hood is pretty much like cutting the hood from a good down parka and making a stand-alone head covering from it. And like a parka's hood they work great for keeping my head from bleeding off body heat.

The Jacks 'R' Better Down Hood certainly is warm. I never needed to wear anything along with it, in fact if it had snowed while hiking in I would switch to the hood once in camp and place my hiking hat in my coat to dry. But the main use I put it to was when I slept. Most of the trips I took it on saw it paired with a 5 F (-15 C) rated Arc Expedition quilt as seen in the picture to the right. I even used it with a 0 F (-18 C) rated sleeping bag that I took down to the mid-minus 20's F (-32 C) as its hood was not warm enough at those temps. On those trips I also used a Jacks 'R' Better Sierra Stealth quilt as a top bag to provide extra insulation for the rest of my body. (See separate review.)

Speaking of the Sierra Stealth, Jacks sells the Down Hood to complement their line of wearable quilts of which the Stealth is one. These quilts have an opening in the middle to allow the quilt to be worn as a serape, or poncho-type of garment. Using a carabiner to pull the sides in turns it into kind of a sleeveless coat. Adding the hood to quilt in coat-mode increases the warmth immensely. Here is a picture on a trip that I left my big parka behind. I have a thin synthetic coat that I was beta testing underneath the Stealth. It was -12 F (-24 C) on that trip.

Stupid looking pants

It really does work well with the quilt. I think it should be a required purchase for any of their wearable line just because of how much usability it adds.

About the only thing I didn't care for with the Down Hood was keeping it in place when sleeping. I just tied the drawstring under my chin. It can be used inside out and then the Omni-Tape can be used to hold it closed, but I found that uncomfortable. I flip from side to side all night long and would loosen it many times. I think a redesign with some extensions at the bottom front/chin area that had some Omni-Tape would work well.

It should be noted that it is one size only. While it fits me perfectly it was pretty big on my son. I would crack up each time I woke up at night and checked to see how he was doing. Half the time his face would be turned around inside the hood.

Another thing to compliment Jack and Jack on (there are two Jacks who own the company, hence the name) is the price they have the Down Hood at. It is about the lowest price for a down hood that I know of and is more than 50% less expensive than my other down-filled hood.

That is about all I have to say about the Down Hood. As winter is coming on right now I am sure it will be heading out into the Great White North with me soon. I leave with a shot of it sitting in my tent above the frozen Red River.

On Red River

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