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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Red Ledge Unisex Exile Softhell > Test Report by Chuck Carnes

Picture courtesy of Red Ledge

Unisex Exile Softshell
Initial Report: November 21, 2007
Field Report: January 29, 2008
Long Term Report: April 1, 2008

Name: Chuck Carnes

Age: 38
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft. 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight: 175 lb (79 kg)
Sleeve Length: 35 in ( cm)
Chest: 42 in ( cm)
E-mail address: ctcarnes1(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country: Greenville, South Carolina USA

I love the outdoors – I’ve spent time camping in the outdoors since I was born, and have been actively hiking and backpacking since then. I consider myself a lightweight hiker, usually carrying 20 – 30 pounds (11-13 kg) for hikes up to a week in length. I hike at an easy pace, averaging 2 mph (3 kph). I am a one-man tent camper for now. I like to carry a single trekking pole when I hike to help relieve stress to my legs and knees. I like to get out on the trail as often as I can.

Red Ledge

Model: Unisex Exile Softshell
Size: Large
Color: Black
Year of manufacture: 2007
Listed Weight: N/A
Actual Weight: 1 lb 9 oz (71 kg)
MSRP: $119.99 USD (noted on included hang tag)


The Red Ledge Unisex Exile Softshell is a high performance waterproof, breathable jacket that has an outer membrane that is made of T-Core LX laminate fabric with a DWR finish. The premier fabric is a stretch woven smooth face polyester with a fused backing of brushed mico-fleece. The Exile features an interior storm flap, a left chest Napoleon style pocket with a zip closure. The bottom hem has a drawcord closure and is somewhat fitted for the technical savvy.

I N I T I A L    R E P O R T
November 21, 2007

The Red Ledge Exile Softshell arrived in a clear plastic bag within a box. This is a great feeling softshell. From the moment I took it out of the plastic bag, the initial feel of the stretch woven polyester fabric and texture of the materials led me to believe that this is a great all around shell. My first thought was that it felt a lot like a wetsuit in some ways. The inside is very soft to the touch with the micro-fleece lined backing. I tried it on and fit perfectly. The sleeves were the perfect length, they came right down to the break in my wrist which is what I like. The sleeve cuffs can also be tightened around the wrist with the adjustable Velcro closures. The hood fit real well on my head, it had plenty of room for additional head coverings or head protection gear. The hood can be cinched tight to the head with the use of elastic pullcords on each side and it stays cinched with spring loaded barrel clasps. The zipper is a nice sized zipper and seems to be very durable. Behind the zipper is a storm flap that will help prevent cold air from entering in that area. The bottom hem of the shell also has elastic pull cords with barrel clasps on each side for cinching the hem tight and close to the waist. The length of the back panel is a bit longer than the front. This allows the user to bend over forward without the shell rising up in the back and exposing any portion of the lower back. This is a very nice feature during cold, windy weather. The two side pockets and the Napoleon style chest pocket are also micro-fleece lined and seem to be very warm.

After inspecting the jacket I decided to put it on a try it out outside because at the time, the weather was clear and the temperature was a cool, crisp 38 F (3 C). I had a short sleeved shirt on and I could not feel any of the cold air enter inside the shell. This was very nice to know that this shell should keep me warm or at least protected from the elements with only lightweight layers on underneath. This is the type of shell that I have been looking for, for a long time. One that can keep me warm and dry and not have to layer my upper body with heavyweight layers. I'm am looking forward to testing technical parts of the shell and how it performs during activities and how well it breaths yet still protecting me from the elements.     

F I E L D    R E P O R T
January 29, 2008

The Red Ledge Exile Softshell has been a great, all around jacket. I have worn it in all types of rain, wind and even some snow. I have been thoroughly impressed with the protection that I have received from such harsh conditions such as freezing rain and cold wind gusts. I will describe below, the trips and activities that I have worn the Exile on.

My first trip that I took the Exile on was a
one nighter with my son on his Boy Scout trip to Camp Old Indian. The temperature ranged from 30 F to 40 F (-1 C to 4 C) at night and 75 F to 85 F (24 C to 30 C) during the day. The elevation was about 1,600 ft (488 m) where our camp site was. I wore the jacket right as the sun went down because that's when the temperatures started to drop. I had a short sleeve cotton shirt on under the jacket and I was warm with just the jacket and the shirt. As the evening got colder I truly expected to have to change into a long sleeved base layer and possibly a second layer under the jacket. But the micro fleece lining of the Exile and the superior wind protection outer layer, kept me warm the rest of the evening. At one point I did feel a slight chill from the cool wind that blew occasionally but I simply pulled the hood on and instantly I felt warm. I didn't even have to have gloves on that evening because the fleece lined pockets kepted my hands warm. The following morning was very cold as we came out of the tents and this time I had to put on a long sleeved under layer under the jacket. This was all I needed to get warm and not feel the cold air. This was the first time that I needed to zip the jacket up completely, put the hood on and cinch the draw cords at the inside hem of the jacket. This gave me a great wind and cold protection barrier and it kept my own body heat inside the jacket.

We went on a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) loop hike later that morning that was very easy and not much exertion at all. I wore the jacket during this hike and felt very comfortable wearing it. The temperatures rose to about 55 F (12 C) during the hike since it was still in the morning and although it had warmed up a bit I continued to wear the jacket throughout the hike. Most of the time I left it unzipped and was able to keep my body temperature regulated this way.

The second trip was a two night trip to
Pisgah National Forest. The temperature there ranged from 30 F to 40 F (-1 C to 4 C) at night and 60 F to 75 F (15 C to 24 C) during the day. The elevation ranged from 3,500 ft to 4,200 ft (1,067 m to 1,280 m). This was the first time that I actually backpacked with the jacket on. When we got there it was cold enough for me to start out the hike with the jacket on. The temperature was about 50 F (10 C). The wind was blowing a good bit and we were under tree cover most of the way so I was not feeling the warmth of the sun. The jacket felt good while I hiked in a short sleeved shirt. The hood was sort of bunched up behind my neck because of the pack but it wasn't enough to bother me. As I walked, my core body temperature started to elevate and at that point I needed to unzip the front to vent some of the heat. This worked for a little while until I could feel the sweat on my arms start to get clammy and stick to the fleece on the inside. This was getting uncomfortable so I stopped and strapped it to the back of my pack the rest of the way. After we arrived at camp it was nice to be able to put the jacket back on after my body temperature went down and I started to get chilled. I wore the jacket throughout the rest of the evening and actually used the chest pocket quite a bit during my meal time. I was able to place my lighter, my light, my spice bottle and other smaller items that I usually need during my meals in the chest pocket. It was easy and convenient to just reach inside the chest pocket and get what I needed. The next day and night of the trip went pretty much like this one as far as the jacket goes, nothing different in temperatures or the time that I wore it. It was very nice having such a versitle jacket on this trip since it kept me very warm and protected from the wind. It wasn't bulky like some heavyweight jacket would have been or even having to carry a separate rain shell if I would have needed it. I can't say much for the packability of it other than it doesn't compact much at all. So I just strapped it to the outside of my pack when I was not wearing it.

Other trips that I have worn the Exile on have been several day hikes which have been during some of our colder days that were as cold as 42 F (5 C) during the middle of the day. I like these days because I could wear the jacket the entire hike and not have to carry it. It kept me very warm and I never over heated. On one of these day hikes is when I noticed that when the hood is up on my head, it doesn't turn as my head turns. And by this I mean when I have to turn my head around to look behind me, I end up looking right into the inside of the hood. This was a little distracting as I had my dog with me and was constantly having to turn around to make sure he was with me. I would have to reach up with my hand and hold it back as l looked around. Maybe a spring loaded barrel clasp at the rear of the hood with draw cord would remedy this as this would pull the sides back a bit to give room for the head to turn and not see the side of the hood.

Other than wearing it on backpacking and hiking trips, I wear it most everyday when it is cold. It is a great looking jacket as the material is a little stiff and it looks very good with everyday working clothes. It has protected me from very cold wintery rain mixed with snow and sleet. At times I have had to walk a while in this weather to get to my car or go into a building and I have counted on this jacket to keep me dry and so far it has done it's job. I have had to wash it twice and after both times it came out of the dryer looking like new. I have followed the manufactures directions each time I washed it. All of the seams are still in good shape and I have not experienced any unraveling of thread or edges, even after the washings. I have gotten many compliments on the looks of the jacket and I am proud to be able to tell them that it is functional as well as good looking. I will continue to wear it on a daily bases as needed and will wear it on my upcoming backpacking trips.

L O N G   T E R M    R E P O R T
April 1, 2008

Over the past two months since my Field Report I have worn the Red Ledge Exile on one more day hiking trip and as an everyday cold weather jacket. The day hike trip was to Julian Price Park in Boone, N.C. The elevation ranged from 3,800 ft to 4,000 ft (1,100 m to 1,200 m). The weather was very sunny with clear skies but the temperature was a brisk 45 F (7 C). The hike was a 4.8 mile (7.7 km) loop that was easy to moderate in difficulty. I took my kids here so since the length was longer than normal I had to choose and easier elevation change.

I wore the Exile on most of the hike. I began with it on since the wind was blowing a bit and made the temperature seem colder than it actually was. Again the Exile performed beautifully. I actually wore a short sleeved tee shirt under the Exile because I knew the shell would keep the wind out and any heat that I built up in. I can't say that it is the most breathable shell I've ever worn but it stays comfortable even after a few miles with temperatures in the 40's F and 50's F (4 C and 10 C). After I removed the shell, I realized how warm it was keeping me since it felt like the temperature changed by 20 F (-6 C). I was warm enough though to leave it off and finish the hike. The soft brushed fleece felt great on my bare skinned arms and as I started sweating, the sleeves didn't seem to stick to my arms either. When I took it off I packed it in my lumbar pack which pretty much filled up one of the main compartments. The compressibility of the Exile is not that good but it makes up for it in performance and durability.

As an everyday winter jacket, the Exile works great. As i said before it is very stylish and very durable. Our winter days are slowly coming to an end and I am still finding myself grabbing the Exile as I walk out the door. Most of our mornings are still cold enough to wear a jacket and the Exile has been perfect for this situation. I am able to wear Spring time short sleeved shirts with the jacket and by lunch time it's warm enough to not need it anymore. And then when evening time comes and I leave work, it's cold enough to have the jacket back on. This usually goes on for several weeks here so the Exile is still getting some use.

Overall the Exile has been a great shell during my cold winter hiking and backpacking days and my everyday winter jacket as well. Over the course of the testing period I would say that I wore the jacket between 80 and 100 days. I truly made this as my everyday winter jacket this past winter. One of the things that bothered me the most was when putting on the jacket on over a long sleeved shirt. The fleece inside the arms of the jacket would pull my shirt sleeve up as I slipped my arm in.  I really like the way it felt and the way it performed. It worked great on all my hiking and backpacking outings. As I heated up when I hiked, I was still able to wear it in the colder temperatures. And when the wind blew the cold, blistering air towards me I could always zip the shell up fully, cinch the hood around my face and I was warm again. The smooth face polyester not only kept the wind from blowing through the jacket, it kept the rain from entering as well with the DWR finish. I got caught several times in a down pour of rain and the inside of the jacket stayed dry. Mind you that I was never out in the rain for more than 10 - 15 minutes so I can't say what how waterproof it is beyond that time. All of the zippers and cords still function properly. I have washed the jacket in a normal washer and dryer and followed the manufacturers instructions. The jacket has been washed about 5 or 6 times and all of the threads and seams are still in good shape and I have not seen any damage to jacket.

That's Cool:
* Soft micro fleece inside liner
* The chest pocket
* Kept me very warm 
* Great as a wind and rain shell all in one
* Great athletic fit

That sucks:
* The hood doesn't turn with my when I am wearing it up.

This concludes the test series.
Thank you Red Ledge and for this opportunity.

Read more gear reviews by Chuck Carnes

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Red Ledge Unisex Exile Softhell > Test Report by Chuck Carnes

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