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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Backcountry.com Rime Pullover > Test Report by Andre Corterier

Backcountry Rime Pullover Jacket

Test Report by André Corterier
Initial Report: 11 February, 2009
Field Report: 28 April 2009
Long Term Report: 30 June 2009

The Rime pullover jacket [sic] in 'Carbon' Personal Biographical Information:
Name: André Corterier
Gender: M
Age: 37
Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight: 80 kg (175 lb)
Chest: 100 cm (39.5 in)
Waist: 84 cm (33 in)
Standard Clothing Size: M-L
Email: andreDOTcorterierATfreenetDOTde
Home: Bonn, Germany

Backpacking Background:
I mostly dayhike and sometimes overnight by myself or in the company of one or both of my little daughters. I am getting started on longer hikes, as a lightweight packer and hammock or tarp camper. I’ve been upgrading my old gear and am now carrying a dry FSO weight (everything carried From the Skin Out except food, fuel and water) of less than 9 kg (20 lb) for three-season camping.

Year of manufacture: 2009 ?
Manufacturer: Backcountry.com
URL: http://www.backcountry.com/
MSRP: 148.95 USD
Colour: "Carbon" (Black & Grey), also available in "Cobalt"(Blue) and "Carrot" (Orange)

No listed weight;
Measured weight, size M: 261 g (9.21 oz)


Introduction:
The Backcountry.com Rime Pullover Jacket (henceforth Rime or Pull) is a somewhat stretchy, tight-fitting, long-sleeved garment made of Polartec Powershield. It comes with a zipper, which runs from my throat down to just below my sternum. This would seem to answer why it's called (among other things) a "pullover". The only way to put it on is to pull it over my head. The reason it's also called a "jacket" is somewhat harder to answer, it clearly not being a jacket. If I were to hazard a guess, it's because the Rime is meant to be worn in place of a jacket - as an outer layer. Notwithstanding this, the Rime weighs less than some base layers I have. The Rime features a single pocket on my left chest when worn, accessible through a short zipper located right next to the center ventilation zipper. The pocket within isn't quite large enough to fit my entire hand in there, though it is somewhat larger than the "music player" pockets I am familiar with from some similar garments. The Rime features a pronounced collar, which I can turn up to welcome the unknown.

Material:
The material is given on the hang tag as being Polartec Powershield, which is described as a smooth, tough outer layer and a fuzzy, soft inner layer with a perforated membrane sandwiched in between. I've never been a friend of the idea of a perforated membrane. Why include a membrane and then punch holes into it? Well, obviously it's been done to improve ventilation. How much it does so is something I'll see and report on in the future. But it seems wasteful to destroy "waterproof" and replace it with "water resistant" (and a DWR treatment). Then again, maybe the reduction in water resistance isn't so large. I'll definitely watch out for that. The DWR lets water from a faucet roll right off, as well as a bit of fizzy sleet, but I haven't been out in real rain yet.

Fit:
I was a little uncomfortable when ordering the Rime pullover in size "M". Sure, Backcountry.com's online sizing chart put me clearly into the "M" range, but I've never worn an outer layer in any size other than L. Being long-limbed, I was particularly concerned that the length of the sleeves would be less than that of my arms. As should be obvious from the picture, they fit just fine.

I note, however, that while I can wear a heavyweight base layer underneath the Rime, it is cut too tightly to comfortably wear a fleece insulating layer underneath it as well. I don't mind that - its tight fit makes me feel sleekly aerodynamic. And, being a soft shell, it appears to value breathability over protection anyway, so I'll evaluate it with that in mind. Should I want a Rime that I can wear a fleece underneath, I'll order it one size larger.

Comfort:
The Rime has a smooth upper surface and a soft, fuzzy inside. It was nice and smoothly comfortable from the very beginning. It's stretchy enough that it feels like something between a jacket and a pullover. I like that.


FIELD REPORT

Field Experience:
I've been wearing the Rime pullover a lot while it was still cool outside. This included going to work on my bicycle, dayhiking and an overnighter with my daughter (testing a tent). I've also worn it for several instances of improvised sleeping that I wouldn't call backpacking per se (one night in a dank basement and several nights in an unheated storage room). It has also been my outer layer for every instance of running I managed to indulge in, except for the last two days that were really warm.

Temperatures ranged from freezing to about 20 C (70 F). I've had serious fog and light drizzle on the Rime, but no actual rain (I changed an entire day's plans just to go running when I saw that it started raining, only for the rain to peter off the moment I got outside). It's been quite windy a few times. Elevation was of the local variety, between 100 and 500 m (330 and 1650 ft).

Temperature Range:
I've found the Rime pullover to be comfortable over a broad temperature range, though that temperature range (necessarily) was dependent on the amount of physical activity. With high activity (jogging), the Rime over a thin (though long-sleeved) base layer was adequate dress at temperatures around freezing. The same dress code was adequate for brisk walking (my normal pace) with a light pack on at temps between 5 and 15 C (40 to 60 F). I'd have the collar all the way up at the lower end of that spectrum, and the zipper as far down as it would go and the sleeves up towards the higher end of that spectrum. The top end of the range described above (20 C / 70 F) was reserved for sitting around and not doing much at all - like taking a rest break or driving a car.

Moisture Transport:
I was quite happy with the way the fuzzy inside layer of the Rime picked up moisture. My perception of its efficacy is by necessity at one remove, as I did not (so far) wear the pullover directly against my skin when working out. However, I know the base layers I wore have good moisture transmission and they did not appear to be inhibited in any way when worn underneath the Rime.

It occurs to me that my lower arms were immediately against the Rime's inside layer when jogging with a short-sleeved (thin, wool) base layer on recently. While that is not an area where my body generates a lot of sweat, I also felt that any moisture generated there had an easy time evaporating. I'm quite happy with this result.

Wind Resistance:
The wind resistance of this garment is probably the aspect of it that I am most happy with. It really works rather well. This has allowed me to look severely underdressed on a couple of coolish, blustery days when people around me resorted to heavy-duty hardshell jackets while I demonstrated my lack of concern for the weather in a thin, tight-fitting pullover. The gloves and hat probably gave me away, though.

In fact, I feel that the wind resistance of the Rime pullover is better than the one of my lightest hardshell jacket (which weighs considerably more). When I wear the hardshell jacket over otherwise exposed arms, the thin nylon allows some convective cooling of my arms even through the 100 % wind proof shell. The material of the Rime pullover may only be 98 % wind proof (whatever that means), but provides for a thin, fluffy layer between my skin and the "shell" of the pullover, which makes it feel warmer.

I have found that when I'm sweating in a cold wind, I would usually pull the zipper on my base layer down as far as it would go to allow my core to vent, while keeping the zipper of the Rime most of the way up to prevent the wind from chilling me too rapidly. While it felt (and possibly looked) weird to pull down the top layer zipper, then the base layer zipper only to zip up the top layer zipper again, this has allowed me to balance evaporative cooling vs wind chill in a way that kept me in my comfort zone. I appreciate this a lot.

Precipitation:
As noted above, I haven't seen much precipitation in the Rime. What drizzle landed on it, usually sat on it. There were a few spots where the outer "skin" of the Rime darkened with moisture, but I believe that was where I brushed against something. I'm hoping for some more rain to come.

Comfort:
The jacket is very comfortable over a base layer. I have even managed (contrary to my earlier statement in the Initial Report) to wear it over a thin fleece sweater. This has made for a very snug fit (which may have compromised the insulative quality of the fleece in question just a bit), but did not result in appreciable hindrance to motion. Still, it's more comfortable without that much underneath it. The Rime has also been very comfortable directly against my bare skin. This has prompted me to use it as a pillow when I did not need it for warmth - with the fuzzy inside layer rolled towards the outside, it has been a very comfortable headrest. It has also been comfortable enough for me to leave on when I came in from outside for up to several hours.

Pockets (or lack thereof):
The Rime does not have handwarmer pockets. That's okay, my thin gloves fit into its one chest pocket. However, putting both the gloves and my hat in there is difficult and looks really, really weird (and begins to be somewhat uncomfortable). I keep wishing every once in a while that the Rime had more pockets or that the chest pocket would be much larger (my preferred alternative). Lacking this, it's not really an alternative for a jacket - except, admittedly, in an actual backpacking scenario where the pack in question should provide enough storage space.

Looks:
Well, it still looks like new (I hesitate to call this section "durability", as I've only had it for two months). I think it's stylish. My wife agrees, but also says it looks much like a jacket (though she admits that structurally it's not) in that it makes me look as though I'm about to leave when I wear it. Not a problem anymore - it's been getting warmer and I'm a lot less likely these days to wear it inside.

Summary So Far:
I really like it. It's been very good to wear in all sorts of conditions (though I haven't seen real rain), been comfortable and is really light. It is sufficiently versatile that I'm currently carrying a lightweight non-breathable poncho as hard rain insurance rather than a heavier hardshell jacket, for an appreciable reduction in total carried weight over a lightweight fleece pullover and a hardshell jacket. The missing pockets are provided by my pack...


LONG TERM REPORT

Field Experience:
I've used the Rime a lot more over the past two months. It's accompanied me on numerous day trips, an overnight close to our home, a three-day backpacking weekend in the German-Luxembourg Nature Preserve and a long (1500+ km/nearly 1000 mi) road trip to Sweden. Temps have been between 5 and 20 C (40 and 70 F). It's actually been warmer a lot, but then I wasn't wearing the Rime.

Rain Protection:
I've had the Rime Jacket out in real, rather heavy rain. It took about 10 minutes for the moisture to get through to me. This means that even without carried rain protection, I have a few minutes to get to shelter. If I take the full 10 minutes to get to shelter (like I did that one time in our neighbourhood), it should be a shelter which is sufficiently sheltered that I can take the jacket off. That's because after 10 minutes the jacket was soaked to a degree that it kept getting wetter inside the jacket even though I was out of the rain.

Within two hours or so of hanging in a warm, dry spot, the jacket dried enough that I felt comfortable putting it on again (though it clearly still contained some residual moisture). Such moisture seemed quickly driven out by body heat once I was moving around in it again (it had stopped raining).

It's also been out in a couple of instances of light drizzle. About half of that still appeared to just sit on the jacket, with another half of the jacket darkening where the moisture penetrated at least the top layer of fabric. These spots were spread all over the jacket giving it a mottled appearance. I could not tell that there were any particular spots in which the DWR seemed to be failing particularly, due to wear or whatever. Whether or not it soaked the top layer, though, I did not feel that the garment's breathability was compromised, and even extended exposure to drizzle (well, about 25 minutes of it) did not allow moisture into the jacket to a degree that I felt any of it.

Wind Protection:
I continue to be happy (and yes, still impressed) by this feature. I have once been in a wind where I did not feel that the Rime pullover, by itself, was sufficient. This was on the open deck of a ferry across the Baltic Sea, from Puttgarden on the island of Fehmarn, to Rodby in Denmark. It was getting dark, and the wind over the sea was really picking up. Even so, I was comfortable in the Rime for quite a while. When I was getting a bit chilly (and had to go to the car for heavier clothing for my daughter anyway), I put on a light rain jacket on top of the Rime. It's a good thing the Rime is cut tight, this allowed me to continue using it as an insulation layer, even though the rain jacket in question isn't cut wide, either. Plus, I know from past experience that a rain jacket by itself, though entirely windproof, provides poor insulation from wind chill, because the very thin fabric is pressed directly against the warm body. Putting the Rime pullover in between meant that its fluffy insides could continue to trap heat and keep me comfortable. For a garment of such light weight, I thought the felt warmth was quite impressive.

Comfort:
The jacket remains comfortable, both over a T and worn directly on the skin. Its stretch and close cut is such that I've found it quite comfortable to sleep in, both for an afternoon nap on a bench outside and in my sleeping bag for the night. It got cold in Sweden at night, and wearing it in my sleeping bag probably gave me the few more degrees of insulation I needed.

Issues:
Well, the only "issues" I have with the jacket, as in: things I find less than cool, are the fact that it's not a jacket, and that it has only one pocket, and a small one at that. I am not certain that these are, strictly speaking, criticisms of the jacket, or just things that tell me that I personally might be happier with a different product. Getting out of the Rime is a bit more involved than taking off a jacket. While hiking, I can usually slip out of a jacket without needing to break stride, by alternating the shoulders across which I wear my light pack by a single strap for the few steps it takes to slip out of a sleeve. With the Rime, I have to stop, put down the pack (somewhere - usually on my feet and held between the knees if it's muddy) and wriggle out of it, usually pulling up my base layer quite a bit while I do so. Not a problem - if I'm taking off the Rime, it's because it's warm and I'm not worried about a bit of chill - but somewhat annoying.

And I've really gotten used to having a largish chest pocket for my gloves, buff, map, compass and candy bar. Not having them on this piece puts me off just a little, though I do admit that in any real backpacking scenario, I have more than enough pockets at my disposal. Still.

Summary:
I really, really like this jacket and will continue to take it along on most of my trips. I'm going to hike the Gold Coast Hinterland Trail in Australia two weeks from now and plan to hike Mt. Mulanje in Malawi two weeks after that, and the Rime is solidly on my packing list for both. A very versatile garment at an incredibly low weight. I just wish it had a larger pocket, a full zip and possibly a hood - though I guess that means I'm looking for a different idea of garment. As far as this one is concerned and what it was designed to be, it's very well done.



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