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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Backcountry.com Rime Pullover > Test Report by Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd


Backcountry.com Rime Pullover Softshell JacketRime Pullover
Test Series by Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd
Initial Report: February 6, 2009
Field Report: April 28, 2009
Long Term Report: June 30, 2009


Tester Information


Name: Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd

Age: 31

Gender: Female

Height: 5'5" (1.65 m)

Weight: 135 lb (61 kg)

Email: rebecca@backpackgeartest.org

Location: Sunnyvale, California


Backpacking Background

I spend most weekends, and many full weeks a year, exploring the variety of scenery and terrain that California has to offer. My favorite area is the Sierra Nevada, and I spend several weeks backpacking there each summer. I follow lightweight, but not ultralight, backpacking techniques and am known to carry a few luxury items from time to time. In addition to traditional backpacking I enjoy snowshoeing, skiing, and snowcamping, as well as long day hikes, geocaching, peak bagging, and running. 



Product Information


Manufacturer: Backcountry.com

Item: Rime Pullover Jacket

Size: Women's Medium

Listed weight: none

Measured weight: 7.5 oz (213 g)

Year: 2009

MSRP: $148.95


Description


The Backcountry.com Rime Softshell is a fleece-backed lightweight pullover softshell jacket. The zipper extends about halfway down the jacket front, allowing for plenty of room to pull the jacket on over the head. There is a single pocket on the left arm, and backcountry.com branding and logos on the chest and left arm. The particular jacket I received is three-tone: primarily 'merlot', with grey panels on the arms and on the pocket, and white accent on the zippers (pictured above).



Initial Report: February 6, 2009


Rime PulloverInitial Impressions


Since the website does not list the weight, I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of the thickness and weight of this pullover. The website's description led me to believe that the Rime was pretty lightweight, stating that this jacket is "the in-between seasons softshell you've always dreamed about", but I had no idea how light it was until I received the surprisingly light package on my front porch. I actually thought it was another ultralight wool tshirt that my husband is so fond of ordering from backcountry.com and left it on the table for a few hours, until I took a closer look at the label and saw my name instead.


I fall in between the small and medium size based on the Backcountry.com sizing chart, so I requested a size Medium. It fits very well - it is just the right length in the arms and body, and doesn't feel too big, or too small even when put on over a lightweight layer. It is a fitted style, but it is not tight.


The construction of the jacket appears to be high quality. Seams are even, zippers run smoothly, and there are no loose threads.


One thing that strikes me about the jacket is how nice it looks when worn. Of course it looks sporty, but it doesn't look silly (there IS a difference)! I'd be comfortable wearing this while running errands around town, especially on one of the cooler windy winter days in the Bay Area.


Test Plan and Conditions


I expect the Rime to be a wonderful addition to my outerwear during the winter and spring months in California. This time of year means large variability in the weather, and I try to get out in it all. On one day I can be trail running in the Bay Area with sunny skies and temperatures around 70 F (21 C), and the next day I can be slogging up a muddy trail in the rain at 50 F (10 C)  in the same area. I often start hikes in the cold and fog, only to have it clear and warm up as the day progresses. A versatile outerwear layer is essential in these conditions, and I look forward to testing out the Rime not only here, but as an active outerwear layer in the snow in the Sierra. Winter in the Sierra can also mean a variety of conditions, from days on the snow with summer-like temperatures and clear skies to below freezing, windy, and stormy.


Due to its light weight, the Rime will be worn primarily as an active layer, most likely over a lightweight base layer (sport tank tops to long sleeve ultralight wool). The jacket's breathability will be very important, as will its ability to allow me to move unrestricted, whether hiking, running, skiing, or snowshoeing. Since it is a softshell, I will test its ability to repel the elements and protect me from the wind, especially when I am sweating heavily. Its durability will also be important - a layer like this will be stuffed in my pack, strapped to the outside, and be worn while crashing through bushes on narrow, manzanita-overgrown Santa Cruz mountain trails.


Lastly, its washability will be tested. Since I expect to sweat this jacket up quite a bit, it will be essential that it handles repeated washings well.


Summary


Having already worn the Rime on a few outings this week, I'm already impressed and excited to get it out more. Details of the field use of the Rime will be in my next report.


This concludes my Initial Report. Please check back here in mid-April for my Field Report.


Field Report: April 28, 2009


The Rime Pullover is such a versatile top that it has gotten an extraordinary amount of use during the Field Test period.

Dayhiking the San Francisco Bay Area

I've worn the Rime on a minimum of 50 miles (81 km) of dayhiking in the Bay Area spread over several hikes during the two month Field Test period. Conditions during these dayhikes were pretty uniform, usually beginning with a cloudy or foggy and cold morning in the 40s F (~7 C), turning into sunny and warm afternoons of hiking in the 60s (~18 C).  The most notable of these hikes was an eight hour, 15 mile (24 km), 5000 foot (1524 m) gain dayhike to Murietta Falls in the Ohlone Wilderness. It was a mostly cloudy day in the upper 50s (14 C). The trail took us up and over ridges and down into ravines. We would experience an occasional breeze on the ridges. This is typical terrain and conditions for a late winter/early spring hike in the Bay Area and is representative of my experiences with the Rime on all of my Bay Area dayhikes.  

The Rime really shined on this hike. It started off cool enough that I needed more than the Rime and was easily able to layer my Patagonia R2 fleece over it (this fleece fits me in a slightly fitted form, but leaves room for layering underneath). After the initial 500 foot (152 m) climb I had to peel off the fleece. After another 300 feet (91 m) or so the Rime came off too, leaving me in a lightweight shortsleeve wool tshirt. I was sweating faster than the jacket would let me - I had built up quite a puddle under the jacket. After the last steep climb, I gained the first ridge where a light wind was blowing. I threw the Rime back on it protected me well during the downhill stretch. I was no longer sweating heavily but had built up quite a bit during the climb. The Rime provided a nice balance between managing the sweat and the cool breeze. Occasionally I considered taking it off to speed up the evaporation of my sweat buildup, but when a breeze would blow I was grateful to have it on. On the return hike we had some more clouds, and I kept the Rime on the entire time since there was less climbing and I was generating less sweat.

On these long and strenuous dayhikes, I've noticed that  the Rime definitely does not breathe as well as the fleeces I am used to wearing. However, it provides a great tradeoff in that it protects me from the breezes that will unexpectedly blast me when I come around a corner or gain a ridge. I've been very happy with its ability to protect me from the wind; even if I'm soaking wet underneath it the wind won't chill me. One thing that would really help on the stretches where I sweat more heavily is  adjustable cuffs on the wrists.  Right now the jacket is not stretchy and the cuffs are sewn to a certain size. I'd love to be able to pull up the arms on this jacket when I'm working my way up those steep hills, and quickly be able to tug them back down when the wind blows.

Water Beads after a RunWinter Jogging

In winter, the area I live in experiences a lot of rain. I typically go to the gym, but sometimes there are days where I just can't get there and I'll do a quick jog around the neighborhood. The Rime is a nice layer for jogging in the rainy winter conditions typical to my area. I wore it a few times when temperatures were in the 40s (~7 C)and a light rain was falling. The rain would bead up and roll off the Rime, and not once did it wet out.  The only problem I encountered was that my ipod would get lightly wet in the pocket on the arm. This wasn't due to rain getting in the jacket - rather it was the interior condensation due to my sweat that would dampen  the contents of the pocket.

The picture to the left shows the rain water beaded up on the arm of the Rime after a four mile (6.4 km) jog. I was able to simply wipe and shake the water beads off.


Photographing flowers in carrizoAs a Photographer's Casual Wear

In March I was very excited for a weekend snow backpack in Sequoia National Park, only to have the National Weather Service ruin my plans by predicting a terrible storm. Instead, we went to Carrizo Plain National Monument to photograph the wildflower displays. It was an overnight carcamp, and the weather conditions were iffy the entire time - alternating between sun and warmth, and then back to clouds and wind and rain. We spent most of the time driving down 4x4 roads and finding places to hop and and photograph the incredible flowers, which meant I needed something that was comfortable both in and out of the car in various conditions. The Rime fit the bill.  Although I didn't do anything on this trip to test the limits of the Rime, I found that it was already my 'go-to' jacket for these widely varying conditions.

The photo shows me getting 'down and dirty' in the Rime in a field of coreopsis.

Snowshoeing in Yosemite

I wore the Rime on an overcast day of snowshoeing in Yosemite National Park. The temperatures were mild, with a maximum of about 50 degrees F (10 C), and there was no wind. There had been some recent fresh snow that was about waist-deep on top of the already-compacted snow. We snowshoed for about a mile through previously broken trail, but then had to break it ourselves. This is a strenuous activity, and I started working up a sweat. But in these conditions, the Rime worked really well. It was just enough to keep me warm when we stopped for views without having to add additional layers, while remaining comfortable when I was moving and working hard. 


Caving in Lava Beds

I usually spend Easter weekend up in Lava Beds National Monument. This place is littered with hundreds of Lava Tube caves and they are open for exploration. Lava rock is rough and jagged and I've been known to destroy perfectly good items of clothing while scrambling through the caves. I decided to wear the Rime and hope it survived. There were a couple of instances where I was squeezing through a tight spot and scraped the jacket against the lavicles (like tiny rock icicles) on the ceiling or against jagged rock. The Rime emerged unscathed from its adventures in the lava tubes and I was pleased with its durability.


Overnight Backpack and Bushwhack

The Rime was my primary long sleeved top on a recent overnight backpack in Henry Coe, a local state park with miles and miles of wilderness, including a 4 mile round trip bushwhack through a burn zone (in 2007, nearly 50,000 acres of the park burned in an enormous wildfire). Coe is known for its steep trails and oppressive heat, so we really lucked out and picked a gentle trail on a weekend of below-average temperatures. On the uphill hike in to camp temperatures were in the 50s F (13 C) and the sun was shining. Since this was an uphill trek and there wasn't much wind, I wasn't wearing the Rime.

Bushwhack scarsWe got to camp at Mississippi Lake and set up our tents, and then set off on a four mile dayhike to Bear Mountain. We were taking a cross-country approach which had previously been impassible due to thick brush. However, the area had burned in the 2007 fire and we figured that the wall of coyote brush might be cleared away. Sure enough, we were able to navigate through the skeletons of the burned brush and bag Bear Mountain, but the black carbonized branches did a number on our clothing and skin. All five of us were covered in scratches of black from head to toe, like someone had scribbled on us with black chalk. Some of my friends who were wearing less durable lightweight hiking tops experienced snags from the branches, not to mention the black streaks that wouldn't wipe off. But the Rime was incredible - no snags, and I could take a damp paper towel and wipe most of the black right off of the jacket.

The picture to the left shows the arm of the Rime Jacket the next morning (I forgot to take pictures of it when covered in the black scratches). There are still some marks on it, but it's nothing compared to before I wiped it down!

On Sunday morning I was a bit sore from sunburn from the previous day's exposure. I wanted to stay covered up on the hike out in the sun and warming temperatures, but the lightest long sleeve layer I had was the Rime. I expected to be too warm in it, but I was surprisingly comfortable. Since the hike was mainly downhill I did little sweating, so I didn't have to worry about evaporation issues.



Summary


Likes

  • Very good fit and quite comfortable while moving.
  • Repels water nicely in a light rain and doesn't seem to wet out in light rain conditions
  • Repels wind incredibly well
  • Super Durable
  • Easy to clean - I can wash it with all my other sport clothing in a cold washer, then I lay it out to air dry

Dislikes
  • I am not very fond of the pullover style - I wish it was a full zip so it was easier to pull on and off over my camera or my hat.
  • I wish it had adjustable cuffs at the wrists so I could pull the arms up when I get warm
  • It doesn't breathe quite as well as I wished. There were several in between times where I wanted it on for the wind protection, but I was sweating too much for the jacket to keep up with me.

The Rime has really been a versatile piece of outerwear. I can't think of another item I've owned that would be as useful in as many different scenarios. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of uses it will reveal as temperatures warm and I spend some time on the hot spring snow of the Sierra Nevada. I'll be reporting back on this additional use in the Long Term Report, appearing here in approximately mid June.



Long Term Report: June 30, 2009


I've found fewer opportunities to wear the Rime jacket during the Long Term Testing period due to warming conditions in the Bay Area and mountains. Although I've started off wearing it on numerous hikes and runs, I find it to be overkill for my needs and quickly remove it. Mornings now have far less rain and low clouds than in the winter, and the sun is much more intense.

I also had the opportunity to try the Rime out in a Sierra summer afternoon thundershower heavy rain. When the sprinkles started, temperatures dropped, and the breeze blew, it was a great layer to protect me from the elements. As the rain got heavier, however, the jacket eventually wetted out. It should be noted here that the Rime is not waterproof, though it does protect well in a light rain as I discovered during field reporting. One advantage of the Rime over something like a fleece is that even when wetted out, the softshell material still provides some protection against the breeze. My single layer under the jacket got soaked, though I couldn't tell if this was due to the rain or my sweat as it was a big uphill hike! 

I've continued to wash the Rime in my laundry as described in the field report and have seen no deterioration in the quality or materials. The interior brushed fleece has pilled a bit, but this is normal and expected and doesn't concern me. In fact, I've washed and worn this jacket so much that I'm surprised it hasn't pilled more.

My conclusions from the field report remain 100% valid and have been confirmed with further use. I'm left with the strong impression of the Rime as a wonderful layer for the winter season in the Bay Area, but a bit too much for me once conditions start warming up in spring.  I'd say that the strongest plus this jacket has is its remarkable versatility, especially in my climate. I'd say that the biggest dislike I have is in the actual design of the jacket - I wish it was a full zip instead of a pullover, and had adjustable cuffs so that the arms could be pulled up.

This test was my first exposure to the Backcountry.com brand and I am very happy and impressed with the quality of the Rime jacket. In fact, it gave me confidence to purchase other items made by Backcountry.com. Thanks to BGT and Backcountry.com for allowing me to participate in this test!










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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Backcountry.com Rime Pullover > Test Report by Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd



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