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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Big Agnes Womens Juel Vest > Owner Review by Kathleen Waters

BIG AGNES WOMEN'S JUEL VEST

Big Agnes Logo
BY KATHLEEN WATERS
April 12, 2016

OWNER REVIEW

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
AGE: 65
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.60 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado. Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer: Big Agnes, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.bigagnes.com
MSRP: US $199.96
Listed Weight: 6.5 oz (184 g)
Measured Weight: 6.0 oz (170 g)

Other details:

850 fill power DownTek™ water repellent down
Insotect Flow™ baffles with Flow Gates™
Ultralight nylon rip-stop shell
Main zipper with interior no-draft flap and a zipper garage at chin
Adjustable drawcord at hem
Two zippered hand-warmer pockets with textured zipper pulls
Large interior mesh pockets
Interior chest pocket doubles as stuff sack
Big Agnes Juel Vest

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

OK, on to the results of my experiences over the winter of 2015-2016 wearing the Big Agnes Women's Juel Vest!

First off, was 10 days in the northern part of the Lower Michigan peninsula during a trip in late November. There was lots of hiking in snow and rain. I don't think we saw the sun the entire time we were there. Temperatures hovered around the freezing mark with lots of wind to make it feel even colder. All of my snowshoeing and hiking was done on dirt (or snow-covered dirt), heavily pine-forested trails with a backpack never weighing more than 20 lb (9 kg).

Next was our annual Christmas/Anniversary (# 46!) snowshoe overnight at Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado. It was unseasonably warm and uncharacteristically not windy. Even at elevations about 11,000 ft (3350 m), we reveled in sunshine (when we weren't on the "wrong" side of the mountain) and 45-50 F (7-10 C).
Hanging around in my Jeul Vest
Just hanging around in my Juel Vest
Taking a break on Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road Break in RMNP

In early February, I spent two weeks in New Jersey, pining for the outdoors and some sunshine while central Jersey experienced three storms, each dumping double-digit inches/centimeters' worth of the white stuff. I had to have my husband ship my winter jacket and the Juel vest to me as I came directly from an aborted Floridian trip just so I could slog through the slush on daily walks in my sister's neighborhood - it was the best I could do. There the temperatures were frigid; 10 to 30 F (-12 to -1C).

Fortunately, between all the horrible weather elsewhere, most of my winter time in Colorado was bee-u-ti-ful! We had lots of sunshine little precipitation and for the most part the temperatures were above normal. Daily "highs" averaged between 50 and 75 F (10 - 24 C). In addition to my daily hikes in south central Colorado - Canon City, where I call home - I wore the Juel Vest on several snowshoes in the Wet Mountains. Overnight backpacks were less frequent - 7 nights over the whole of 4 months. AND I wore the vest often during the day casually while working at my computer.

FIELD PERFORMANCE

Over these 5 months, I estimate I've covered 250 miles (400 km) backpacking/hiking/snowshoeing and walking in the Big Agnes Juel Vest.

This is now my absolute favorite vest. I really like it! Let me explain why...

The Juel Vest is a contoured women's vest with chevron baffling and princess seams that follow the shape of my body but the vest doesn't fit too tightly. The exterior of the vest is nylon rip-stop material that is both water and wind resistant. The down interior is insulated with 850 fill DownTek. The combination of the shell and insulation is very lightweight with no bulk and very comfortable to wear.

Because the vest is a very comfortable article of clothing I wore it at least several times a week whether casually or while playing outdoors throughout the winter (and now into spring) months. Actually, I wore it constantly, both outdoors and sitting at my desk while working the computer. I hated to take it off. (I actually have it on right now as I type this review!)

Though I have a couple of Big Agnes' jackets, I did check the size chart on their website and it was spot-on. The Medium fits me just as it should. The vest's hem "hits" me just about mid-derriere, 25 inches (64 cm) from the top of the vest (not the collar) to the bottom.

The Juel was worn both as a mid-layer under both hard and soft shell jackets. Even more often, in the exceptionally mild weather we had here this winter, or when backpacking and snowshoeing hard, I wore it solo over just a wool or synthetic base layer. Depending on the temperature, the base layer was either a mid-weight or heavy-weight long-sleeve top.

While I can testify as to the wind resistance of the Juel - it's pretty darn good - I can't say anything as to its water-resistance. Never had to worry about inclement weather, fortunately, when wearing the vest solo. I think a vest is sort of useless when the weather is nasty!

In the very windy conditions I encountered, I was appreciative of the Juel's wind-resistance as I could definitely feel the difference between my core's warmth and my more thinly-clad arms.

I particularly grew fond of the three-inch (8 cm) stand-up collar of the Juel Vest. It did a stellar job of keeping my neck warm, body heat in and cold blowing air out! The collar is not so tightly constructed as to be constricting, but closely-fit enough to be snuggly. When I needed to vent and cool down a bit, unzipping the vest to just below the collar allowed me to fold it down neatly.

The Juel sports a multitude of pockets, both on the outside of the vest and the inside. The two outside front pockets are very roomy. They are large enough to easily accommodate my cellphone, a small digital camera (Canon PowerShot A520), my mid-weight winter gloves, a lip balm and even an energy bar! Not all at the same time of course, but close. These two pockets are zippered with an easy-to-grip zipper pull that I can manage even with my gloves on.

Overflow items can be stashed in the inside zippered chest pocket - also good-sized (actually huge) - and two interior front open-top mesh pouches. I rarely used the interior chest pocket because it felt (and looked awkward when anything thicker than some tissues were stored there, but I did use the mesh pockets for my cell phone and camera IF I wasn't wearing a backpack.

I know carrying battery-operated electronics closer to body warmth in cold weather helps with battery life. However, when backpacking, my packs' waistbelts made these pockets impossible to get to.
Juel in Pouch Form
Big Agnes Juel Vest in Pouch Form
The quality of the Big Agnes Juel Vest is readily noticed and appreciated. I encounter lots of clothes-destroying, snagging pine trees, juniper trees, cactus plants and rough boulders. Not to mention, the constant rubbing of shoulder and waist belt straps on the nylon shell. And I'm clumsy to boot! Despite numerous contacts with said obstacles, I have yet (knocking on wood) to snag the fabric, pull out stitches or - quelle horreurs - torn the vest.

I have not had to wash the vest but am happy to know that when I finally spill that hot cocoa down the front of it, I can machine wash it in warm water using my favorite Nikwax Down Wash (or any other down-specific cleaner) on a gentle cycle. I will even be able to machine dry it on a low heat setting, but will not be able to use bleach or iron it (fat chance!).

The zippers have continued to be easy to operate - have not caught on the linings - and even with all but my bulkiest gloves on, I can maneuver the front zipper closed.

Like a lot of my down and synthetic outerwear, the Juel vest can be squished into a pouch (interior chest pocket) for use as a pillow or just for storage purposes.

But unlike many of my winter wear garments, the vest will not be stored away for the summer. I am planning on taking it with me on some of my upcoming backpacking trips at higher altitude where that extra warm will be just what I need even if just for wearing at night while sleeping which I have done on more than a few occasions.

STARRING ATTRACTIONS

1.) Perfect weight for wearing solo as well as mid-layer.
2.) Keeps me nice and cozy warm.
3.) As stylish as it is functional.
4.) Doesn't need to be coddled, can stand non-gentle treatment.

MINOR DISTRACTIONS

1.) Only comes in two colors which given #2, is probably not a bad thing!
2.) Too pricey for buying one in every color.

SUMMARY

I'm a big fan of down clothing, vests and Big Agnes in general, so the Juel Vest was a welcome addition to my winter wardrobe. It's practical for both rugged outdoor pursuits as well as casual wear. I often forget I have it on (good excuse, eh?) and wear it throughout the day while working at my desk. The Juel's lightweight warmth and stylish good looks insure it will continue to be one of my favorite "go-to" articles of clothing for the foreseeable future!

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

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