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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Ground Radius > Owner Review by Richard Lyon
PERSONAL DETAILS AND BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 62 years old
I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do a week-long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit more weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect. Much of my winter outdoor activity is done on telemark skis.
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION and DETAILS
The Radius Jacket is a tricot-lined, waterproof/breathable hooded parka. Its manufacturer emphasizes its use for downhill skiing and snowboarding.
Manufacturer: Ground LLC
1. The following are listed on the website and included on my jacket: Stretch waterproof/breathable panels, abrasion patches, fully seam-taped, zip-off helmet-compatible hood, four-point hood adjustment, lower hand pockets, "lower back pocket/hood garage;" zip-off dual-position powder skirt, two inside pockets, brushed collar and chin guard, and one-handed pull-cord hem construction.
2. Now listed, but not included on mine, are removable pads, MP3 breast pocket with internal headphone port, and elastic headphone keepers.
3. Not listed but included on mine are two additional front pockets: a small one at the hem on the right for keys and a larger one inside the C-shaped graphic on the left. The latter is the largest of all the pockets on the jacket save the "hood garage."
The Radius has become my preferred jacket when skiing, whether inbounds at a ski area or touring in the backcountry. I've worn it when so engaged in Nelson, British Columbia; and Jackson and Grand Targhee, Wyoming in March 2007 and throughout last winter, and in Jackson, Grand Targhee, Alta, Utah, Yellowstone Park, Wyoming, and Bridger Bowl, Montana this past winter. Temperatures have ranged from -20 to 65 F (-29 to 18 C), in conditions ranging from cloudless blue skies to a white-out blizzard and dead calm to gale-force winds with blowing snow. Except for late spring days I wore the Radius over two upper body layers, a merino wool base layer and an intermediate- weight wool or down sweater.
Non-snow backpacking applications have included overnight hikes in southern Oklahoma and the Texas Hill Country in the early spring and late fall, under much milder conditions: temperatures 35 to 75 F (2 to 24 C), with an occasional shower but no sustained precipitation. I select the Radius for hikes when I plan to wear only a single upper body layer, usually a merino or cotton long sleeve shirt, during the day, so that I can use the jacket for warmth as well as rain protection. I'm somewhat cold-prone and normally don a jacket or sweater at rest stops even at moderate temperatures. If I don't expect the temperature to drop below 50 F (10 C) I figure I can leave a sweater at home and take the Radius instead of a sweater and rain shell.
I've also worn it on the spring and fall day hikes in the Rockies when I believe I need more insulation than my single-layer eVENT rain shell can provide. That's anything below 40 F (4 C). The most miserable day hike conditions (though not the coldest temperature) were on the Slough Creek trail in Yellowstone last October, amid freezing rain and blustery winds at 33 F (0.5 C). I was cold even with a down sweater underneath.
Fit. If my jacket is typical the Radius sizes run very large. My size Large is exceedingly large. I usually must choose between XL for a trimmer fit but sleeves slightly too short and XXL for sleeve coverage over my wrists but a blousier jacket. With the Radius, however; size Large fits really well at the sleeves, with a hem five or six inches (12-15 cm) below my waist, just as I prefer on a rain jacket. It fits perfectly over a mid-layer and base layer and is only a bit looser in the chest than I like.
eVENT. I bought the Radius because of its eVENT fabric shell. I've found eVENT to be absolutely the best for real breathability combined with total water repellency, and my experience with the Radius has confirmed both these views. This jacket is completely waterproof. Even with a second eVENT layer and a liner it breathes well too, though that may also be due in part to the venting options discussed below.
Features. Calling the Radius fully-featured is an understatement. I never thought I'd find a jacket with more pockets than I could use, but Ground has made one. At one time or another I've used each of the pockets, but even this kitchen-sink packer hasn't been able to make use of all at the same time. Yet the pocket design makes real sense when I wear this jacket for skiing; each pocket is particularly useful for a certain item. The hand warmer pockets sit between the sternum strap and hip belt of my pack and are easily usable without removing my pack. The small pocket at the hem is perfect for keys; it's zippered so that I can put the keys there when I begin the day and not worry about losing them. The inside pockets, just to the inside of the zipper at chest level, are good for a mobile phone, small camera, 0.7 liter/quart SIGG bottle, or similarly sized item that needs to be kept warm. The breast pocket, also easily accessible without removing my pack, is perfectly placed for sunscreen, lip gloss, and a snack bar. When the hood's not needed it fits nicely in the rear pocket ("hood garage"). This is a real plus for a skier who (like me) prefers a helmet to a hat. The powder skirt also fits in the garage, but, unlike the hood, I usually decide at the start of the day if I will need that feature and if not leave it at home or in the car.
The powder skirt does have two positions, achieved by means of snap closures. There are a pair of female snaps on the left and two pairs of male snaps on the right, one of them 1.4 in/3.5 cm to the right of the other. I can get a tighter fit by mating the female snaps to the inside pair of male snaps. I never noticed this feature until I began writing this Review, but it adds some functionality by allowing an adjustment to take account of the number and width of layers underneath. Meant, alas, for a slimmer wearer than this writer.
The bottom of this jacket may also be cinched up using a draw cord controlled by toggles at the left and right; on me these sit right at my side. As advertised these are easy to operate with one hand.
I like the fact that the hood and powder skirt – two things I find truly useful when backcountry skiing – easily zip off when not needed. I don't need the powder skirt for hiking and I can dispense with four ounces/113 grams by taking it off when ski season ends. My helmet often gives my head sufficient warmth and protection from the elements, but in really nasty weather I like to add another wind barrier. If the hood begins the day in a pocket it can't become covered in ice and snow when it's needed, as can happen if it's attached and lying unused across my back or on top of my pack. (A loose hood, I've learned, can work like an ice cream scoop in a fall in powder snow, and its inside can also become damp from falling or blowing snow that melts shortly after I put it on.)
The hood fits nicely over my helmet without impeding peripheral vision, and can be cinched down when the winter wind is really blowing. This is done using two small toggles on the inside of the hood at the collar that can often but not always be manipulated with one gloved finger each. Those are two of the four-point hood adjustment scheme. Another sits on the middle of the back of the hood: a third toggle and mating hook-and-loop strips. I've not needed these fine-tuning devices, and have occasionally found the hook-and-loop strip sewn to the hood to be a bit of a bother when a sunglasses or goggle strap snags on it. The fourth adjuster is shown in the photo at right. There are small hook-and-loop tabs on the outside of each corner of the hood. These can be affixed to mating strips inside a small flap adjacent to the top of zipper on each side, or pulled out for a bit more movement. When in the latter position the covered patch stays together by attaching to another hook-and-loop patch on the collar. This system is easy to operate and useful; when I'm wearing my helmet and have the hood attached but not in use I can take the tabs out of their slots to ensure the hood lies flat against my pack.
I make good use of the stretch waterproof/breathable panels in all seasons. At least I think I do, because I assume this term is marketing lingo for pit zips. (If you can call a pocket a hood garage, I guess you can call pit zips breathable panels.) The pit zips on the Radius differ in one respect from those on other jackets I've owned. Instead of running completely under the armpit, from the sleeve across the armpit to just below the armpit on the side of the chest, these start at the middle of the armpit and extend straight down my side. My skiing includes plenty of uphill hiking and traversing, even inbounds, and in the late winter/early spring conditions described above I need some means of regulating ventilation. With the tricot lining on the Radius, pit zips are absolutely necessary for my wearing this jacket hiking in any temperatures above freezing. The zips on the Radius are easy to operate one-handed without removing the jacket, and haven't yet stuck in the open position when I wanted them closed. I believe the different configuration makes them a bit easier to operate, and I have not noticed any difference in venting from this configuration.
All zippers are YKK brand and stout. The ones that I'm likely to adjust while wearing the jacket (main zipper and pockets) have fabric pulls for easy adjustment. The zippers for the hood and powder skirt don't, but don't need them. I normally use these zippers only at the beginning or end of a day and then can use two bare hands for opening or closing if necessary.
The brushed collar is smooth and warm, quite comfortable against my neck when I'm not wearing a neck gaiter.
Care. The eVENT tag that came with this jacket was headlined "Please Wash Me Often," and stated that this would preserve the fabric's waterproofing by removing surface soiling. I use a front-loading washer on delicate setting with non-detergent soap and cold water, followed by air drying on a hanger. The Radius gets a bath whenever I notice a fair amount of dirt or stains, or after several continuous days of backcountry use.
Even with all these pockets and features I don't think the Radius is over-engineered as a winter parka. There's a reason for each of the gadgets and gimmicks, and I've made use of almost all of them. I'm looking forward to many more days of good service from my Radius.
What I especially like
Removable hood and powder skirt
The tricot insulation. I appreciate it at all times when skiing and when backpacking in cooler temperatures. The fabric wicks so well that it's bearable even when the temperature's in the 60s F (up to about 20 C).
A pack rat's dream – ample pockets.
It looks great. I really like the asymmetrical color scheme and soft colors. I'm sorry Ground's new styling is more traditional.
What I don't
All those pockets and zippers do add weight. Not so important when I'm skiing but they make the Radius comparatively heavy as a backpacking jacket.
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