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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Red Ledge Mens Covert Fleece Jacket > Andrew Buskov > Test Report by Andrew Buskov


Front of JacketRed Ledge Men's Covert Action Fleece Jacket

Andrew Buskov

Initial Report - November 22, 2006
Field Report - January 22, 2007
Long Term Report: March 25, 2007

Tester Biographical Information

Name: Andrew Buskov
Age: 31
Gender: Male
Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight: 218 lbs (99 kg)
Email: Rescue(at)Corridor9(dot)net
City, State Zip Madisonville, Kentucky  USA

Backpacking Background:

I started backpacking and quickly became hooked on the outdoors, hiking various environments from the green mountains of the Appalachians to the barren desert of Arizona. I enjoy the solitude of deep backcountry, and prefer colder weather but global warming is making that tougher all the time. I’m usually a moderate weight hiker, but as an Emergency Medical Technician I’m trained to be prepared, so my pack usually weighs between 30 to 40 lbs (13 and 18 kg) while soloing, to 60 lbs (27 kg) when leading. Information about the author can be found at http://www.corridor9.net.

Product Information:

Item: Red Ledge Men's Covert Action Fleece Jacket
Manufacturer: Red Ledge
Website http://redledge.com
Year of Manufacture: 2006
MSRP: $89.99
Actual Weight: 2XL /  1 lb 8 oz (.67 kg)
Listed Weight: Large /  1 lb 7 oz (.65 kg)
Colors: Black, Orion Blue / Concrete, Pine Tar / Black

Product Description:

The Covert Action Fleece is a light weight fleece jacket with many features. It incorporates a stretch woven softshell  with DWR and water resistant softshell  shoulders. It also includes drawcords around the neck and waist area to seal out the cold weather. Attached to the zipper pull is the Red Ledge informational tag for the Covert Fleece Jacket. It describes the fleece as having:
  • 350 gm smooth non-pill fleece
  • Raised grid fleece backing for improved air movement
  • Durable elastic softshell  shoulders with DWR
  • Two zip front hand warmer pockets for additional storage
  • Left chest Napoleon pocket
  • One hand adjustable drawcords at bottom hem
On the back of the informational tag is the warranty policy, the retail bar code, information on how to return the jacket to Red Ledge if needed, and their web site address.

Initial Impression:

Zipper This item arrived in good condition, complete, and very neatly packaged with tissue paper around all zipper areas wrapped inside a protective plastic bag. I removed the Covert Fleece, glanced at the informational tag, and slipped on this jacket over my GoLite DriMove top; a very thin polyester knit base layer shirt. I was surprised at how tight the Red Ledge Covert Fleece felt. I immediately removed the jacket, examined the sizing tag again, and pondered why an XL should feel so snug. Thinking that I may have somehow messed up the sizing in my application, I remeasured myself and found out that my size was the same as the application; 44 in (112 cm). As I like my clothing to be a bit loose, in addition to the fact that I wanted to wear this as more of a mid-layer item, I ordered an XL because the web page stated that an XL should fit 48-50 in (122-127 cm) chests. This was a big problem for me as the jacket fit more like a straitjacket than a mid-layer piece of clothing.

Drawcord After contacting the necessary people, I was directed to someone at Red Ledge who was able to help me with this sizing issue. She was very helpful and quick in solving my issue, and my dealings with Red Ledge customer service went exceptionally well.  Within 5 days, I received another jacket in size 2XL. Although 2XL is said to fit size 52-54 in (132-137 cm) I found that this jacket, while fitting much better than the XL, fit my 44 in (112 cm) chest nice. Not too lose or tight. The only thing that didn't fit like my other XL's were the sleeves. These were noticeably longer, approx 1 in (2.5 cm) longer by my measurements.

Zipper Tuck I found this jacket had no loose strings or stitching throughout and appeared to be very well constructed. The interior of the jacket was made of a waffle like raised fleece. I found that the raised fleece tended to bind with other materials. Because of this, whenever I put this jacket on over a long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt, I always found my shirt sleeves around my elbows. The only way to prevent this was to grip my shirt in my hands when donning the jacket. I was very pleased at how comfortable the interior of the jacket was on the bare skin on my arms though. The exterior of the jacket is composed of a softshell  material and fleece. Some of the features that are incorporated in this jacket are the drawcords at the neck and waist, snaps to hold the drawcords in place, three exterior pockets, and a flap around the zipper area to limit heat loss. I really like the fact that the zipper actually tucks up into a "pouch" when closed.

Testing Plan:

During the testing period, I plan on answering the following questions:
  • Comfort:  I am all about fleece for comfort! Wool tends to itch, cotton simply isn’t acceptable, and synthetics leave me feeling sticky. As with any piece of clothing, it must be comfortable. Will this jacket feel comfortable with a heavy pack riding on my back or will the seams tend to chafe as other fleece jackets I have do? How comfortable are the cuffs of the sleeves? Will they stretch out during washings or after being repeatedly pushed up my forearms? It’s typical for me to wear nothing more than a t-shirt under my fleece jacket. Will this jacket provide adequate warmth to allow me to wear in this fashion?
  • Function: One of the great things I love about fleece is its water resistance. Many times I’ve found the outside of my fleece jackets to be covered in beads of water from a light rain or dew while the inside of the jacket was nice and dry. Will this jacket perform in the same way? In addition, there are many times where the perspiration has caused the inside of my jackets to become damp. It’s times like this that I love the quick drying quality of fleece. I’ll simply wear the jacket inside out to allow the inside to dry a bit. Because this item employs a “raised grid fleece backing” it should have more surface area. Will this decrease the drying time or simply cause the garment to become damper without me noticing it? I understand that this item is said to be non-pilling. However, this is rarely the case after repeated washings, wear from backpack straps, and using as an inner layer with a heavy coat. Will this item truly be non-pilling?
  • Durability: I’m very hot natured and because of this my wife yells at me for constantly turning the thermostat in our house down to 65 F (36 C). It’s not uncommon for me to be out in a t-shirt with a fleece outer layer even in the coldest weather. Because of this, my fleece jackets tend to see the most use during the winter weather. I’ve had a few items tear or seams split while backpacking. Will this item hold up to the abuse it will see during the test period? I plan on wearing this item as much as possible to test this. This includes daily activities, not simply my hiking adventures.

I would like to thank Red Ledge and Backpackgeartest.org for allowing me to test this jacket.

Field Report - January 22, 2007

Field Locations:

I've tested this shirt in a number of locations throughout the Field Report phase. A good majority of my use has come from wearing this shirt around town where the elevation is roughly 460 ft (140 m) above sea level. This shirt has seen trail time during multiple two night trips and terrain ranging from elevations of 400 ft (122 m) to elevations above 6,640 ft (2024 m) where the weather ranged from 75 F (24 C) to 18 F (-8 C).  The Covert Fleece jacket has also seen wind conditions upwards of 25 mph (40 kph) where it was the outer layer.

Performance:

During the last two months, the Red Ledge Covert Fleece jacket has seen a great deal of use. I have grown to prefer this as my mid weight jacket when running around town and grab it before any other fleece jacket in my closet. While I appreciate the fact that the jacket was designed to fit snug, I was forced to go one size up from my usual (XL) in order to get the room to move that I crave in a mid weight jacket like this. The extra sizing allowed me to wear this jacket comfortably while wearing a pack on a recent week long trip, all the while without having any sort of blistering or chafing along the seam area.

Ripped SnapWhile the manufacturer claims that the waffle iron design on the interior of the jacket provides better warmth, the only thing that I encountered with the design was the discomfort in putting this jacket on. This is the first fleece jacket that I have worn that grabbed so much at the fabrics beneath it. The only time that I didn't have to hold long sleeve shirt cuffs in my palms when trying this on was with my GoLite DriMove Top. The fabric on the DriMove is so silky smooth that it allowed me to put on the jacket fairly easily. Every other shirt that I was wearing when I put on the Covert Fleece rode up my arms. It was typical for long sleeve cuffs to be above my elbows if I didn't hold them down. However, what surprised me was the fact that even short sleeves got pushed up. There was one time when I was wearing a short sleeve t-shirt and put on my jacket that the sleeves of the shirt actually ended up in my arm pits. It's quite frustrating and embarrassing to be forced to shake like a dog while trying to get the sleeves back to their regular position.

The drawcord pull that is pictured in the image above is entirely too small. I ended up ripping the retaining snap away from the shell during a windy spell when I tried to tighten the hem with gloves on. Even without gloves, the pull is extremely hard to grasp and doesn't seem to give the wearer enough leverage to adequately tighten the drawcord. I was extremely pleased with how well the drawcords kept the wind out though. During my trip to the Smoky Mountains, this jacket was the outer layer for most of the trip. This included times when the weather was 18 F (-8 C) and the wind was blowing rather hard. The only clothing I was forced to wear underneath was a wicking style shirt, and a fleece vest for added comfort.  Only once was I forced to put on an additional layer; when I was stopped for an hour waiting on my hiking partner. The entire rest of the trip I was only wearing a wicking style shirt, a fleece vest, and this Red Ledge Covert Fleece Jacket.

Washing was extremely easy as I was able to throw it in with a load of dark clothes on a gentle cycle. To this day, there are no rips, snags, seams coming loose, or loose threads throughout the entire jacket. The only item that is damaged is the retaining snap that holds the drawcord in place.

Summary:

I am very pleased with the quality of this jacket. At first I didn't think I would be able to wear this jacket in anything but mild weather. I was proven very wrong when it withstood colder temperatures than I would have thought possible. Any sort of mild exercise provided enough warmth to keep me from getting chilled. However, when I wear this around town I never feel too warm. Even if I do get a bit toasty, opening the zipper provides enough ventilation and allows me to regulate my body temperature easily. The fabric is comfortable on my skin and the jacket looks rather well on me. At this point I don't see any major problems with the jacket and look forward to having this in my closet for some time to come.


Long Term Report: March 25, 2007

Field Locations:

Small Drawcord PullI have continued to use the Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece jacket throughout the testing period on day hikes as well as trips around town. This test period the elevation has been relatively the same with the lowest being roughly 460 ft (140 m), and the highest elevation being around 595 ft (180 m). The temperature ranged from 75 F (24 C) to 18 F (-8 C) but I haven't seen much in the way of precipitation this phase. Over the entire testing period I have used this jacket more than 8 nights on backpacking trips and more than 2 dozen times on various outings around town and day hikes.

Performance:

I have simply grown to love this jacket, and now it is the first thing that I grab when I need a light to medium weight jacket. It has kept me warm on backpacking trips down below freezing, and protected me from windy blasts while running around town. It has held up quite well over the entire testing period. However, I have found a few problems during the last 2 months.

Interior Pocket AreaWhile the drawstring in the lower hem does a good initial job at keeping the cold out, I found the cord lock kept slipping throughout the day. This meant I was forced to tighten it just about every hour. While this wasn't a problem when wearing it throughout town, it was a bit of a hassle when I was wearing a pack. The strength of the cord locks just isn't enough to hold the drawcord taught for longer than 2-3 hours of constant movement. While I've finally mastered using the drawcord pull, using it continues to be a hassle due to the fact that it's so small. I can barely grip the pull enough to actually use it effectively, and using the drawcord pull with gloves is simply impossible. In addition, because the pull is so small, there is a lot of friction between my fingers and the drawcord making it that much harder to use.

Loose StringsThe interior of the jacket still bothers me on occasion, especially when I need to take the jacket on and off a number of times throughout the day. As I stated previously, long sleeve shirts tend to bind and ride up while donning the jacket. I have to hold the cuffs of any long sleeve shirt I wear to keep them from ending up around my biceps every time I put on the jacket. After a while, this is nothing more than a pain. While I understand the concept of trapping more air in the waffle fabric for increased warmth, the hassle outweighed the benefits in my mind. The interior material around the pocket area (gray in picture above) is smooth and silky though. I don't understand why this material isn't sewn into the sleeves to make it easier for clothing to slide against when donning and doffing the jacket. I believe this would do a lot to alleviate the problem based upon the way it slid against my clothing throughout the test.

Neither the outside fleece layer, nor the inside waffle layer has pilled any during the test period. To my surprise the area around the shoulders has held up exceptionally well even after heavy use with a backpack. None of the seams have begun to unravel, though there are a few loose strings in a couple of places on the jacket. This is something I expected though, especially after a season worth of heavy use.

Summary:

I am very pleased with the Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece jacket as it has met all my expectations for a light to mid-weight fleece jacket. It has kept me warm in the coldest of weather, and has kept me dry in both rainy and snowy conditions. I feel that the drawcord locks, as well as the drawcord pulls could both be improved so that they are easier to use. I also don't care for the interior waffle fabric and found it more of a hassle than a benefit. However, those factors aside, I would definitely recommend this jacket to anyone looking for warmth, style, and comfort in a fleece jacket. It is my honest opinion that finding another piece of fleece wear at this price with these options is going to be difficult at best. I see the Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece jacket being a primary piece of cold weather gear for many years to come.

Again, I'd like to express my thanks to both Red Ledge and BackpackGearTest for allowing the opportunity to participate in this test.



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