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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Red Ledge Mens Covert Fleece Vest > Ken Bigelow > Test Report by Ken Bigelow

RED LEDGE MEN'S COVERT ACTION FLEECE VEST
TEST SERIES BY KEN BIGELOW
March 13, 2007

TESTER INFORMATION:

NAME: Ken Bigelow
EMAIL: krb84108 (at) yahoo (dot) com
AGE: 28
LOCATION: Salt Lake City, Utah USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 215 lb (98 kg) @ Initial Report; 185 lb (84 kg) @ Long Term Report
NECK 18 in (46 cm)
CHEST 49 in (124 cm)
SLEEVE 36 in (91 cm)

My adventures vary in length from a weekend to over two weeks. I am slowly shifting my backpacking style to a lightweight approach. I recently upgraded to a hammock to reduce weight. From spring through fall I typically backpack in the mountains or desert, while in winter I often go snowshoeing. I typically see a wide variety of climates ranging from -5 F (-20 C) with snow to 90 F (32 C) and sunny with just about everything in between.


INITIAL REPORT
Red Ledge's Men's Action Covert Fleece Vest

Red Ledge Men's Covert Action Fleece Vest
Red Ledge Men's Covert Action Fleece Vest's Front & Back

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS:

Manufacturer: Red Ledge
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: www.redledge.com/
MSRP: $69.99 US
Listed Weight: 1 lb 1.1 oz (485 g)
Measured Weight: 15.6 oz (442 g)
Size Tested: XL (also available in sizes S-XXL)
Color Tested: Orion Blue/Concrete (other available colors are Black and Pine Tar/Black)

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION & INITIAL IMPRESSION:

The Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece Vest's exterior is fleece all around except for a softshell material that encompasses the top of the shoulders and the majority of the collar. There is also a 1¼ inch (3 cm) strip of the softshell material running behind the main zipper all the way from the collar to the bottom hem, presumably to keep the bad weather from entering through the zipper. Red Ledge's logo is on the left breast.

The interior of the vest has small squares (approximately an eighth of an inch x an eighth of and inch or 3 mm x 3 mm) of fleece protruding from the rest of the material giving the vest a "raised grid fleece backing" which, according to the manufacturer, improves "warm air movement". While wearing the fleece I have not yet noticed these square fleece extrusions and it feels like I'm wearing any other fleece product I've ever put on. I will keep an eye on this to see if that changes after wearing it a while.

The Collar Drawcord & Raised Grid Fleece Backing
The Collar Drawcord & Raised Grid Fleece Backing

The vest has three pockets, a left, right and Napoleon chest pocket on the left side near the main zipper. All the pockets have zippers with gray plastic pull-tabs. There is an adjustable drawcord on both the left and right flank of the vest just above the bottom hem. There is an additional drawcord on the back of the collar. The neck drawcord is covered with a 1¼ in x 2 in (3 cm x 5 cm) strip of the softshell fabric. Each drawcord has a black plastic pull-tab for ease of use.

The vest has a trim fit on me. It's not too snug, but does not hang loose with excess material. After trying it on I am unable to detect any hindrance in my arms' range of motion, but I will have to see if this holds true in the field as well before passing final judgment.

The stitching appears to be good and all the zippers and drawcords run smoothly. Hopefully they will continue to operate without any problems, but only time will tell for sure.

TESTING LOCATION:

I usually go hiking/snowshoeing or backpacking at least twice a month and will bring the vest on all of my trips. I expect to head down to the Southern Utah desert in November. I also have a Grand Canyon National Park trip planned in November and hope to see Zion National Park before the end of the year. I do tend to take spur of the moment trips (usually in the Wasatch or Uinta Mountains) and will almost certainly take one or more of them during the test period. The terrain will consist of snow covered trails, icy pathways, wet and muddy corridors, rocky terrain, dirt paths and even slickrock. Temperatures should range from 15 F (-9 C) to 60 F (16 C), but could easily be warmer or colder as fall temperatures frequently fluctuate all over the place. I will likely see all types of weather ranging from snow to sunny. The elevations experienced should be between 4,000 feet (1,200 m) and 10,000 feet (3,050 m).

TESTING STRATEGY:

Over the course of the test period I intend to test these features and answer the following questions about the vest:

Fit & Comfort - Is wearing the vest too confining or tight? Does the vest severely hinder the movement of my arms or upper body? Are the zippers (both main and pocket) easy to reach and operate while wearing the vest and can they be easily accessed while wearing gloves? Does the vest cover my waistline? Does it ride up while hiking with a pack on? Can I comfortably wear the a backpack in conjunction with the fleece vest? Will I be able to store my gloves/camera/Kleenex in the pockets? Is the vest comfortable to wear in general?

Performance - Does the fleece vest resist wind, rain or snow? Does the vest properly insulate in low temperatures? What is the approximate temperature range of the fleece vest? Does the vest insulate when wet? Do the zippers allow the wind and water to penetrate the vest? Will moisture collect at the hem? Is the vest breathable without having to unzip the front? Can I comfortably wear layers under or over the fleece vest? Will the vest's adjustability allow me to properly regulate temperatures? Will the fleece vest's performance justify carrying its weight?

Durability - Will the fabric rip or tear after four months of testing? Will the DWR finish deteriorate and require reapplying? Will the stitching hold up to testing? Will the zippers snag? Will odor build on the vest and have it hiking on its own? Does the shell or inner material pill? Is cleaning the vest easy to do or is special care required?



FIELD REPORT

Red Ledge's Men's Action Covert Fleece Vest

Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece Vest

FIELD LOCATIONS & CONDITIONS:

For the first two months of testing I have used the Covert Action Fleece Vest in the Wasatch Mountains, Uinta Mountains, Canyonlands National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, around Salt Lake City, Utah and Grand Junction, Colorado. Elevations have ranged from 2,600 ft (790 m) to 9,000 ft (2,700 m). Temperatures have varied from 13 F (-11 C) to 67 F (19 C). I have seen strong wind, light snow, light and heavy rain, a touch of hail, and skies with just about every degree of cloud cover. The terrain has included slickrock, sandy washes, rocky trails, muddy paths, snow covered corridors and icy trails.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD:

Through two months of testing I have worn the Covert Action Fleece Vest over a tee shirt, over a long sleeve shirt, under a down jacket and under a waterproof shell (or some combination of the mentioned items). The vest's fit works well for me. It's snug enough I can comfortably don jackets over the vest, yet it is not too tight to easily slide over my baselayers. I consider this an excellent item for my layering system.

The Covert Action Fleece Vest has a trim and athletic fit which initially worried me that it would be too tight or confining while in the field (as I cannot describe myself as either trim or athletic). After two months of testing I can safely put these worries to rest. My partner talked me into taking a shortcut back to the trailhead while backpacking in Zion National Park. This shortcut involved heading off one trail a bit and meeting up with another trail. This trailblazing required us to occasionally scramble, squeeze, hop and practice our limbo moves. I was able to accomplish all of the acts while wearing the fleece vest.

Zion was not the only place where I had to flex a little with the vest on. Descending down to a waterfall in the Grand Canyon forced me to squeeze my fat body through short rock tunnels and climb up and down a chain anchored to an almost vertical rock face. At no time have I been hindered from movement while wearing the Covert Action Fleece Vest.

I can comfortably hike in only the vest and a long sleeve shirt down to around 20 F (-7 C) before needing to add another layer. On the other end of the spectrum I can comfortably hike in the vest and a shirt up to approximately 50 F (10 C) at which point I need to unzip the vest. After about 60 F (16 C) I find the vest too warm to comfortably hike in. Overall I'd say I can adjust the vest to regulate my body temperature while hiking. I have had trouble zipping the neck all the way up. It tends to feel tight when completely zipped. My neck measurement is at the extreme end of Red Ledge's sizing chart for this size so I'm not too terribly surprised by the snug fit in this area.

Covert Action Fleece From the Behind
Covert Action Fleece Vest From Behind

The Covert Action Fleece Vest did an excellent job of protecting my upper body from strong winds in the Wasatch Mountains. I wore the vest on a day where the wind was strong enough to send the snot from my nose sideways as oppose to down toward the ground. The wind chill forced me to zip the vest all the way up and cinch it tight to my body in order to keep warm, but I did not need to pull out another layer as the vest kept me from becoming too uncomfortable (I should also note that wind did not infiltrate the vest through the zipper so kudos to the manufacturer). I did feel a substantial temperature difference between where the fleece covered my body and where it did not. I've noticed this same level of wind protection on multiple occasions and I am grateful the Covert Action Fleece Vest performs well in this area (as I would have had some extremely uncomfortable days hiking if it had performed poorly).

I had some minor hail and a light on again off again rain/snow mix on this trip. None of the precipitation ever penetrated through the vest (or its zipper) to wet the shirt I was wearing. On another trip I noticed that rain can get under the vest by running down the sides and back of the collar even when zipped up all the way. I believe wearing a brimmed hat would solve this problem, but on this particular trip I was only wearing my Buff on my head.

So far I have worn the vest in conjunction with a ULA Catalyst backpack, Imlay Canyon Gear Heaps backpack and a Camelbak Rim Runner daypack. All of the packs fit comfortably on the vest and I have not detected the vest riding up while hiking with any of the packs on. The vest covers my waistline while hiking or sitting and I find it very comfortable to wear on the trail, in camp, around town or at home.

On every trip I've carried gloves in the side pockets (when I'm not wearing them on my hands). I have also carried a small bag of Kleenex, my camera and my map at one time or another in the side pockets (as well as my wallet and keys around town). In the Napoleon pocket I've stored (not all simultaneously) Kleenex, lip balm, my camera, sunglasses, my hiking Buff, my cell phone and MP3 player (the latter two around town). I've never had any problems accessing any item that I've transported in the pockets. The pull tabs on the zippers make operating them easy (both with and without gloves on) and I am yet to experience any snag on the pocket zippers.

In addition to an article of clothing I have used the fleece vest as a pillow in the Grand Canyon and as a method of cleaning both my goggles (while snowshoeing) and my sunglasses. The vest was functional for these purposes so I consider it a versatile piece of equipment.



LONG TERM REPORT

Red Ledge's Men's Action Covert Fleece Vest

Red Ledge Men's Covert Action Fleece Vest

LONG TERM TEST LOCATIONS & CONDITIONS:

For the final two months of testing I have used the Red Ledge Men’s Covert Action Fleece Vest in Canyonlands National Park, the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains and the Southern Utah Desert (a.k.a. the middle of nowhere).  Temperatures have ranged from 5 F (-15 C) to 65 F (18 C).  The elevations have been between 4,000 ft (1,220 m) and 10,000 ft (3,050 m).  The terrain has included snow covered trails, icy pathways, wet and muddy corridors, rocky terrain, dirt paths and slickrock.

LONG TERM RESULTS:

After four months of testing I can say that the fleece vest exceeded my expectations at protecting against the elements.  While scrambling up to a rock shelf on my way to see some archaic rock art the wind (and occasionally gravity) pelted loose dirt, small rocks and sand into my face the entire way up.  I finally had to shield my face with my Buff [Cloth (pictured above covering the face) that can be worn in a variety of different capacities such as a hat, scarf, helmet liner, balaclava, wind/sun/dust screen, headband, etc.], but my body under the vest could not feel the wind or the blown debris at all.

Snow fell all day while I was snowshoeing in the Wasatch Mountains.  It started falling lightly in the morning, but was coming down hard by the time I reached the summit.  I was bushwhacking on a steep slope a good portion of the way up and had to focus on my footing and the slope. Two people had been seriously hurt in an avalanche the previous day not too far from where I was hiking so I was glad that the Covert Action Fleece Vest kept me relatively warm and dry so I did not lose my concentration in the more dangerous sections.

When I made it back to the trailhead the exterior of the fleece was completely wet.  My shirt (or more accurately the portion that had been covered by the vest), however, was dry and no moisture could be detected.  Throughout the entire day I was never very cold except at the summit where the wind was blowing extremely hard (and I about froze my arms off).  This experience has convinced me that the vest does an excellent job of insulating even when wet.

On a few occasions I have needed to cover the fleece vest with either a rain or a down jacket to stay comfortably warm.  In all cases my body was fine with the vest on, but my arms were freezing (as they are not protected by the vest).  This is in no way the fault of the vest as it is designed to be a vest (not a jacket) just a minor shortcoming of all vests in my opinion.

Due to some health issues I have inadvertently lost 30 lb (13.6 kg) of weight (if found please call me as I can't find it anywhere) since the beginning of the test (and no, I do not recommend the diet).  To maintain the Covert Action Fleece Vest’s trim fit I have had to cinch up the hem drawcord as much as possible, but I am impressed that the vest has been able to adapt to the change in weight (as most of my other clothes cannot).

The stitching has held up throughout testing and I can find no damage (ripping, tearing, etc.) on the vest whatsoever after four months of use.  The zippers still operate as well as the day I received the vest and I have never experienced any snagging problems at all. So far I have washed the Covert Action Fleece Vest four times and I am yet to notice any pilling.  I have followed the manufacturer’s instructions for laundering (machine wash cold, gentle cycle, mild detergent, tumble dry low) and have not used any special care in cleaning the garment.  I have been unable to remove a few minor blood stains, but it has been my experience that blood does not want to come out of any garment at all.  Odor buildup has not been a problem with this particular article of clothing and I have not yet needed DWR treatment on the material.

SUMMARY:

The Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece Vest has been a versatile piece in my layering system.  Its comfortable fit has allowed me to use it as both a mid and outer layer and I have had no problems adjusting it to fit me in a number of different environments.  It has served me not only as an article of clothing, but as a pillow and glass cleaner.  It met my expectations in resisting wind, rain and snow, but is still limited (as I believe all fleece vests are) in just how much it can insulate and resist moisture (as my arms are not protected in any way).

Things I like:

  • The vest has an overall comfortable fit
  • Adjustable to a number of different environments
  • Multifunctional
Things I do not like:

  • Moisture can get under the vest by running down the back and sides of the collar
  • The neck fits slightly tight
Thanks to Red Ledge and BackpackGearTest for allowing me to test the Red Ledge Men's Covert Action Fleece Jacket.


Read more reviews of Red Ledge gear
Read more gear reviews by Ken Bigelow

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Red Ledge Mens Covert Fleece Vest > Ken Bigelow > Test Report by Ken Bigelow



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