RED LEDGE PARABLE PARKA
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
May 17, 2009
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5' 9" (1.75 m)
145 lb (65.80 kg)
I have been hiking and camping for over 20 years and enjoy backpacking solo and with my kids in Scouting. I especially enjoy fall and winter backpacking and camping. My backpack and gear are older and weigh 40+ lbs (18 kg). This has limited the distances I have been able to cover while hiking. My goal over the next several years is to replace my existing clothing and gear with more suitable and lighter weight alternatives.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Red Ledge
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: Red Ledge
MSRP: US $189.99
Size Tested: Medium
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 2 lb 5 oz (1 kg)
Color Tested: Navy
Other details provided by Manufacturer:
Fabric Lamination: Waterproof / Breathable T-Core LX laminate with DWR finish.
Seams: 100% taped seams.
Premier Fabric: 100% nylon full dull twill.
Collateral Fabric: 100% nylon dobby ripstop.
Insulation: Texpedition Insulation
Detachable full-featured hood.
Exterior storm flap.
Pit zips for ventilation.
Two chest storage pockets with waterproof zip closures.
Two recycled fleece lined lower pockets with zip closures.
Elasticized cuffs with adjustable Velcro closures.
Drawcord at bottom hem.
Internal zip pocket.
Powder skirt with elasticized gripper hem.
Center back length: 30" (large).
Care instructions on jacket tag: Machine wash cold on gentle cycle with mild detergent. Do not bleach. Tumble dry low, do not iron and do not dry clean.
The Red Ledge Parable Parka is a waterproof / breathable insulated jacket. It utilizes a ripstop nylon fabric for its shell material along with synthetic insulation for warmth. Waterproofing and breathability are accomplished through the use of T-Core lamination which includes a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. The lamination process reduces the pores in the shell material so that water molecules physically cannot enter through the spaces in the fabric. The jacket remains breathable because water vapor molecules (gas) are smaller than water molecules (liquid) and are therefore able to exit through these same holes. There are a number of seams on the jacket. All seams are taped or glued to prevent water permeation.
The jacket lining is constructed of 100% polyester from the shoulders down to the waist. The sleeves, lower waist and neck area are lined with 100% nylon. There is a small hang loop inside the jacket just above the manufacturer's LOGO at the base of the neck. A tag below the logo provides details on the materials used to construct the jacket and there are instructions on the back of the tag for washing and drying.
A storm flap covers the main front zipper and is secured by four hook and loop sections and two snaps which are located on the top and bottom of the jacket. The storm flap is provided as a draft stop and to prevent water from entering the zipper which is not waterproof. The top 6 inches (15 cm) of the zipper are backed by a fleece lined interior flap. This flap prevents the zipper from rubbing against one's neck or face when the jacket is zipped up completely.
|Fleece lined zipper flap|
There are a total of five pockets throughout the jacket. The two lower hand pockets measure 6 inches (15 cm) in length and are fleece lined with zip closures. These zippers are protected with a storm flap. The two upper chest pockets measure 7.5 inches (19 cm) in length and 5 inches (13 cm) deep. The zippers for these chest pockets are waterproof and the pockets are lined with nylon. A fifth chest pocket is located inside the jacket and measures 7 inches (18 cm) long by 4 inches (10 cm) deep. This pocket is also nylon lined.
This jacket has waterproof pit zips to allow for better regulation of body heat when perspiring. These pit zips are 10 inches (25 cm) in length and have two waterproof zippers for adjustability. All of the zippers on the jacket have nylon pull cords with nifty end coverings for better grip when wearing gloves.
|Underarm pit zips|
The hood has a draw cord sewn into it to allow for adjusting its size. The draw cord is held in position by a rubber grommet which allows for one-handed operation. It is secured to the jacket via a zipper in the back and hook and loop sections on the sides. The hood is lined with polyester.
|Jacket hood and polyester lining|
The cuffs are elastic and have Velcro closures to keep them snug.
This jacket has a piece of nylon fabric 8 inches (20 cm) long with an elastic waist band that is sewn into the interior of the waist area. It is called a powder skirt and it functions similarly to gaiters for your feet in that it keeps wind, snow, rain etc from entering the jacket. The skirt is secured with two snaps and a hook and loop closure. The bottom of the jacket also features a draw cord with two cord locks to adjust fit around the waist.
I have had several opportunities to test this jacket so far. I have been hiking several times over the holidays and went camping with it this weekend. Conditions here have ranged from 20 degrees F (-6 C) to 45 degrees F (7 C).
As clothing sizes can vary significantly from company to company, I was initially concerned with the lack of a sizing chart on the manufacturer's website. However the lady I spoke to at Red Ledge was very helpful in providing sizing information when I contacted them for measurements. I ordered a size Medium and I am pleased with the fit. The jacket is well cut to allow for a base layer underneath and the sleeves are the perfect length for my arms. I have good visibility with the hood tightened and room for a hat underneath if needed.
FABRIC: The exterior of the jacket is made from 100% nylon with a waterproof laminate. It is relatively soft and drapes well when compared to 3 layer Gore-tex XCR which is stiffer and also noisier when moving. A few days ago I was caught in a downpour for several minutes and water beaded up nicely and ran off. No water soaked into the jacket and the insulation remained totally dry. Over the next few months I will do further testing to see just how waterproof and breathable the jacket is in more extreme conditions. The insulation has kept me warm during moderate activity in 30 degree weather with only a base layer underneath. Part of my long term testing will be to see how well this jacket breathes when I am exerting myself.
CONSTRUCTION: The jacket appears to be very well made and has no loose threads or stitches. All of the seams are covered with waterproof tape or glue.
ZIPPERS: The main front zipper on this jacket is difficult to get started. I will monitor this situation and report more on it after further testing. Hopefully with use, this zipper will become easier to operate. All of the other zippers work fine. The waterproof zippers are stiff which is to be expected. I will see if the stiffness eases up after continued use.
POCKETS: The four front pockets are great. There is plenty of room for a hat, wallet or other items. I am curious if the hand pockets are located high enough to avoid the waist belt on a backpack. I will report later on how well they function while wearing a pack. The fleece lining in the hand pockets is a very nice feature.
HOOD: I really like the hood. It fits well and is adjustable with one hand. A quick pull on the elastic cord brings the sides of the hood around my face and an adjustment to the Velcro tab pulls the brim up out of my eyes.
VENTILATION: The jacket has good sized 10 in (25 cm) pit zips to allow for ventilation under the arms. I intend to see how well these vents work during further testing.
CUFFS: The cuffs have both elastic and Velcro closures for adjustment. They offer plenty of room when open and they close up nicely when needed.
This seems to be a well thought out jacket with a lot of convenient features. The front zipper is protected with a storm flap and a fleece covering prevents the top of the zipper from rubbing against my neck and face. The hand pockets are lined with fleece fabric that will help keep my hands warm in cold weather. The hood is a good size for my head and provides adequate room for a hat. A convenient draw cord is sewn into it for adjustability. In addition to the hood adjustments, there are a number of other areas that can be tightened up for a closer fit and to keep wind and water out. The interior powder skirt should cut down on any drafts in cold windy weather. The bottom of the jacket has a draw cord with cord locks that can be adjusted for a closer fit. And finally, the cuffs have both elastic and Velcro closures to keep them snug.
Another nice feature of this jacket is that the zippers are tethered with nylon grips to make it easy to operate them with gloves. Regarding workmanship, I couldn't find any flaws or loose threads on this jacket.
There are a lot of seams on this jacket and so I am glad that all of the seams are factory sealed. From what I can tell, Red Ledge makes a well constructed jacket.
This concludes my Initial Report for the Red Ledge Parable jacket. I will post a field report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information. I would like to thank Red Ledge and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test the Parable jacket.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
The past few months provided many opportunities to test the Red Ledge Parable Jacket. Testing has taken place in central and southern Indiana in several local and state parks. The elevation ranged from around 750 to 932 ft (228 to 284 m). Testing occurred in cold, winter conditions with temperatures ranging from 18 to 38 F (-8 to 3 C). Weather conditions have ranged from rain and snow to clear and breezy. I wore this jacket for camping, shoveling snow and walking the dog as well as casual wear around town. The jacket has also been used while hiking and on several backpacking trips from day trips to longer weekend trips. The details of three trips are highlighted below:
Trip One: (2 days, 2 nights) Hiking and camping in Southern Indiana
Weather: Cold (18 to 35 F / -8 to 1 C) and windy (22 mph / 35 kph)
Elevation: 932 ft (284 m)
Use: This trip involved hiking on hilly terrain for several miles, and then lounging and camping out on a hill side.
Brief Comments: I wore the jacket during my entire hike and did not get sweaty.
Trip Two: (2 days, 1 night) Hiking and camping in Southern Indiana
Weather: Cold (24 F / -4 C) and snowy
Elevation: 920 ft (280 m)
Use: This trip involved bushwhacking into my campsite, and then sitting around a campfire at night.
Brief Comments: This was a beautiful winter day. The jacket kept me warm and dry while backpacking.
Trip Three: (2 days, 1 night) Hiking and camping at a Webelos Adventure Camp
Weather: Cold (11 F / -12 C) and snowy
Use: On this trip, I hiked through the camp during the day, setup camp, and hiked again at night.
Brief Comments: It was cold and windy but the jacket insulated me from the elements.
In addition to the activities above, I have taken several day hikes in Ohio and Wisconsin. These hikes have been 3-5 miles (5-8 km) in length with temperatures averaging 35 to 40 F (2 to 4 C). Conditions were generally clear or slightly overcast. The terrain was wooded, with a few small hills and elevations around 640 ft (195 m).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I have been very pleased with the performance of the Red Ledge Parable Parka and enjoy wearing it on backpacking trips as well as around town. It has performed well in a variety of situations and is quickly earning a place as my go-to winter jacket.
It has proven just right for me during all types of winter weather. While wearing this jacket I've experienced a multitude of weather ranging from cold dry days to stormy conditions with freezing rain; this jacket has seen its fair share of winter weather. Through it all, it has proved to be a vital piece of equipment for my winter journeys.
Depending on layering, this jacket has been comfortable over a wide range of temperatures. My typical layering combination is the jacket worn over a midweight synthetic long-sleeve top and lightweight vest. This combination breathes well and is comfortable while hiking strenuously in temperatures between 20-40 F (-6 to 4 C). In warmer temperatures, unzipping the jacket and pit zips kept me from sweating. Above 40 F (4 C) the jacket is just too warm to wear while hiking although it still works great for lounging around camp. During periods of inactivity such as hanging around camp, the jacket was comfortable down to about 28 F (-2 C). This jacket has effectively replaced my heavyweight fleece jacket and Gore-tex shell. The warmth-to-weight ratio is exceptional for a jacket weighing 2.3 lb (1 kg).
Warmth: Prior to this test, I employed a 3-layer clothing system which consisted of a long-sleeve synthetic base layer, a heavy fleece jacket and separate Gore-tex shell. This jacket weighs significantly less than the combined weight of my fleece jacket and outer shell (as noted above) and does a great job of trapping body heat and extending my comfort range in cold temperatures. I can keep additional body heat contained by zipping up the collar around my neck and wearing the hood.
During my field testing, this jacket provided warmth in all the right places. At no time did I feel that my torso was significantly warmer than my arms or vice versa. In addition, the jacket retained my body heat very well, even during standing periods when the temps were in the upper 20's F (-3 C). There were no cool spots, and I was easily able to regulate body temperature with just the front zipper. Having the large, insulated pockets was wonderful for stuffing my cold hands during various times throughout the day, as well as storing items to prevent freezing or that I needed for immediate use.
During hikes where I encountered temperatures above 40F (10 C) or higher, I found that this jacket was too warm to hike in. This was not something unexpected at those temperatures. On the other extreme, I had the chance to hike in the jacket in 12 F (-12 C) weather and found that I was cold and needed an additional layer for warmth. Around camp, the jacket kept me warm throughout most evenings. If I started feeling chilled, I scampered closer to the fire or simply retired for the night.
Weather Resistance: The jacket was easily able to stand up to all weather that I threw at it. First of all, it did a great job of blocking the wind. I was very thankful for this when hiking in temperatures of 20F (-7 C) and the wind would kick up. I could really feel the cold where I had exposed skin on my face but my torso and arms felt fine.
The high collar is a nice feature. I went on several windy hikes and it was nice to be able to zip the collar all the way up so that my chin was in the soft fleece to block the wind. Another feature of the jacket that I am particularly impressed with is the powder skirt. I mentioned this feature in my initial review, and it proved itself very effective at stopping any drafts from coming up from the bottom of the jacket.
In addition to wind protection, the jacket did a great job of shedding snow and rain. Snow that did accumulate on the jacket melted, rolled off or evaporated. I walked one afternoon in freezing rain. I was sure that the insulation would wet out at some point, or that I would see moisture coming through the seams, but at no time did I see either during this test period. Water beaded up and dripped off the jacket during the rainy weather. Even the freezing rain and snow fell off the parka.
Ventilation / breathability: I've enjoyed the versatility of this jacket. It allows me to zip open the chest area for ventilation as needed and to zip it closed for maximum warmth in chilly breezes. The pit zips provide a great way to vent body heat and moisture from this jacket. This has been a benefit during high energy activities such as backpacking, setting up camp and hauling firewood. Because the jacket also breathes well, I rarely generate enough heat to sweat. While hiking, I never felt any condensation build up despite quick climbing and strenuous activities. When the shell did get wet, the jacket still felt reasonably warm and seemed to dry quickly.
Comfort and fit: This jacket is soft and very comfortable to wear. It was easy to put on over my base layer. However, I wish there was a little extra room in the arm pit area for times when I would like to wear additional clothing underneath the jacket. As it stands, I am able to move my arms around easily while wearing the jacket over a base layer and vest but I cannot add my mid-layer fleece jacket. The collar area is comfortable whether zipped or unzipped, and I have not had any trouble with the zipper poking me in the chin. The chest and waist area fit comfortably, and I have not noticed any rubbing or chafing of the seams against my hands or face.
The smooth interior surface of the jacket sleeves allow them to slide easily over my base layers. There is never any bunching or grabbing like fleece has a tendency to do.
My only complaint is that the front zipper remains hard to get started. I will continue to monitor this during my long term testing to see if it loosens up.
Durability: So far I have had no problems with durability. The seams are tight and the material edges have not frayed. There is no deterioration of the fabric or any loose threads or pilling. The stitching and workmanship are still fine. In addition, this jacket has shown no signs of fading or other color changes. It cleans well, dries quickly after laundering and does not appear to shrink.
While backpacking off-trail there were plenty of opportunities for the jacket to get torn on briars, tree branches or rocks. Luckily I have yet to snag the fabric or tear a seam. The jacket shows no sign of wear from any of my adventures. The hook and loop cuffs, hem toggles, and zippers still operate as they did when the jacket was brand new.
Features: The jacket seems to be well thought out and has performed well over the past couple of months. I have found the pockets to be very useful. The external pockets are in easy-to-access locations and are large enough to hold a variety of items. The hand warmer pockets are an especially cozy place for my hands in between tasks for which I need to remove my gloves. I have mainly used the chest pockets to carry my winter survival kit, matches and sunglasses. The inner chest pocket is also zippered and has been a perfect place to stash my car keys and ID on all of my trips.
The Red Ledge Parable Parka is a well-designed, well-constructed jacket suitable for winter conditions while backpacking and camping. It is usable over a wide range of temperatures and conditions. It is warm and comfortable when the temperatures drop and provides excellent protection from wind and rain while remaining adequately comfortable. It breathes well and dries quickly. The fabric is durable and after several months of use it looks brand new. It has a simple clean design that looks as good on top of a mountain as around town. It exhibits an attention to detail that is apparent and appreciated every time I put it on. Everything seems to have been well thought out. During many of my backcountry outings, I have also used the jacket as a pillow to cushion my head while sleeping. I just laid the jacket loosely underneath my sleeping bag.
Thanks to Red Ledge and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this jacket.
This concludes my Field Report. I will add my Long-Term Report to this report in approximately two months. Please check back then for my further information.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
The past few months provided several good opportunities to further test this jacket. The details of two trips are highlighted below.
My first outing during this test phase was a ten mile weekend trip to Southern Indiana. I spent the better part of two days hiking and bushwhacking in hilly and wooded terrain. Both nights were spent tent camping in the woods. Temperatures during this weekend period ranged from 28 F to 45 F (-2 C to 7 C). When I arrived at camp the first evening, the weather was clear and mild with hardly any breeze. I wore the jacket with a long-sleeve base layer underneath and it did a great job keeping me warm while pitching my tent and gathering firewood for the night. Although the temperature dropped substantially once the sun set, I still felt very comfortable in the jacket and stayed up late that night enjoying the stars. The following morning was quite chilly since there was no cloud cover during the night. When I awoke there were ice crystals on my tent and sleeping bag. I donned both a base-layer and mid-layer shirt before putting on the jacket and climbing out of my tent. Once again the jacket kept me comfortably warm while packing my gear for the next leg on my journey. I hiked all morning wearing the jacket but, as the day wore on and the sun heated things up, it simply became too warm to keep wearing the jacket. I packed it in my backpack and did not wear it again until evening.
On the second day things got interesting as the wind picked up substantially and the sky quickly clouded over. By late afternoon it was raining sideways and the sky looked ominous. Although these were not ideal conditions for backpacking, I still had an hour or so of hiking back to my car and this was the perfect chance to complete my testing of this jacket in order to finally answer some unresolved questions. With hood up, I pressed on. For the most part, the jacket kept the rain off me and shielded me from the wind. With about 20 minutes to go, the skies opened up and my methodical pace turned into hurried steps as my lack of confidence in my old backpack quickly superseded any reservations about the waterproofness of this jacket.
My next trip was to Southeastern Indiana with the second day being at Bear Creek Scout Camp. My son and his Boy Scout troop were there to work on their Orienteering Merit Badge. Daytime temperatures approached 43 F (6 C) and the sun appeared for awhile, although the wind was quite gusty and it ended up drizzling later in the day. My main goal during this trip was to test the breathability of this jacket. A great opportunity to do this presented itself when several dads decided to find the Orienteering markers that were placed throughout the campground. I ended up hiking most of the afternoon (approximately 6 miles), first with the dads and later with the boys, at a pretty good pace. I kept the jacket's pit zips opened the entire time and twice unzipped the jacket completely to let out excess heat. It was during these times that I was reminded how difficult the zipper was to operate. For the most part, the jacket did a great job of breathing and releasing perspiration. My underarms were slightly damp but the jacket did not seem to absorb any moisture. Unfortunately I had to cut the trip short that night as my son got sick.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Red Ledge Parable Parka continues to perform very well. I have not had any major problems with it since my last report. Regarding durability, it has held up well and looks almost as it did when it arrived. Since the outer shell is made of a lightweight nylon fabric, I am always careful when venturing off-trail. However, after many hours trudging past briars and low hanging tree branches, the jacket has no snags, rips or tears. I have not had any problems with the seams or wearing of the fabric and none of the threads have come loose. The synthetic insulation is still evenly distributed despite being compressed in my pack and used as a pillow. One small annoyance, as noted in my Field Report, is that I continue to have problems with the front zipper as it is difficult to get started.
The jacket is plenty warm with a base layer for active winter use and, in colder weather, it works well as the outer layer in a multi-layer system. The pit zips are a great feature and have come in handy many times. They allowed me to exhaust excess heat and helped prevent sweaty underarms during high exertion activities.
One of my primary interests in the Long Term portion of the test was continued testing of the jacket's T-Core Laminate and DWR finish. My experience with some rain jackets is that the laminate breaks down and deteriorates over time and/or the waterproof coating wears off. Either of these conditions can result in a jacket that is no longer waterproof. I am happy to report that despite months of testing in snow and heavy rains, the Red Ledge Parable Parka has yet to leak. Rain beads up and rolls off the fabric and the outer shell has shown no signs of wetting out. Once the rain stops, the jacket dries very quickly.
The Red Ledge Parable Parka has been a favorite of mine this winter and spring and it will see renewed use this fall when temperatures drop. It is lightweight and yet it provides great warmth and comfort. It has done a great job of blocking wind and keeping out rain. It has kept me warm on cold, windy days and has kept me dry during downpours. After countless hours bushwhacking, the shell is still in wonderful shape. The hook and loop straps still work well and the cords and seams are still in good condition. My one complaint is the fussy main zipper that makes donning the jacket challenging. I have always been able to get it zipped eventually but only after three or four tries fiddling with it. Finally, this jacket does a good job wicking moisture and throughout my testing it never held any odors. It has become the first item I reach for when going outside in cold weather.
The Red Ledge Parable Parka has earned a permanent spot in my cold weather arsenal. I will continue to use it as my primary winter jacket for all outdoor activities.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
I'd like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Red Ledge for letting me participate in this test.
Read more gear reviews by Brian Hartman