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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Red Ledge Phantom or Mirage > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Red Ledge Phantom Men's Softshell Jacket.
Test Report Series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: April 12, 2011
Field Report: August 15, 2011
Long Term Report: October 18, 2011
Front view of the Red Ledge Phantom Jacket
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing/kayaking and most other outdoor activities, but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
Warranty: The hangtag on the jacket basically states that all Red Ledge products are fully warranted to the original owner against defects in materials and workmanship for a full 3 years after the purchase date.
The Red Ledge Phantom is a men's jacket. A similar model called the Mirage is available for women. This jacket is new for 2011 and not listed on the Red Ledge website yet; however, the hang tag tells me the Phantom is made of:
The tag sewn inside the jacket also lists the materials the jacket is made of and differs slightly from what is listed on the hangtag. On the back of the same tag are the care instructions for the jacket. Here is a photo of both sides of the sewn on tag.
Care instructions and materials list according to sewn on tagThe hangtag list the following features:
My Initial Impressions
This is my first softshell jacket and it has been awhile since I checked any softshells out in a store. Anyways, going by the name "softshell", I was expecting it to be a little softer. That is not to say it feels hard or uncomfortable at all. The material reminds me of what I find on some car seats, not as slick as most nylon, but not textured like fleece. However, it is not stiff. In fact, it has a slightly stretchy feel to it. There is a small grid-like pattern visible on the red outer side of the jacket but the inside is black and the grid pattern looks smaller and is much less noticeable. However, the material seems laminated together because I can't pinch and separate the inner from the outer layer.
The hood on the Phantom is very nice. I like that it is detachable but made in such a way that it does not look detachable. It is a little big but does not restrict my forward vision. My side vision is also pretty good in the jacket but when I turn my head the hood does not turn completely so there is a little blockage of my view. I did try it with a ball cap on and found this pretty much solves that problem. I wear a ball cap most of the time when outside so hopefully I'll have one on when I need to deploy the hood. The hood also features a draw cord to cinch it around my face. There is a plastic-like barrel on each side of the hood that the cord passes through but no way to lock it. When pulled it does stay fairly tight, but not as tight as I might like in a blowing wind. At first I thought I might need to pull the two barrels toward each other and fasten them together somehow, but I'm not seeing how it would work. The photo on the left illustrates this barrel/cord arrangement. There is also a fleece-like material around the collar so whether the hood is removed or not, the jacket feels nice against my neck. The photo below of the back of the jacket shows how the hood is smoothly connected to the jacket.
Rear View of the Phantom JacketThe Phantom has pit zips under each arm. The total length is approximately 10 inches (25 cm) and half runs down the side of the jacket while the other half goes up the arm. The zipper is a two-way zipper.
Pit Zip on the PhantomI like the pockets on this jacket. The lower side pockets are what are sometimes called hand-warmer pockets. They are nice and roomy. The back side of all the pockets are made of some type of mesh material but the mesh is a very tight weave so even very small items should not slip through. They also all have zippers that appear to be waterproof so things can be secured and protected from rain if needed. The chest pocket (the napoleon pocket) is conveniently located to keep small items such as a camera or glasses handy.
The removable snap back powder skirt with elasticized gripper hem might seem like overkill to some but I know that when I'm riding my bike, especially my recumbent, cold air can sneak up inside my jacket from the bottom. This should be a good defense for this situation.
Removable snap back powder skirt with elasticized gripper hem. Also visible is the black
inner lining of the jacket as well as the mesh inner lining for the hand-warmer pockets.
As for looks, I am pleased with the Phantom. I'm more interested in performance, but a good looking jacket never hurts, especially if I need to wear it to town etc. The red color is bright but I like bright colors for better visibility when I'm riding my bike or hiking in the woods during hunting season.
The Phantom I'm testing is an XL. Before getting into how the jacket fits me, I have a 46 in (117 cm) chest and wear size 38 pants. I have what are considered broad shoulders. I'd say the XL Phantom is a tad on the snug side, but with the stretchy fabric, it does not feel too tight. However, I can't see wearing it over many layers, especially any thick layers. I think the fit on me is what is generally called an athletic fit. The sleeves are a little long but I usually run into the same thing with any XL garment. Fortunately, the ends of each sleeve are elasticized and have Velcro fasteners so they will not slide down in my way.
The jacket fits my chest and shoulders snugly but I don't feel any binding when reaching out or across my body. This is a pretty long jacket. I am considered long waisted and I find this jacket hangs down further than most jackets, but not quite as far as a parka would. Regardless, I like the length.
I'm excited to finally see what the buzz about softshells is all about. I mean, who wouldn't want a waterproof jacket that is comfortable, wind resistant and breathes extremely well, yet wears much quieter than most rain jackets. The Red Ledge Phantom appears to be an excellent candidate for my needs but testing will bear out whether it meets the challenge.
Test Locations and Conditions
I used the Red Ledge Phantom jacket early and often, which was a good thing because the last month and a half have been brutally hot, with temperatures at or near 100 F (38 C) and with heat indexes as high as 114 F (46 C). My coolest use was in mid April just a few weeks after getting the jacket. This use was on an early morning exercise hike and the temperature was 34 F (1 C) when I left the house. I did experience rain several times while testing the jacket. My testing was mostly around home on several bike rides and a few day hikes in the woods behind my house (the holler). I also wore it on a 40 mile (64 km) bike ride in Georgia in April and used it on a three-day canoe trip on Black Water Creek in southern Mississippi.
Field Testing Results
My first opportunity to use the Phantom was riding my bike to go weigh it it at the local post office. I left the house at 9 AM with a temperature of 48 F (9 C). I took my time going so as not to sweat inside the jacket and it took me 30 minutes to ride the 4 miles (6 km) up to the post office. I took the longer route home and still made it in 24 minutes. When I got home the temperature was 54 F (12 C). The jacket was just about perfect for these conditions but I did notice the jacket was slightly damp on the inside once I got home and took it off. It was perfectly dry when I took it off to weigh it at the post office.
I next used the jacket two days later for a 2 mile (3 km) walk with my dog. This hike was just a quick hike down to the holler and back, I left the house at 7 AM and was home by 8:30 AM. The temperature was 56 F (13 C) when I left and 60 F (16 C) when I got home. I carried a little water in a day pack that slings over my shoulder and did not sweat much if at all on the walk down to the creek, but I did have to remove the jacket shortly after starting up the steep climb headed back home. The Red Ledge Phantom jacket is not all that compact but I managed to cram it in my day pack for the hike back hone.
The next day I wore the jacket on a 40 mile (64 km) bike ride with some friends. We had to drive a little over 2 hours to reach the bike trail (The Silver Comet) in Rockmart Georgia and it was 54 F (12 C) when we started the ride at 9:10 AM. It was very windy and did not warm up a lot during the ride. I was still feeling poorly (asthma) so I took it easy for the first several miles. We stopped several times to take pictures and I kept the jacket on during the breaks. At the 20 mile (32 km) mark we took a longer break and ate a few snacks before heading back. I took the jacket off for the first time but after a few minutes I had it back on because it was still very windy and had only warmed up to 57 F (14 C). I kept kept the jacket on for the rest of the ride except for a short stop at mile 38 (61 km) when we went inside a restaurant for a late lunch. I was also sweating pretty good by now. We had met a couple of experienced bike riders at a rest stop about 5 miles (8 km) back up the trail and we left about a minute behind them. For some reason I decided to go catch them, I rode at about 20 mph (32 kmph) for a mile or so and was slowly gaining on them. But unbeknown to me, they took a side road we crossed, only I did not see them turn off. Then on the next long straight shot I noticed that I couldn't see them anymore. I thought, they must have seen me gaining and sped up? I rode hard for the next 4 miles (6 km) and maintained about 20 mph (32 kmph). I eased up when I saw I was near where we needed to stop for lunch to let the other guys I was riding with catch up. I took the jacket off and hung it wrong-side-out across the seat of my recumbent and could see steam coming up from it in the bright sunlight. I was pretty sweaty myself. I guess the point being, it handles normal sweat pretty well but not when I am working hard and sweat is rolling off my like raindrops. When the guys I was with caught up I told them I never did catch the roadies. Then we spotted them at a park bench near the restaurant and they told how they had taken the road back into town. After lunch I did not put the jacket back on so I got a little chilly on the last few miles back to the truck, mostly because I was still slightly wet from sweat from the hard riding I did a little earlier. Anyways, I put the jacket in my side pannier and it pretty much took up all the room in it. When we got back to the truck at 2:30 PM it had only warmed up to 61 F (16 C).
Jacket stored in my bike pannier
My next use saw the coolest temperature encountered so far. I was still feeling the effects of the ride the previous day but got up early to go for an exercise hike. Instead of going down the mountain, I followed the trail around the top of the bluff for a round trip total of 3 miles (5 km) hiking. The temperature was 34 F (1 C) when I left the house but it had warmed up to 40 F (4 C) by the time I got home nearly two hours later. I wore the jacket over a long sleeve thermal and was warm but never got sweaty for the entire hike. As a matter of fact, the temperatures on this hike were probably the most ideal conditions I encountered while wearing the jacket.
My next use was on April 27 as a rain jacket. This was the day we had 97 confirmed tornadoes in Alabama but my town was lucky and was missed by the worst of the storms. I left work in Guntersville at 6:20 AM about 15 minutes ahead of an F4 Fujita-rated tornado that did a lot of damage in Guntersville. It was pouring rain when I left work so I put on my jacket. I had a 20 minute drive home so just left the jacket on. It was a good thing I did because it was raining even harder when I got home. Anyways, it kept my torso and head dry going from the building at work to my truck and then from my truck to my house. I then kept it handy all day and wore it several times going back and forth to the different storm shelters in my neighborhood to tell everyone it was OK to come out. Our phone system was down and even our cell coverage was basically down that day or I would have just called. I stayed out on my front porch with my Walkman a lot during the day since we lost power at around 7 AM and I could not track the weather by TV. We did get power back for about 2 hours that afternoon but then it went off for good until late Friday evening.
My next use was on May the 3rd. It rained all day. The temperature was around 60 F (16 C) that morning but slowly cooled as the day went along. It was 51 F (11 C) at lunch time and 48 at (9 C) 3 PM. I mainly wore it just for quick trips out in the yard to check the mail etc. However, at around 2 PM I did wear it for a short walk across my neighbors pasture to see what his dogs were barking at. I was out about 45 minutes and the rain was a light drizzle but it was very windy so I got some rain in my face even with the hood on.
My next use was on May the 5th, when I went for an early morning 15 mile (24 km) bike ride. It was 44 F (7 C) when I left the house at 7:30 AM and 48 F (9 C) when I returned at 9 AM. This proved to be good weather for the jacket but I was sweating slightly by the end of the ride.
It warmed up a bit for the next few weeks but on May 16 it cooled back down. I got up and helped fix breakfast and then went for a short walk of about 2 miles (3 km) down to the swimming hole in the holler. It was 51 F (11 C) when I left the house at around 7 AM and 55 F (13 C) when I returned at around 9 AM.
After this hike it turned real hot and I just did not have any opportunities to wear the jacket. I did take it on a three-day paddle in mid July and it did rain a few times, but it was just too hot to use the Red Ledge Phantom as a rain jacket. I did use it as a cover over my gear in the canoe while paddling each day. It kept my gear reasonably dry during several brief rain showers. I thought I might need it to keep warm at night but it was almost to hot to sleep at all so it stayed in my hammock under my head every night. I think the low on both nights was around 77 F (25 C) but it was also very humid. Anyways, the jacket worked OK as a pillow but was nothing to write home about. However, we stopped several times each day to swim and just take it easy so I would dig out the jacket and used it to sit or lay on. In this photo I had actually gone to sleep and did not know anyone had taken the picture until I got home and got it in an email from the guy who took it.
using the Red Ledge Phantom for a quick mid-day nap
The Red Ledge Phantom seems like a really nice softshell jacket. I know it worked great at keeping me warm on several cool bike rides and exercise hikes. However, due to the warm and even hot weather, I don't think I got to test the jacket in ideal conditions. The jacket is holding up very nicely and looks remarkably new, but again, I have not been able to use it a whole lot since the weather turned so hot. Please stay tuned for my Long Term Report in approximately two months. Hopefully the weather will cool down a bit. I know I'm ready for some cooler weather.
Test Locations and Conditions
It started cooling down a little in September but was still a little warm to really need the Red Ledge Phantom. However, we had several big rains and I managed to use the jacket several times during brief outdoor uses. October saw much cooler weather and I managed to wear the jacket on several early morning mountain bike rides as well as on one overnight backpacking trip. The coolest temperature was on a 3 mile (5 km) mountain bike ride when the temperature was 48 F (9 C) at the start of the ride and 53 at the end of the ride an hour later. One 11 mile (18 km) ride saw a starting temperature of 51 F (11 C) and ended at around 70 F (21 C) some 4 hours later (I take a lot of breaks). I wore the jacket the first hour but had to take it off when it got up to around 60 F (16 C). On my overnight hiking trip I hiked in the dark for 1 mile (1.6 km). The temperature was mild at 63 F (17 C) and there was light drizzle as I hiked. It only cooled down to 60 F (16 C) by morning. I hiked 4 more miles (6 km) but it quickly warmed up and I did not need the jacket after the first mile (1.6 km) of hiking. Actually, I could have made it without wearing the Phantom at all, but it did feel good while I fixed breakfast and then stuck camp.
Long Term Test Results
The Red Ledge Phantom has proven to be a very versatile jacket. I wish temperatures had been a little cooler, but I found that by opening the pit zips early during a ride or hike I could manage my body temp fairly well. After warming up a little more I could unzip the front of the jacket and continue riding or hiking until I started sweating pretty vigorously. I would then pack the jacket away in my hydration pack or backpack.
I usually wore the jacket under my hydration pack while riding my bike and it worked great because I could later stuff it inside the pack. However, I recently went on a short 3 mile (5 km) ride without the hydration pack just to see if I could pack what I needed in the pockets of the jacket. Since I was never more than about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from home I did not take a spare inner tube or my pump but did take my cell phone, house keys, a 20 oz (0.6 L) water bottle and my camera. The phone and keys were kept in my lower left-hand pocket, my water bottle in the lower right-hand pocket and my camera in the upper chest pocket. I really did not notice the things in my lower pockets until I unzipped the jacket mid-ride. I had already drank some of the water and drunk some more while I was stopped. Anyways, I guess the now half empty bottle was just making some noise. The bottle was one of those very thin water bottles you get when you buy a case of store brand bottled waters. It really wasn't bothersome but I did notice the noise it as I continued my ride.
Waterproofness and Breathability
Since softshell jackets are touted as a waterproof and breathable I wanted to comment a little more on how I found the Phantom's performance in this regard. I wore the jacket with the hood deployed several time when it was pouring rain, but never for more than 20 minutes during said rain. These were short walks around the plant at work, in my yard at home or walking over to my dad's house nearby for lunch or to help him do something. On my hike in a light drizzle I also found the jacket was completely waterproof. I actually did not have the hood on during the hike. What I did find was that the Phantom is completely waterproof, at least for the time I spent wearing it in some very hard rains.
On the other hand, I wore it several times when it was not raining and did notice the inside of the jacket got pretty wet, depending on my level of exertion and the outside temperature. For example, it was actually a little warmer buy about 3 degrees F (2 C) on one ride. However, I kept the jacket on at least 30 minutes longer and did not sweat nearly as much on the ride with the warmer temperatures. The difference being, the time I wore the jacket longer, I was riding on a flat trail and my heart rate never got over 130 beats per minute. On the shorter but cooler ride I sweated a lot more and my heart rate was around 150 beats per minute several times throughout this ride. Here I am at the end of the shorter ride.
I dont sweat, I glisten....
I have no complaints as to the durability of the Red Ledge Phantom. The material was subjected to quite a bit of abrasion when hiking and riding the local trails I frequent. All zippers are still functioning great. I can't say how it would fair under heavy pack straps but I did ride several miles with a hydration pack that probably weighed 10 lb (5 kg) and the one hike was with a 30 lb (14 kg) pack.
The Red Ledge Phantom is a first class softshell at a fair price! Breathability is good, but not great, however, I have yet to find a truly waterproof garment that is. I do wish Red Ledge offered this jacket in a high visibility color since it is such a great jacket for bike riding. I want cars (the driver) to see me, and now that I have taken up mountain bike riding, hunters too. I say this going by the color choices we testers were offered at the beginning of the test. I still do not see the Phantom (or ladies Mirage) listed on the website. The Phantom is not the most packable jacket but this never was a strong point of softshell garments. Based on my experiences early on during my testing I feel it does offer a lot of warmth for its weight. I don't think I really got to test the lower temperature limits of the jacket but did find it was good for as low as 34 F (1 C) as long as I was moving and OK for mild exertion in temperatures as high as the mid 80s F (around 29 C). Of course at the warmest temperatures I wore it only for rain protection as I would not normally wear a jacket at these temperatures. In other words, the Phantom is a very versatile jacket, offering great protection from the elements over a wide range of temperatures while being very comfortable to wear. It is really hard to ask much more from a jacket. I foresee the Red Ledge Phantom becoming my go to jacket for a lot of my winter activities.
I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Red Ledge for the opportunity to test the Phantom Men's Softshell Jacket. I hope my findings are beneficial to all who read it.
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Read more gear reviews by Coy Ray Starnes
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