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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Red Ledge Phantom or Mirage > Test Report by Larry Kirschner

Red Ledge Phantom Softshell

TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER

Red Ledge Phantom


INITIAL REPORT - April 23, 2011
FIELD REPORT - August 14, 2011
LONG-TERM REPORT - October 29, 2011



TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Columbus, OH
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 205 lb (92 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do 8-10 weekend hikes per year, and have spent time over the past few years backpacking the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and canoeing the Canadian wilderness. I like to travel "in comfort", but I've shrunk to medium weight, and continue to work toward going lighter and longer. With all of my investment into these ventures, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…


INITIAL REPORT
April 23, 2011

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Red Ledge
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Country of Manufacture: China
Manufacturer's Website: www.redledge.com
MSRP: USD $159.99
Size Tested (Men's only): L
Color Tested: High Risk Red (Other colors may be available, but no information currently available)
Listed Weight: not provided
Measured Weight: 925 g (33 oz)



ITEM DESCRIPTION

The Red Ledge Phantom Softshell is a light-to-medium weight softshell jacket designed for outdoor activities. Although I am testing it as a backpacking jacket, a blog on the Red Ledge website shows it in use for skiing. Clearly, the jacket is designed for versatility. The Phantom is only produced in Men's sizes, although there is a corresponding Women's version, the Mirage.

The outer shell of the jacket is made from 92% nylon and 8% spandex. The shell back is 100% polyester, with 2 linings, one of 100% nylon and the other of 100% polyester. The overall fabric is described as "100% nylon dobby ripstop". The whole thing is laminated together to produce a "Waterproof/Breathable T-Core LX® laminate with DWR (durable water repellent) finish." In non-technical terms, the outside of the jacket has a soft, ripstop nylon texture.

Phantom exterior

The lining of the jacket is a black breathable nylon mesh. The seams are 100% taped to further ensure the water resistance of the jacket. In the version I am testing, the outside of the jacket is a stunning red color with the black-taped seams, creating a visually very stylish jacket. There is a small Red Ledge logo in silver on the front left hip of the jacket. The inside of the jacket is all black.

Phantom jacket empty


The Phantom has a bevy of features, which I will describe next.

First, it has a detachable mesh-lined hood. The hood attaches to the body of the jacket via a zipper across the back as well as two snap attachments at either end. Both the snaps and the zipper track are hidden beneath folds of fabric so that they are not visible when the hood is removed. The ends of the hood also tuck into this area when attached, which should prevent rain from getting inside the hood. The hood itself has a drawstring that can be cinched down to prevent the wind from blowing it off my head. It also has a slight bill to provide shelter from falling rain or snow.

Phantom hood

Next, the Phantom has a Polyurethane interior storm flap, which is 1.25 in/3.2 cm flap of fabric that sits behind the main zipper to prevent any wind/moisture from sneaking in through the zipper. I liken this to a draft tube in a sleeping bag. Similar thoughtful features are included to prevent wind/water from getting in through the bottom of the jacket. First, the jacket has a draw cord at the bottom hem, so that the hem can be snugged to my hips. Finally, there is a detachable powder skirt about 9 in/23 cm from the bottom hem. This is an extra strip of fabric that hangs about 5.5 in/14 cm down inside the jacket. It has a rubberized "gripper" hem at the bottom as well as 2 snaps that can be closed. When these are fastened, it seems quite unlikely that snow (or other stuff) would be able to get up through the bottom of the jacket. The powder skirt attaches with a zipper and is therefore removable. Red Ledge has thoughtfully provided a snap fastener on the inside of the coat to which the edges of the powder skirt could be attached when not in use.

Features to keep the water out

Third, the Phantom has pit zips for ventilation, which I think will be a handy feature when I am out exerting myself. The pit zips have bidirectional zippers with pulls on them for ease of use. The zipper length is 9.5 in/24 cm.

Phantom pits

Pockets: The Phantom has two regular pockets on its front. These have zipper closures with zipper pulls, which would make them easier to use while wearing gloves. The zipper length for these pockets is 6.25 in/16 cm. The lining of the pockets is the inside lining of the jacket, so that if the pockets were left open in the rain, water might get inside of the jacket. Guess I will need to keep them closed! There is also a Napoleon pocket on the upper left chest. The zipper measures at 6 in/15 cm and the pocket itself is 4.5 in/11.5 cm wide by 8.75 in/22.5 cm long. There is no inner opening in the pocket, so that if I were to put an mp3 player in the pocket, the earphone cord would need to run outside of the jacket.

Finally, the Phantom also has a number of interesting features that can be used to make it more resistant to getting snow and/or rain getting inside the jacket. First, the sleeves have an internal neoprene cuff, which is an extra layer of neoprene fabric around the ends of the sleeves to provide an extra waterproof barrier. To make the sleeves more watertight, the sleves also have an elasticized cuff just over 1 in/2.5 cm from the end of the sleeve. In that intervening space is an adjustable Velcro tab that can be used to wrap my wrist more tightly to block the entry of any water/moisture.

Phantom sleeve features




INSTRUCTIONS and WARRANTY

Washing instructions are provided on the jacket's hangtag. The instructions indicate that the jacket should be zipped up before washing. The Phantom can be machine washed cold on gentle cycle with a mild detergent and no bleach. It should be hung to dry. Ironing or dry cleaning is not recommended.

The hangtag accompanying the Phantom has the Red Ledge warrany, which indicates that the product is warranted to the original owner against defects in materials and workmanship for 3 years. The warranty offers repair or replacement at the manufacturer's discretion. If the user has substantially abused the jacket through accidents, improper care, etc. the warranty may be voided. Instructions on how to contact the company are provided on the hangtag, or can also be found on the customer service tab on the website.


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS and TRYING IT OUT

I had initially requested the XL size of the jacket, because I tend to run between L and XL depending on the cut of the item (my measurements are listed at the top of the report, although I have a reasonably broad frame). Unfortunately, the XL was just too big, and I felt like I was swimming in it. I telephoned customer service and it was fairly easy to arrange the exchange for the size L. When I asked about measurements for the jacket, the person to whom I spoke gave me the numbers from the catalog. Based on that information, it was clear that the L was the proper size for me. I went back and rechecked the Red Ledge website, but wasn't able to find any sizing information that would have helped guide me initially.

When I took the size L Phantom out of the box, the first thing that struck me was how sturdy the jacket was. It was heavier than I had expected, although a quick inspection showed that the weight came from its construction and features. The red outer shell is really snazzy and the ripstop nylon covering has a nice feel. When I put the jacket on for the first time, I was struck by how comfortable the inner lining felt against my skin. The jacket is plenty roomy through the middle and bottom areas, but I was concerned it might be a little snug across my chest and shoulders. The sleeves were definitely a much better length compared to the XL version.

Inspecting the jacket, everything seems to be well built. There are no loose threads or defects I can see. All the zippers slide freely, and it was easy to remove and replace both the hood and the powder skirt.

Since receiving it, I have worn the jacket 3 rainy days around town. (I was planning to go on a day hike prior to writing this IR, but the trip got cancelled in the face of flash flood warnings-yikes!). Anyway, I can report so far that the Phantom appears watertight, at least for the light-to-moderate rains so far. The full hood kept my noggin dry. It has been somewhat windy and cold, with temperatures around 50 F/10 C. This weather has given me the chance to zip the jacket all the way up to the top, and it feels warm and secure. It also seems to do a good job of blocking the wind, of which we have had plenty of late.


EXPECTATIONS for the Phantom:

Given the lack of available information about the Phantom, I was expecting a much lighter weight jacket. However, I am impressed with the construction and the fact that the fabric seems to offer a lot of breathability. I expect the Phantom to be both my rain jacket and warmth jacket on the trail in order to compensate for the fact that it is somewhat heavier than anticipated. I will also need a lot of breathability, so I will see how that goes as the weather starts to warm up in Ohio.


THE STORY SO FAR

    Impressive
  • Comfortable and sturdily built
  • Lots of good features
  • Very stylish (hey, that is important, too!)
    Concerns
  • It seems heavier than expected
  • Having sizing information available on the website would really be helpful
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FIELD REPORT

August 14, 2011


FIELD CONDITIONS

During the Field Report, I took the Phantom on three backpacking weekends. The first was in mid-May on the Zaleski Backpacking Trail in Glouster, Ohio. We covered 20 miles/32 km over 2-plus days of hiking. The temperature reached a high of 76 F (24.5 C) and a low of 62 F (16.5 C), and it rained Saturday afternoon during the last hour on the trail and into the evening.

Kirschner Jr relaxing under the rainfly
Kirschner Jr under the rainfly at Zaleski

I was out again on the Logan Trail the following weekend, when the weather was dry and a bit warmer, with a high of 81 F (27 C) and a nice overnight low of 51 F (10.5 C). We only did about 10 miles/16 km in total that weekend, just about all of it in one day of hiking. For the third trip, I was a little more exotic and travelled to the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia, where I again hiked about 20 miles/32 km over 2-plus days. The first day we were on the trail it reached a high of 77 F (25 C), but we were caught in a thunderstorm which lasted about 3 hours during the middle of the afternoon. The rest of the weekend was drier and warm enough that I didn't need the jacket.

In addition to the backpacking usage, I have also worn the Phantom three times while biking to work, which is a 7.5 mile/12 km commute. The first time I wore it, the temperatures were in the mid-50's (12-14 C) and I wore it for warmth. The other times it was mid-60's F (17-19 C) with a light to medium rain.

I have also worn in numerous times around town during the Field Testing phase, as it has been a rather wet and somewhat cool spring here in Columbus, Ohio.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

I normally despise getting rained on while backpacking because it is difficult to strike a good balance between staying dry and overheating. The Phantom does an excellent job in keeping me dry. The fabric is highly waterproof and the high collar and hood prevent rain from dripping into the coat and making me feel squishy on the inside. The tradeoff is that even though the fabric breathes, I typically found it necessary to open the pit zips to keep myself comfortably cool. When I did this, I found that a small amount of rain would come in through the openings created. There wasn't enough wetness to dissuade me from opening the zippers, but it was something I noticed. I do appreciate the fact that the Phantom has a nice lining, since this features makes the jacket more comfortable to wear than some of my other rain shells, which are unlined. This extra comfort was particularly noticeable when I was wearing my backpack, since I had a small layer of extra padding between my back and the straps.

Dolly Sods
Dolly Sods...before the rain hit

On both occasions when I hiked in the rain, I found that the inside of the jacket was somewhat damp after I took it off. I assume this was mostly from sweat (since I was hiking in a short-sleeved shirt), but there could also be a little bit of water coming through the fabric via osmosis. I found that I typically needed to invert the jacket and pull the sleeves inside-out to allow them to dry.

These findings on the trail echoed my experiences wearing the Phantom for biking. It is a great jacket for keeping me warm and blocking the wind, but I found I tended to get a little hot and preferred to open the pit zips. While biking I noticed that I was clearly unable to work the pit zippers with one hand, and needed to wait until I was stopped and use both hands to work the mechanism. The same was true on the trail, where it was difficult to open the zippers without stopping the hike.

Just about all of my usage of the Phantom has been without the detachable powder skirt, since I have not had any concerns about snow getting into my jacket!

When I am on the trail, I typically use my fleece for a pillow. Since I considered the Phantom as a warmth replacement for my fleece, I decided to use it on each of these trips as a pillow. Although it has more snaps and zippers than a fleece, I can report that it rolls up into a nice pillow. I did not have any sleeping problems when using it in this fashion, and in fact slept quite soundly.


WEAR AND TEAR

I have worn the Phantom a fair amount both on and off the trail during the Field Testing phase. I have not noticed any problems with wear and tear. It has been washed twice so far, again with no troubles. The buttons, snaps, and zippers remain in good working order.


FIELD IMPRESSIONS

To date, the Red Ledge Phantom has functioned extremely well in keeping me both warm and dry. It is lightweight enough to wear in the spring and summer, although I found that I did tend to heat up when performing strenuous activities such as backpacking or cycling when temperatures where above 70 F (21 C).

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LONG-TERM REPORT
October 29, 2011

FIELD CONDITIONS and EXPERIENCE

Over the past 2 months, I have worn the Phantom often, although not much on the trail. I had the opportunity to take it with me for a 12-day backpacking trip on the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico in late July/early August, but I decided to leave it at home because of the weight. As noted in my Initial Report, the Phantom weighs over 2 pounds, which is a lot of weight to carry around for almost 2 weeks, particularly when I could take a shell and a microfleece, which provides more flexibility at less weight.

Subsequent to that trip, I took the Phantom on a number of other jaunts that involved a substantial amount of walking, although no backpacking. The jacket has been with me on travels to San Francisco, California; Cleveland, Ohio; Providence, Rhode Island; and Chicago, Illinois, in addition to my home in Columbus, Ohio. Weather on my travels and at home has been very rainy over the past few months, so I have had plenty of experience wearing the jacket in wet weather. As this test has stretched from summer to fall, I have also worn in a wide variety of temperatures, anywhere from around 72 F (22 C) down to about 45 F (7 C).

Overall, I'd say I have worn the jacket 8 nights on the trail, another 3 days while cycling, and about 25-30 days for 'normal' usage. Although I was hesitant initially about wearing the jacket when temperatures were in the 60-70 F (18-22 C) range, it breathes well and does not make me overheat. Conversely, I have found that it keeps me plenty warm when temperatures are in the 40s F (5-8 C). If I paired the Phantom with a heavyweight fleece, I could easily see being comfy down to the 30's F (0 C). Part of the explanation for this observation lies in the fact that the Phantom does a good job with wind resistance. There is no feeling of wind through the jacket, and because of the storm flap lining the zipper, there is no draft in the front.

In addition to being wind resistant, the Phantom shines as a raincoat. I have worn it in during some serious rainstorms and stayed dry. This is also a combination of the fabric and the well-designed hood and high neck.

Lastly, it is worth pointing out that the Phantom is sturdily built. I have not only worn it a lot, but also packed it a lot. It's also been washed a few times, and looks as bright red as ever.


SUMMARY

Overall, I found the Red Ledge Phantom Jacket to be an excellent piece of gear. It is waterproof and windproof and reasonably warm. Because of the size and weight, it is probably too much for warm-weather camping; however, as the days start to turn cool and I will be wearing a jacket more than carrying one in my backpack, I will definitely make the Phantom part of my kit. I can also see myself continuing to use it for biking in the cooler weather and for skiing.

Things I liked about the Red Ledge Phantom Jacket:
  • Waterproof and windproof
  • Lining kept me warm and comfy
  • Roomy hood which keeps my head dry
  • Sturdy
Things I disliked about the Phantom:
  • Too heavy for the summer
  • Bulky

Thanks to Red Ledge for providing this awesome softshell jacket for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the chance to participate in the evaluation process.


-larry kirschner

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