RED LEDGE COVERT ACTION FLEECE JACKET
TEST SERIES BY AMANDA TIKKANEN
March 21, 2007
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amanda AT uberpest DOT com
LaGrange, Indiana, USA
5' 4" (1.63 m)
135 lb (61.20 kg)
17.5" (44.5 cm)
36" (91.5 cm)
I have been hiking and backpacking since the spring of 2000 throughout Michigan and Indiana, covering several hundred miles, always with a dog by my side. Beau has been happily carrying a pack since 2002. Before Beau I hiked with Lucy, who is now retired. I document our adventures and misadventures on my website, www.uberpest.com.
My style of backpacking is moving from overnights to long distance hiking, including multi-day trips. Even though I have Beau with me, I'm usually the solo human on the trek, so I like to go as light as possible while still being comfortable.
Manufacturer: Red Ledge
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: www.redledge.com
MSRP: US $89.99
Listed Weight: 1 lb 4oz (.57 kg)
Measured Weight: 1 lb 2 oz ( .45 kg)
Color: Black with gray interior
Materials: (From the Manufacturer)
"Shell: 350gm smooth non-pill fleece with raised grid fleece backing for improved warm air movement.
Reinforcement: Stretch woven softshell with DWR and raised grid fleece backing for improved warm air movement. "
Warranty: (From the jacket's hang tag) "All Red Ledge products are fully warranted to the original owner against defects in material and workmanship. If a product fails due to a manufacturing defect, we will repair or replace it at our option.
"This warranty does not apply to products we deem have been damaged by improper care, negligence, or natural breakdown of materials over extended time and use."
The Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece Jacket arrived with minimal packaging--a simple hangtag. The hang tag indicates this jacket is part of Red Ledge's "Thermal Layering" system, lists the materials and construction of the jacket, a short slogan, and the company's warranty.
The Covert Action Fleece jacket is a hoodless softshell jacket. The body of the jacket is made of a super soft fleece with certain areas--the shoulders and forearms--covered with an elastic fabric for, according to the manufacturer, added durability. YKK zippers are used throughout. A one-way plastic toothed (not self-repairing) zipper runs the entire length of the front with elasticised drawcords at both the hem and the neck. Inside the main zipper is a storm flap. The jacket sports three pockets-- two "slash" handwarmers and one more at the left breast which is called a Napoleon pocket, a allusion to the French Emperor. All pocket zips are coil (self-repairing) zippers. The Napoleon pocket sports a white stitched Red Ledge logo. Inside the pockets is a soft and smooth material. The manufacturer doesn't list this material, but it appears to be brushed Tricot.
At the back of the neck there is a small loop of nylon webbing, presumably for hanging on a jacket hook, and a cord lock for the elastic drawcord. Inside the jacket's hem there are two more cord locks, one on each side seam, for adjusting the bottom hem. The cord locks in the hem are attacked to the body of the jacket with loops of nylon webbing and button snaps. The nylon loops are, I suppose, to assist with one-handed adjustment of the hem. Each wrist is held slightly loose to the wrist with elastic, but is non adjustable.
The material used in the shoulders and forearms is supposedly water resisitant since it is coated with a "DWR" or "Durable Water Repellant" finish. The soft fleece is said to be non pilling on the outside, while on the inside it is formed into a raised grid. The manufacturer states this is to improve warm air movement. Inside the neck at the back there is a care/materials tag, a logo tag, a size tag, and another small nylon loop.
The jacket seems to be sewn together well. I don't see any weak seams or loose stitches. The shoulders are constructed in a more-or-less raglan style. This is my preferred construction for tops/sweaters/jackets since it allows me the most freedom of movement. I will see if this continues to be true for this test series. The collar is high like a turtleneck. When the main zipper is opened to my collar bone the collar of the jacket folds open and out like the collar of a dress shirt.
From initial inspections and a little wear outdoors, I have high hopes for the jacket. As stated, I like the cut of the shoulders and hope it performs well when I'm moving. The jacket covers most of my rear, so I hope it keeps my rear from freezing off (though that could be a good side-effect, depending on how I look at it). The main zipper and the zippers on the side pockets have a large zipper pull with a short length of cord attached. On the end of the cord is a small piece of rubbery plastic that is molded into an "S" shape and is also textured. This is, so far, easy for me to grasp and pull bare handed. I want to see how these work while I'm wearing gloves. I also like the elastic neck draw cord. I usually wear a neck gaiter to keep drafts out and this feature, combined with the turtleneck, seems to work like a neck gaiter.
Of course, with any positives, a negative or two will crop up, even in initial inspections. I'm not sure I like the cuffs on the sleeves. I'm skeptical they will keep out the elements since they don't cinch down tight to my wrists. However, since they are loose, they could be good for use with gloves or mitts. Only use in the field will prove one way or the other. I also don't like the tiny zipper pull on the Napoleon pocket. It already seems hard to grasp bare handed and I hope it isn't a pain in the field. This zipper seems sticky, but I think that's due to me getting an awkward grip on the tiny pull tab.
I live in a wonderful area of the United States, one that has four distinct seasons (if you're lucky you get all of them in one day!). One thing that keeps me off the trails in the fall and winter is routinely experiencing disappointing jackets. I've yet to find the perfect wintertime jacket for the upper Midwest. Some are too warm, some not warm enough, others not water repellant at all and so forth. Having this type of picky attitude toward my outdoor clothing will make me be critical of the Red Ledge Woman's Covert Action Fleece Jacket.
I plan to use this jacket while on weekly day hikes and any overnight trips before the snow comes, daytrips while snowshoeing, and trying to cross-country ski (still haven't gotten the hang of the latter) once the snow gets here. Expected temperatures will range from 60 F (15.6 C) in the warmer months to 10 F (-12.2 C) or colder in the dead of winter. Precipitation expected is fog-like light mist to wet snow to dry snow. I do not expect this jacket to perform as a rain jacket or shell; I do expect it to shed very minor precipitation while in use due to the DWR coating. I expect it to keep me warm but not hot enough to sweat due to the manufacturer's "raised grid fleece backing for improved warm air movement."
Things I will be paying close attention to:
Ease of Use:
How easy are the "one hand operation" neck and hem draw cords to use? Can I operate them with just one hand? With gloves on? With cold fingers?
How accessible are the pockets? Do my hands easily slide in and out? Do my dry, chapped, wintery hands snag on them?
Are the zippers easy to operate with gloves or cold fingers? Do they slide effortlessly?
How easy is it to wear with a pack? Does the jacket bunch up under the pack while using trekking/ski/snowshoe poles?
How small does it pack up for packing in my pack when temperatures rise?
Can it be used easily as part of a layering system with a base layer, puffy vest, and shell?
How well does the jacket hold up to (at least) weekly use?
How well does it wash up?
How quickly does it dry? At home? In the field? (I chose black as my preferred color because I thought it might speed drying in the field).
How does it stand up to trail grime?
How does it stand up to dog hair? How easily can I get Beau's prickly short little hairs off the jacket, if at all?
How does it stand up to minor precipitation such as foggy mist, light snow, and damp snow?
Does the toothed zipper lose teeth? Do the coil zippers fail?
Usefulness and comfort:
Does the jacket do its job?
All other issues aside, if the jacket doesn't keep me warm or if it makes me sweat and get chilled, it's not a very useful garment.
How useful are the pockets: are they too big or too small? Does the "Napoleon pocket" hold small sundries such as lip balm, or any of my cool electronic gadgets (compass, GPS, or mp3 player). Are the pockets easily accessed while wearing a pack or are they covered by straps?
Does the jacket keep me warm on rest breaks when I'm not moving?
Does the zipper at the top of the jacket rub on my chin and leave a sore spot like most zippers do? If it does and I have to leave the zipper partly undone, does that make the jacket significantly cooler?
How does it fit? Does it follow my contours well? Does it reach all the way to my wrists on my long arms (I have long arms for a short person)?
Do the wrists keep out the elements? If so, how well do they do this? Do they snag on my trekking/ski/snowshoe poles?
Other: any other issues that may come up during the testing period.
Quality of construction
Drawcord at neck
Tiny zipper pull tab on Napoleon pocket
Non adjustable wrists
Sticky zipper on Napoleon pocket
This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report . Please check back then for further information.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have tested the Red Ledge Covert Action fleece over the past two months here in Northern Indiana. It has been worn 80-90 miles (129-145 km) while hiking. Hikes have been mostly short hikes after work a few times a week, plus three long day hikes of about 30 miles (48 km) total and one short overnight. The trails have been hilly, but not mountainous. I have also used it while just "kicking around" town or while running errands. In all it has the equivilent of 3 weeks of daily wear. Daytime temperatures have been around freezing to 50 F (10 C). Precipitation has been misty rain, but not heavy rain. Unfortunately, the winter so far has been a bit of a blowout with very little snowfall, so I haven't been able to test its performance in the snow. I have used it as part of a layering system, which included a base weight top, the fleece jacket, and a puffy layer, either a synthetic vest or a down hooded jacket.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I'm pretty happy with how this jacket has performed so far. It's not as warm as a down jacket--I didn't really expect it to be--but it's definitely warmer than most fleece jackets I've worn. I believe this due to the stretch material and possibly the DWR blocking some wind. The grid backing on the interior of the jacket does seem to move warm air well, however this may be due to the cut of the jacket. The jacket is cut loose enough for me to wear a thick baselayer under the jacket and yet slim enough to wear comfortably under a vest or jacket.
The DWR has repelled mist and light rain well--the precipitation beads up and rolls off without soaking in even after a half-hour of exposure. I did not expose the jacket to heavy rain or prolonged light rain since this is not a rain jacket.
I like how the jacket moves with my body. I can easily move my arms in any direction without the material bunching up or pulling in an uncomfortable way.
The hand warmer pockets aren't really accessible while I'm wearing the jacket under another layer, and while I am wearing a pack the pack's hipbelt covers them as well. The Napoleon pocket is usually hidden by the sternum strap on my pack. Since the pockets aren't accessible while moving, I use them to store things that I don't immediately need, such as lip balm or my car keys. The hand warmer pockets are plenty big enough to hold my GPS or compass, however I don't put these gadgets in my pockets while I'm wearing a hip belt because they do tend to bunch up and be uncomfortable. So far I've had no problems with my winter-chapped hands snagging on the lining.
The draw strings at the hem of the jacket are easy to manipulate with or without light gloves. So far I've had no trouble operating them one-handed as the manufacturer claims. The draw cord on the neck, however, is not so easy-- I need both of my hands for that.
The zippers are so far in good working order. None have broken in anyway. The zipper on the Napoleon pocket is still sticky, but now that I use it I feel it's not because of poor grip so much as the slider itself. It is annoying, but doesn't reduce the functionality of the jacket significantly. I haven't worn the jacket fully zipped much since the weather has been unseasonably warm.
Most foreign objects--dog hair, lint, and dirt--wipe right off the jacket. I haven't washed the jacket yet as it hasn't needed a good bath, therefore I can't yet comment on how quickly it dries.
I haven't felt chilled while wearing the jacket, even on rest breaks. The neck unzips to allow venting, so I haven't felt overheated even when expending a lot of energy. I haven't felt sweaty while wearing the jacket.
I mentioned in my Initial Report that I'm not fond of the wrists on the jacket not cinching closed. While they haven't allowed any precipitation inside my sleeve, they do allow some cold air. They also allow streams of water to run from a faucet into the jacket, sometimes up to my elbow. If the water is ice-cold spring water, this is a shock! With the wrists not cinching tight, there is an awkward bulk when I wear the jacket with gloves. I usually use some sort of a gauntlet style glove, which would fit nicely over a tight wrist. This doesn't allow a clean overlap, and I have considered using some sort of a "wrister" (a fingerless mitten) to close the gap.
I will continue to wear the jacket as I have been-- around town, on day hikes, and on the two overnight trips I have planned for the Long Term testing phase. I will be seeing how the jacket responds to the much-hoped-for winter weather. I will also see how well the jacket washes up and dries.
At this point in testing, I am pleased with the Red Ledge Covert Action fleece jacket. The few negatives I've found so far are really nitpicks and don't detract from the overall functionality of the jacket.
Easy operation of hem drawcords
Loose fit on wrists
Sticky zipper on Napoleon pocket
Neck drawcord not really one-handed
Please check back in approximately two months for my long term report.
Shortly after posting my field report for this test I slipped on some ice and broke my leg. Due to the length of time it takes to mend a broken bone, my test, with permission from Backpack Gear Test, has been placed on hold. I should be back to testing the Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece Jacket very soon and will post a long term report in approximately two months.
I thank BackpackGearTest and Red Ledge for the opportunity to test the Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece Jacket.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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