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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Red Ledge Womens Covert Fleece Jacket > Jamie DeBenedetto > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto
by Jamie DeBenedetto
The Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece is a full front zip jacket. Red Ledge has it categorized on their website as a thermal layering piece. The jacket I received has a black exterior and a primarily light blue interior (pictured at the right). The outer shell is a combination of very soft 350 gm fleece (100% polyester) and a stretchy softshell material (part spandex, part polyester). The softshell material, which is treated with a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating, covers the shoulders and top of the sleeves down to about the elbow. At that point there is a short fleece section and then the softshell continues down to the end of the sleeve at the wrist. The back of the collar, the inside of the waist hem and the storm flap behind the zipper are also all made of this softshell material. The fleece covers the front, under the arms, halfway up the sides of the sleeves, and most of the back of the jacket. It makes up the entire interior as well but the design of the fleece looks very different. The pattern on the interior is bumpy, kind of an inverted waffle grid. This can be seen best in the second picture on the right. There is a third and final material, a smooth polyester, which covers the backside of each of the three pockets. This combination results in pockets with a smooth backside and a raised frontside. This is shown in both pictures on the right. It is the greyish material.
The fleece arrived on November 9th in perfect condition. Other than one little tiny light blue string sticking out of one of the hems I did not find any flaws along the seams, in the pockets, with the zippers, or with the material. It looks to be in good shape. The only informational material found with the garment was the manufacturers hang tag. This provided minimal information which included the jacket's specifications, the warranty, the suggested retail price, the name of the country where it was made and the size of the fleece.
For the most part the Covert Action Fleece is what I was expecting based on the information and "picture" posted on the Red Ledge website. The exceptions are the elastic cuffs, which were not mentioned and do not look like they are present in the "picture" and the super tiny zipper used for the Napoleon pocket.
As for my first impressions, I think the jacket is nicely shaped for the most part and has a smart look. The only aesthetic feature I do not care for is the raised interior lining, which can be seen on the collar when it is folded down. Whether or not the raised lining is functional with regard to the manufacturer's claim that it will "improve warm air movement" remains to be seen. Honestly, function is more important than looks in my opinion so if in fact it does help then fantastic.
On the topic of function I'm optimistic. The DWR coated shoulders and lower arms will hopefully prove to be a very useful feature. The hand warmer pockets are plenty roomy and look to be plenty large enough for gloved hands and storing items. The one area of contention I have right out of the gate is the zipper on the chest pocket. It is very small and hard to grab even with non-gloved warm fingers. I'm concerned this will be very dysfunctional in the field.
From a fit stand point I believe the large is the correct size for my body although it does not completely mesh with my tall figure. The torso area is fine, slightly shorter than I would like but manageable, the sleeves on the other hand ride up when I stretch my arms forward (pictured at right). As a tall woman I have experienced this issue with many long sleeved garments in the past but it is still frustrating and generally leaves me with cold or wet lower forearms. I'll be watching to see if this happens with this jacket too. I also noticed the sleeves, especially under the armpit area, are very generous. Having worn the jacket about five times around town already, always with a short sleeved shirt underneath, this extra room seems excessive, almost bulky. I'm concerned this extra space will not be able to maintain warmth and will lower the useful temperature of the jacket. I'm also unsure how this will affect layering on top of the fleece. I will be watching this aspect of the jacket's fit very carefully.
This is the second of three reports; all opinions and observations in this section has been gathered after two months of using the jacket.
It took a while but winter finally arrived in Phoenix. Since filing my Initial Report I have worn the Red Ledge Women's Covert Action Fleece on several day/evening hikes. All use took place in the Sonoran Desert at elevations between 1,500 ft (460 m) and 2,100 ft (640 m) with temperatures between 65 F (18 C) and 45 F (7 C). The jacket was primarily used as the only outer later with the exception of one very chilly night when I wore it under a light down jacket for several hours while attending an outdoor festival.
Over these last few months I've worn the Red Ledge Women's Covert Action Fleece quite a lot. Going on the idea that more use is better than less when it comes to evaluating the jacket's durability I have been wearing it almost daily/nightly while working (I work outdoors), day hiking, playing outdoors with my kids, doing yard work, etc. So far the jacket has held up okay with the exception of the left hand warmer pocket. About four days ago the zipper popped off the track. I tried to rethread it but without success. This certainly falls under the parameters of Red Ledge's warranty so I will contact them and report on my experience in the Long Term Report.
Other than this recent malfunction the jacket has performed as expected. While hiking I have mostly been using it in short bursts at the beginning and end of my treks and during rests stops as my only outer layer. I have also worn it twice for the full duration of my walk; both were about two hours long. When I'm moving the jacket does a nice job of keeping the heat in. I have on more than one occasion had to take it off within the first half hour of hiking to avoid sweating. I primarily used it with only a single layer underneath, like a short or long-sleeved t-shirt. When at rest I was okay down to about 60 F (16 C) with this clothing set-up. Adding a 100 weight fleece pullover in addition to the t-shirt allowed me to get down to about 55 F (13 C) comfortably. The temperatures here have been a bit lower than that as of late so I will either need to add a slightly thicker pullover or a second mid-weight long sleeve underneath if I want to keep wearing it as an outer layer. I will report on how this goes in my Long Term Report.
I am pleased with the garment's fit around the chest area. There is plenty of room to layer underneath without restricting movement but it's not so spacious that it's overly bulky. I have full range of motion even with my day pack on and the sternum strap connected. Conversely, the extra width along the upper arm and armpit section is just too much empty space and I feel this allows some heat loss. As far as I can tell this is primarily only an issue while I'm wearing a single layer underneath. As soon as I added a second layer the extra room was minimized and I didn't notice the previous cooling I had felt on the backside of my upper arms. To be fair I should note I have a slender bone structure so my arms and wrists are thin.
Another area of contention I have with the Covert Action Fleece is the torso length. I noticed during my initial inspection that it was a bit short but I thought it would be manageable, I was wrong. The length is acceptable while standing and walking, however, when bending or sitting it is not. The back of the jacket rides up and leaves my waistline exposed allowing a lot of body heat to escape. Again to be fair it is important to consider my height. I am taller than the other two testers and quite a bit taller than the average woman. While I understand it is fashionable for women to wear garments with a shorter torso length, I personally think function trumps fashion any day of the week when speaking of outdoor wear. Offering a women's tall size would be a wonderful solution in my opinion. It would give us tall ladies the option of sticking to the women's items instead of having to shift over to the men's stuff all the time, which is usually less flattering to our figure and less appealing with regard to color choices.
I have been wearing fleece garments for several years and I love the fabric's ability to "self clean", the Covert Action Fleece is no exception. I have been buried in leaves, pounced on by dogs, and layered in a film of dust from rain starved desert trails while wearing this jacket and in all cases it only took a simple brush off with my hand or a couple of shakes for the jacket to look as good as new. The softshell material didn't brush off quite as easily, at least not in the case of the doggie paw prints, but ultimately it came clean too and without anything more than a run over with a damp cloth. I have not washed the jacket at this point.
Right now I have mixed feelings about the functionality of this piece. I've used the side warmer pockets many times with and without gloved hands and they are plenty large enough to completely enclose my hands. I appreciate the zippers too, it puts my mind at ease to know I can toss my gloves in one pocket and my keys in the other and not worry about loosing either while the jacket gets jostled around strapped to the outside of my pack. The drawcords along the bottom hem also work fine in as much as they are easy to grab and tighten. Loosening them with gloves is a bit more daunting but possible. The drawcord on the collar is efficient but it is hard to use with a gloved hand and it's difficult to get to through my long hair. The chest pocket has been very handy and works even with my sternum strap attached. The biggest negative with this feature, however, is the zipper. It sticks and is nearly impossible to grab a hold of with gloved hands. Lastly, the stand up collar works well to keep the heat in and the cold out but on the negative side it rubs just under my chin and that starts to become uncomfortable after only a few minutes.
This is the third and final report; all opinions and observations in this section have been gathered after four months of using this jacket.
The last two months of testing gave me a chance to use the Red Ledge Women's Covert Action Fleece Jacket on several more day/night hikes as well as on one overnight camping trip. I have also continued to wear the jacket regularly around town depending on the temperatures. All day/night hikes took place in and around Phoenix, AZ at elevations between 1,500 ft (460 m) and 2,000 ft (600 m). Temperatures ranged between 65 F (18 C) and 40 F (4 C). The jacket was used as the only outer layer with various combinations of under layers during these outings. The camping trip took place in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, AZ, elevation 4,400 ft (1,300 m). Weather conditions were windy (7 to 18 mph / 11 to 29 km/h) with an overnight low around 50 F (10 C). I wore the jacket for about five hours in the afternoon and evening around camp and I used it on top of my air mattress under my upper torso, neck and head as extra insulation.
January and February were our coldest months so I had several opportunities to wear the Red Ledge Women's Covert Action Fleece Jacket over more and thicker layers of clothing. The warmest and most functional configuration I tried under the jacket was a long sleeve mid-weight long john style undershirt worn as the base, a Montane Featherlite Smock (windshirt) over that and a 200 weight fleece over that. With this set up I was easily able to use the jacket down to about 40 F (4 C).
I have also used this jacket in various wind speeds up to as high as 18 mph (29 km/h) and the fabric does not appear to offer much protection against the wind. In all fairness, the Red Ledge website doesn't specify whether or not the garment has any wind resistant qualities. The website does, however, highlight the water resistant softshell shoulders. I had three opportunities to get out in the rain while wearing the jacket. The first two were very light sprinkles lasting no more than ten to fifteen minutes. This was no problem for both the fleece sections of the jacket and the areas covered in the softshell material. The second was a light but steady rain that fell off an on for most of the day. The cotton t-shirt I had under the jacket became damp in just under a half an hour at the shoulders, which was the spot pressing against the jacket most. Total rain exposure was about forty-five minutes after which I hung it from a chair on my back patio out of the rain to test how long it would take to dry. It was still damp after ten hours. Granted, the air was full of moisture and it was completely in the shade but I expected a little more progress that what I found. I brought the jacket in the house to continue the drying process and by morning it was fine.
After my camping trip the jacket smelled a bit too much like the campfire for my liking so I tossed it in the washing machine. It washed and dried without any problems and without pilling. The softshell fabric felt a little softer afterward too. The campfire smell was still present ever so slightly but only when I smelled it very close to the fabric. It was not noticeable to me when I was wearing the jacket or to my husband.
I have worn a daypack over the Red Ledge Fleece on numerous day and evening hikes throughout the test period. Overall I have found the jacket reasonably functional as the main outer layer. Regarding the pockets, I can access both the Napolean pocket with my sternum strap attached and fit my hands into the side pockets with my hipbelt fastened. The drawcords worked fine and were not restricted by the daypack in any way, however, the drawcord on the back of the collar has on several occasions caught in my hair. It is very difficult to use on windy days and/or when my hair was not pulled back in a ponytail.
Regarding the zippers, other than the one pocket zipper coming off the track I haven't had any others show signs of breaking. The zipper on the chest pocket still sticks and is difficult to use with gloved fingers because of the tiny lever. Red Ledge was contacted about the zipper issue and I am currently awaiting their reply. I will amend this report as soon as I hear from them.
It is difficult for me to judge the usefulness of the raised grid pattern used on the interior of the jacket. The manufacturer's claim is it helps improve warm air movement. Honestly, I don't know if it does or does not since I do not have another Red Ledge Fleece without the raised grid pattern to compare it to. This is a very difficult segment of the jacket's functionality to check and despite much thought I was unable to come up with a creative way to measure this.
Obviously, the jacket's fit has not changed at all from the previous two months of testing. I still find the torso and the sleeves to be shorter than I would like. My thoughts are outlined in greater detail in the Field Report section above.
A few weeks before posting my final report I called Red Ledge customer service regarding the zipper that had detached from one of the hand warmer pockets on the Covert Action Fleece Jacket earlier in the testing process. I spoke with a very nice young lady and although she was very courteous and had every intention of getting the zipper problem fixed right away she was unable to help me directly since I had not received the jacket through conventional customer means. Once I got my poop in a group and went through the proper channels here at Backpackgeartest.org, Red Ledge sent me a whole new jacket as a replacement. This was way beyond what I was expecting Red Ledge to offer as the test series is nearly complete and the only problem with my jacket is a simple zipper malfunction. How about that for no hassle!
Aspects I like…
Aspects I feel could use improvement...
Thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and Red Ledge for the opportunity to be part of this test series. - Jamie J. DeBenedetto
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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Red Ledge Womens Covert Fleece Jacket > Jamie DeBenedetto > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto
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