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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Red Ledge Womens Covert Fleece Jacket > Kathryn Doiron > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron
Red Ledge Covert Action Fleece Jacket
Initial Report: Nov 9 2006
Field Report: Jan 16 2007
Long Term Report: Mar 10 2007
Image from Red Ledge
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Height: 1.7 m (5' 8")
Weight: 68 kg (150 lb)
Email: kdoiron 'at' gmail 'dot' com
Location: Washington DC, USA
Brief Background: I started backpacking and hiking seriously almost four years ago. Most of my miles have been logged in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I have recently finished 1200+ miles (2000+ km) of the Appalachian trail. My style is to be as light as possible while not spending a fortune. My pack weight tends to hover around 25 lbs (11 kg) with two days of food and half a liter of water. I have recently started getting into winter hiking, snowshoeing and kayaking.
Manufacturer: Red Ledge
Material: Smooth non pill fleece with strategically placed soft shell
Weight (as stated): 1 lb 4 oz (567 g)
Weight (measured): 1 lbs 3.6 oz (557 g)
Colours available: Mojito/Concrete, Tranquil Blue/Concrete, Black
Colour/size received: Mojito/Concrete, Large
November 9th 2006
The Red Ledge Covert jacket is a combination fleece and soft shell. The jacket is mostly fleece but the shoulders, wrists and collar are of soft shell material. The collar has a one handed drawcord as does both sides of the waist line. The drawcord toggle is held in place with a snap enclosure allowing me to pull the drawcord through the toggle with one hand. The cuffs of the jacket are elastic and the pockets are deep. The jacket also comes with a Napoleon slash pocket with an invisible zipper. The inside of the jacket has a raised grid to allow for better air flow. I find that the mojito/concrete colour is a pleasing combination.
According to the sizing chart on Red Ledge's website, I fall right between a medium and a large. I chose to go with a large for several reasons. First, I wanted to be able to layer up under the fleece and still have room to move around. Second, while my chest and waist are clearly in the medium sizing, my hip measurement pushed me into the large sizing. Without the flexibility of going to a store to try the jacket on I placed my trust in the company. Third, I am hoping that a little extra space in the jacket will prevent heat build up. The large fits me a little looser than I would normally like. Either the jacket has been designed with plenty of extra shoulder and arm room or the jacket is a little too big for my frame. As Red Ledge does not have an actual picture of the jacket on their website, I was a little unsure of what the jacket would actually look like and what the raise grid backing actually was. Upon receiving the jacket, I noticed that the fleece part was exactly as stated, the soft shell is a little more flexible and less stiff than I expected. The raised grid was another story, I discovered that the inside of the jacket was covered in little raised squares of fleece making it look like a waffle. It is interesting and I am curious to see how the jacket performs with this waffle texture.
Having had a chance to wear the jacket outside for the last few days, I have noticed that the jacket is not wind resistant. If I am standing still waiting, the wind will start to chill me. If I am moving, sometimes the wind versus my heat build-up are matched and I stay comfortable. The elasticated cuffs are comfortable and do not pinch or chaff. The sleeves are long enough to cover my wrists when I extend my arms but not so long as to hang over my hands. The pockets are very nice and deep and I can store keys, cell phone, iPod and various other items and still have room for my hands. Based on a previous item I have used, I know that I do not use nor do I really like Napoleon slash pockets. I do not expect to use the pocket but I have opened the pocket up and it is also deep. The zipper is hard to pull down with one hand but it is fairly easy to close the pocket up with one hand. The pocket is located on the left side of the jacket making it easily accessible with the right hand. I will look into how useful the pocket is when I have a pack with a chest strap on. I will be evaluating the effectiveness of the waffle grid in cooling especially with a pack on. I have noticed already that with a small day pack on, my back gets hot and sweat builds up and heat builds up under the straps too. After several days of wear, I noticed that the right pocket zipper was not functioning correctly. Upon closer inspection, I found that one side of the zipper was no longer in the zipper pull. I did get the zipper working, but I think that short of adding another small line of stitching to the bottom, I expect it will happen again. I have only noticed this with the right hand zipper. I will be keeping an eye on it to determine if maybe I was a little too rough with the zipper or if the line of stitching on this particular zipper was a little lower than it should have been.
After several dayhikes, a few trips through the washing machine and many days of regular wear, the jacket is still in good shape showing no signs of wear. My inital troubles with the pocket zipper prompted me to pull out a needle and thread and sew in a new zipper stop. The thread that had been in place to stop the pocket zipper from unzipping completely had become too loose to stop the zipper causing the zipper to separate. That has been the only problem I have experienced over the last two months.
My testing conditions have been mostly in the Maryland and DC areas. In Maryland, I did a nice 7 mile dayhike to Annapolis Rock. The weather was about 60-65 F (15-18 C) with a stiff breeze. I wore a short sleeve base layer, with a long sleeve base layer and the fleece. After the first mile I found the jacket kept me too warm and I found the sweat and heat building up. I ended up hiking most of the time without the jacket. I did wear the jacket at rest stops as they were on expose scenic outlooks and the wind was very stiff out of the shelter of the trees. The jacket was unable to keep the wind from cutting in and I eventually had to pull on a rain shell to keep the wind out. In a mild drizzle, I have noticed that the fleece and the soft shell areas of the fleece do not stop the rain. I am left with the impression that the softshell, while strategically placed, seems to serve no purpose. It does not repel rain, nor does it stop the wind. I have also found that when I am hiking and sweaty, I like to wipe my face on my shoulder or cuff. In this case, both of those areas are covered with softshell, which against my face, is not very soft or absorbent.
On my last two day hikes, due to the chill of the day, I had two base layers, and a rain shell which kept me suitably warm. My back did build up heat much more due to my day pack but I was comfortable overall. The last day hike was on a very warm day and did not require the use of the fleece at all during the hike. I did use it to stay warm after the hike, after I changed into a dry base layer shirt. There was a moderate warm wind, so again it kept me warm at first but eventually the wind wormed its way in causing me to become cold. In Montreal, I found the weather was simply too cold to wear the jacket with a rain/wind shell. I did wear it around the house to stay warm or under a heavy jacket while outside. The looseness of the fit does make layering over the jacket a little problematic. I find that the jacket tends to bunch up in the shoulder area. While I like having the looseness in an over jacket, wearing something loose under a coat is a little uncomfortable. I have to make sure I pull the sleeves down snuggly to prevent shoulder bunching which sometimes leave the sleeves sticking out at the bottom of the over coat.
I expect to continue to use the jacket mostly on day hikes and at least one overnight hike in the DC, Maryland and Virginia areas. I also will wear the jacket to work to evaluate wear and tear of the jacket as well as comfort level at varying temperatures and wind conditions. I will likely be wearing the jacket along with a wind breaker for as long as I can into the winter season.
My testing strategy will try to include as many different types of weather conditions as possible. I have already seen how the jacket performs in a mild breeze at a fast walk, but how will the jacket perform with a heavy pack and a slower pace. Will the wind cut through the jacket and chill me or will the heat loss versus heat generated keep me comfortable. I will take the jacket out in the rain and snow also. Although the jacket is not water resistant, I would like to see how well the jacket will keep me warm and how effective the soft shell coverage is. The soft shell is strategically placed on the shoulders and wrists. I will look into how pill resistant the fleece parts of the jacket are. I expect the arms and shoulders to see the most wear when hiking with a pack so I will monitor those areas more closely. In the long term, I will continue to evaluate the anti-pilling of the jacket and I will look into how well it withstands the washing machine. I will look at wear and tear in high use areas, like pockets, elbows and zippers.
Long Term Report:
The jacket has been used extensively over the last two months with several dayhikes, a few overnights, and some snowshoeing. Mostly these have happened in the Canaan Valley or in the Shenandoah National Park. Conditions have ranged from room temperature to below freezing. Elevation gains have been up to 3000' (914 m). I also wear the jacket around the house and to work quite frequently. The jacket has held up nicely and is not showing any major signs of wear. The fleece is still fluffy and warm, the interior waffle effect is still clearly visible. The seams are in good shape and show no signs of unravelling. The fleece is designed such that my elbows are between two soft shell areas. The fleece nap there is a little thin and flatter than the rest of the body but still looks good. I have washed the fleece several times and even put it through the drier with no ill effects. I have not noticed in any pilling on the jacket in any of the high friction areas. Even with a pack on, I have not noticed any large heat build up in any one particular area. Generally I get hot all over with no localized hot spots.
One thing I have noticed about this jacket that I rather miss is a two way zipper. I find the jacket rides up when I sit down causing the jacket to puff up. I have either been leaving the jacket unzipped when I sit or I tuck the extra fabric down into a wad in my lap. I have not found any use for the soft shell on the jacket. It does resist rain even for a short amount of time but seems to be more for looks then function. I miss being able to wipe my face or nose on either my sleeve or my shoulder. The soft shell is not soft enough for that purpose. That said, I have really enjoyed using this jacket. It has kept me warm when combined with a base layer and rain jacket. I did nap with the jacket on and awoke with an interesting waffle pattern imprinted on my arm. I ended up removing the jacket after that.
I tend to use the jacket in conjunction with a long sleeve base layer and halter top and sometimes a t-shirt. On my last snowshoeing trip, I started off with a thermal layer over my base layers and had the fleece jacket on top with a rain shell to top of my system. This worked rather well as the temperature and wind were quite biting, but once I hit the tree line, I removed the thermal layer and let the rain jacket flap a little. The fleece kept me warm but let enough air flow through to keep me from over heating. There was some snow accumulation on the front of the fleece due to blowing snow but there was no melting so I was able to brush most of it off. I find that the shoulder area is a little bigger then I need and sometimes I get a bit of bunching when I pull the rain shell over top of the fleece. I have no binding in the shoulders when pulling on a pack or reaching due to the generous cut. I find that the waist is a little snug but not uncomfortable. Overall the jacket has been a good fit and kept me warm while still allowing for air flow as needed.
This concludes my report on the Red Ledge Covert Fleece jacket. I hope you have enjoyed the test series.
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