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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Red Ledge Womens Covert Fleece Vest > Jo Ann Moffi > Test Report by Jo Ann Moffi
RED LEDGE COVERT ACTION FLEECE VEST
Last Updated March 15th, 2007
LONG TERM REPORT
Manufacturer: Red Ledge
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Warranty: Fully warranted against defects in material and workmanship, Red Ledge will repair or replace at their discretion. This does not apply to damage by accidents, improper care, negligence, or normal wear and tear.
Color: Tranquil Blue (Other colors available: Mojito/Concrete and Black). Please note: The photos I took of the vest make it look all grey in color. It is not grey. The vest is an attractive baby blue color on the bottom with grey shoulders and grey lining.
Size: XL (Other sizes available: XS - XL)
Date: November 13th, 2006
Item Received: November 6th, 2006
Condition of Item: Perfect condition, seams all properly finished, zippers all work fine.
Listed Weight: 394 g (13.9 oz)
Actual Weight: 404 g (14.3 oz)
Made In: Vietnam
Red Ledge's website is quite slim on information for this vest. The website has the same information that is printed on the vest's tag with exception of the warranty information, manufacturer's suggested retail price, and where the vest was made. I was not able to find the warranty information on the website, nor the MSRP or the place of manufacture. The item exceeds the expectation I had from the website, mainly because the website has no pictures of the vest, just a drawing. Red Ledge advertises this item as part of their Women's Thermal Layering line. The vest came in a brown generic cardboard box, wrapped in plastic with a piece of tissue paper folded in with the vest. When I removed the vest from the plastic bag, the tissue paper fell out, so I cannot tell exactly where it was placed. The vest was folded neatly for merchandising in a retail store. The main zipper of the vest had the tag attached to it, which I have since removed. The tag details the type of fabric used in the construction of the vest, the features of the vest, the Red Ledge Warranty and how to request a return, a brief advertisement for Red Ledge products in general, contact information for Red Ledge, and finally the item number, product name, color, size, suggested retail price, place of manufacture, and bar code on a sticker adhered to the back of the tag.
The first thing that caught my eye upon opening the box was the waffle patterned fabric lining the inside of the vest. Red Ledge calls this their 'raised grid fleece' and it is touted to be for 'improved warm air movement'. The grid fleece's little squares are like a micro fleece while the lines are just thin bare woven fabric. It will be interesting to see if this does actually increase air movement inside the vest. This raised grid fleece lines the entire inside of the vest. The soft shell shoulders are made from a quite thin fabric. I can easily see the raised grid pattern right through the soft shell fabric. My initial thought was that the raised grid fleece must be adhered some way to the back side of the soft shell fabric, but I can easily pull the two layers apart along their entire surface.
There are three front panels that also have an additional liner which is the liner of the pockets. On the front inside of the pockets the raised grid fleece can be seen. The back inside of the pockets is lined with one sided micro fleece. Unfortunately for me, this is the type of fleece that I have problems with catching on dry spots on my hands. I have other jackets with similar linings and I avoid using them for hand warming for just that reason, but I do and will still use them for carrying small items.
In the center of the back of the collar there is a small open ended channel that covers where the collar's drawcord comes out so that it can be tightened around my neck. It has the same sort of slider that is at the bottom edge of the vest. The slider does not have to be pulled out from under the channel to be tightened, but I have to reach under it and pull on both sides of the cord above the slider to get it to slide evenly along the drawcord to loosen it. There is a gap in the stitching along the bottom edge of the channel so that the drawcord loop and its little plastic piece can be pulled through, leaving the slider covered by the channel. In the photo at right, I have pulled the slider out from under the channel for viewing purposes only.
The bottom of the vest has a 2.5 cm (1 in) channel that the drawcord runs through. The back of the channel is the same material as the soft shell shoulders. On both sides of my hips the drawcord comes out of the channel through two grommets approximately 3 cm (1.2 in) apart to form a loop. On this loop there is a slider to tighten the bottom of the vest to my body and a small plastic piece to prevent the slider from coming right off the loop when it is brought out to its loosest setting. There is a nylon loop sewn about 6.5 cm (2.6 in) up the side seam with a snap that goes through the loop made by the drawcord to pull it up and inside the vest. Red Ledge advertises on their website and on the tag that this drawcord is one hand adjustable. I made a couple of cursory attempts to adjust it with one hand, but I was unable to do so. It will be interesting to see if I can figure out how to do it with one hand.
The soft shell material is also used to cover exposed seams at the edge of the zipper guard, top of the collar, and around the edge of the armholes. I would guess this is to maintain a consistent look throughout the vest.
The seams and stitching are very well sewn. A serging machine was used to join panels as I would expect from a commercially manufactured item. Exposed edges of the fabrics (along the collar, armhole, and zipper guard edges) are covered in a 0.6 cm (1/4 in) edge. The bottom edge where the outer fabric and the lining meet the seams are those of a bag lining. All other areas where panels are joined the seams are serged and neatly stitched down. The channel at the bottom of the vest that the drawcord runs through is also stitched down using a serger stitch. All the pockets in the vest are the size of the panel they are sewn into. The Napoleon pocket will more than accommodate my MP3 player and/or a pair of sunglasses, which is what I usually use chest pockets for. All the pockets are lined with the dreaded 'catchy' micro fleece.
The vest fits very well. I am normally between a size large and extra large. I would consider this a small fitting extra large based on my previous experiences with other manufacturer's vests. It is consistent with the Red Ledge's sizing recommendations. I am able to raise my arms above my head without the vest creeping up my torso too much. It does raise a bit as I would expect, but it slides back down when I return my arms to my sides. It is also long enough to not leave a gap across my back or stomach. The waist and hip dimensions are tailored perfectly for my body.Neither location feels tighter than the other. There is ample room for shoulder movement at the armholes. They are not so large as to leave gaps either. For a brief trial run, I wore the vest while walking to the grocery store with my dogs this evening. It was about 3 C (38 F), with wind from the Northwest at 20 km/h (12.5 mi/h) and gusts up to 30 km/h (18.5 mi/h) and light rain showers. I wore the vest under a waterproof shell and over a long sleeved cotton t-shirt. My torso was plenty warm and toasty on my walk to the grocery store, approximately 2.5 km (1.5 mi) there and back.
I will be wearing the vest while doing all sorts of outdoor activities including (but not limited to): hiking, biking, backpacking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and walking the dogs. I will report on the fit, durability, warmth, breathability, suitability as a layer, suitability on its own, comfort, and other concerns and considerations as they arise.
Date: January 16, 2007
General Wear Around Town
I wore the vest at any opportunity that arose throughout the field testing period. This included back and forth to work, daily walks with my dogs, running errands, etc. I found that while wearing the vest around town, my torso was comfortable to about 5 C with just a long sleeved base layer underneath. Wind ranged from the Northwest at 5 km/h (3.1 mi/h) to 15 km/h (9.3 mi/h) on the days it was about 5 C (41 F). On the days it was raining, I would wear a waterproof shell overtop of the vest.
As we finally got into winter weather in January, I continued to wear the vest around town, usually under a parka or other insulated jacket. The temperature ranged from 0 C to -18 C (32 F to 0 F). I was comfortably warm with the vest on underneath my heavier jackets, but closer to 0 C (32 F), if I was exerting myself (i.e. shovelling snow, walking briskly, etc.), I would find it too warm with the vest underneath, but not warm enough for just the vest alone over my regular clothing. At about -15 C (5 F), I found I appreciated the extra layer on my torso, even when shovelling snow or other activities involving exertion.
General Wear Running and Biking
I wore the vest as often as possible while running and biking. The first time I wore the vest biking, it was overtop of a long sleeved wicking shirt and a lightweight fleece long sleeved shirt. I was way too hot about 10 minutes into the ride, so I took off the lightweight fleece shirt and just wore the wicking shirt and vest. This was much more comfortable. On this day, the temperature was 7 C (45 F), and it was cloudy with a bit of a breeze. Since then, I have worn the vest with various long sleeved wicking shirts while biking. The temperatures have been between 5 and 10 C (41 and 50 F). Although I am sweating from exertion on these outings, I am still quite comfortable. When I get back to the car, I throw a lightweight shell overtop to prevent a chill from happening. When running I was able to wear the vest down to around 0 C (32 F) with just a long sleeved wicking shirt underneath. As temperatures got colder (to around -5 C (23 F)), I wore the vest with a long sleeved wicking shirt and a lightweight wool long sleeved shirt. On windy days, I would wear a lightweight running shell overtop of the vest. I haven't worn the vest running at temperatures below about -8 C (18 F) thus far as I don't like to run in temperatures much lower than that, it gets too hard to breathe :).
Day hikes early in the field testing phase consisted of hikes in the Hiawatha Highlands area, from 5 to 10 km (3.1 to 6.2 mi). This area is a red and white pine forest with a sugar maple forested area that is tapped in the spring. The trails consist of gently rolling hills, some stream and river crossings, and lots of raspberry bushes, as my dogs can attest to with the stickers they get from them! The stickers also cling quite well to the fleece of the vest, but they pull off very easily without damaging the fabric. The temperature range for these day hikes was 0 to 10 C (32 to 50 F). Most of the time it was sunny or overcast, there were a couple of days were it was misting lightly.
The vest performed admirably in these conditions. I wore a lightweight wool long sleeved shirt underneath on all day hikes during this early part of the field testing. The vest kept my torso plenty warm enough. On the days it was misting, the minimal water that did accumulate on the vest stayed on the outside and did not soak through.
Cross Country Skiing
I wore the vest overtop of a lightweight wool long sleeved shirt, a lightweight fleece shirt, and underneath a windproof/waterproof shell while cross country skiing in early December, which turned out to be the only snow weekend until mid January! The temperature hovered around -4 C (25 F), the skies were overcast and the occasional snowflake fell while I was out on the trails. I was quite pleased that all my layers did the job they were supposed to. Once the moisture reached the vest, it wicked through and sat on the outside of the vest, between it and the waterproof shell I was wearing. The fabric on the inside of the vest (raised grid fleece) was completely dry.
Despite our unseasonably warm weather here in Northern Ontario, I was able to continue to use the vest as part of my layering system overtop of a long sleeved wicking shirt and under a softshell jacket in early January! The temperature for two days of hiking in Lake Superior Provincial Park hovered around 5 C (41 F), and the weather for both days was overcast. The first day we hiked along the Lake Superior Coastal Trail. It was quite windy coming off of Lake Superior at about 15 km/h (9.3 mi/h) with gusts to 21 km/h (13 mi/h) from the North/Northeast. As long as I kept moving, the vest and the softshell were more than enough to keep me warm. After a couple of steeper climbs along some rocky outcroppings, I had to unzip my softshell to keep from sweating too much.
The hike along the Lake Superior Coastal Trail is very rugged and demanding. It consists of jagged rock climbs, scrambling over roots and downed trees, climbing over large flat rocky hilltops, over flowing creeks, squeezing through narrow canyon walls damp from the rain and other run-off, and traversing just about any other type of vegetation found in a northern boreal forest. Vegetation and rocks are frequently slippery and covered in mosses. We also travelled along the shore of Lake Superior for a brief period. The shore line in the area we were in consists of large rocks that need care in crossing to be sure an ankle isn't twisted. The vest did not hinder me in any way through any of the terrain I travelled through. I find it very comfortable and it moves freely with my body.
The second day we hiked an easier trail along the Pinguisibi Trail. This trail also involved climbing steep inclines over roots and downed trees, a bit of bushwhacking, and traversing along the steep edges of the Sand River. Again the vest met my expectations and did not hinder me in any way. The temperature was about 3 C (37 F), and the wind was 15 km/h (9.3 mi/h) from the North/Northeast. The Pinguisibi Trail is much more sheltered than the previous day's trail, so we didn't notice the wind as much.
On a trip later in January, I used the vest again as part of my layering system. My husband and I hiked into Lake Gamitagama in Lake Superior Provincial Park for an overnight trip. The temperature was -14 C (7 F) during the afternoon of first day, with wind from the South/Southeast at about 4 km/h (2.5 mi/h). Overnight, the temperature warmed up to -4 C (25 F) with wind from the West/Southwest at 10 km/h (6.2 mi/h). Inside the tent, we used a tent heater and were at about 3 C (37 F) at the warmest point of the night. The next day the temperature was -6 C (21 F) when we crawled out of the tent. I felt considerably colder on the second day, most likely due to the wind coming down the lake in the morning from the North/Northeast at about 8 km/h (5 mi/h). We were on the southern 'shore' of the frozen lake on a point and the wind had a direct path right into our camp. The terrain in this area of Lake Superior Provincial Park is somewhat flatter than the previous weekend's trails. The trails were snow covered, a few centimeters (a couple of inches) in some spots to about 20 cm (8 in) in other areas. Buried under the snow on the trail were tree roots, rocks jutting out from the hill side, and other such obstacles. Once we reached Lake Gamitagama, there was 5 cm (2 in) to about 15 cm (6 in) of snow on the ice. The ice was quite thick, close to 25 cm (10 in).
On the hike in, I wore the vest overtop of a long sleeved wicking shirt, a lightweight wool long sleeved shirt, and a midweight wool long sleeved shirt. We were pulling a sled with our gear, so I was using just a daypack to carry small items. I was quite comfortable, neither cold nor sweating in the vest. Once our camp was set up, I pulled a parka overtop of the vest and other layers I was already wearing. The wind picked up after supper, but I was still toasty warm. For sleeping, I wore the same layers in my sleeping bag, minus the parka. I was comfortably snug until about 4 am when my toes started to get cold, but my upper body and legs remained warm. The next morning, I donned the parka once again around camp. On the hike out, I wore the same layers and the parka. Even though it was warmer than the day before, the wind was too much for just the vest to handle on its own over my wool long sleeved shirts.
Cleaning and Care of the Vest
The vest has been washed several times up to this point. It has been covered in mud splatters and had tea slopped over it. I have also worn the vest up to three days in a row on hikes without washing. It does not hold sweat or other nasty odours. It does hold wood smoke odour from an outdoor campfire, but I have yet to meet a piece of clothing that doesn't. All dirt and grime this has come out of the vest and left no trace behind. I have thrown the vest in with my regular similarly colored laundry, washing it in warm water with a cold rinse. I have been hanging the vest to dry indoors.
Durability and Wear of the Vest
Up to this point, I haven't noticed any significant wear areas or any breaking down of the fabric. The fleece is not pilling and continues to be soft to the touch after several washings. There are no marks where my backpack and other clothing have rubbed on the vest. The zippers and drawcords are all holding up fine and function the same as they did when I removed the vest from its packaging.
General Impression of the Vest and Its Performance Thus Far
I am very pleased with the performance of the vest. I love how thin the fabric is and how well it keeps me warm. I have another fleece vest made by a different manufacturer and I've always found it bulky when worn underneath a shell or insulated jacket. The Red Ledge vest is hardly noticeable when worn underneath other jackets. I like how far it comes down the back onto my butt. I've had no issues with air leakage or drafty areas when I'm bent over.
The way the vest functions as part of my layering system works very well for me. The times when I have been sweating are particularly impressive to me with the way the vest will wick the moisture to the outside of the vest. When I am not wearing a shell overtop of the vest, it allows for the sweat to dry. There have been times when I hardly notice I am sweating because all the layers are doing their job so well. The wicking properties are particularly noticeable when I am wearing a shell overtop of the vest. The moisture gets 'caught' between the vest and the shell and sits there. When this happens I am always pleasantly surprised at how well the vest keeps the moisture from soaking back into itself and the other layers underneath. Even after multiple washings (I'm estimating about 6-10 washings up to this point), the DWR coating is keeping the moisture at bay.
I am also impressed with how much I can stuff into the pockets of the vest. I can get my bulky cell phone and tissues in one pocket and my camera in the other and still not look like I've got abnormal lumps on my belly. I do use the pockets for keeping my hands warm as well, although I still am not thrilled with the fabric the manufacturer uses on the inside to line the pockets. It sticks and catches on dry skin. I don't use the Napoleon pocket very often, in fact, I can think of only once when I had an MP3 player in it while out on a run.
When I do up the collar all the way, it is comfortable and does not rub on my chin or neck. I have yet to use the drawcord on the back of the collar in the field, having the collar any tighter than it is seems unnecessary to me. The zippers and drawstrings at the waist are easy to operate with gloved fingers.
LONG TERM REPORT
Date: March 15, 2007
I have continued to use the vest at every opportunity while hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. I have also worn the vest for winter runs, back and forth to work, and for general around town wear. It has been worn in cold temperatures down to -24 C (-11 F). The weather the vest has seen during the long term testing period has been anything from heavy wet snowfall to dry and very cold.
The vest has been used in much the same areas as in the Field Report, with the addition of wearing the vest while snowboarding. I wore it under my ski jacket at Searchmont Resort in Northern Ontario and at Jay Peak in Northern Vermont. Elevations at Searchmont were 229 m (750 ft) and at Jay Peak 610 m (2000 ft). The temperature on snowboarding days ranged from -1 to -17 C (30 to 1 F) and the weather has been overcast with the occasional snow flurry. It can get quite windy up on the top of Searchmont, on some days it was gusting up to 25 km/h (15 mph). It was very windy on the day we were at Jay Peak, about 19 km/h (12 mph) with gusts to 35 km/h (22 mph).
I have worn the vest while pulling a pulk in Lake Superior Provincial Park and into our cottage at Batchawana Bay on Lake Superior. On these occasions, the temperature was about -6 C (21 F) and overcast. I hiked out onto Lake Superior while my husband was ice fished. This was a particularly warm day, about -2 C (28 F) and I ended up unzipping my jacket down to the vest. If it wasn't for the slight breeze, I could have worn just the vest alone.
Throughout the Long Term testing period, the vest was worn almost exclusively under a ski jacket or insulated jacket and over a wool base layer. On really cold days, -16 to -24 C (3 to -11 F), I would wear two wool base layers. On days when I wore the vest while running, I would wear just a long sleeved wicking shirt under the vest if the temperature was around 0 C (32 F). If it was colder or windy, I would throw a lightweight running jacket over top. The vest performed very well in conjunction with all my layering strategies. It is very versatile in its performance, functioning for both warmth and as a wicking layer.
Extended Durability and Wear of the Vest
The vest continues to perform exceptionally well in this aspect. Although the fleece fibers are starting to show some signs of 'clumping', it is certainly not more than I would expect for the amount of wear the fleece has had over the past 5 months. There is still no pilling anywhere, not even where my backpack or other clothing has contacted the fleece. All the elastics, zippers, and cord toggles function as they did when I first examined the vest.
Warmth and Waterproofing of the Vest
The vest is still wicking sweat away from my under layers to the outside of the vest. Throughout the long term testing, I have always had another layer over the vest while outdoors. It continues to repel moisture, including accidental tea spills. After 5 months of wear and many washings, the DWR continues to function as Red Ledge advertises. I would estimate the vest has been washed once every two weeks, or approximately 10-12 times.
Overall, I am very satisfied with this vest. It functions completely as advertised: it is warm, repels moisture, wicks sweat, is comfortable, and stylish. The vest has become one of my favourite pieces of clothing. It has a flattering fit and looks just as nice with a pair of jeans as it does with hiking pants or snow pants. It is thin enough to be worn under a ski jacket without feeling or looking bulky. I will continue to reach for the vest when heading out for a hike or just chores around town.
Things I Like About the Red Ledge Covert Fleece Vest:
* Athletic fit.
* Wicking properties of the fleece.
* The extra length in the back of the vest that partially extends over my butt.
Things I Don't Like About the Red Ledge Covert Fleece Vest:
* The feel of the fabric on the inside of the pockets.
Thank you to Red Ledge and BackpackGear Test for the privilege of testing this vest.
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