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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Royal Robbins Field Vest > Test Report by John Waters

ROYAL ROBBINS FIELD VEST
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - April 03, 2009
FIELD REPORT - June 30, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - August 24, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: exec@bysky.com
AGE: 60
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)
CHEST: 43 in (109 cm)
WAIST: 38 in (97 cm)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Royal Robbins, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://royalrobbins.com
MSRP: US$ 85.00
Listed Weight: 1 lb 2.8 oz (0.53 g)
Measured Weight: 1 lb 2.8 oz (0.53 g)
Sizes Available: Small to XXL
Size Tested: Large
Listed: Back Length - Large: 28 in (71 cm)
Measured Back Length - Large: 27 in (69 cm)
Colors Available: Jet Black & Khaki
Color Tested: Khaki

Other details:
13 exterior pockets and 4 interior pockets
Made in Bangladesh
100% Nylon
Royal Robbins Field Vest
Picture Courtesy of Royal Robbins

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS - 04/09

Well, this should be an interesting product test. The Royal Robbins Field Vest is a lightweight 100% nylon vest with 13 exterior pockets and 4 interior pockets. Plenty of room to put "things" and plenty of opportunities to forget where things are. I have trouble remembering which pocket of my 5 pocket field pants things are in, so this should be a real challenge.

Since the pockets are the main focus of this vest, I list below the location, size and type of closure for each of them.

EXTERIOR POCKETS
Pocket #LocationSizeClosure
1Left Top Shoulder6 x 7.5 in (16 x 19 cm)Nylon zipper - slanted
2Left Mid-Vest9.5 x 8.5 in (24.5 x 20 cm)Nylon zipper - straight
3Left Mid-Vest8.5 x 5.5 in (21.5 x 14 cm)2 plastic snaps with straight overflap
4Left Vertical to front zipper10 x 15 in (25.5 x 38 cm)Nylon zipper with corded metal pulls
5Right Mid-Vest9.5 x 8.5 in (24.5 x 20 cm)Nylon zipper - straight
6Right Mid-Vest8.5 x 5.5 in (21.5 x 14 cm)2 plastic snaps with straight overflap
7Right Vertical to front zipper10 x 15 in (25.5 x 38 cm)Nylon zipper with corded metal pulls
8Right Inside Top Mid-Vest4 x 2 in (10 x 5 cm)Open-top slotted
9Right Inside Top Mid-Vest4 x 2 in (10 x 2.5 cm)Open-top slotted
10Right Inside Top Mid-Vest4 x 2 in (10 x 2.5 cm)Open-top slotted
11Lower Back15 x 11 in (38 x 28 cm)2 vertical nylon zippers on each side with corded metal pulls
12Side/back at waist5.5 x 5.5 in (14 x 14 cm)Elasticized open-top
13Side/back at waist5.5 x 5.5 in (14 x 14 cm)Elasticized open-top


INTERIOR POCKETS
Pocket #LocationSizeClosure
1Left Chest 1/2 Circle under mesh lining6.5 x 8 in (16.5 x 20.5 cm)Nylon zipper parallel to front zipper
2Left Chest over mesh lining5 x 5.5 in (12.5 x 14 cm)Open Slot with hook & loop tab closure
3Left Chest on top of #23.5 x 4.5 in (8.5 x 11 cm)Open Slot using same hook & loop tab closure as #2
4Right Chest over mesh lining6.5 x 9 in (16 x 23 cm)Horizontal slot with inside hook & loop closure


There is a plastic D-ring at the right shoulder and a hook and loop horizontal tab loop on the left for hanging things, I'm guessing. Also, the vest has a snap tab at back of the neck that I cannot right now figure out what I am supposed to use it for. Maybe it'll come to me in a flash as I'm searching for what pocket I put my lip balm in. I continue to plead with manufacturers to write up at least a one-pager that has suggested uses from their designers. The designers must have had some thoughts about why they put loops, tabs, snaps, rings, etc. on their designs and they need to let me in on their inspirations. Please share your thoughts, folks, so we can get on with our lives and use your design as best intended.

The large size I ordered fits me well, but my concern now is that when I load it up it may not stretch enough to fit everything. Of course, I'm probably not supposed to put a week's worth of food bars in the large rear pass through pocket (I need to see if my sleeping bag will fit).

I'll use the Field Vest on treks to see if it can be a replacement for a day pack. I'll also use it with day packs and trip packs to see how it works while wrapped in pack straps. During the week it'll also be used on my daily work routine (climbing towers and installing antennas) to see how durable it is. This looks like a really useful product and it will get a really good workout.

The vest itself is lightweight enough that it can probably be worn at higher temps and I'll have a chance to try it out as it gets well over 100 F (38 C) here in a few months. Should be neat to see how it handles sweat stains and how it washes up.

I'm thinking that this will be very difficult to use as an undergarment in colder weather, since when loaded up, it may not fit under a shell. I'll give it a try though and see what the limits are. It's not loose enough to wear over a shell and multiple layers. If I had wanted to do that, I should have probably ordered the extra large.

It looks real smart right now. Quite attractive. I may look like a dork when it's fully loaded up though, but hey, only the deer, the bears, the coyotes and my wife will see me (oh yeah and whoever read this and sees the pictures).

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Washing Instructions in both English and French can be found on a nicely-sized (I can actually read them without a magnifying glass.) cloth tag on the left side seam near the bottom hem. The instructions indicate the Field Vest should be machine washed in cool water. "Wash colors separately." Tumbled dry on low and removed promptly. A cool iron can be used if needed. No fabric softener can be used, but non--chlorine bleach (only) is okay. The washing instructions are repeated in French on the back of the tag along with the usual international care symbols.

SUMMARY

I'm very excited about the Royal Robbins Field Vest and will be sure to put it through its paces. With spring rapidly approaching - although it is snowing right now - I expect my leisure time to include even more outdoor activities and this vest will be a mainstay of my outdoor clothing. Please see below for the results of my first two months' testing.


FIELD REPORT

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD - 06/09

When I received the Royal Robbins Field Vest, I was sort of not sure when I was going to wear this vest. I wasn't sure exactly what to do with it, since I've never worn one before except for casual wear. It has a lot of pockets (a really lot of pockets) and it looks cool, so now I needed to figure out how to put it into use. To break in the concept, I started wearing it for my outdoor activities associated with my wireless networking business just to get a feel for having it on. In April the weather here is nice, between 60 and 70 F (16 and 21 C) and a little breezy. I wore it during April over regular cotton long sleeve work shirts. What was I going to do with it?

I figured out real quick that this sort of vest can be real handy. I usually wear a leather tool belt when climbing towers, installing radios on roofs, working on the systems and so on. Instead, I picked the items I would need to use, like wrenches, screwdrivers, connectors, test meter, tape, etc and put them in different pockets. I know this has nothing really to do with backpacking, but I'm getting there.

I became very used to wearing this vest. It has a left breast pocket that easily holds my reading glasses and a pen. My sunglasses are easily hooked onto the loop just to the left of my collar. The other pockets are well designed to allow me to find things almost without checking more than one or two times, because I was correct in my Initial Report ... I did forget many times which pocket things were in.

I consider the many hours (probably well over 200 hours (12,000 minutes) of wearing this vest during my business activities akin to breaking in a pair of boots before taking a hike. I became quite comfortable in the vest and with the stuff I dished out it took quite a beating. I mean, getting stuffed with CAT5 crimpers, CAT5 testers, and sharp edged tools ... wow the vest really held up well.

We took off to Rocky Mountain National Park in May. With snow still on the ground at higher elevations above 9000 ft (2700 m) we did several 7 to 9 mile (11 to 14 km) day hikes at lower elevations of around 7,000 (2100 m) to 8,000 ft (2400 m) at temperatures between 45 F (7 C) and 70 F (21 C). I wasn't quite ready to commit to using nothing but the vest for a day hike because I still needed to carry rain gear, heavy layer jacket, snow pants and snowshoes, but I did wear the vest under my backpack, which kept my reading glasses and small items right at hand. I was able to put sunblock and bug balm and tissues in the front pockets and I was able to open the front zipper for venting. It made getting at my food bars and maps much easier, for example.

The hanging loop at the rear top below the collar snaps open and closed so that when I want to hang the vest up, I don't have to have an open ended hook available. By snapping open and closed, I can unsnap the loop to wrap it around any bar or branch and snap the loop closed. Very nice.

As we get into late May and June the weather in Southern Colorado gets warmer (70 F (21 C) to 80 F (27 C)) then hotter (80 F (27C) to 95 F (35 C). I had no issues wearing the vest working on black tar roofs putting up tripod antennas when it was 80 F (27 C). I wore a wicking tee shirt underneath and just the vest over. It was cool and comfortable. (The humidity here in Colorado is usually under 30%.)

So a real good time to test this vest on the trail is when we get the hotter temps. I was able to do that on several 3 and 4 mile (5 and 6 km) hikes at 80 F (27 C) to 90 F (32 C) at 5600 ft (1700 m) in 15% humidity and BRIGHT sunlight. Such treks proved that I can cause the vest to get wet from sweat. However, with the wicking CoolMax tee underneath, the combination became damp wet at peak activity, but dried quickly within minutes. (Again, remember that when the humidity is 15%, things evaporate quickly, the results may not be the same at all where it is 90% humidity).

I carry a 10 mm pistol or a large grizzly pepper spray canister when bushwhacking because there are black bear, mountain lion and rattlesnake in this area. The belt holsters for these fit the vest quite well. I can easily put the edge of the vest behind the holsters and it is quite comfortable.

One of my concerns was that if I stuffed a whole lot of "stuff" into all these pockets I would look like the Marshmallow Man and have limited movement. So, I decided to try and see if I could replace my day pack for short hikes. On a normal hike of 7 or 8 miles (11 or 13 km) in spring and summer at lower elevations (between 5,000 ft (1500 m) and 8,000 ft (400 m)), typically I'll take:

a) 2 liters of water for me
b) GPS (because we're bushwhacking off trails in 200,000 acres)
c) snacks and lunch
d) toilet paper
e) zip lock bags
f) Leatherman multi-tool, whistle, small thermometer/compass
g) Band-Aids, sunscreen, lip balm, aspirin, antihistamine, Neosporin, hand wipes
h) binoculars (micro 8 to 20 zoom)
i) cell phone
j) 10 mm pistol or bear spray canister
k) sunglasses
l) reading glasses
m) LED flashlight (in case we get lost after dark)
n) rain jacket or umbrella

This usually goes into a Burton daypack that is my favorite, with the water going into a 2 or 3 liter internal bladder. The trick was to replace the pack with nothing more than the vest.

For clarification the left and right I use in these descriptions are my left and right when wearing the vest. Top and bottom will always be relative to me regardless of whether I'm standing on my head.

a) The side pouches of the vest will hold a small 0.5 L (17 oz) water bottle securely in place with the snap loop. It'll hold a 1 L (33.8 oz) bottle but the snap loop won't go around the bottle to hold it in place. The pockets are deep enough and the need for water great enough that I tried this both ways and the larger bottles did not fall out, but I had to be careful to remove them before I removed the vest. However, my wife has a 1.4 L (47.3 oz) Camelback hydration pack that fits in her waist pack. Well, how about that, it fits into the rear panel of the vest. And it fits in with a lightweight rain jacket, too! With both sides of the rear panel pouch zipped up, the hydration tube can pop out at the top of the left side, run across my back, be held in place by the hanger hook snap loop at the top rear outside center of my back (the same loop used for hanging the vest up), then over my shoulder to a carabineer clipped to the right front shoulder D ring on the vest.

b) I have a hook 'n loop strap that goes around the shoulder harness of my backpacks so the GPS is high for best reception and right at my chest level for easy access. The GPS case hook 'n loop vertical strap fits right through the left chest hook 'n loop strap on the left shoulder of the vest. Hey, my GPS is right where I want it!

c) Snacks for lunch: 2 food bars, some almonds in a zip lock bag, all fit in the left pocket with the horizontal zipper that is behind the main left pocket (confused yet? ... I have trouble beating my 8 year old granddaughter in a game of concentration with picture cards). I opened at least 3 pockets looking for the food bars. TWO ham and cheese sandwiches fit into the same pocket on the right side. Food... I just look for the thin zipper. I've got it memorized now. So all food will go in these pockets all the time.

d) Usually I keep a roll of toilet paper in the day pack. Not because I need that much, but because I put it there and I know it will be there. I cut that down to a wad of TP that I wrapped around my hand 30 times. Should be plenty (one can only hope). I put in into a zip lock bag and it went into the right inside chest pocket that has the full length hook 'n loop closure. It went in with the stuff from (g) all in the same pocket.

e) 4 empty sandwich sized zip lock bags in the same pocket as (d)

f) packed my Leatherman multi-tool in the inside pocket intended for a cell phone

g) Band-Aids, sunscreen, lip balm, aspirin, antihistamine, Neosporin, hand wipes in the same pocket as (d)

h) my binoculars are small enough that I can put the lanyard around my neck and stuff them under the vest (between me and the vest, not in a pocket) to hold it in place. I even do this when climbing towers with the vest on now. Works great.

i) My cell phone is always in my pants pocket. Just something I've always done.

j) I wore my pistol or bear spray canister on my belt (separately on different hikes) and both fit well with the vest.

k) Sunglasses. On my face, but with the GPS on the left shoulder loop, the sunglasses can hang on the right shoulder lever D ring just fine.

l) reading glasses in the left top vertical pocket for very easy access.

m) LED flashlight in the large left inner pocket.

n) rain jacket and/or umbrella in the rear pocket panel with the hydration pack

o) spare AA batteries for the GPS go in the larger inside pocket right behind the cell phone pocket

Sample Pocket Contents
I carried all this in the Royal Robbins Field Vest Pockets.
All of this stuff, including the vest and empty hydration pack, weighed in at 6.4 lb (2.9 kg) without water. The 1.4 L (47.3 oz) hydration pack filled up adds just about 3 more pounds (1.4 kg). Add another small 0.5 L (17 fl oz) water bottle in the side pouch for another 1.1 lb (499 g) and this whole mess is around 10.5 lb (4.76 kg). My Burton pack is just about 4 lb (1.8 kg). The Royal Robbins Field Vest is only 1 lb 2.8 oz (0.53 kg). That's almost a 3 lb (1.4 kg) weight savings.

Aside from the weight savings, another plus is that everything is accessible without stopping to remove a pack. That is quite nice.

At temps up to 85 F (29C), the fully loaded vest is quite comfortable and I did not find myself sweating myself into wetness and the vest wicked well. Once above 85 F (29 C) I did feel that being wrapped all around was sometimes too much, but it never prompted me to feel that I had taken on too much and I had to get the vest off for fear of overheating. I was able to open the center zipper all the way to the bottom and vent enough that I had no issues.

SUMMARY

I am getting really used to using this vest for short day hikes. As the pictures show, even with all this stuff, I was able to zip up all the way without forcing things. AND I DON"T LOOK LIKE THE MARSHMALLOW MAN (do I?).

Loaded up Vest - Front View
Loaded Up Front View of Royal Robbins Field Vest
Loaded up Vest - Side View
Loaded Up Side View of Royal Robbins Field Vest

It has been much more comfortable and flexible than I ever expected. In fact, I am wearing this thing a lot. It's very handy and even with a short sleeve T underneath, it still looks cool.

I received a fly rod for Father's Day. Once we get through gnat season here, I'll be out using this vest more for its intended purpose. But right now, it's going to continue to be used for hiking and as a day pack replacement, and for several days each week for my outdoor work activities. It's been used so much it needs to be laundered and I'll report on the results in my Long-Term report.

So far, I really really enjoy using this vest! I'm a convert. Now, rather than tell people I was out backpacking, I can tell them I was out vesting.

This concludes my Field Report. Please continue below for the summary of my final two months of testing.



LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've worn this vest a lot. I wore it everywhere. Well, not everywhere, including the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City in July. I did not wear it to church though because my wife would have stopped me. But I did wear it probably 3 days a week or more at temperatures up to 90 F (32 C). While most of my use was in southeast Colorado, the vest did see action at hot and dry Arches National Park in Utah and a humid week's worth of day hikes on Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan. I'm thinking I've had more actual wear than the average person would who purchases this for trekking, bird watching and other field use. Until that is, they find out, like I did, how useful this thing is.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

After it gets above 90 F (32 C), even with our low 10% humidity here in Canon City, Colorado, wearing a vest over a tee-shirt or regular shirt gets to be too much. So, I did wear just the vest for a day and it worked just fine. It felt uncomfortable for me because I always wear shirts with sleeves; however it was perfectly wearable with no under garment.

I got it dirty enough that it had to be washed so I could be seen in it. My wife tossed it into a commercial laundromat washer and it came out just fine. She hung it up outside to dry. No shrinking. No change in the fabric that I can see except that there is a ghost image of the snaps on the main pocket flaps.

I do have a problem with the left top breast pocket zipper. The bottom of the zipper is coming undone and it pops out. I can push it back in, but if the zipper pull is at the bottom, I have to hold the bottom of the zipper with my left finger to get it started. I use that pocket to hold my reading glasses, so I'm in and out of it quite a lot.

Also, the black zipper pulls are not very secure. They wrap one time around the square cutout on the zipper tab and will work their way loose. For the pockets I frequently zipper up, I knotted the pulls to keep them in place. I'm missing one though because it came off in the field.

SUMMARY

I'll continue to use this vest until it falls apart or my wife makes me get rid of it because I've worn it out. It's extremely useful and very comfortable. I'm a vest convert. Perhaps some day Radio Frequency tags on every little thing will record what pocket it goes in and all I would have to do is say "nail clippers" and the vest would tell me "pocket 4"...oh well, until then I'm going to have to work on my short term memory to recall what is in any of the 14 pockets.

Thank you to Royal Robbins and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

John R. Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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