SHERPA ADVENTURE GEAR VAJRA JACKET
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
INITIAL REPORT - May 26, 2011
FIELD REPORT - August 01, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - September 25, 2011
5' 9" (1.75 m)
145 lb (65.80 kg)
I have been hiking and camping for over 20 years and enjoy backpacking solo and with my kids in Scouting. I especially enjoy fall and winter backpacking and camping. My backpack and gear are older and weigh 40+ lbs (18 kg). This has limited the distances I have been able to cover while hiking. My goal over the next several years is to replace my existing clothing and gear with more suitable and lighter weight alternatives.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Sherpa Adventure Gear
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.sherpaadventuregear.com
Listed Weight: 14.3 oz (404 g)
Measured Weight: 14 oz (396 g)
Available Sizes: S-XXL
Size Tested: Small
Colors: Black, Chive, Lama Red, Rara Blue
Shell fabric: 100% ripstop polyester shell treated with DWR
Insulation: PrimaLoft One (60 gsm)
Features (as stated on Sherpa Adventure Gear's website):
•Two zip handwarmer pockets and one zip chest pocket hold necessities
•LYCRA fiber binding at collar and cuffs traps body warmth within jacket
•A DWR (durable water repellent) coating gives the ultra-light, ripstop nylon shell its water shunning ability
The Sherpa Adventure Gear Vajra jacket (hereafter called Vajra jacket) is an ultra-lightweight full zip jacket that incorporates a 100% ripstop polyester shell with Primaloft One insulation. The ripstop polyester shell has a DWR (durable water repellent) coating to help repel rain and mist while the Primaloft One insulation is sandwiched in-between to provide additional warmth. Primaloft One is a synthetic insulation made of polyester microfibers that are specially treated for water resistance. According to Primaloft who is the manufacturer of this product, "Primaloft One has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any synthetic insulation on the market. It is 24% warmer and absorbs 3 times less water than its closest rival. It is also soft and extremely compressible." Upon doing some research, I discovered that PrimaLoft One is similar to 550-fill power goose down in terms of its warmth when dry. I also found out that when wet, its thermal properties exceed that of down. Of course down is available in much higher fill powers than 550 and so it still reigns supreme over synthetics in terms of its warmth-to-weight ratio. Beyond that, the decision of whether to wear down or synthetic outerwear is quite complex and includes many factors, both technical and personal. As I typically hike in the midwest where rain is always possible, synthetics are my preference. The biggest downside of synthetics for me has been their longevity, as the man-made fibers start to break down over time and the jacket, sleeping bag etc loses its ability to retain heat.
The Vajra jacket has two zippered hand-warmer pockets and one zippered chest pocket. The hand-warmer pockets are 9" x 7" (23 cm x 18 cm) while the chest pocket is 5" x 5" (13 cm x 13 cm). All of the zippers are YKK and have pull cords and/or cloth tabs to make it easier to operate them while wearing gloves. In addition, there are two large waist pockets inside the jacket. These open top mesh pockets are 10" x 10" (25 cm x 25 cm) and can be used to hold a hat, gloves or any other items that need to be kept warm or dried out with body heat. The jacket collar, cuffs and waist are bound with Lycra for a snug fit to maintain warmth and keep out cold air.
The Vajra jacket has the Sherpa name in white thread on the chest pocket and the company's logo is sewn onto the upper back area just below the neckline.
When the Vajra jacket arrived at my doorsteps in a small cardboard box, I was surprised at how small and light weight the package was. My first impressions of the jacket after removing it from the box were very positive. I really like the Rara blue color and the jacket, at 14 oz (400 g), is ultra lightweight. It has a simple yet stylish look that is almost identical to the photos I saw on Sherpa Adventure Gear's website. The Vajra jacket also appears to be well made. Upon detailed examination, I found that there were no loose threads or pulls and the overall appearance of the jacket was great. It is obvious that Sherpa Adventure Gear has paid a lot of attention to the details. The jacket is basic in terms of its design and features but that's exactly what I prefer in mid layer clothing. I would much rather have an insulating layer that is lightweight and flexible than one that has lots of features, but is bulky and heavy.
Continuing on, the shell is very soft and smooth which should make it easy to put on over a base layer. As witnessed by the small box that it shipped in, the jacket appears to be very compressible. This is in stark contrast to my fleece jackets which are bulky and take up a lot of room in my backpack when I'm not wearing them. I am a little concerned about the durability of the shell as it appears to be very thin. It will be interesting to see how it holds up throughout my testing. I am excited about the possibility of being able to replace my heavy fleece jackets as long as it can provide similar warmth and stands up to use.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The Vajra jacket has hang tags from both Primaloft and Sherpa Adventure Gear. The Primaloft hang tag lists the following 6 features of Primaloft One insulation:
- Dries faster than down
- Wind resistant and breathable
- As warm and soft as down
- Excellent water resistance
- Compresses like down
- Thermally efficient
The Sherpa Adventure Gear hang tag lists several features of the jacket, including its wind and water resistance as well as its durability and lightweight warmth. Sherpa's policy is on the back of the hang tag and states "Sherpa Adventure Gear products are fully warranteed against defects in materials and workmanship for the life of the product. If for any reason a product should fail, we will repair or replace the product." This hang tag also explains that their clothing is tested by Sherpas on Mt Everest. Cool!
The inside jacket tag has the following Care Instructions:
- Hand Wash Cold
- Hang Dry in Shade
- Non Chlorine Bleach
- Do Not Iron
- Dry Clean (Petroleum)
- No Wringing
Overall, I am very impressed with the detail of information provided by Sherpa Adventure Gear for the Vajra jacket both on the hang tags that came with the jacket as well as on their website. The company appears committed to producing high quality clothing and they understand the importance of testing their garments in the real world to ensure their functionality and performance.
TRYING IT OUT
Upon trying on the jacket, I immediately realized I should have ordered one size larger. It has an athletic fit and there is not much room for me to stretch without binding in the chest and upper back. I ordered the size small after reviewing the sizing chart on Sherpa Adventure Gear's website. At the time I figured I would mainly wear this jacket underneath a more durable outer layer due to its thin shell and not wanting to rip or tear it. I also envisioned the Vajra jacket as being bulky and figured the smaller size would fit better underneath my shell. So much for strategizing ahead of time. As it stands, I can fit a thin base layer under the jacket but that is all. The sleeves are perfect length as is the fit of the waist, but as noted the jacket is tight in the underarms and chest. I called Sherpa Adventure Gear in hopes of being able to swap for a medium, but unfortunately they are out of stock on this jacket till fall. I must say I was impressed with their customer service department and the gentleman I spoke with was very courteous and as helpful as he could be.
The weather this morning was cool and overcast with a temperature of 52 F (11 C) and so it provided a great opportunity for me to try out the Vajra jacket for a few hours. I quickly put on my shoes and headed outside for a walk. The Vajra jacket went on very easily over my shirt unlike my fleece jackets which tend to catch my sleeves unless I'm holding onto them. Of course the exterior and interior shell of this jacket is made of 100% ripstop polyester which is extremely soft and smooth. Sandwiched in between the shell is Primaloft One insulation. The insulation is not bulky at all. In fact it is quite thin to the extent that I'm anxious to see how much warmth it provides in cold weather. During the brief time I spent with it this morning, the Primaloft insulation seemed to provide good heat retention. Unfortunately it wasn't windy and so I didn't get to find out how much protection the jacket provides from a stiff breeze. I will say that the Lycra fabric on the waist, cuffs and neck of the jacket provide a simple, yet seemingly effective seal against the outside elements. After wearing the jacket for awhile, I noticed how well the fabric hangs. It doesn't bunch up at all and it is extremely quiet. Over the next few months I will do much more rigorous and extensive testing to see just how durable the shell is in rugged conditions.
While walking, I played around with the front zipper and found it very easy to get started and smooth while sliding up and down. The zippers on the hand and chest pockets worked equally well. Speaking of the hand pockets, Sherpa Adventure Gear smartly added fleece to the interior of these pockets turning them into a haven for cold hands. After further research I will determine whether the hand pockets are accessible while wearing a backpack and waist belt. Although I didn't have anything to put into it this morning, I think the chest pocket will come in handy down the road. Unfortunately, I won't be able to use the interior mesh pockets as the jacket is so snug to my body that there is no room for me to fit anything in them.
All in all, the jacket is extremely comfortable to wear and should be a great insulating garment.
The Vajra jacket is very lightweight and compressible and it appears to provide good warmth. Regarding workmanship, I couldn't find any flaws or loose threads on this jacket. From my initial observations, the Vajra appears to be a well designed and constructed jacket with good attention to detail. I expect to use it quite often while backpacking and day hiking over the next few months, particularly on cool, dreary days and when temperatures drop down at night. During the next few months, I expect to be using it mainly as an outer layer.
This concludes my Initial Report for the Sherpa Adventure Gear Vajra jacket. I will post a field report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have only had a few opportunities to wear the Vajra jacket during this Field Testing period due to the ongoing heat wave throughout the country and here in the Midwest. By mid June temperatures were already in the 80's F (27 C) and July has been one of our hottest months on record with daytime temperatures averaging 90 F (33 C). I wore this jacket on a multi-day backpacking trip in early June and also had the opportunity to test its DWR coating during a day hike, when an afternoon thunderstorm dumped heavy rain. But as the month progressed it quickly became too warm to wear. However, even when I wasn't wearing the Vajra jacket, I still stuffed it in my backpack and used it as a camp pillow at night.
Location: Oldenburg, Indiana (IN)
Type of Trip: Off trail
Distance: 8 mi (11 km)
Length of Trip: 3 days
Backpack Weight: 32 lb (15 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Partly sunny with moderate breeze
Temperature Range: 62 F to 75 F (17 C to 24 C)
Location: Strawtown Koteewi Park, Noblesville, Indiana (IN)
Type of Trip: Maintained trail
Distance: 6 mi (9.5 km)
Length of Trip: 1 day
Backpack Weight: 18 lb (8 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy with heavy rain
Precipitation: 0.75 in (1.27 cm)
Temperature: 71 F (22 C)
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During Field testing I wore the Vajra strictly as an outer layer with a lightweight T-shirt underneath and it performed wonderfully. This jacket is extremely lightweight, dries quickly, and seems to be fairly durable.
Warmth: During my outings, the jacket had no cold spots and was comfortable up to 65 F (18 C) while sitting or standing still. I was not able to test the low temperature rating for this jacket due to current weather conditions so I am looking forward to cooler weather when I can continue this testing.
While backpacking during the early morning hours in Oldenburg, IN the Vajra jacket did an exceptional job of blocking the wind against my torso. The Lycra bands which are sewn into the waist, cuffs and collar of the jacket did an excellent job of trapping my body heat and preventing cool air from coming inside the jacket. Throughout this trip, whenever I put on the Vajra, I immediately felt warmer. By comparison, I could really feel the cool air against my exposed skin but my torso and arms were plenty warm despite the windy conditions. When compared to my fleece jacket, the Vajra seemed to provide comparable warmth at a fraction of the weight. At 14 oz (1 kg), the warmth-to-weight ratio for this jacket is exceptional.
Weather Resistance: In addition to wind protection, the jacket did a fairly good job of shedding rain and proved its ability to insulate when wet. While day hiking at Strawtown Park, the skies opened up and it poured for 25-30 minutes. For several minutes, water beaded up and dripped off the outside of the jacket. Eventually, however, it wetted through and by the time I made it back to my car and took off the jacket, my t-shirt was soaking wet. It didn't surprise me that the jacket eventually soaked through as its only protection is the DWR coating. My main interest was to see how well the jacket insulated when wet and whether I would become chilled while wearing the rain soaked jacket. I did not. The Vajra jacket did a great job of maintaining my core temperature despite the fact that it was completely soaked.
Comfort and fit: Throughout my testing, the Vajra jacket was soft and comfortable to wear. The smooth interior surface of the jacket made it very easy to slip on over a T-shirt. There was never any bunching or grabbing of fabric like fleece has a tendency to do. The collar area was comfortable whether zipped or unzipped, and I did not have any trouble with the zipper poking me in the chin. I also did not notice any rubbing or chafing of the seams against my body or face. Unfortunately, the jacket was a little tight across the chest and shoulders and so it restricted my motion. I wish there was a little extra room for times when I would like to wear additional clothing underneath the jacket. As it stands, I am able to move my arms around while wearing the jacket over a thin base layer but I cannot add additional clothing beneath it without binding.
Durability: So far I have had no problems with durability. While backpacking off trail there were several opportunities for the Vajra to get torn on briars and tree branches. Luckily I did not snag the fabric or tear a seam. The jacket shows minimal signs of wear from my pack straps and I will continue to monitor this situation and see if anything further develops. Other than one loose thread near the zipper, the stitching is still tight and the material edges have not frayed. Despite wearing the jacket in intense sunlight and getting caught in a downpour, the jacket has shown no signs of fading or other color changes. Despite sending it through the washer, it has not shrunk. The main jacket zipper as well as the hand and chest pocket zippers, still operate as they did when the jacket was brand new. Although I did not wear the Vajra on my last two outings, I stuffed it in my pack anyway for use as a camp pillow. Despite being jammed into my pack and slept on multiple times, the Vajra appears no worse for wear.
Performance: The design of the jacket is well thought out and it has performed well over the past couple of months. I have found the outer pockets useful for storing small items and they are just high enough to avoid being covered by the waist belt on my backpack. I also appreciate the fact that the hand pockets are lined. This will come in handy once winter approaches. Due to the snug fit of the jacket, I have not been able to use the internal mesh pockets for storing anything.
In conclusion, I am very pleased with the Sherpa Adventure Gear Vajra Jacket. I have found it to be a versatile piece of clothing. It is warm and comfortable with no exposed seams to rub on my skin. It is lightweight and compressible. Its compressibility makes it an efficient piece of backpacking gear, saving weight while fitting into the smallest nooks in my pack. Using the Vajra jacket in place of my pillow has provided both weight and space savings. It is also well made and durable. Unfortunately, it has a slimmer cut than I would prefer in the torso and shoulder area but this should allow it to fit very easily under my outer layers.
Overall the Vajra is a wonderful three season jacket but it is definitely too warm for peak summer use. As cooler weather approaches, I plan to evaluate the long term durability and true warmth capability of this jacket. I am anxious to determine its minimum temperature rating.
This concludes my Field Report of the Sherpa Adventure Gear Vajra Jacket. Please check back in two months for further field testing results and my final report on this item.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Temperatures during the past 5 weeks have cooled down considerably which has resulted in numerous opportunities for me to wear the Sherpa Vajra Jacket. I have taken advantage of this cooler weather by wearing the Vajra every chance I could, whether backpacking, hiking, biking or at soccer games and cross country meets with my kids. In all of my outdoor pursuits the Vajra jacket has been the idea piece of clothing for added warmth with virtually no additional weight.
During Long Term testing I wore the Vajra for a total of fourteen days with four of those being overnight backpacking trips. Weather conditions during my backpacking trips to Central and Southern Indiana included sun, rain and overcast days with temperatures ranging from 39-72 F (4-22 C). On two of these days, I experienced steady winds of 15-25 mph (24-40 kph).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Vajra has continued to perform exceptionally well during my long-term testing and it has become my favorite lightweight jacket for warmth and weather resistance. It is comfortable in a relatively wide temperature range of 45-70 F (7-21 C) when worn alone and does a great job of trapping heat when worn as a mid layer article underneath my rain jacket.
Throughout testing I have been particularly impressed with the performance characteristics of the Primaloft One insulation in this jacket. This synthetic fabric is extremely warm for its weight and it is highly compressible. In this regard, the Vajra jacket is so lightweight and compressible that it is a no-brainer to take on all of my outings even when the temperatures don't dictate insulating layers. If nothing else, I can use it as a pillow at night, and if temperatures drop unexpectedly I am prepared to handle them. In addition my experiences from the last 4 months of testing with Primaloft One recount that it does a great job of repelling water and retaining its loft when wet, thus trapping my body heat and keeping me warm when conditions deteriorate. It has also proven itself to be quite breathable which allowed me to continue wearing it while I exerted myself on uphill climbs rather than stopping to peel it off only to put it back on again later. When compared to the other insulating materials that are on the market today, including fleece, down and wool, I really like the qualities of Primaloft One. It beats my fleece jacket hands down and gives down and wool a real run for their money. Of course nothing performs better than down when temperatures drop well below freezing, and wool has carved its niche with non odor absorbing base layers, but Primaloft has invented a fabric that addresses the shortcomings of these natural fibers while still providing me with great heat retention. Because it is less expensive than good quality down, it is a great option for me on the trail where items tend to only last a few years before they are worn out.
Regarding durability, the Vajra jacket has held up quite well during my testing. However, because it has a thin polyester shell I have been careful not to put it in situations where it would be in peril such as crossing thru briars etc. I have also not washed it yet so I cannot speak to how it would hold up in the washer.
The Sherpa Adventure Gear Vajra Jacket is a well-designed and well-constructed jacket. Based on my testing so far it is perfectly suitable for three season backpacking. It is warm and comfortable when the temperatures drop and it provides good protection from wind and light rain while remaining adequately comfortable. It breathes well and dries quickly. The fabric is fairly durable and the shell has a simple clean design that looks good when worn around town.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
This concludes my Long Term Report. Thanks to Sherpa Adventure Gear and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this jacket.
Sufficiently warm for three season pursuits
Good wind resistance
Continues to insulate when wet
Slightly tight in the waist and shoulders / underarm
Read more gear reviews by Brian Hartman