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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Cedar Tree Industries The Packa > Owner Review by Thomas Vickers
started backpacking nine years ago, day-hiking in Ile-de-France all year round, and doing
several one or two-week trips in more mountainous regions (Corsica, Pyrénées, Cévennes,
Lubéron, etc.) each year.
In the past three years, I have gradually lightened my pack load as I changed to a hammock, an alcohol stove, a light pack and running shoes instead of boots.
After living the most part of this year in Quebec (Canada), I'm just back to France and currently settling right in the middle of the Cévennes, an area that is positively criss-crossed with hiking trails.
|Height||about 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)|
|Weight||170 lb (77 kg)|
André de Valborgne (Gard),
|Manufacturer||Edward Cedar Tree Hinnant|
|Listed weight||11 oz (312 g)|
oz (301 g)
with seams sealed
The Packa is a silnylon rain jacket, that incorporates a pack cover ... unless it is a pack cover with a hood, two sleeves and a front zip provided for the protection the backpacker.
The raglan sleeves are fitted with 1" (2.5 cm) wide elastic and Velcro-type cuffs, and underarms zips for ventilation. A rectangular piece of plastic provides some rigidity to the hood peak, and a shockcord with two plastic toggles allows to adjust the closure of the hood. The Packa body has a front zip without flap and a bottom shockcord with a plastic toggle on each side; the back is longer than the front due to an additional a 7" (18 cm) flap under the shockcord. The big pocket in the back that makes the pack cover is surrounded with an adjusting shockcord and a toggle on the top. The right front panel features a large no-see-um lined pocket, closed by a zip with rain flap: it is 10.2" (26 cm) high and the same width as the panel, and acts as a stuffing pouch for the whole Packa.
I have used the Packa extensively during a ten-day backpacking trip I did at the end of October 2004 in the Cévennes (south-east of Massif Central, France). The conditions encountered were horrendous almost all the time, with heavy showers all day long, strong winds and thick fog. Elevations varied between 820 ft (250 m) and 3940 ft (1200 m), but the visibility was so poor I missed most of the scenery. Temperatures were in the 41°F-54°F (5°C-12°C) range during the day; I had nothing to record them at night, but there was a hail shower one night - the hailstones were still under the edge of my tarp the following morning - and I remember I wore all my clothes, including the Packa and my rain pants, two nights in a row.
I have also used the Packa in many day-hikes in Ile-de-France (a 50 mi / 80 km radius area around Paris, France) all the year round. Elevations there are mainly between sea-level and 590 ft (180 m). Weather conditions were mainly moderate (I tend to avoid hiking when steady and/or strong rain is forecasted for the day) so the Packa has acted more often as a pack-cover than as a rain-jacket.
Putting on a rain poncho has always been seems to be a hard job, especially as I usually backpack solo and am rather short, so my pack is often as high as my head; and if it is windy, it becomes a real nightmare. No such problem with the Packa, as I usually use it as a pack cover as soon as I expect some rain in the day. All the extra parts - front and bottom panels, sleeves and hood - are simply tucked up under the cover, against the pack, and are ready to use when I feel like it. It is quite simple to pull them out without taking the pack off: I slide one hand behind the nape of my neck to catch the hood from under the cover, and then follow all along the edges till I have pulled the entire jacket from under the pack cover; the Packa is still covering the pack and ready to protect myself too.
Another advantage of the Packa is its versatility: in light rains, I have often used it simply put on the head and shoulders, wide opened and without putting the sleeves on. And when the rain stops, there is no need to pack the whole thing: I just push behind my head and shoulders everything that seems to be in the way, and leave it as it is till the next time I need it; however, if it is too windy or the trail is bushy, I'd rather take some time to fold everything back under the pack cover. When the rain I becomes more consistent, it is easy to simply slide the arms in the sleeves and zip up the front panels to get additional protection.
I used the zips under the arms a lot to adjust the ventilation when the rain was too strong to open the front zip; but the big front pocket was not so convenient, as I got wet from there when I left it opened. I also like the adjustable hood and its little peak; it might have been a bit limp had I worn it by itself, but it was just fine as I wore a cap underneath. And the back bottom flap was great to protect my bottom and upper legs.
This garment has a lot of seams, and in very exposed areas (shoulders, collar, upper arms), but none of them are seam-sealed. So on the second day of my trip (and the first of "real" rain), I got completely wet, beginning from the shoulders and upper arms then spreading all over my garments till I had not a square inch dry after a couple of hours; unfortunately there were still several days to go with a similar weather... I did seam-seal almost all the seams once back home, but I haven't had the opportunity to encounter such conditions since then.
As previously said, the under-arms zips are handy; but why do they operate in opposite ways: one opens from forearm to mid-chest, but the other one closes that way! I was forever looking for the zips tabs in the wrong place.
The last irritating thing is the hood shockcord: the toggles on both sides are strung along a cord loop, but there is nothing to prevent the toggle from sliding away from the cord, and the cord itself is not long enough for a knot. Of course, the whole thing is against the neck and out of sight, and when operated with wet and cold fingers, the toggle sometimes go further than expected ...
The Packa is very cleverly designed, but its making is somewhat lacking on details such as the under arms zips and the collar shockcord. Above all, I find it useless if the seams are not properly sealed either by the manufacturer or by its user.
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