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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Cedar Tree Industries The Packa > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
The Packa by Cedar Tree (rain jacket/pack cover)
Test report series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: May 24, 2009
Field Report: August 11, 2009
Long Term Report: October 12, 2009
The Packa stored neatly inside the side pocket/storage pouch
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
Initial Report: May 24, 2009
Above is The Packa over my Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone
The Packa fully deployed using the same pack
There is more to The Packa then meets the eye. I'll try to explain all the features shortly. First though, it is basically a rain jacket with a pack cover built in, or should I say, built on. Imagine a loose fitting rain jacket with the back removed and a big boxed in area sewn onto the back. In fact that is what the designer, Edward Hinnant (aka Cedar Tree), did when he made the first one.
The Packa is designed to be put on over a backpack like a normal pack cover but the jacket part is folded inside the cover part before fitting it over the backpack. When used this way, I have already determined that it is easy to reach back and pull the rest of The Packa out to wear if it starts raining. This eliminates needing to stop hiking and remove the pack to dig out rain gear. The Packa is designed to fit loosely but there are 5 cinch cords with barrel type cord locks to keep everything snugged in place. There is one for the hood, one for each sleeve, one for the pack cover and one at the bottom of The Packa.
The Packa features a hood with a large plastic piece sewn into the brim to keep it off the face. It also features large pit zips under each arm. These start just above my elbow on the sleeve side and a good ways down the body side on the other end. The zipper measures 17 in (43 cm) end to end with about 10 in (25 cm) going down the arm and the other 7 in (18 cm) going down the body. I did a little early testing and could feel them working on a short hike but I was still warm under The Packa. Of course it was 75 F (24 C) and very humid so I was sweating before I pulled The Packa from the pack cover position. This photo shows the right arm pit zip which is identical to the one on the other side.
huge pit zips!
There is also an extra length of material sewn onto the back side of The Packa which serves as a sitting place. This flap of material should really come in handy when the woods are wet. It hangs down about halfway between my straddle and knees.
sitting material flap
And finally, there is a pocket on the right hand side of The Packa which also serves as a storage bag. This pocket measures 14 in wide (36 cm) and 10 in (25 cm) deep and is mesh-lined to help with venting. It also has a generous flap over the zipper to help keep any contents dry. When The Packa is packed away in the pocket the whole thing is about 2 in (5 cm) thick but can be mashed down to about half that with weight. In other words, if for some reason it were not on my pack it would stuff fairly small.
mesh side pocket which serves as the storage pouch
I've had my eye on The Packa for years but hung on to my poncho, mainly because it was paid for. In hotter weather I sometimes use an umbrella, however, The Packa was always out there tempting me with what looks like something better. Now that I have looked at one up close I am excited to see how it works. The Packa looks well made and I was able to put it on my pack and then put it on me just like the online video demonstrated. Overall construction seems excellent and I found nothing to complain about. I initially thought the fabric was silnylon but learned from Ed that it is 33D nylon ripstop 1200mm Sil/PU fabric. He interprets this as 33 denier nylon ripstop with a 1200mm silicone and polyeurathane coating.
I did not give every conceivable measurement in the product description but as for how it fits, I am not a skinny guy by any stretch of the imagination. I stand 6 ft (1.8 m) tall and weigh a solid 250 lbs (118 kg), though in the summer I usually weigh a little less. I wear an XL tee shirt and am what most would call long waisted. In other words my 32 in (81 cm) pant inseam is short for most guys 6 ft (1.8 m) tall. With that said, I find The Packa fits me rather loosely but is not excessively big. As already mentioned, it hangs down just below my waist in the front with the sit flap in the rear falling to just above my knees. The arm length fell right at my wrist which is normal.
I haven't used The Packa for any extended hiking trips but I did do a quick check to see what packs it might fit. I tried it first on my Gregory Keeler which is my winter pack with 5300 cu in (86 L) or room. Not surprisingly, The Packa was too small for this pack, but I noticed this was due to the tallness of the Keeler. I packed it full but if I took out some items from the top it worked. I next tried it on my Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone which is a more modest 3800 cu in (62 L) pack. This time the fit was almost perfect. It looked like I could fit it over a slightly larger pack which makes sense since it is recommended for backpacks up to around 4000 cu in (66 L).
Before closing I just want to mention a couple of things I will be looking for as I use The Packa. Having tried rain jackets with a pack, a poncho and an umbrella, I ran into some problems. With just a rain jacket and pack cover I found my pack straps got soaked, my back would get very wet from sweat and in hot weather it was like walking inside a sauna. A poncho was better in hot weather but I still needed to find a way to keep my pack dry when wearing the poncho but not the pack and I still sweated a ton if doing any strenuous hiking. An umbrella worked best in hot weather but offered the least protection. I sometimes found the drip off the back of the umbrella hit my pack, and in blowing rain I got wet. Also, low hanging tree limbs were sometimes in the way. I'm sure The Packa will solve the wet straps but it remains to be seen how I deal with rain and taking my pack off for whatever reason. I do have a couple of Gregory Z packs that are semi-waterproof that might be the answer.
This concludes my Initial Report. Stay tuned for the Field Report which should be forthcoming in about two months to see how well The Packa is working. I would like to thank Cedar Tree Industries and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test The Packa.
Field Report: August 11, 2009
The Packa is inside the Mountainsmith Day (my pack) waiting for duty.
And no, it is not raining, that's just sweat...
Testing Locations and Conditions
All testing was done on local trails, waterways and roads here in northeast Alabama. These outings consisted of several day hikes, several kayaking and one canoeing trip on Guntersville Lake plus kayaking the Flint and Paint Rock river. I also rode my recumbent on three long rides and several shorter ones on local roads and bike paths. Normally, June and July weather can be summed up in two words; hot and hotter. However, June was one of the hottest on record and July is going down as the coolest on record. That said, it has never been really cool except for a couple of July mornings which registered in the mid 50s F (around 13 C). The hottest weather encountered was 96 F (36 C) back in mid June. It rained several times during testing but try as I might I was only out in a couple of light sprinkles while dayhiking, mainly because 4 of the biggest rains fell on Sunday mornings while I was at church. And then there was the rain while I was at the doctors office.
Field Test Results
Things have not worked out for ideal testing of a rain garment but I did managed to use it in a few light sprinkles and one pretty hard rain. In early June I went for a hike late one afternoon when the forecast was calling for rain. It was 91 F (33 C) when I headed out the door and I could hear thunder off in the distance. I hiked down to the swimming hole in the hollow and swam around a bit to cool off. As it started getting dark I headed home. About halfway up the side of the mountain it started to sprinkle just a little but I could really only hear it in the tree tops which kept most of the rain off me. Once I topped the mountain I pulled The Packa from my Mountainsmith Day day pack and put it on. I left the trail and headed out across a pasture so that I would be out from under the trees and more exposed to the rain. The wind was kicking pretty good but I didn't notice any rain getting inside The Packa other than on my face and of course my legs since neither are covered by The Packa. To be clear, the hood did keep my head (hair) dry but the wind was blowing enough that the rain hit my face some. As I passed the barn I saw my neighbor struggling with a tarp he was trying to stretch over a load of hay. I stopped long enough to help him secure it but by the time we got it on the rain had stopped. I commented that it (putting the tarp over his hay) was a waste of time and he agreed. I headed on up towards the house and left the jacket on just to see how warm it would get. It was not too bad with the breeze blowing but I was not really comfortable. It was 86 F (30 C) when I got to the house. I should also note that The Packa was a little too big to use as just a pack cover on my Mountainsmith Day, but since it fit inside without taking up a lot of room this was fine. It just meant I had to take the Day off to get The Packa out of the pack.
I went on several more similar hikes when rain was in the forecast but somehow managed to nearly always miss the rain. I guess this was because it always seemed to rain while we were at church on Sunday mornings. In fact, I got to where I expected it to rain every Sunday morning and I was not disappointed. We had two different rains of over 2 in (5 cm) each and two more of just over an inch (2.5 cm). However, I finally managed to get out in one of them because I had to work on one of the Sundays it rained. I didn't put The Packa on when I ran inside the plant but had it with me. Once I got briefed by the guy I was relieving I went about my normal first thing duties which include going out to the rain gauge and also checking all the basins. This usually takes me about 20 minutes but since it was the first really hard rain I had experienced since getting The Packa I stayed out almost an hour. And since it was early (7 to 8 AM) it was not all that hot yet. Still walking around the waterplant in rain at 77 F (25 C) is not anything like climbing a big hill with a pack on at just about any temperature, much less on a hot day. Regardless, I was much more comfortable this time than the time before when I wore it up the hill from the neighbors' barn to the house. It was a little clammy feeling but I opened the huge pit zips under each arm and could actually feel a breeze working its way in as I moved around. I didn't have any problem with getting rain in through the pit zips either. One thing I did notice was that while I didn't have a pack on at work, the pack cover part of The Packa was not in the way at all. In fact, once I started walking around I really didn't notice it was back behind me as it did not flop around or get in the way.
I got sick on July 6th with a severe case of Bronchitis and missed 5 weeks of hiking. I still managed to go kayaking on three different occasions while sick, mainly because I thought these trips were going to be easy. One was but all three trips were pretty long with the longest at 10 miles (16 km) and the other two roughly 6 miles (10 km) each. One of the trips was downriver for 3 miles (5 km) and then back. And let me tell you, it was tough paddling back up river. Before long I was coughing pretty much non stop. But back to The Packa. It rode patiently behind me in the tank-well of my sit-on-top kayak on all three trips. I got wet each time but not from rain. On the 10 mile (16 km) paddle it did start sprinkling just as we ended the trip but since it was 90 F (32 C) the rain felt good. Besides that, I was already pretty wet from sweat and riding in a sit-on-top without scupper plugs. By the time I drove the 30 miles (48 km) back home the rain had stopped. In fact, it had not rained a drop at the house.
So there you have it. I wish I had more to report but I don't. I was hoping to do some car camping and maybe a few overnight backpacking trips but I just didn't feel like it. I'm still not completely well but just recently (8/10/09) I did go on a 10 mile (16 km) bike ride early AM and then a short 2 mile (3 km) hike to the hollow and back late in the afternoon. And as usual, it didn't rain...
This concludes my Field Report for The Packa.
Long Term Test: October 12, 2006
Using The Packa on a rainy dayhike
Testing Locations and Conditions
I finally got some extended opportunities to test the rain shedding ability of The Packa as conditions have really improved for testing a rain garment over the last phase of this test. We have had lots of rain and the rain was more than just light sprinkles on several occasions. In fact, the area of testing was under flood warning on several occasions. I have used The Packa on several more dayhikes and two overnight camping trips, one by canoe and the other just a short hike to my campsite. I also used it several more times just around the yard and at work in the rain. Temperatures have slowly cooled off with fall weather but I have not experienced anything really cold. However a couple of the rains were what I like to call cold rains. They occurred on days in the mid 50s F (around 12 C) when I really had to push myself to get outside and do any testing. Sitting around drinking coffee seemed like the better option but I did enjoy the coffee more after getting out in the rain a few hours.
Long Term Test Results
The Packa has worked really well at keeping me dry! I mentioned going on a canoe camping trip. The paddle to my campsite was only a couple of miles (3 km) and it took me just over an hour to reach camp. I set my tent up without the rain fly attached so I could enjoy the view of the stars. However, I knew rain was forecast for later that night so I kept The Packa at the ready. And sure enough, I was awakened by rain. Lucky for me it started off as a sprinkle but the wind was really blowing so it made the task of getting the rain fly attached over my tent harder than it should have been. But the good news is, I stayed relatively dry as I completed the task. I did notice my legs got wet in the blowing rain but other than that I stayed dry. Of course The Packa was wet on the outside but my tent had a large vestibule so I just left it out in that area of the tent and I crawled back in the tent and caught a few more hours of sleep. The rain did not let up so when I got ready to strike camp I again used The Packa as I took my tent down and packed everything into my canoe. I then used it for the paddle back to my truck and while loading my canoe and then unloading back at home. Again, I stayed dry except for my legs from about the knees on down. I was especially pleased that it worked so well for the paddling part of my trip. I was using a kayak paddle but regardless, not only did my upper body stay dry, I was able to paddle without rain running down my arms. I guess if I had held my arms up overhead much it might have been a problem but just regular paddling was fine. Also, the flap at the rear may not be designed as a sit flap but that is exactly what I used it for. My canoe seat is made of a rope like material the does soak up water so after sitting out in the rain the seat was wet. Not as in a puddle of water but still wet. I just made sure I pulled the flap under me as I sat down. It did not rain on the other overnight campout but this trip gave The Pack a good workout.
Using The Packa while canoeing in the rain
I am testing a big car camping style tent so I didn't go on any overnight backpacking trips. However, I did manage to take some long dayhikes. And since I was testing The Packa I went ahead and used my regular backpack on two of these dayhikes. It was already raining on one trip so I didn't fool with putting The Packa on my pack but instead wore it fully deployed from the get-go. I ended up hiking about 3 miles (5 km) in a steady rain, nothing severe, but certainly more than just a steady sprinkle. On the other dayhike I had seen a rain moving in so I put The Packa on my pack just like the instructions illustrated with the part to be worn tucked neatly in under the pack cover part. Then, when it started raining, I reached back to loosen the draw sting which keeps if secured tightly to my pack and pulled it out and over me. It worked out just as the instructions predicted. This hike was about 5 miles (8 km) long but I only used The Packa as a rain jacket on the last half of the hike.
However, I wanted to see how I might handle the rain if I had ended the hike at a campsite while still raining. Since I normally use a hammock, I had packed it for this hike and I stopped long enough to set it up in the rain. In some ways it worked out better than I expected but I would not say it went as smooth as silk. I managed to pull my arms out of the arm sleeves and got my pack off my back while still wearing The Packa. The first thing I noticed was that my elbows wanted to poke out of the pit zips which I had open. However, I still managed to get my arms out and free so I could remove my backpack. Then I noticed that The Packa did not want to turn loose of my backpack. It fits around the pack pretty snug and I finally resorted to spinning around under the hood (keep in mind my arms are now out of the sleeves so this is possible) to push The Packa out from around my pack. I then sat it down right under me just long enough to retrieve my hammock which I had purposefully packed on the top of my gear. I put my backpack back on in much the same manner as I had removed it and then put my arms back into the jacket sleeves. I was then able to set my hammock up in the rain while the rest of my gear inside my pack was protected. Of course my backpack is water resistant so all this wasn't really all that necessary but since the shoulder straps are not waterproof perhaps worth the effort. That said, in the future, I will probably just drop my pack long enough to set up camp. Besides, I can usually sit my pack next to a large tree away from the prevailing wind or under a rock or something similar long enough to set up camp.
I will briefly comment on using The Packa in hot weather as I did use it on some rather warm days. In fact, it was about 85 F (29 C) when I was on one dayhike. On this hike I had The Packa stored in my Mountainsmith Day (day pack) when a typical summer afternoon thunderstorm popped up. I wore The Pack for about an hour and even though I kept the pit zips wide open I still managed to soak my shirt with sweat. The hiking was up and down hill and I'm sure the uphill parts were a big reason for so much sweating. I'd like to know how it would have done on flatter terrain but alas, I didn't get an opportunity to find out. And to be fair, I was already slightly sweaty before donning The Packa. Bottom line, I feel The Packa is still worth wearing because a shirt soaking sweat is still a lot dryer than a shirt soaking rain, and of course my gear can remain dryer under The Packa because gear does not sweat. To put it in perspective, I found The Packa caused about the same sweating I experienced when using a poncho due to the large pit zips and the loose fit overall.
I did want to mention that just as previously in the Field Report, I did use The Packa as a rain jacket only (without a pack) several times And as previously, the fact that I had a large loose wad of material hanging off the back was not an issue.. It is not the most stylish rain gear used in this manner but none-the-less, it works great! That said, I probably will not always grab The Packa when I just need a rain coat.
Now that I have managed to use The Packa in several rains, both with and without my pack, I am satisfied with how well it works. I did find it a little hot on warm days but it has enough venting to make it manageable and still a better option than getting rained on except for maybe light sprinkles. I experimented using The Packa to set up camp in rain and found that while not perfect, I was able to manage. If I expected to have to set up camp in rain a lot I might even take along a big garbage bag to keep my pack in so that I could go about setting up camp or whenever I needed, without wearing my backpack. In fact, I've done the exact same thing before getting The Packa so it seems like a no-brainer to me. So why not just use a regular rain jacket and pack cover? Good question, but I feel that using The Packa is worthwhile because it keeps the pack straps dry when hiking. The light weight was also appreciated when I packed The Packa on hikes when I really did not expect rain. I also just recently added panniers to my recumbent and carrying The Packa in them is no problem. The Packa is purpose built rain gear and it shines the most when used hiking with a backpack in the rain, but it is versatile enough to be used for just about any time rain gear is needed.
This concludes my testing of The Packa. I would again like to thank Cedar Tree Industries and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me test The Packa. I am very pleased with The Packa and glad to have it as a part of my rain fighting gear! I hope my findings are beneficial to all who read the report.
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