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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > Jacks R Better Hudson River Quilt > Owner Review by Lori Pontious
JACKS 'R' BETTER HUDSON RIVER 3 SEASON QUILT
February 19, 2011
I backpacked, camped and fished all over the lower 48 states with my family as a kid, and then life happened. I restarted these activities about four years ago - I dayhike or backpack 2-6 times a month. I am between light and ultralight. I have a hammock system and own a Tarptent. I am a side sleeper and typically use a NeoAir on the ground. My base weight depends upon season and where I go.
The Jacks 'R' Better (JRB) Hudson River is the 3-season rectangular quilt in the JRB product line. It comes in regular and long sizes; mine (I have two Hudson River quilts) are the regular size. Like many of their quilts, the Hudson River is designed to be multi-use; I can draw up the end cord and seal shut the foot box and use it as a top quilt, or suspend it under my hammock using the JRB shock cord suspension. I can also leave the quilt open and have a warm comforter for a twin size bed. All JRB quilts are green with a black liner. My quilts are the older style, very bright (Kelly) green; current JRB quilts come in a more subdued shade of olive. My quilts also weigh an ounce and a half more because I have made two modifications: more Omni-Tape, a hook-and-loop fastener that will only stick to itself rather than to other fabrics, allowing me to connect the two to make one large quilt, and the free underquilt foot end draw cord modification, which adds a few inches of cord length and a third cord lock, enabling each quilt to have the foot end drawn up from the center of the bottom edge, snugly against the bottom of my hammock.
The quilt, as mentioned in the product information, is made of ripstop nylon, with 2 inch (5 cm) baffles and slightly overstuffed to 2.5 inches (6.35 cm). Each end features a sewn channel with a draw cord and a cord lock on each. Each corner has a grosgrain loop to be used with the shock cord/carabiner suspension to suspend it beneath a hammock. The footbox is formed by use of two 17 inch (43 cm) strips of 1 in (2.5 cm) Omni-Tape. After sealing the Omni-Tape, I can tie two short cords together in a simple butterfly knot to keep the footbox from being kicked open while I'm asleep. When using the Hudson River as a top quilt, if it's particularly cold, after pulling the draw cord closed as far as I can, I can either stuff an article of clothing in the gap or use the cord ends to tie shut the nylon for a better seal.
The quilts came with the standard JRB stuff sack, a silnylon bag with a strip of Omni-Tape to close the top, which is then rolled down a couple of times, then the strap is looped down under the bottom of the sack and back up the other side to be threaded through the D rings. The strap is then drawn tighter to compress the quilt. When I put both quilts in my pack, the two stuffed quilts fit in the bottom of my pack nicely side by side, with a little room on the sides inside the pack liner for clothing items. Here is one stuffed Hudson River quilt sitting with my synthetic homemade quilt, a Ray Way of similar temperature rating. (Neither quilt is completely compressed as small as it will go, by the way. But the synthetic will not compress very much farther.)
To use a Hudson River as an underquilt on the hammock, I attach the shock cord suspension lines via a Prusik knot along the ropes on each end, about six to eight inches from the whipped ends of the hammock body. A carabiner clips each corner of the quilt to the shock cords. I then draw up the foot end cord using the center clip (see picture below for detail) to snug up the quilt; on the hammock I currently use (a Warbonnet Blackbird) I need make no other adjustments on the foot end once this is done. On the head end, I leave the draw cord loose until I am actually inside the hammock, then reach out to adjust it before rolling on my side and falling asleep, to snore away the hours until dawn, warm in a cocoon of down. (Note that in the pictures of the hammock, the large section of the hammock being pulled out over the quilt is the shelf, used for gear storage, a unique feature of the Blackbird.) In the picture showing the single tree hang from a large oak, the foot end is the one with the backpack hanging from it. The empty hammock allows the quilt suspension to draw the quilt up into a tube, but once I am inside and spreading out the hammock body with my body weight and sprawling limbs all gaps between hammock and quilt disappear.
When using the quilt in colder temperatures, I often shake the down into the center of the baffles before attaching to the hammock or using as a top quilt. On a sleeping pad, while tarping or tenting, the quilt is just large enough for me to tuck around myself without using the optional quilt wings available from JRB. Since the down will tend to settle into the ends of the horizontal baffles once I am situated, shaking the down into the center first seems to distribute it a little better. As an underquilt, having the down where it will do the most good - directly under my body - is the goal. When using the quilt over me in the hammock, I am less concerned about distribution of the down. The majority of warmth in a hammock comes from underside insulation.
I cannot think of an overnight trip that I have not brought one or both of my Hudson Rivers. They have been in use since I purchased them. One of them is three years old; the other was purchased almost exactly a year after the first. I have used them on the ground, on a bed, in a car, in tents and under tarps, and in the hammock. Current total nights with one or both of the quilts stands at 50 for the year 2010. The warmest night with them was in the 50 - 60 F (10 -16 C) range; lowest temps this year so far have been in the neighborhood of 27 - 32 F (-3 - 0 C). The quilt is so easily adjustable to conditions and so light that even on the warmest nights when I have still wanted coverage (I can't sleep without something over me) it's worked well. It is easy to vent the quilt by laying it open flat, or to tuck it closer. At 5' 7" (1.7 m) tall, I am able to pull the quilt over my head if I wish; some nights I used the draw cord to cinch the quilt around my neck snugly. I always wear a hat on cold nights, thinner ones in spring and summer, thick fleece in fall and winter; this was true before I became a quilt user so needing a hat was no imposition of extra weight for me.
I have taken the Hudson River to Yosemite National Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Sierra National Forest, and Ansel Adams Wilderness on overnight outings from spring to late fall; to the Central California Coast from Point Reyes to San Luis Obispo, on many hikes and car camping trips; and to friends' houses when asked to bring my own bedding, as well as using it on my own bed when my comforter was suddenly rendered distasteful by my cat. I have taken them out when I likely should have had a lower rated setup and managed to stay "just warm enough" - the lowest temperatures occured on a mid-November, clear, frosty overnight at high elevation in Sequoia National Park, where I awakened in the morning to ice (condensation from me!) on the outer shell of the underquilt. The lake was frozen, the trail had ice crystals across it wherever the ground had been moist the day before, there were icicles in the branches over the creek, and my friend in his aged down bag had layered on every single piece of clothing he'd brought. I was able to sleep with two pairs of wool socks, a fleece balaclava, fleece pants, and two long sleeve shirts without being chilled. And I fully expected to be chilled. I knew I was pushing the limits of my three-season gear. To render the water in a Platypus slushy, we must have had sustained 20 - 30 F (-7 - -1 C) temperatures all night. (Unfortunately, I did not have my thermometer with me at that time.) Yet I did not need to put on my last layers - a down jacket and additional pullover - to sleep.
I have no complaints about the performance of either of my Hudson River quilts.
There have been a few times that I have felt a slight draft when one was in use as an underquilt. This was due to my not having adjusted it properly. The primary difficulty with underquilts is suspension - any means of attaching the quilt to the hammock must allow for adjustment to eliminate air gaps between quilt and hammock. On gathered end hammocks, as the sleeper moves about, gaps can form. Also, with baffled down quilts, if the suspension does not allow the quilt to move with the wearer, the down can be compressed and cold spots develop. The JRB suspension, which consists of two lengths of heavy shock cord, provides a generous amount of "give" and can also be adjusted along the hammock suspension to address compression. On the head end, it is a simple matter to adjust the draw cord from inside the hammock to customize the fit of the quilt. This may seem to those who have not slept in a hammock to be a great deal of fuss for camping out; for the hammock sleeper, however, underquilts are the ultimate luxury - warmth and comfort that moves around with the user. I dislike having to focus on complicated gear instead of enjoying my trip. Once I understood how the quilt needs to be attached to my specific hammock, it became a quick and simple setup that enables me to be in the hammock and "testing the hang," aka napping, in just a few minutes.
There are now many kinds of underquilt, as the cottage gear industries that cater to hammock users now make a wide variety of underquilts specific to that task, with differentially cut, vertical baffles that eliminate shifting of the down no matter how the user moves about in the hammock. The Hudson River still works, however, and still has a place in my hammock gear arsenal against the cold. When I ordered the second Hudson River, it was because I had successfully used the first one this way, without compression of down or excessive gapping that I could not remedy with the retying of a Prusik.
As a top quilt, I have had zero issues - I would consider the times I have awakened and had to re-tuck the quilt to be part of the adjustment to using quilts in general. As a side-sleeper on the ground, I would be awakened anyway by the need to roll over. I know that I am mobile in my sleep, and generally much more so when uncomfortable. Part of the reason for my migration into a hammock had to do with that issue. I would find myself off the pad, sleeping on the tent floor/ground sheet and waking with a stiff, cold back, more than once. The more I have been able to mitigate my discomfort, the less active I seem to be. I have, since acquiring the Hudson River, been able to sleep on a pad on the ground without such night time navigations. Occasionally I will wake to find a gap where I have shifted in my sleep and the quilt has come untucked. It's easy enough to tuck in and go back to sleep, after switching sides. In the hammock, it's unusual if I wake up at all before sunrise as I rarely experience discomfort in it. A large part of my comfort in hammock is due to the consistent warmth that my quilts provide.
Overall my experience with the Hudson River has been positive and the quilts themselves remain in good condition. Occasionally a feather will work its way out of a seam hole, a problem I have had with any down filled item. The cords at the top of the Omni-Tape strips are a little frayed after snagging on the Omni-Tape repeatedly, but are still usable. I have washed the quilts by hand once, which restored a bit of loft I hadn't really noticed I had lost. I have been tempted by other brands - there are quilts with specialty fabric shells that have better water resistance, a softer hand, or lighter by the yard than 1.1 ripstop. They also have correspondingly higher price tags, however, and many are single use items - many top quilts have sewn-in footboxes, and many underquilts are trimmed in ways that make them less suitable for use as a top quilt. For as much use as I have put them through, the quilts continue to reliably keep me warm and will no doubt be in service for years to come in my three-season endeavors.
Cons:Occasional drafts when I move and it comes untucked
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