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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > Jacks R Better Mt Washington Underquilt > Test Report by Thomas Vickers
Jacks 'R' Better Mt.
Washington Under Quilt
I grew up in the piney woods of southeast Texas. Camping was a quick trip into the mosquito-infested woods behind the house. My style has evolved and over the last 4 or 5 years, I have begun to take a lighter weight approach to hiking gear (I still use sleeping bags and tents, just lighter versions). While I have flirted with lightweight hiking, I feel that I am more of a mid-weight hiker now. My philosophy is one of comfort, while carrying the lightest load possible.
Manufacturer: Jacks 'R' Better
Year Manufactured: 2008
MSRP: $ 359.99 US
Measurements: 77x42 (183 x 107 cm)
Weight: 28 oz (794 g)
Temperature range: 0 to 10 F (-18 to -12 C)
Construction/fill: 3 (8 cm) constant height, radial baffles, 800+ fill power white goose down, 22% overstuff 4 to 5 (10 to 13 cm) loft
(all measurements approximate)
Measurements: 77 x 42 in (183 x 107 cm)
Weight: 28.5 oz (809 g)
Suspension system (2 x cord)
Cord length: 31 in (79 cm)
Carabiner length: 1.5 in (4 cm)
Weight (cord + both biners): 0.55 oz (16 g)
Measurements: 13 x 19 in (33 x 48 cm)
Weight: 1.65 oz (47 g)
January 1, 2009
Initial tester expectations:
I like the Jacks 'R' Better website because of its easy navigation and pictures. The page for the Mt. Washington under quilt has at least twelve photos that can be enlarged to show the quilt being used in various ways. After visiting the site to gather an initial impression about this under quilt, I came away with a great idea of what to expect. As an extra added benefit, I also came away with a good idea of what hammock systems this quilt will work with and knowing where to reference if I had any questions about use or installation of this quilt.
"The Jacks R Better Mt. Washington under quilt works on any hammock including all gathered end hammocks such as: Clarks, Claytors, Eagles Nests, Hennessys, and the unique Jacks R Better Bear Mountain Bridge Hammock. It attaches to a hammock in under a minute with the included JRB Suspension System. The shell is two-color, 1.1 ounce rip-stop nylon with a durable water resistant (DWR) treatment. It has a light, subdued outer color for aesthetic appearance and reflective qualities and a black inside for warmth retention and to facilitate field drying. Comes with a JRB silnyl compression sack that allows it to be stuffed to 8 x 8 x 9 inches."
The Jacks 'R' Better Mt. Washington Under Quilt is a nicely constructed down under quilt that is designed to be hung beneath a variety of hammocks to provide warmth during cold weather hiking. The quilt itself is bi-color (black on inside/top and green on bottom/outside)
and made of 1.1 ounce rip-stop nylon. The nylon is very soft
and slippery to the touch, which was a pleasant surprise. It is also very poofy and has
great loft. The quilt has baffles sewn across its short length. The baffles are spaced 6.5
in (17 cm) apart along the entire quilt.
There are loops of gross grain ribbon on each corner as a well as one on each of the long (72 in/183 cm) sides. There are draw cords and toggles for cinching the ends of the quilt located on each of the shorter (42 in/ 107cm) sides.
Included with the quilt is the Jacks 'R' Better Suspension system.
The suspension system consists of two 31 in (79 cm) lengths of elastic cord. Each cord has two mini-carabineers attached to each of its ends. These two cords are attached to the hammock being used and are used to suspend the quilt underneath the hammock.
The Mt. Washington Under Quilt is well constructed and well designed. I was a bit skeptical about claims that it can be easily used with any hammock and installed in less than a minute, but so far it seems to support all of its claims.
Its design is so simple that I am surprised that something like this was not manufactured sooner. I have hung it under one hammock so far (Jacks 'R' Better Bear Mountain Bridge) and not only was it easy to install, but fast too. Any time that I can read the included instructions quickly and easily, then use a piece of equipment without questions, I am a happy person. The ease of putting the quilt in place would be a huge selling point for me. If it keeps me as warm as easily as it installs, then I am going to be writing rave reviews on this quilt.
Installing the quilt:
According to the directions, to install the quilt all I had to do was connect the Suspension cord to the hanging strap of the hammock, pull the gross grain loops on the hammock through the corner loops of the quilt and then attach a mini-carabineer to each of the loops on the hammock.
The only problem I had with this process was that my fingers had
trouble pulling the loops through each other, but that is my issue, not a construction or
design issue. If I had more fine motor skills I would have been able to install the quilt
in the manufacturer's one minute time frame the first time I tried. Overall, putting the
quilt on the hammock was fast and easy. I do not think that I have ever come across a
shelter related accessory that installed with this much ease.
Probably the only gripe I have so far with this quilt is the stuff sack that came with it. The sil-nylon stuff sack has hook and loop fastener along the top opening and a 1/2 in (1 cm) wide webbing strap that apparently wraps around the sack and back through two plastic rings at the top of the stuff sack.
I have no problem getting the quilt into the stuff sack. My problem is that I have no clue how to properly cinch the stuff sack down so that I can compress the quilt to the 8 x 8 x 9 inch (20 x 20 x 23 cm) size that Jacks 'R' Better claims can be reached.
Even after going back to the website and finding the page for the stuff sack, I am still a bit clueless about how to use this thing. Admittedly, this is a minor quibble, but I sure wish the included instructions for the stuff sack were a bit more detailed.
I like this quilt. It is well constructed, soft, and has plenty of loft. The design is simple, yet well thought out and I also like the fact that with just the normal Jacks 'R' Better suspension cords it can be attached to a wide variety of hammocks. Even better, it can even be used as a sleeping quilt if an under quilt is not required.
Things I like:
1. Simple design
2. Well constructed
3. Easy to install
Things I don't like:
1. I do not know how to use the stuff sack
Field Report - February 3, 2009
Sam Houston National Forest
Other locations in Southeast Texas
Total nights use: 10
Night temperatures: 28 to 70 F (-2 to 21 C)
Precipitation: Freezing rain, light rain, and mostly no rain.
Wind: 0 - 15 mph (0 to 24 kph) steady wind (gusts up to 20 mph/ 32 kph)
Hammocks: Jacks 'R' Better Bear Mountain Hammock
Packing and carrying it:
After carrying this quilt around in my pack for the first part of this test series, I can honestly say that my main complaint is still that I cannot work the stuff sack very well. This means that the quilt has taken up far too much room in my pack for my liking, but until I use a different stuff sack it is the price I am willing to pay. The benefits to using it far out weight the negative of taking up room in my pack.
One thing about stuffing this quilt that I have grown to like is that it smooshes down easily and then it relofts nicely, no matter how long I leave it in my pack. I do not store it like this, but after a few hours in a pack it does puff up nicely with just a few shakes. It still comes out of the pack looking rather ratty, but after shaking and letting it lie, it begins to look much like it did when I first unpacked it.
I have had no real issues with the quilt itself. My main complaint as I mentioned above is with the stuff sack. This is something that I can fix just by getting another stuff sack and is not a design flaw in the quilt. The only other issue I have come across has to do with the draw cord that cinches one end of the quilt into a footbox. I had been lying under the quilt and when I decided to release the toggle and uncinch the cord, the toggle flew off the cord and I lost the cord inside the cord channel on the quilt. While not a huge problem, it just means that I have to rethread the cord at some point and if I need to use the quilt as a cover, I will have to cinch down the other side.
The really good news is that the cinch cords are not needed to hang the quilt under a hammock. So I seem to have busted something, but nothing that affects my main use of this item.
Warm and toasty:
I have spent ten nights in a hammock with this quilt hanging underneath me. I have never spent this many nights sleeping warmly in a hammock during cold weather. No matter how low the temperatures got, I was always warm on my backside. The quilt kept me warm through the night and my only concern for the first time was keeping warm from above. This has never been how cold weather hammock camping has been for me and I can definitely say that the Mt. Washington Under Quilt is well worth its weight in cold weather.
What I really like is that no matter how cold it is at bed time, just a few minutes in the hammock really gets the quilt/hammock/back combination nice and warm. The quilt seems to heat up and hold body heat very quickly and efficiently. So not only does it keep me warm all night long, but the getting comfortable and toasty stage is very short and sweet. Basically hop in and get warm within a couple of minutes.
Another thing that I discovered is that it can get too hot outside to use the quilt under a hammock. One evening I hung the quilt under the hammock and when I crawled into bed it was 70 F (21 C) out. After just a few minutes in the hammock my back was sweating and I made the decision to get out and take the quilt off. Lucky for me it was just a couple of minutes at most to take the quilt off the hammock and get back in bed.
Of course within about three hours the temperatures dropped into the mid 40's F (4 - 9 C) and I woke up cold. The good news again was that getting out of the hammock and putting the quilt back on the hammock only took a couple of minutes. Before I knew it I was back in the hammock and dozing off again.
The quickness and ease of putting this quilt on is just amazing. I doubt I was out of bed for five minutes total for taking it off and putting it back on.
There has not been any real rain during the first part of this test phase. There has been some dew build up on the quilt on some mornings and I have even spilled water on it in camp, but I have yet to see it get wet. All the moisture I have seen has beaded up and rolled right off of the quilt. Part of me would like to know just how water resistant the quilt truly is, but part of me is going to be happy if I never have to discover how well it resists getting wet.
In the next part of this test I am going to use the quilt with another type of hammock to see how easy it is to hang and use with it. The only hammock I have used it with so far has worked just great and if the quilt adapts to other hammocks and works just as well, then I am going to be a very happy person.
I am also going to try and find another stuff sack to use with this quilt. I just do not know how to use the one that was included to get it compressed properly. Reducing its size in my pack a bit will make me much happier with it, but it is not a huge issue. The Mt. Washington Under Quilt works too well at this point for me leave it at home just because I can not figure out how to compress it enough.
One dilemma that I came across while using the quilt was what to do with the suspension cords. I started off by taking them off the hammock every morning and stuffing them with the quilt, but on several occasions I found the suspension cords on the ground when I was doing my final policing of my campsite. They are small, black, lightweight, and apparently easy to drop without noticing. After a few of these surprise finds as I was breaking camp, I decided to keep the suspension cords attached to the hammock. That way they would always be secured in place and would not get dropped or lost.
At this point I am very impressed and happy with the performance of the quilt. I never imagined that I would be able to keep warm this easily in a hammock with this little effort. I am looking forward to more testing of this quilt over the remainder of the test period.
Things I like:
1. Keeps me warm
2. Easy to set up/take down
Things I do not like:
1. Stuff sack
2. Suspension cords are easy to loose
Long Term Report - April 9, 2009
Sam Houston National Forest
Other locations in Southeast Texas
Total nights use: 7
Night temperatures: 32 to 70 F (0 to 21 C)
Precipitation: Heavy Rain
Wind: 0 - 25 mph (0 to 40 kph) steady wind (gusts up to 35 mph/56 kph)
Hammocks: Jacks 'R' Better Bear Mountain Hammock
I have been pleasantly surprised with the way that this quilt has kept me warm and toasty over the course of this test. I am a hammock camper and a cold natured person wrapped up in once nice package that makes winter hammock sleeping difficult. I have found it to be very hard to stay warm and hang at the same time until I started using the Jacks 'R' Better Mt. Washington Under Quilt.
During this portion of the test there was a lot more wind than I am used to, and it happened to rain on every night that I used the quilt. Wind and rain are usually more difficult conditions for using a hammock, but not with this quilt in place. It was still a breeze to install, not matter what the conditions were and I really liked that.
Best of all, it still kept me warm, even with 25 mph (40 kph) winds. Due to the set up of my tarp, the wind was very seldom striking the hammock and quilt directly, but even when it did, I never felt it through the bottom of my hammock. The quilt did an excellent job of keeping me warm and keeping any wind that might hit it from chilling me. In fact, my back was never cold (no matter what the temp) in my hammock as long as the quilt was installed. This is quite a feat in my opinion and one of the reasons that I was very impressed with this quilt.
On one of the nights out, the temperatures started off about 70 F (21 C) and that was too warm for the quilt to be on my hammock. I started that evening off with the quilt over my body and my sleeping bag as a pillow. I awoke after a few hours i grew chilled on my back and a quick check of the temperature showed that the night air had dropped to 56 F (13 C) and was still going lower. I was out of the hammock quickly and within a couple of minutes the quilt was in place and I was back in bed, drifting off to sleep. I really think this goes to show how impressive this quilt is. It can be used under the hammock or as a quilt. It is quick and easy to install. It keeps me warm. Pretty basic to use and how it works, but out of this world in results.
With all the rain I encountered during this part of the test, I was extremely worried that the down inside the quilt was going to get wet or at least damp at some point. There were only a couple of occasions where rain was blown under the tarp and onto the quilt, but it beaded up and dripped off. The down filling never felt like it was wet, damp, or clumped in anyway.
I was also worried about condensation between the quilt and bottom of the hammock, but I never saw any and since the filling never got wet I have to assume that if there was any condensation in that area, it did not penetrate the quilt.
On several mornings there was heavy moisture buildup on the underside of the quilt, but once again it never seemed to penetrate to the filling. A quick shake was enough to get most of the moisture off and once I got it home, I would lay the quilt out and make sure it was dry.
Overall, I am very impressed by the amount of exposure to rain and moisture that this quilt survived without soaking through the exterior fabric. This was something I really expected to happen with the high level of moisture present during this part of the test, but I am very ecstatic to report that it never happened.
I am still not thrilled with the stuff sack, but only because I do not think it is the best way of compressing this quilt. The quilt did get exposed to several minutes of steady rain while in the stuff sack on two occasions, but the sack kept it dry. I also forgot to take the quilt out of my pack after a weekend out and it stayed stuffed and compressed for a week. When I remembered my error, I was in a panic and ripped things out of my still packed pack until I got to the quilt. I yanked it out of the pack and stuff sack and gave it a nice hard shake in the den. After sitting out for about 15 minutes it seemed to uncompress and loft up nicely. The next time I took it out it still kept me warm and seemed to have all of its pre-stuff torture test loft.
I like the way this quilt makes sleeping in a hammock in cold weather comfortable. This is not "comfortable enough to sleep in" comfortable, but a full scale warm, happy, and sleeping like a baby comfortable. My sleeping system keeps my top warm and the quilt keeps my bottom/back warm. This is just a win/win situation for me. Despite the weight and bulk it adds to my winter pack, I still feel that it is worth the effort. After far too many tired and barely passable winter nights in a hammock, the Jacks 'R' Better Mt. Washington Under Quilt makes my hammock as warm as any tent and in my opinion warmer than most. This is really the final step for me away from tents and ground sleeping.
Due to the normally extreme difficulty associated with hammock camping in the winter, I have been one who is willing to sacrifice sleeping comfort for warmth by using a tent. That sacrifice is now a thing of the past for me. For just a few ounces more in my pack I can hang, sleep comfortably, and keep warm all at the same time. It is just an extra added bonus that the quilt is fast and easy to install.
I have probably said this over and over, but this quilt is quite a piece of gear. It combines simplicity, durability, and best of all, the ability to keep me warm in a hammock. Of course I will always probably gripe about the extra weight and bulk, but the honest answer from my mid to light weight backpacking eyes is that for the winter, this quilt is a must have for my hammock.