Lovewool

Lovewool

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Hiking & Camping
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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on December 1, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Valandre makes the best sleeping bags in the world, and this is definitely true for the coldest expedition bags. What truly amazes me about this bag isn't the incredible warmth, the durability of the shell fabric, or the painstaking tailoring (not a stitch is wrong) and design but rather, just how small this bag packs down. It is warmer than my Western Mountaineering Puma MF but seems to pack down just as small! I can say this about all my Valandre bags. There is some magic about the Valandre down that enables it to pack down super-tiny compared to any other manufacturer's bag.

I hear that Valandre will be releasing a newer design (Odin NEO) next year based on their Shocking Blue design. I for one can't see how they can improve on perfection, but it will be interesting to see how they make a more voluminous bag with less down and weight stay just as warm.

This is an awesome alternative to the WM Puma (which I also own) or the Bison (which I do not have experience with). It is also roomier inside than the published interior circumferences would indicate so there's plenty of room for layer for most. Some may find the collar cinch clip to be finicky. I've gotten used to it, so I can clip out without thinking.

At current prices, I'd pick this bag over the Puma MF. You can't go wrong with either bag but I can see why most people want to support American jobs and go with the Western. Thumbs up to you.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on November 9, 2014

Not all DAC J-stakes are the same
5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I have encountered DAC J-stakes in two sizes. Both sizes are 6.5 inches in length. However, one is wider than another. The beautiful blue colored V-pegs (J-stakes) from Sierra Designs are larger than other DAC J-stakes I own. These weigh 0.45 ounces or 13 grams on my scale. The smaller DAC J-stakes (comes with my Hilleberg, First Ascent Stargazer, various The North Face) are also also 6.5 inches long. However, they are visibly narrower and weigh weighs 0.40 ounces or 12 grams on my scale.

We're talking about a gram or two per stake for a slightly larger surface area and holding power. If you want V-pegs, take these over the other DAC J-stakes sold at Backcountry. They are larger. My caveat is that I purchased my stakes in 2012. There is a possibility that cost-cutting measures may have resulted in stake shrinkage of newer ones.

My go-to stake is the MSR Groundhog, and the newest incarnation (2014) weighs 0.46 ounces or 13 grams per stake. There's almost no reason not to go with a Groundhog now.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on February 10, 2014

3 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
Fit: True to size

I wear a medium in almost everything including Marmot clothing. This jacket is great, except that my arms felt like they were being compressed. It was far more than the typical loftiness I get from most down jackets. When I was bending my elbows, I literally could feel a sense of compression that I don't get with any other down jackets or belay coats. Unless you're built like a skinny stick (my arms are NOT big), avoid this one. My other complaint is that there is no volume adjuster on the hood. One velcro placement in the back would add a lot of functionality. However, the tiny arms are a critical flaw.

I have no idea how Down Defender performance since I didn't own the jacket long enough to put it through its paces, but it is an otherwise great value jacket with a durable feeling nylon shell and plenty of warmth.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on February 5, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times
Fit: True to size

I had a chance to buy this for a steal of a price when I was in the UK, so I went for it. I put it through its paces almost daily for several weeks including some gnarly Eastern US Polar Vortex weather. :D This is truly about as good as it gets in warmth to weight ratios for light expedition jackets. 750FP European 93/7 Hungarian goose down is probably equivalent to almost 850FP US down. The stitching, cut, sleeves, and everything about this jacket scream quality. It feels every bit as puffy (and probably puffier) than a Marmot Greenland jacket but for some reason, it actually visually doesn't look as puffy. I'm not sure whether mine is a newer or older version, but my Gasherbrum has a thin fleece lining on the back of the neck which wraps around to the chin.

My biggest complaint is the EX-L hood with stretch baffles. There is plenty of room to accomodate a large helmet. However, the stretch baffle stitching pulls the hood back and leaves my cheeks exposed to wind rather than enveloping my entire face from the wind. The plus side is the best peripheral vision I've encountered in a puffy hood. However, when you're fighting subzero temperatures with wind gusts, you'd prefer that your cheeks stay warm. It might be a minor quibble, but a hood can make or break a technical jacket. I'd prefer a standard hood over the EXL hood. This is an otherwise AMAZING jacket.

I'm 5'8 with a 40 inch chest, and the Medium leaves me room to layer underneath.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on January 7, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it
Fit: True to size

I will give this 5 stars even though my 2013 version deserves 3 stars for the failed pocket size. This has been corrected by Patagonia on the newest colors.

I owned a prior version of the Houdini, so when it came to replacing it, I naturally went for another Houdini. This is a time-tested classic. I will merely echo the sentiment of other reviewers. The stuff pocket on the 2013 Viking Blue color version is TOO SMALL!!!! This is almost never an issue for my puffy clothes since I prefer to use a stuff sack. However, I use my Houdini stuff pocket regularly. I read the other reviews regarding the pocket, and decided to give it a try anyway. On the medium, it would take me two hands and an extra two minutes of gentle effort to jam the jacket into the pocket so that I could zip it closed. Not worth it! This was with a medium. I'm not sure if the pocket size is identical across sizes. If you wear a small or XS, you might have an easier time.

I compared the stuff pocket size to my old Houdini. The pocket on my older version is about 60% larger.

If you plan on using that stuff pocket, I suggest you purchase a 2014 version. I already noticed that the pocket size on the jackets with the newest colors is larger based on the photographs on the Patagonia website.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on January 6, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

What's not to like about this bag? Light, versatile, warm, and packs small! The Pertex Quantum fabric used as the face fabric allows the reduction of weight and packed volume in this 2 pound dreambag. The zipper never snags on me!

I actually wish Western Mountaineering would make the same spec'ed bag in Microfiber fabric. It would probably only weigh one or two ounces more, but the amazing water resistant properties of the MF fabric are worth the upgrade over Pertex Quantum. You won't regret this purchase if you're looking for a lifetime investment in a light 3-season bag.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on December 18, 2013

Fabulous!
5 5

I was a little hesitant to get the bag because I hadn't seen a neck collar on the Ultralamina 0 photos, but my version has a draft collar for the neck.

The Thermal.Q synthetic material with the relatively lightweight shell stuffs down smaller than other synthetics at this temperature rating. Because Thermal.Q is a short-staple fiber synthetic, I suspect it will lose loft over the years. However, the gold standard for durable synthetic warmth, Climashield Apex, doesn't stuff down as small as this does. Climashield also feels stiffer and less flexible in my experience.

As far as the zipper, I've avoided snags. The nylon zipper cord as it comes from the factory goes through BOTH holes of the zipper, and this is a real problem when you are trying to OPEN the zipper. The thickness of the cord sits against the zipper pull and the zipper itself. This obtuse angle makes opening difficult. Rethreading the pull cord through a single hole as pictured which allows the zipper handle to pull straight down and makes opening easier. Because of the stiffness that the thicker synthetic loft gives, the zipper gets stuck far less than my Ultralamina 32.

My girlfriend uses this as her '15-degree' bag. Backcountry doesn't carry the MHW women's Ultralamina 15 which has an EN T-comfort rating of 15F and T-limit of 8F at a higher weight. Ironically, I believe that this men's 0-degree is not as warm as the women's Ultralamina 15, but MHW's 0-degree bags are not EN rated since EN ratings tend not to be as reliable at colder temperatures.

My only quibble is that I wish the zipper were full length. I'd be willing to pay an extra ounce or two penalty for the utility of a full-length zipper. The prior version had a 3/4 zip on one side and a 1/4 zip on the other. This allowed use of the arms while mummified. This feature will be missed. :(

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on November 18, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: Runs small

Just an amazing amazing jacket for the price that will keep you warm. Fits true to size. I'm 5'8, 160 pounds with a 40 inch chest and medium fits just right without layers. Any layering and I would have to size up. The Pertex Endurance will shed light precipitation. It is not as breathable as high quality shells, but this is not a jacket designed for high aerobic activity. Rab's helmet-compatible hoods are right up there among the best.

I'd been onsidering the Rab Infinity Endurance, but I couldn't justify going for the less durable and less warm jacket for only 2 ounces.

My one complaint is that the down migrates on the volar surface of my forearms and biceps after repeatedly flexing my biceps leaving no insulation on my biceps. This is a problem on many down jackets, and it can only be fixed through creating more baffles at the mid-arm or by placing synthetic insulation at the mid-arm. I also have a HUGE head, so the down collar is really snug on my jaw/chin on a medium jacket.

I also own the Mountain Equipment Vega which is a very comparable jacket. I prefer the Vega because of the cool hood and easier zipper, but you can't go wrong with either.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on November 3, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it
Fit: True to size

The one flaw that I couldn't get over when I tried on this jacket is the wrist cuff. I'm 5'8, 155 lb with a 40 inch chest. I do have short arms with thin wrists. My sleeve size is about 32 inches on a dress shirt. The medium fit great. Unfortunately, wrist cuff is very loose with no significant elastic in it. The sleeve kept falling over my hands. Otherwise, it would have been a keeper! It's quite puffy for its weight.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on October 28, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size

My initial impression of Thermoball was that it really does feel like down! It is warm, highly compressible, and much easier to stuff than standard synthetic jackets. This jacket isn't old enough to comment on durability. If Thermoball maintains its loft and compression over years, there is no reason why I wouldn't totally convert from down.

However, I suspect that Thermoball will be subject to the same Achilles heel as all synthetic fibers. I suspect that the insulation will lose loft over time after many stuffings and unstuffings. As much as we can try to replicate the behavior of down, I have yet to see a synthetic jacket maintain its original warmth after a few years of regular use with repeat compressions. After seeing a video of the short staple Thermoball fibers, I suspect this will be the case.

This jacket replaced a well used nanopuff. I hope it lasts as long, but I'll remain skeptical. Kudos to Primaloft and The North Face for trying to innovate.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a question about on October 17, 2013

Starting in the Fall 2013 line of Rab Neutrino Endurance jackets, Rab has started to use 'Hydrophobic Down' which is fluorocarbon-free. Does anyone know what this technology is? Is it like a Nikwax downproof that wears off over time or is it a permanent nanopolymer coating like Down-Tek which should last the life of the garment?

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on October 13, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

What really sets this stuff sack apart from other waterproof burly durable stuff sacks (OR Durable, Podsacs Deluxe) is that the inside is WHITE! This is sooo helpful when you're looking for a small item. The dark gray color linings of other sacks makes hunting for items a chore. Otherwise, it works as advertised, but so do my other quality stuff sacks! It doesn't have the external daisy chain of the OR Durable sack, but how often do you need that feature?

My one complaint is that the XS sacks are long and narrow , and this can make it difficult to remove small items or stuff small down jackets. Podsac Deluxe is my go-to small stuff sack due to its shorter and wider shape.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on October 27, 2012

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This jacket is right up there with the best when it comes to weight to insulation ratio. It's probably up there in dollar to value ratio as well. It contains a fully baffled 250g of high quality 800+FP down with added Primaloft in the shoulders and forearms to resist compression. The only area where there is sewn through stitching rather than full baffling is at the side seams (armpit to hip). This is still a HEATER. It has more down than the MHW Nilas jacket and far far more down than the Patagonia Fitz Roy at a comparable price. The fit is a little snug despite the claim of a relaxed fit. I'm a size 40 chest and wear medium in everything. I found the medium to be very restricting when considering use as a belay jacket so I got a large. Montane makes some of the best mountaineering gear in the business. The functional helmet compatible hoods on almost all Montane jackets are truly the best. The stiff wired brim might be a slight annoyance when you're packing it into a stuff sack, but it makes up for the nuisance during actual use. The zipper on this jacket doesn't have issues starting like the zipper on the Montane North Star that I returned long ago. It's got UK zippers, so don't complain about the zippers being on the wrong side. Americans are backwards in a lot of things. What other civilized country doesn't live in the metric S.I. system?

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on May 13, 2012

4 5

It is a nicely designed emergency knife that weights almost nothing. As one reviewer noted, it IS possible to open this knife while it hangs on a carabiner. There are narrow areas at the gate hinge of most carabiners which allow enough room to open this knife. That being said, the chance of an accidental opening is close to zero under most circumstances. If you're outdoors, you NEED an emergency knife.

I lost this knife, and I now carry a Spyderco Ladybug 3 Lightweight Serrated. It weighs 18 grams (essentially the same as the Pirahna Trango) but is way more comfortable for use in the hand. It hangs on a carabiner through a lanyard loop. And the chances of accidental opening (as with most well-made knives) is very very low but probably higher than with the Pirahna. But its function a knife is far superior in both design and ergonomics.

If you're NOT a climber and want a weightless knife for your 10 essentials in your backpack, then definitely look at the Spyderco Ladybug.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on May 9, 2012

5 5

I'm wary of blowing my moist breath into my Neoair mattresses. A plastic bag with the AirTap Pump works fine, but this 2.7 ounce sack is a much better solution. If you're an ounce shaver, you probably won't want an extra three ounces, but both my gf and I will carry a Neoair and it's good to know that I'm not blowing humid mold-fodder into my Xlite. This is the best solution yet to inflating a pricey Xlite or Xtherm. Two to three bagfuls of air takes care of a standard Xlite.

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