Oh boy! As far as I can tell from the return policies, I've got 30 days to figure out if I've spent way too much money, and return some of this gear! And no cold weather to test in. I got my shipment from backpackinglight.com. My initial response was a bit of disappointment, but not so much now as I've come back to reality reminding myself that this stuff is ultralight AND synthetic therefore is obviously going to have much less loft than down. But if you spend this much money, you can't help but expect things to be pretty puffy!
I think the real winner is the ultralight 60 pants as well as the pro-60 parka. And I have to remind myself that this is all meant to be used together as a sleeping system.
First impression: cocoon 180 polar guard quilt size LONG. Weight with tags, plastic wrapping and stuff sack equals 21 ounces on my semi-accurate scales. As expected a very fragile seeming piece of equipment. Total loft when measured like a normal sleeping bag (bottom layer plus top layer) appears to equal approximately 3 inches. That's not very much, although I suppose it's a good bit considering it is only a 20 ounce bag insulated with polar guard. I suppose if we looked at that as one top layer of loft, it would be about 1 1/2 inches. Isn't the No Sniveler about 2 inches (or is it 2 1/2 inch?) loft for about the same weight? Either way, that's a lot of loft difference at the same weight, considering that the No Sniveler does not cost that much more than this did, even after my BPL discount.
The JRB web site is still down. How much is a No Sniv LONG, and what is the weight? This does have a nice large foot box and is closed in back up to about my upper legs/behind. Then it snaps behind my neck. However, the whole variable girth thing is not going to work well for me, because I'm only going to be able to use it in wide open position. Otherwise I feel too restricted. So that's another thing I have to consider. I'm wondering if the No Sniveler would also be roomier.
Of course, it's the lack of weight combined with the Polarguard and it's wet weather performance that is one of the attractions. I just wish the stuff was not nearly as expensive as down products. I researched at BPL and they did have some good articles comparing wet down to wet polar guard and prima loft. What was absolutely amazing was that even though some of the best performing down garments lost 90+% of their loft when soaked, and the synthetics lost very little, nonetheless within 20 minutes the down had recovered to a point where they were still loftier than these synthetic garments (the down starting with more loft at about the same weight, pre-soaking), and within an hour were mostly dry with most loft recovered. That was a big surprise. However, I'm not sure the practicality of this, even though the news is better than expected. Because this test was in Arizona, don't know where or the altitude or weather, but a state that tends to be very dry and very warm with plenty of sunshine. I'm not sure how that would work out if this down garment was soaked through and it was still either pouring the rain, or very cold or both. But I also found a real world test there that more lived up to expectations regarding synthetics versus down and water. Two BPL folks identically dressed on a mountainside belay ( Montana) climbing a 12000 ft peak during either rain or snow or both. Apparently during the descent the skies really unleashed on them. The only difference was that one had a down vest exposed to the weather and the other had a synthetic prima loft sweater, both about the same weight. Both got soaked. The down wearing fellow ended up nearly hypothermic, while the synthetic wearing person stayed quite warm. I assume the hypothermic climber managed to finally get warm, because they both ended up wearing their wet garments to bed in to 30° down sleeping bags. By morning the prima loft was completely dry, while the down vest had regained very little of its loft. So to me this real world test confirms what I have always heard from experienced outdoors folks, despite a controlled test seeming to say otherwise, which consisted of: soaked garments, after being wrung out, being hung on standard clothes hangers, outdoors in the shade. Loft and weight measurements were repeated every 20 minutes.
Before I get to the jacket and pants specifically, I need to keep in mind that this whole concept is based on using all three pieces of gear as a sleeping system. So the grand total is 43.5 ounces (2.7 pounds) including stuff sacks and manufacturing tags and a little plastic bags the stuff was shipped in, still on the garments. And of course a hood and waterproof/windproof shell on the jacket. This weight is total sleeping bag as well as insulated hooded parka and pants. I put the jacket and pants inside the sleeping bag, being careful to keep the arms outside so that it would not falsely increase loft. The loft measured 4 to 5 1/2 inches depending on where I measured. Of course, all of this was within 20 minutes of getting the clothing out of the shipping box where it had been stuffed. It's possible it might develop a little more loft after a few hours or days. I measured the loft on my three plus pound polar guard Delta sleeping bag measured about the same loft, maybe a smidgen more.
Now to the parka and pants. Other than the seemingly excessive expense, it's hard to argue with this approach. The pants weigh all of 8.5 ounces with tags. When I put them on over my blue jeans, it really sort of looks like the Michelin Man. I laid them out on the bed beside an 8 ounce pair of Patagonia Capilene expedition weight longjohns. The polar guard pants had many times more loft, perhaps between five times as much, or more! The Endurance shelled hooded parka with tags and packaging (I haven't taken any of this stuff off in case I have to send it back) weighed 14 ounces. I have an old favorite Patagonia retro pile jacket (very warm but zero windproofing and of course no hood, though almost indestructible) that weighs 24 ounces. The cocoon jacket was significantly- loftier probably twice as lofty or more. I will have to try to compare that some more later and see if I can get a more accurate comparison. It's kind of hard to estimate the loft on the retro pile or fleece, because it will be kind of high on the edges of the sleeves and jacket, a pretty flat in the middle. Then if you open it up to one layer it seems like a very small amount of loft, and if you compare that way the parka seems to have comparatively even more loft than by just laying them side by side with both zipped up.
Boy I wish I could find some reviews on this stuff under real-world conditions. I don't know why BPL doesn't have a normal review comparing this equipment to the other stuff they like. I know Ryan Jordan used it on his Arctic hike, but he was injured early and had to quit early on, so I don't think he really got too much testing in. And even if he did, I haven't yet been able to find it, but I'm still looking. When/if I find some test results, I'll post it.
All I can say is that when I put any of it on in my 70° air-conditioned house, I immediately start overheating! So I was unable to keep it on for very long. But what else would I expect in the summertime? I actually got the impression it was a good bit warmer than the loft would indicate. But boy do I wish I had a 30° night to test it in. Right now I'm leaning more towards keeping the jacket and pants than I am the quilt, but I may change my mind on all of it, or I may keep all of it. I think I would be keeping all of it without any 2nd thoughts if I had only paid about 70% of what I did for it! :eek: