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  1. #1
    BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Cocoon/BPL gear arrives!

    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!
    Bill

  2. #2
    slowhike's Avatar
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    i sure do wish you lived a little closer so i could see that stuff in person<g>.
    the balaclava i ordered should be here any day.
    i expected the stuff would be surprisingly thin, but i've noticed something the last couple winters as i had to load the box truck outside each morning & work pretty much out side all day.
    unless it gets unnaturally cold for our area(teens maybe) i will over heat quickly if i wear anything heavy.
    i wear a short sleeve wicking shirt, a long sleeve wicking shirt, & an old quilted flannel shirt that's maybe 1/4" thick.
    of course i wear something on my hands & ears, but it has to be pretty cold to wear much of a hat if i'm active. the hat is usually on & off as needed.
    i use similar layers for backpacking & at night when i lay back in my hammock, they are part of my sleep system.
    so i'm hoping the cocoon stuff will serve us well when it gets cold enough to test it.
    don`t leave the CREATOR out of the creation!

  3. #3
    Senior Member blackbishop351's Avatar
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    Measure down's insulation value by its loft - it's fairly invariant as long as you stick to high-quality down. The insulation value of synthetic has much less to do with its than with its internal, engineered structure. Thus, different types of synthetic will insulate differently at the same weight and/or loft. Look for clo values.

    You've got a 3" loft quilt? What do you mean by "both layers, top and bottom"? As far as I know, if it has a top and bottom it's a sleeping bag, not a quilt. And you don't think 3" is enough? Depending on the specific type of insulation (as discussed above) a 1.5-2" quilt will give an average temp rating of 30*...

    As far as wet performance with down vs. synthetic, I also read that BPL article about loft retention. The problem with that analysis is that again, the insulation value of synthetic has little to do with loft. Do you have a link to the side-by-side comparison you found? While far from a lab-standard test, it seems more reasonable and I'd like to take a look. That's the first test I've seen that even attempted to look at overall insulation value rather than loft.

    By the way, measuring the total loft (top and bottom) of a sleeping bag is pretty misleading...even on the ground, you're compressing the insulation that's underneath you, and thereby losing a lot of its value.
    "Physics is the only true science. All else is stamp collecting." - J. J. Thompson

  4. #4
    BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackbishop351 View Post
    You've got a 3" loft quilt? What do you mean by "both layers, top and bottom"? As far as I know, if it has a top and bottom it's a sleeping bag, not a quilt. And you don't think 3" is enough? Depending on the specific type of insulation (as discussed above) a 1.5-2" quilt will give an average temp rating of 30*...

    As far as wet performance with down vs. synthetic, I also read that BPL article about loft retention. The problem with that analysis is that again, the insulation value of synthetic has little to do with loft. Do you have a link to the side-by-side comparison you found? While far from a lab-standard test, it seems more reasonable and I'd like to take a look. That's the first test I've seen that even attempted to look at overall insulation value rather than loft.

    By the way, measuring the total loft (top and bottom) of a sleeping bag is pretty misleading...even on the ground, you're compressing the insulation that's underneath you, and thereby losing a lot of its value.
    Well the back is normally open except under the lower legs and feet. It won't open flat though, the bottom is permanently closed. So since I am used to sleeping bags any way, and since it is hard to get it to lay flat since you can not fully open the foot box, I just layed it on its side so that each back edge was touching, as it would be if I pulled the draw string and pulled the open back all the way closed. That equalled 3", and is similar to trying to measure a sleeping bag which you can not open. I'm going to see later if I can lay it flatter and just measure the thickness of one (the top) layer. I guess quilt is not the correct term since you can't lay it completely, only almost, flat. I guess it wuold be more of a semi-rectangular bag. One in which you can open the back (above the hips) up almost completely if desired, or cinch it almost closed. There is also a draw cord around the neck to cinch that closed. My guess right now is that the layer of loft that will be over me is about 1.5".



    I guess the "clo" would be whatever PG delta is. Although this is PG 180, while the clothing is PG 60, whatever that is?

    The links:
    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-...nth_vests.html

    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-...ght/00092.html

    BTW, the "lab" comparison was limited to loft before and after saoking, measured every 20 minutes. The real life test was sinply who was cold or not cold with wet insulation.
    Last edited by BillyBob58; 06-27-2007 at 23:34.

  5. #5
    Senior Member blackbishop351's Avatar
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    Sounds like it's definitely a quilt. The sewn-together section you're talking about is generally termed the "footbox," and it sounds like yours might be a bit longer than most - but still a quilt nonetheless.

    Thanks for the link!
    "Physics is the only true science. All else is stamp collecting." - J. J. Thompson

  6. #6
    Member DawgU's Avatar
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    For me the question is what's the best combination for a sleeping system. I'm certainly no expert, but I'm going for down and synthetic. I've ordered the Cocoon pullover and pants to use in tandem with a JRB down quilt. The No Sniveler weighs 20 oz and has 2 1/2" of loft. I like the ability to compress the down more, and think it gives better warmth for the loft/weight. Of course I hope I can keep everything dry - but I have proved unable to do that a time or two in the past!
    Last edited by DawgU; 06-28-2007 at 04:55.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Fiddleback's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DawgU View Post
    For me the question is what's the best combination for a sleeping system. I'm certainly no expert, but I'm going for down and synthetic. I've ordered the Cocoon pullover and pants to use in tandem with a JRB down quilt. The No Sniveler weighs 20 oz and has 2 1/2" of loft. I like the ability to compress the down more, and think it gives better warmth for the loft/weight. Of course I hope I can keep everything dry - but I have proved unable to do that a time or two in the past!
    This is very similar to what I've been using the past few years. I have the older Cocoon pants which replaced the more rugged and heavier ID Denali pants, an ID Dolomitti jacket w/hood, and an Nunatak Arc Alpinist quilt. The rest of my sleep system is the regular collection of long underwear, fleece balaclava and gloves, fresh socks and booties. I have yet to use the quilt in cold weather. The rest of the system did just fine into the mid-20s with a " pad in the Hennessy.

    The jacket, and usually the pants, are carried May-Oct because of our cool nighttime temps. It gives me a great opportunity to put 'em to dual use and leave the sleeping bag at home. The quilt will no doubt expand my lower temp range (with an upgraded pad) and it's been great in warmer temps allowing me to leave the insulated pants behind.

    I've envious of that new Cocoon jacket... But I am deeply in love with my Dolomitti even though she's a little bit heavier.

    FB

  8. #8
    BillyBob58's Avatar
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    DawgU:
    Of course I hope I can keep everything dry - but I have proved unable to do that a time or two in the past!

    I would also like to think that I could keep things dry. Indeed, I haven't had any significant intra-pack (or otherwise really) wetness occur in many a long year. Unfortunately I still carry a memory from 20 plus years ago, where I had my (synthetic) sleeping bag inside a "waterproof" stuff sack, with my closed cell foam pad formed into a cylinder inside my pact surrounding everything, supposedly giving additional water resistance. With the sleeping bag deep down in the bottom of the pack (in a supposedly waterproof or heavily water resistant pack). I can't remember if we had pack rain covers or even if our ponchos served that purpose. But, after hiking all day dawn to dusk, in the heavily falling snow on June 27th, I went to bed that night in wet fleece inside of a wet synthetic bag. Or at least VERY damp. With a single closed cell pad ( 1/2"?) on top of about a foot of new snow. I believe it got to 24&#176;, if memory serves, with quite windy conditions. Pretty much every body else was in the same condition (wet or very damp). That was one miserable cold night for everyone! Plenty of shivering took place. One friend of mine had a tree branch snap from the snow, which proceeded to fall on top of his tarp, puncturing it. He found himself asleep flat on his back, waking up with his nose touching snow-covered pine needles (or what ever -- the equivalent). I've never forgotten his words, spoken after a few minutes of stunned silence, which were reported by his tarp mates the next morning -- "well, live and learn". And just to add a little more misery, the next morning every body's boots, even though we had placed them underneath our sleeping bags, were frozen into solid bricks. Anyway, bottom line is we all took a lot of cautions to keep things dry. Nothing was completely dry, and some things were pretty wet. I can't help but wonder what that night would have been like if everything I had was down. In actuality, none of it was down. It was either wool or polyester fleece/pile clothing or what ever preceded Polarguard (hollofill?) in the sleeping bag.

    I believe TeeDee has previously mentioned negative experiences with wet down in the field. TeeDee, if you're reading this, it would be educational if you would elaborate!

    Anyway, it appears I made a mistake initially measuring that quilt loft. It is not actually quite 3 inches like I said (bottom layer plus top layer). Probably more like 2 1/2 at the most, maybe 2 3/4 in some spots. But, I followed BlackBishop's advice about the insulation compressing itself laying on the floor. If I hold it up off the floor and look at it and attempt to measure it, it looks like the single layer is somewhere between 1.25 inches and possibly approaching 1.5 inches in some places. But probably closer to 1.25.


    BlackBishop, it has occurred to me you would be the one to ask regarding thickness (or CLO values?) of Polarguard and warmth. Seeing as you are manufacturing the KAQ. Isn't that quilt a single layer of Polarguard on the bottom? And for some people it's supposed to be good to at least 30&#176; on the bottom? So I suppose this Cocoon quilt is one layer of Polarguard thick. Surely it's not more, and could it be any less than one? So then could we reasonably assume it to be a 30&#176; quilt for top use with(all other things being equal, if indeed they are) the average Joe, assuming the wearing of some form of longjohns? (I know, this is all guesswork without the benefit of real testing for an unknown product)

    The fly in the ointment, for me, when talking about "estimated warmth of one layer of Polarguard" is the fact that looking at the Cocoon specifications, you get the impression that there are different weights of Polarguard available. Their quilts, for instance, come in three styles, each warmer than the preceding one: UL 60, UL 90 and UL 180. All of the clothing is either 60 or
    90. The quilt I got is a UL 180. Or as described at the website: "Insulation: Polarguard Delta (180 g/sq. m)".

    So I assume that one layer of 180 PG is twice the thickness of one layer of 90? BB, are you familiar with these terms? Would the insulation in the KAQ be one layer of 180 PG?

    All of this theorizing is fun, but what I need is a 20 or 30&#176; night, in the next 30 days in MS, to test out the whole system together! And that ain't gonna happen, is it? In the meantime, about all I have to go on, other than advice from you folks, is this:

    BPL:"The Cocoon UL 180 Quilt performed flawlessly in the Arctic. Its 180 g/m2 of Polarguard Delta, combined with 68 g/m2 insulated clothing garments (the Cocoon UL 60 Hoody and Pant), the 180 Quilt has proved itself warm and comfortable in the wettest three-season conditions while training this spring in Montana and putting it to the real test in the western Arctic in June." - Ryan Jordan


    Problem number one is I have no idea what temperatures would be like in June at sea level in the Arctic. My guess is lows of about 30. But that's a WAG based on no information. I can more accurately guess that lows in Montana in spring were AT LEAST 30 and probably lower. The second problem is there's no way to tell what kind of hot natured furnace Ryan Jordan is, or how much discomfort he considers to be just normal and good results. I think we can make an educated guess that anybody that ultralight hikes to the most remote place on the planet is quite willing to put up with a good bit of discomfort and call it normal and good.
    Last edited by BillyBob58; 07-05-2007 at 15:50.

  9. #9
    BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fiddleback View Post
    This is very similar to what I've been using the past few years. I have the older Cocoon pants which replaced the more rugged and heavier ID Denali pants, an ID Dolomitti jacket w/hood, and an Nunatak Arc Alpinist quilt. The rest of my sleep system is the regular collection of long underwear, fleece balaclava and gloves, fresh socks and booties. I have yet to use the quilt in cold weather. The rest of the system did just fine into the mid-20s with a &#188;" pad in the Hennessy.

    The jacket, and usually the pants, are carried May-Oct because of our cool nighttime temps. It gives me a great opportunity to put 'em to dual use and leave the sleeping bag at home. The quilt will no doubt expand my lower temp range (with an upgraded pad) and it's been great in warmer temps allowing me to leave the insulated pants behind.

    I've envious of that new Cocoon jacket... But I am deeply in love with my Dolomitti even though she's a little bit heavier.

    FB
    Do I understand you to be saying you were warm into mid 20s using JUST the Cocoon pants and the Dolomitti jacket and 1/4" pad? You did not need your quilt in these conditions? FB, are you the one I have previously accused of having antifreeze for blood?

    Do you then suppose you could accomplish the same thing with the Cocoon pants/parka? Or is the Dolamatti a much warmer jacket?

    BTW, I saw a real good review of the ID Dolamatti on BPL. They really put it to the test.
    Last edited by BillyBob58; 06-28-2007 at 12:58.

  10. #10
    Senior Member blackbishop351's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BillyBob58 View Post
    BlackBishop, it has occurred to me you would be the one to ask regarding thickness (or CLO values?) of Polarguard and warmth. Seeing as you are manufacturing the KAQ.
    I've actually seen several different numbers as far as the clo for Polarguard 3D, and I'm not familiar at all with Delta. My understanding (from others' reports) is that Delta is slightly more weight/insulation efficient than 3D, but for most this slight advantage doesn't justify the cost increase.

    Quote Originally Posted by BillyBob58 View Post
    Isn't that quilt a single layer of Polarguard on the bottom? And for some people it's supposed to be good to at least 30 on the bottom?
    Actually, the Potomac uses two layers of ~ 0.75" loft Polarguard. And yes, the average user-tested temp rating is right around 30*. However, I use 3D and not Delta, so the results may or may not be comparable.

    Quote Originally Posted by BillyBob58 View Post
    So I suppose this Cocoon quilt is one layer of Polarguard thick. Surely it's not more, and could it be any less than one? So then could we reasonably assume it to be a 30 quilt for top use with(all other things being equal, if indeed they are) the average Joe, assuming the wearing of some form of longjohns? (I know, this is all guesswork without the benefit of real testing for an unknown product)
    For the ~ 1.5" loft you're reporting, I'd guess you've got two layers of insulation there. The standard winter layer seems to loft around 0.75".

    Quote Originally Posted by BillyBob58 View Post
    The fly in the ointment, for me, when talking about "estimated warmth of one layer of Polarguard" is the fact that looking at the Cocoon specifications, you get the impression that there are different weights of Polarguard available. Their quilts, for instance, come in three styles, each warmer than the preceding one: UL 60, UL 90 and UL 180. All of the clothing is either 60 or
    90. The quilt I got is a UL 180. Or as described at the website: "Insulation: Polarguard Delta (180 g/sq. m)".

    So I assume that one layer of 180 PG is twice the thickness of one layer of 90? BB, are you familiar with these terms? Would the insulation in the KAQ be one layer of 180 PG?
    As far as the weights go, my guess would be (and this is pure speculation) that the "180" you have is two layers of what I'd call standard quilt-weight insulation, at about 0.75" loft each. The "90" would likely then be a single layer of the same insulation, while the "60" would be a lighter version.

    Quote Originally Posted by BillyBob58 View Post
    All of this theorizing is fun, but what I need is a 20 or 30 night, in the next 30 days in MS, to test out the whole system together! And that ain't gonna happen, is it? In the meantime, about all I have to go on, other than advice from you folks, is this:

    BPL:"The Cocoon UL 180 Quilt performed flawlessly in the Arctic. Its 180 g/m2 of Polarguard Delta, combined with 68 g/m2 insulated clothing garments (the Cocoon UL 60 Hoody and Pant), the 180 Quilt has proved itself warm and comfortable in the wettest three-season conditions while training this spring in Montana and putting it to the real test in the western Arctic in June." - Ryan Jordan


    Problem number one is I have no idea what temperatures would be like in June at sea level in the Arctic. My guess is lows of about 30. But that's a WAG based on no information. I can more accurately guess that lows in Montana in spring were AT LEAST 30 and probably lower. The second problem is there's no way to tell what kind of hot natured furnace Ryan Jordan is, or how much discomfort he considers to be just normal and good results. I think we can make an educated guess that anybody that ultralight hikes to the most remote place on the planet is quite willing to put up with a good bit of discomfort and call it normal and good.
    You hit the nail on the head, there. Temp ratings are averaged at best and can't really be trusted unless you have some good basis for comparing yourself with the "average" person. In my particular case, it's pretty easy to tell that I'm a warm sleeper. In NCPatrick's case, it's obvious he sleeps cold. In between the two extremes, however, personal testing is really the only way to go. Just like anything else, try the gear and THEN decide if it's what you need.
    "Physics is the only true science. All else is stamp collecting." - J. J. Thompson

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