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we came from the woods originally."

- John Muir

Gear Test - Speer PeaPod

I haven't consolidated all of my thoughts on this page yet, but some of the details are on the How to Stay Warm page and in the Winnemucca Trip Report.

Apparently I'm not the only one who likes the PeaPod

I have a baffled 900fp 8.0 with 2 oz overstuff. AFAIK it's the new design, but it has more loft on bottom than on top.

Re: temp, I haven't tested for hard numbers. Mine is rated to 20F and I was comfortable in it with silkweight thermals at ~50F (no top quilt). I didn't test below that w/o a top quilt, but I imagine something would be necessary w/o going too much lower.

I used it as a sleeping bag on the ground and it worked fine. It's big and cumbersome on the ground and the velcro isn't as convenient as a zipper, but it was plenty warm.

Quick run-down that I wrote for this HammockForums thread.
First of all - I love the PeaPod. In my experience, the PeaPod works better than underquilts on a Speer-type hammock. But obviously it can't be used on a Hennessy, and it's much more cumbersome to wear as a robe than the NS is to wear as a poncho. They both have their places.

Now the details.

  • The PeaPod is pretty easy to fit and adjust on most hammocks. A full width hammock (over 60" or so) can compress the insulation a bit when the Pod is closed, depending on how you hang the hammock. But other than that, you really just cinch it on.
  • The velcro works. It makes the Pod very adjustable...if you're warm, you can vent anywhere along the Pod. If you're cold, you can close it right around your head. The velcro is also more of a hassle to close than a zipper is...if the ends aren't lined up exactly, sometimes I end up with a "bubble" on one side and have to realign the edges. It's also a bit scratchy since it doesn't use omni-tape...which is why I made the PeaPod Hood. (This hood is much bigger/heavier than needed, but it sure is comfortable.)
  • You do need a top quilt for lower temps (see below), but since the PeaPod completely surrounds the hammock you can get away with a much thinner top quilt. So if you add up the top quilt and PeaPod, it'll weigh about the same as the JRB 3 season set with support system. (The overstuffed PeaPod+quilt might be just a bit heavier but I think it's also just a bit warmer, so it's really a wash.)

Reasons you need a top quilt as the temp drops:

  • The insulation on top is kinda thin...if I crawl inside mine during the day, I can see spots where it doesn't look like there's much down.
  • At the very top where the velcro is, that's all the insulation above you...two layers of velcro.
  • The hammock holds the Pod up off your body, creating an air gap that your body must heat...unless you fill the gap with more insulation (like a quilt). Personally, if I wanted the warmest system for the lightest weight, I'd base the decision on what kind of hammock I use rather than the insulation for it. If you're comfortable in the HH, JRB is the way to go. If you're more comfortable in the Speer, the PeaPod+quilt will work great.

Something to keep in mind is the multi-use aspect of the JRB quilts (NS and Stealth). I save the weight of a jacket in my pack by carrying the JRB...so even though the weights are similar, my pack is ~15 oz lighter if I use the JRB.

BUT if the wallet allows (and you prefer a Speer-type), I bet a Stealth + PeaPod would be a damn versatile system temperature-wise, and still give you the benefits of wearing your quilt as a poncho around camp. (I haven't gone camping w/o my No Sniveler since I bought it, even when I use the PeaPod...the Stealth has the same head-hole.)

So there are my opinions. Don't forget that I have a business relationship with JRB...it has nothing to do with the quilts and (IMO) doesn't color my judgment on ways to insulate hammocks, but it's a relationship nonetheless. And I have some info on the Staying Warm page and the Winnemucca trip page on the website, if you haven't seen it yet.

Why the PeaPod fits better than an underquilt on a Speer-type (same HF thread)
I can't really say why mine fit better...I just never had that problem under my knees like I did with underquilts. Maybe I'll set it up again and see if I can figure it out. I did notice that, like underquilts, more sag makes it more difficult to get a good fit. (For underquilts used w/o side tie-outs, at least.)

Re: flexibility, here are some examples of how to change the warmth:

  • Pod closed on top, snug on bottom, top quilt
  • Pod closed on top, snug on bottom, no top quilt
  • Pod vented on top, snug on bottom, top quilt or no top quilt
  • Pod completely open on top, snug on bottom, with or without top quilt
  • Or you can hang it loosely so there's a small air gap underneath, but with all the options above. It'll keep you warm like the Hammock Sock does, only it works better b/c it's insulated.
  • Or you can lay the top quilt under you in the Pod for more bottom insulation, and another bag on top.

So it's not flexible in the sense that, with three quilts, you could leave one home. But you can still adjust for temps, and you don't have to carry the extra DWR layers of a whole 'nother quilt.

But like I said, this is just my experience with how I hang my hammocks. I use a lot of sag. If someone uses less sag, their gear will fit differently.

JRB vs PeaPod - Which is Better? (Email to PTODDF)
I originally got the JRB set because I had an HH and was just starting to make my own hammocks, and the JRB can be used on any type of hammock. I go back and forth between my HH and homemade Speer-types depending on the trip. So yes, I use the JRB set on both the HH and my homemade Speers. I haven't purchased a hammock or kit from Ed, but I made them according to the instructions (minus the bugnets) in his book from $1/yd Walmart material.

PeaPod at Winnemucca (Trip Report)

JRB Set in Yosemite (Trip Report)
Photo by Paige

Both the JRB set and the PeaPod are great systems, and I think you'll be satisfied with either. Some points about both:

  • The JRB set with overstuff is ~43 oz, plus ~2 oz for the suspension cords. The 900fp PeaPod with 2 oz overstuff is about 31 oz, plus a 16 oz Speer top blanket (which I don't have), for about 47 oz total. Both have about 5" of total loft. I _may_ be able to get lower in that PeaPod setup, so the weight is a wash for me.
  • The PeaPod more forgiving of air gaps since it completely encompasses you. Minimizing air gaps with the JRB on an HH is pretty easy...doing it on a Speer is a bit more tricky, but doable. The PeaPod fits the Speer-types pretty well, though.
  • The PeaPod, used alone, doesn't lay on you like a top quilt, so it has big air gaps that your body has to heat. Also, it covers the whole hammock, so you're carrying insulation for the very ends of the hammock - i.e. you're heating about 2-3' of space that you're not using. With the JRB set, you're basically heating only the space you're using at the time (a little more because of the underquilts coverage, but very little when compared to the PeaPod). For non-summer trips (say, below about 50-60F depending on how you sleep), this means you may need additional insulation for the PeaPod, like a top blanket.
    • My narrower hammock helps it lay on me more like a quilt, but there's still no footbox and I heat the volume at the hammock's ends.
  • I don't yet know how low I can get w/o extra insulation in the PeaPod.
    • For many of my trips, the weather will be right at 30-40F, so I'd need to take a top blanket for the PeaPod. Since I don't have a Speer top blanket, that means I take the JRB NS. Now I choose bottom insulation, and the choice is between the 31 oz PeaPod or the 24 oz Nest+suspension. That's a big reason I use the JRB more often. If I had a PeaPod+Speer blanket, it would even it out.
  • I spent a very windy night in a blizzard once. I'm very glad I had the PeaPod instead of just an underquilt at that time. Not sure the Nest would have been up to it on a Speer...maybe on an HH because of the side tie-outs. I also had a DAM and JRB NS as a top quilt inside the PeaPod, though. I'm curious if the DAM would have been enough by itself if I'd brought the SPE...guess I'll never know!
  • Here's a biggie, though - I've used the JRB No Sniveller as worn insulation several times. This eliminates the need to carry an additional ~16 oz for a warm camp jacket. Big weight savings there. This is one of the main reasons I like the JRB set.
  • The JRB is big enough to use as a top blanket on the ground, but the Speer top blanket isn't. The PeaPod can obviously be used on the ground, but you gotta fold up one of the ends or it'll hang off your ground cloth.
  • Peter Pan seems to think his JRB down hood will solve the issues I posted with my PeaPod hood, too. Definitely worth looking into, since his hood is only 2 oz and mine is 6 oz. But the fleece is so comfy!

So like I said, I think you'll be satisfied with either system. If I had to pick only one system, and I knew I'd use it on a Speer-type and not an HH, I might get the PeaPod and the No Sniveller. Plenty of flexibility there...pretty spendy, though. But this is all quality gear, and you get what you pay for...I think it'll last many years.

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