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Gear Test - JRB Weather Shield

My finished Gear Review uploaded here.

This page is a work-in-progress. It's just a log of my testing results, so don't take anything in here as a final conclusion. I'll continue updating it as I get more experience with the product, and eventually I'll consolidate it into a finished review.

First Test:

Date: 20 Sep 05

I checked waterproof/breathable properties of the Weathershield. I can blow through the fabric with about as much resistance as DWR, so I'll conclude that it's breathable.

To test waterproofness, I shaped part of the Weathershield into a "bowl", put a paper towel underneath it, and dumped some water into the depression. After letting it sit for more than four hours, the paper towel had absolutely zero moisture on it. When I dumped the water out, the Weathershield had not absorbed any moisture, and what little water left was beaded up on the fabric's surface. I wiped it off with the paper towel, and the Weathershield was dry. I'll conclude that it's 100% waterproof at the "normal" water pressures that the Weathershield will likely be used.

Second Test:

Date: 20-23 Sep 05
Low Temp: 50 F

I used the Weathershield bottom in the garage on my homemade Speer-type. I tried to put a 40 oz sleeping bag inside, but the weight stretched the shockcord too much. Using thicker cord might remedy this...I'll test more later.

The Weathershield worked well at providing an additional layer to retain warmth. Since I was in the garage I had no way to test its windblocking ability.

Third Test:

Date: 29 Sep 05
Low Temp:~45 F

I tested the Weathershield bottom on my Hennessy UL BP Asym, and had a tough time getting a proper fit. The Weathershield is shorter on the long sides than my Nest is. That means when I hang them from the same suspension system, the Weathershield prevents the Nest from stretching snugly to the hammock along the sides. This caused gaps underneath my back and I got cold.

I tried threading the Nest loops through the Weathershield loops, and attaching the Nest to the clips, which extended the length somewhat even though it put extra stress on the Nest loops. That didn't work well, and I eventually removed the Weathershield and just used the Nest. Of note, I had the Nest omni-tape attached to the HH velcro.

One thing that happened - When I was getting out, I accidentally put my foot out the end of the WS instead of pulling it to the side. This put too much pressure on the drawstring, and it pulled the cordlock into the drawstring channel. I spent a few minutes fishing it back out, but it didn't do any damage. When I don't attach the Nest slit to the HH slit, it's much easier to pull the whole setup (Nest and WS) aside to exit like I'm supposed to.

Fourth Test:

Date: 1 Oct 05
Low Temp:~45 F

I tried a few things to fix the Weathershield's fit.

First, I didn't hook the Nest slit to the HH slit. That kept me warm enough to sleep in 42 F last night, but not toasty. I know there's a better way, so today I looked at a few other things.

Second, I lengthened the Weathershield loops a bit so it wouldn't pull in the sides of the quilt. (I did this by hooking a mini-carabiner from the quilt loop to the WS loop, so it lengthened each one by about 3"...longer ladder loops would accomplish the same thing for less weight.) This helped quite a bit, but it also exposes the ends and long edges of the quilt. Not a big deal on the edges, but the ends are the only place I've ever experienced wetting. I would recommend lengthening the WS body so it's at least as long as the quilt to maintain complete coverage.

Third, I noticed that the added weight of the WS caused the shockcord to stretch more, so both the Nest and WS hung down lower. I tightened the shockcord by sliding it out further on the Spectra. This helped some, but it also decreased the angle of the shockcord, which results in more horizontal force and less vertical force. I think that results in more compression under my butt while adding only a little bit of more vertical support, and I still had gaps under my knees and back.

I tried to fix this by doubling up the shockcord. On each end, I folded the suspension cord in half and attached it to the Spectra with a mini-carabiner right where the hammock meets the Spectra. Then I attached the cord to the quilt, resulting in two strands of shockcord on each corner of the quilt. The angle now results in more vertical support, and the stronger shockcord keeps the WS/Nest nice and snug almost all the way around. The only problem area now is under my knees.

A problem with this interim solution is that I can't adjust the tension...the carabiner just stays where it is. If this solves the problem, though, I think thicker shockcord would increase the support and maintain the adjustability.

I still have a gap under my knees when laying in the hammock. I think tying the side guylines onto something higher will help this. But that means that everytime I hang I'll need a way to tie them up high...and I don't always have that.

At this point, I think that offering a thicker shockcord with the WS, and increasing the WS length, will help solve the issue.

UPDATE - 2 Oct 05: JRB is looking into manufacturing the next batch of Weathershield bottoms a few inches longer to improve the fit. As a short-term solution for current owners experiencing this problem, they are exploring adding a small loop of string on each grosgrain loop to "lengthen" the Weathershield.

Regarding the support issue, they are hesitant to include thicker shockcord because of the increased weight, and it would be overkill when using the Nest or Weathershield alone. They recommend tying an overhand knot into the shockcord, and then attaching it to the hammock supports like normal. The shorter cord will stretch less, and will retain an appropriate angle of support, which will result in a better fit.

Fifth Test:

Date: 18 Oct 05
Low Temp:~65 F

I slept on my couch with the Weather Shield top last night. It's so thin that I didn't expect it to be warm enough. I kept a fleece beside me all night and never had to use it! I was pretty surprised, actually. We had the windows open so it got down to about 65 F.

The cover was pretty noisy when I moved around, but it's still new. I expect it to be less noisy when it gets broken in a bit.

One thing that made me uncomfortable was that when I moved, like when rolling over, I sometimes pulled on the cover and it felt like I was pulling too hard. I think it's just a different feeling because the cover doesn't have any "give" like a sleeping bag has, so it felt like I should stop pulling on it. I never heard any stretching or ripping sounds, and I didn't notice any damage this morning, so I guess it's just something I need to get used to.

The fabric felt relatively comfortable against my skin - not as soft as a down quilt, but it didn't make me uncomfortable or cause any itching. It didn't drape as comfortably over me as a quilt does because it's too light and stiff to naturally snug to my body, so sometimes I had to pull it down closer to me around the edges. No big deal.

Summary - 19 Oct 05: At this point, I'm skeptical but optimistic. The Weather Shield is a great piece of gear...I'm just not convinced that I need to carry it in addition to the 3 Season Set. Carrying it instead of the underquilt could save some weight and bulk, but I would only feel comfortable without more bottom insulation if I were hiking in hot climates. I would certainly consider taking it if I were hiking in areas with thick fog, though...which is one of the major design functions. If I can figure out a way to make it hold insulation (like a Bag o' Feathers), I might consider it an inexpensive substitute for the Nest...more testing to come.

I've started writing the review...when I get more testing done I'll post it here: Weathershield Review.

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