2007 Jacks 'R' Better “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW

The Jacks ‘R’ Better Down to Earth Pad Converter converts any JRB quilt, including the No Sniveller, into a top bag system.

Overall Rating: Average

As a ground sleeping option, the Down to Earth Converter adds versatility to a Jacks ‘R’ Better Quilt. It is well thought out, integrates with the JRB Down Hood, and doesn’t separate through the night. However, it’s not the most thermally efficient system; the top bag conversion is overly roomy and the hood design lets some heat escape.

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by Doug Johnson |

2007 Jacks 'R' Better “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW

Introduction

The Jacks ‘R’ Better “Down to Earth” Pad Converter is a system for attaching a custom foam pad to a JRB quilt. To use the system, the quilt must be modified by attaching full-length Omni-tape along the sides. The quilt then attaches underneath the pad with matching Omni-tape. The JRB Down Hood also attaches to the pad, making the converted quilt into a roomy integrated top bag system for ground sleepers.

What’s Good

  • Part of an extremely versatile modular system - if you have all the components your options include a top bag, quilt, hammock under quilt, separate sleeping pad, and a warm serape/poncho with optional hood and sleeves
  • Part of a very lightweight system at just over 2 pounds for the complete top bag/poncho
  • Quality materials and craftsmanship

What’s Not So Good

  • Top bag is very roomy - a bit too roomy to be efficient
  • Cold spots at bag/pad junction are typical of top bag systems
  • Hood attachment creates gaps at sides of head, allowing heat to escape
  • Wet weather limits use of the poncho around camp
  • The pad itself is reasonably priced, but the system is fairly expensive at just over $350 for the No Sniveller Quilt, "Down to Earth" conversion, pad and Down Hood

Specifications

  Year/Model

2007 Jacks 'R' Better "Down to Earth" Pad Converter

  Style

Pad for modular top bag system

  Manufacturer
Claimed Temperature Rating

estimated on the Jacks ‘R’ Better site at 20°F (-7 °C) for the system

  Weight - Down to Earth Converter
(1/4 inch full length pad)

Measured weight 5.3 oz (150 g); manufacturer’s specification 5.6 oz (159 g)

  Weight - No Sniveller Quilt with full-length Omni tape

Measured weight 21.2 oz (602 g); manufacturer’s specification 22.5 oz (638 g)

  Weight - accessories

JRB Down Hood: Measured weight 2.5 oz (71 g); manufacturer’s specification 2.0 oz (57 g), JRB Down Sleeves: Measured weight 5.1 oz (145 g); manufacturer’s specification 5.0 oz (142 g)

  Weight - complete No Sniveller / Down to Earth Converter / JRB Down Hood / JRB Down Sleeves system

Measured weight 34.1 oz (967 g); manufacturer’s specification 35.1 oz (995 g)

  Size - pad only

Pad size (measured): 20 in wide x 69 in long (51 cm x 175 cm), tapering at 36 inches to 12 inches wide (30 cm); mfr claimed 20 in wide x 72 in long (51 cm x 183 cm)

  Size - top bag system

Reg. size; length (incl. hood) 82 in (208 cm), shoulder girth 67 in (170 cm), foot girth 45 in (114 cm)

  Features

"Down to Earth" Pad Converter attaches to quilt and Hood with Omni Tape; No Sniveller bag can be used as a quilt, top bag, or as an underquilt in a hammock system, draw cord at neck and feet, closable neck slot for use as a poncho; Down Hood can be used in both the poncho and top bag systems

  MSRP - Down to Earth Converter

1/8 inch Torso - $24.95, 1/4 inch Torso - $26.95, 1/4 inch Full - price n/a. Omni-Tape Bag modification (necessary for system) - $24.95, Omni-Tape DIY kit - $11.95

  MSRP - No Sniveller Universal Quilt and Accessories

No Sniveller Quilt - $264.95; JRB Down Hood - $59.95; JRB Down Sleeves - $79.95

Performance

2007 Jacks “R Better No Sniveller Universal Quilt / “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW - 1
The No Sniveller quilt may be the most versatile bag available. It’s a top quilt, an under quilt for a hammock system, a poncho/serape, and now with the "Down to Earth" converter, part of an integrated top bag / sleeping pad system. The "Down to Earth" conversion, though, can be made to any JRB quilt with a 48 inch width.

The Jacks ‘R’ Better No Sniveller is a highly adaptable down quilt. It can be used as a top bag, as an underquilt in a hammock system and even worn as a serape/poncho. Options for the No Sniveller include a matching down hood and sleeves, both of which can be used in the serape set-up and also a suspension system for attaching the quilt to Hennessy and other hammocks. The No Sniveller is the foundation for one of the most modular and flexible sleep systems available. It is also very effective, achieving the highest score in our Unconventional Sleep Systems Review Summary and Gear Guide Overview.

Reviews of individual system components can be found here:

While the No Sniveller system is extremely adaptable, it does favor the needs of hammock campers. The introduction of the Jacks ‘R’ Better “Down to Earth” Pad Converter aims to bring true top bag versatility for ground sleepers and can work with any converted Jacks ‘R’ Better quilt.

The Jacks ‘R’ Better “Down to Earth” Pad Converter is a system for attaching a custom foam pad to a JRB quilt. To use the system, the quilt must be modified by attaching full-length Omni-tape along the sides (Omni-tape is like Velcro except that it’s softer and isn’t male/female specific). The quilt then attaches underneath the pad with matching Omni-tape.

2007 Jacks “R Better No Sniveller Universal Quilt / “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW - 2
The No Sniveller / Down Hood / Down to Earth Converter put together in a modular system.

The pad is made from Gossamer Gear ThinLight material and is available in 1/8 inch Torso and 1/4 inch Torso and Full models. The Torso length models measure 58 x 20 inches with the first 36 inches being full width and the final 22 inches tapering to a point where the footbox begins. In the 1/4 inch full length version that I tested, the pad measures 69 inches long (72 inches claimed) and it narrows to 12 inches rather than coming to a point. The extra length of the long pad tucks inside the top bag.

2007 Jacks “R Better No Sniveller Universal Quilt / “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW - 3
The Jacks ‘R’ Better “Down to Earth” Pad Converter consists of a choice of three different pads (1/4 inch full length reviewed) and an Omni-Tape modification to a JRB quilt.

When setting up the system, it takes a couple of minutes to properly line up and attach the Omni-tape fasteners. Once set up, though, it provides a very secure attachment that didn’t unfasten despite numerous roll-overs and inside the bag movement. When using the system in the field, I never had any problems with components becoming unattached while sleeping. The quilt attaches under the pad, creating an effective seal against outside air. The Jacks ‘R’ Better hood also attaches to the pad, making the converted quilt into an integrated top bag system for ground sleepers.

2007 Jacks “R Better No Sniveller Universal Quilt / “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW - 4
A modified Jacks ‘R’ Better quilt attaches underneath the pad and the hood attaches to the top.

With this system, you have the choice to convert the No Sniveller from a quilt to a top bag. The distinction between these two types of bags was thoroughly explained in our 2006 Unconventional Sleep Systems Manifesto. The bottom line, though, is that there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to top bag. While the top bag's closed bottom prevents drafts, the seal also creates dead air spaces in the corners, as seen in the illustration below. The "Down to Earth" system cannot avoid this weakness inherent to the top bag design.

2007 Jacks “R Better No Sniveller Universal Quilt / “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW - 5
This illustration by Mike Clelland!, borrowed from our 2006 Unconventional Sleep Systems Manifesto, shows the dead air spaces that come with a top bag, such as the No Sniveller Down to Earth top bag.

As a top bag, the No Sniveller / "Down to Earth" has the characteristic dead air spaces in corners where the bag and sleeping pad meet. However, these cold air spaces are larger than in most top bags because of the roominess of the wide No Sniveller quilt.

2007 Jacks “R Better No Sniveller Universal Quilt / “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW - 6
The Down to Earth system is efficient in the footbox and roomy in the upper body, making it easier to slide into the bag and to wear additional insulation.

The fit of the top bag system is trim and efficient in the foot box but widens to very roomy in the upper body. This gives plenty of room to move around and is important because without a zipper, you have to slide into the bag. Even when wearing a high loft down jacket and with a second pad inside the bag, though, there is a lot of extra space in the upper bag. While larger hikers (I have a medium build) or those who like roomy bags will appreciate the extra space, I found the extra space to be excessive and inefficient. The hood attachment adds extra warmth to the system but it was a bit wide on my first generation pad, creating large spaces in the neck/shoulder area that leaked a large amount of air (later models will have a narrower attachment at the neck and hood which should minimize these draft issues). Despite the generous loft of the No Sniveller bag, I found the dead air spaces and poor shoulder/neck seal to decrease the warmth of the bag in cold conditions.

2007 Jacks “R Better No Sniveller Universal Quilt / “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW - 7
The hood attachment on my prototype pad was rather wide, creating gaps on the sides that let warm air escape. Production models will be narrower to minimize this issue.

To make sure that these issues were due to the top bag configuration, I used the No Sniveller and Hood in a quilt configuration on back to back nights and with much more warmth. That said, the "Down to Earth" setup was fantastic on more mild evenings when I wasn’t pushing the temperature rating of the bag; I had room to move, none of the draft issues that are typical of quilts, and I never had to worry about rolling off my pad.

2007 Jacks “R Better No Sniveller Universal Quilt / “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW - 8
When used as a quilt, the No Sniveller can be adjusted to a trim, efficient cut.

On a side note, the new lace closure that defines the footbox area on the latest generation Jacks ‘R’ Better quilts is an excellent upgrade. The bag can be used as a quilt with solid footbox or opened wide for use in warm weather or with a hammock system.

2007 Jacks “R Better No Sniveller Universal Quilt / “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW - 9
The 1/4 inch Full pad weighs only 5.3 ounces.

The pads for the conversion system are reasonably priced at $24.95 for the 1/8” torso pad, $26.95 for the 1/4” torso pad and $24.95 for the quilt conversion. A complete No Sniveller / Down to Earth system with pad and Down Hood will set you back just over $350 and the price is well over $400 when you add the Down Sleeves. That is quite expensive but when you consider the versatility of the system and the cost of a separate bag, down jacket, and a pad, it’s a pretty fair price. Further, all of the components are of the highest quality and craftsmanship.

As an upgrade to an existing quilt, the "Down to Earth" Pad Converter starts at $49.90 for the pad and Omni Tape conversion. If you are looking for a roomy top bag, this kit adds yet another option for your Jacks ‘R’ Better quilt.

For those that don’t want to send in their quilt, the conversion kit is a reasonable $11.95 and can be added to the quilt yourself or by a local tailor.

What’s Unique

There is no bag on the market with the versatility of a Jacks ‘R’ Better No Sniveller Universal Quilt. Poncho, quilt, hammock under quilt, and now top bag- if you are looking for the ultimate in versatility, nothing else offers what the No Sniveler does.

If you have any Jacks ‘R’ Better quilt, the "Down to Earth" Pad Converter gives you a well though-out option for taking     to the ground.

Recommendations for Improvement

The downside of a product as versatile as the No Sniveler is that some compromises must be made in its various configurations. The quilt is brilliant as part of a hammock system (either top or under quilt), is darn good as a poncho/serape, and is also a high quality ground quilt (although a bit roomy in the footbox). When used with the "Down to Earth" Pad Converter as part of a top bag system, it is too wide to be very efficient.

To improve its usage in this arena, I would like to see Omni Tape attachments under the pad that pull the bag further underneath, making for a less roomy fit. I would also like to see a hood/neck attachment that allows for a complete neck and head seal. These changes would add quite a bit of warmth to the system.


Citation

"2007 Jacks 'R' Better “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/2007_jrb_down_to_earth_pad_converter_review.html, 2007-10-03 04:00:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » 2007 Jacks 'R' Better “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW


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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
2007 Jacks 'R' Better “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW on 10/02/2007 20:39:12 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

2007 Jacks 'R' Better “Down to Earth” Pad Converter REVIEW

eric levine
(ericl) - F

Locale: Northern Colorado
Top bag conversion for quilt on 10/07/2007 21:01:18 MDT Print View

Well, as dorky as that looks worn, I don't look any better wearing my feathered friends winter wren.

My wearable wren has this same problem -- too much room makes things cooler than its prodigious loft would otherwise suggest.

I could of course suppliment with a down sweater, etc., but that would defeat the purpose somewhat.

Anyone have suggestions?