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Jacks 'R' Better JRB Down Sleeves REVIEW

Lightweight, stand-alone down sleeves to pair with a vest or wearable poncho quilt.

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by Carol Crooker | 2006-05-15 03:00:00-06

Jacks 'R' Better JRB Down Sleeves REVIEW

Introduction

The Jacks 'R' Better JRB Down Sleeves are designed to be worn under the Jacks 'R' Better wearable, poncho-style quilts to add extra arm insulation. The sleeves can also be worn with a standard vest. The concept is simply executed in a pair of 5-ounce sleeves. Does this novel concept have a place in a lightweight backpacker's pack?

What's Good

  • Well made of quality materials
  • Lofty
  • Shell fabric is downproof and water resistant
  • Simple to attach
  • Dual use as foot warmers

What's Not So Good

  • Attachment system accounts for nearly a third of the total sleeve weight
  • Kelly green color

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Jacks 'R' Better

  Year/Model

2006 JRB Down Sleeves

  Weight

Measured weight size Regular, 4.9 oz (139 g); manufacturer’s specification 5 oz (142 g)

  Fabric

1.1 oz/yd2 (37 g/m2) ripstop nylon with DWR

  Insulation

0.85 oz (24 g) of 800+ fill power goose down for each sleeve; sewn through at bottom and top longitudinal seams and at two horizontal seams creating six down compartments in each sleeve

  Loft

Measured loft 2.9 in (7.4 cm) double layer loft measured at the center of each of the down compartments and averaged, then averaged for both sleeves

  Sizes

Short, sleeve length 30-31 in (76-79 cm); Regular, 32-33 in (81-84 cm); Long, 34-35 in (86-89 cm)

  Features

Elastic wrist band, shoulder opening has two elastic tethers with non-scratchy Omni-Tape tabs sewn to the ends to secure sleeves

  MSRP

$79.95

Jacks 'R' Better JRB Down Sleeves REVIEW - 3
The Jacks 'R' Better JRB Down Sleeves with the No Sniveller Quilt and JRB Hood on a hammock camping trip.

Performance

I tested the JRB Down Sleeves with the Jacks 'R' Better No Sniveller wearable quilt, and with two vests (GoLite Core and a prototype Mountain Laurel Designs hooded down vest). Test locations were in Arizona in Saguaro National Park and in the Flagstaff peaks.

The sleeves look like a standard set of parka sleeves without the parka. They are simply designed: sewn-through construction, elastic cuffs, and two tethers on each sleeve to hold the sleeves in place. The JRB Down Sleeves will fit over a base layer and possibly over a mid-layer for those with less bulky arms. The six down chambers on each sleeve are nice and puffy, with the cuff end compartments the loftiest - presumably since the upper arms will be covered when the sleeves are worn with a quilt. I haven't observed any down leakage through the 1.1 oz/yd2 ripstop shell fabric. All-in-all a nice concept that is well executed.

The JRB sleeves are sewn through with an average double layer loft of 2.9 inches. For comparison purposes, the sleeves on the Western Mountaineering Flight jacket are also sewn through (with ten down compartments per sleeve rather than six) and have an average double layer loft of 3.6 inches (the loftiest sections are those closest to the shoulder). Jacks 'R' Better keeps the sleeve attachment system simple and relatively light, but the 1.6 ounces (44 g) of added "software" still accounts for nearly a third of the total sleeve weight and the lower loft of the JRB sleeves compared to the similar weight Flight sleeves (the Flight Vest weighs 5 ounces less than the Flight Jacket). Still, the loft:weight ratio of the JRB Sleeves is good - 0.59 inch/ounce compared to a very respectable 0.32 inch/ounce for the Flight jacket and an estimated 0.72 inch/ounce for the Flight sleeves alone.

Jacks 'R' Better JRB Down Sleeves REVIEW - 4a

Jacks 'R' Better JRB Down Sleeves REVIEW - 4b

Simple yet functional attachment system on the JRB Sleeves. The squares on the ends of the elastic tethers are Omni-Tape (non-scratchy hook and loop).

The Regular length sleeves are a good fit for my 32-inch arms. The sleeves are easy to put on and take off. The shoulder seam tethers either connect to the Omni-Tape lining the head opening in a Jacks 'R' Better quilt, or the two Omni-Tape squares on the end of each tether attach to each other. When using the sleeves with a vest, the second set of tethers connect to each other across the chest like a sternum strap. The sleeves are surprisingly secure with this system. They did not slip even when I waved my arms around like a lunatic in camp or when I wore them overnight inside a close fitting sleeping bag.

It's clear that the sleeves make a good companion to the Jacks 'R' Better wearable quilts. The No Sniveller quilt adds an amazing amount of comfort in a cold camp and the 5-ounce sleeves extend that comfort. Bonus dual uses for sleeping: use one sleeve as a foot cozy for both feet; wear the sleeves like leg warmers under a quilt. But what if you don't use a quilt - are the sleeves still useful?

The sleeves allow another level of temperature regulation when used with a vest compared to an insulated jacket. They also allow the mixing of down and synthetics. In cold, wet conditions, a synthetic vest can be worn under a rain jacket or poncho and the down sleeves added for warmth in camp. So yes, the sleeves do have a place in a lightweight pack, although I'd like to see a lighter attachment system. I should add that the current attachment system is elegantly simple, functional and light - but lighter would be even better.

Jacks 'R' Better JRB Down Sleeves REVIEW - 2
The Jacks 'R' Better JRB Down Sleeves with the GoLite Core vest. An attractive option with stand-alone down sleeves is to pair them with a synthetic vest - wear the synthetic vest under a poncho in cold, rainy weather and add the down sleeves in camp.

What's Unique

The Jacks 'R' Better Down Sleeves are the only lightweight, stand-alone down sleeves commercially available.

Recommendations for Improvement

Jacks 'R' Better once again uses their favorite kelly green fabric in the JRB Down Sleeves. The two Jacks are ex-Army, which may explain the green fixation - but it's so 80's. How about basic black? My other request is for a lighter attachment system.


Citation

"Jacks 'R' Better JRB Down Sleeves REVIEW," by Carol Crooker. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/jacks_r_better_down_sleeves_review.html, 2006-05-15 03:00:00-06.

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