Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt REVIEW

Rectangular down quilt that weighs less than a pound and has features that adapt it for top blanket or hammock underquilt use.

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by Carol Crooker | 2006-03-28 03:00:00-07

Introduction

Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt REVIEW - 1
The Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Universal Quilt under a Hennessy Adventure Racer hammock. Ken Knight snapped this photo with the author in the hammock. I am going through an iteration of adjusting the quilt suspension system so that the quilt is next to the hammock body when I'm inside without compressing the loft. My head is at the end nearest the camera. I later tightened the bungee of the JRB Suspension System so the quilt is drawn closer to that end of the hammock.

The Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt is a rectangular, sewn-through, lightweight down quilt. One end can be formed into a foot box for use as a top quilt in a hammock or on the ground, and grosgrain loops along with the included Suspension System allow the quilt to be hung under a hammock for insulation. It's carefully constructed of lightweight, high-quality materials and is the lightest weight commercially available option for several applications. But top blanket only users pay a small weight penalty (probably about an ounce and a half) for unneeded features.

What's Good

  • Actual loft higher than specified
  • Wide enough in on-the-ground quilt mode to limit drafts when turning from side to side
  • Shell fabric is downproof and water resistant
  • Drawcord and toggles allow it to be secured around one's shoulders to seal in warmth when used as a quilt
  • Multi-use as a quilt or hammock underquilt

What's Not So Good

  • Multi-use design adds weight compared to a top bag-specific design

Specifications

  Year/Model

2005 Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt

  Style

Quilt

  Fill

6 oz (170 g) of 750 fill power goose down (current models now use 800 fill power down)

  Loft

Measured loft 1.8 in (4.6 cm); claimed loft 1.2 in (3.0 cm) (claimed loft for current model is 1.5 in (3.8 cm))

  Manufacturer Claimed Temperature Rating

45-50 °F (7-10 °C)

  Weight

Measured weight Regular 14.4 oz (408 g); manufacturer’s specification 15 oz (425 g) Regular, 16 oz (454 g) Long; JRB Suspension System 1.6 oz (45 g); silnylon compression sack 1.2 oz (34 g)

  Sizes

Regular, 78 x 48 in (198 x 122 cm); Long 86 x 48 in (218 x 122 cm)

  Fabrics

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

  Features

Sewn through every 7.5-inches (19 cm); drawcord and toggles at both quilt ends; foot box formed by Omni-tape (like Velcro but non-scratchy) and drawcord closure; silnylon compression sack; loops and JRB Suspension System for use as a hammock underquilt.

  MSRP

$169.95 (Regular), $189.95 (Long)

Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt REVIEW - 2
Here the green Shenandoah Summer Quilt rests below the blue Hennessy Adventure Racer hammock, and blue tarp above. Both ends of the quilt have a drawcord with toggles so the quilt can be adjusted to lightly hug the hammock ends. The JRB Suspension System is a set of bungees with carabiners on each end that is used to suspend the quilt under the hammock. The Suspension System black bungee can be seen here girth hitched to the hammock support cord with the mini carabiners clipped to loops on the hammock corners.

Performance

I tested the Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt sleeping on the ground on Cedar Mesa in southern Utah, and under a tarp in the High Uintas in northern Utah. I used it with a hammock as the sole underquilt on a chilly night in the High Uintas, and added it to the No Sniveller underquilt on a winter trip in the White Mountains of Arizona.

Unlike the top bags I've slept in with uninsulated bottoms and insulated tops (Rab Quantum Top Bag, Western Mountaineering Pod 30, Mountain Laurel Designs Devotion 40), the Shenandoah Summer Quilt is wide enough, at 4 feet, to keep out drafts even for a toss-and-turning side-sleeper like myself. As expected, I sleep warmer if I am careful to tuck the quilt under me after I turn over and/or use a bivy sack. Since the quilt is hoodless, I add a fleece hat, and then a windshell hood as sleeping temperatures cool.

Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt REVIEW - 3a
The Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt as part of a tarp camping system in the High Uintas of Utah.

The Shenandoah Summer Quilt is lightweight - 14.5 ounces for the test sample - and has multiple uses. For the three or four-season hammock hanger, the quilt can be used alone as a top blanket or underquilt in the summer, or added as a second underquilt in colder weather. And of course it can be used as a top blanket when sleeping on the ground. Its versatility comes at a price though - an ounce or two of extra weight. A ground-use-only quilt could lose weight with a tapered and permanent foot box (no Omni-tape or foot end drawcord) and no grosgrain side loops - but keep the head end toggle and drawstring. A dedicated hammock top blanket could have those changes plus be half a foot narrower and significantly lighter.

There is one gram-adding option I'd like to see on this quilt - and Jacks 'R' Better offers it. Their Stealth Universal Quilt is the same as the Shenandoah Summer Quilt but with the addition of a No Sniveller-style head hole so it can be used as a warm poncho. I was really impressed by the amount of comfort this feature added to cool nights in camp when I was testing the No Sniveller.

Jacks 'R' Better has recently updated the notions on the Shenandoah Summer Quilt with lighter toggles and drawcord while keeping the overall weight constant.

Missing from this review (and for all sleeping bag reviews published here, for that matter) will be an assessment of whether or not the sleeping bag performs adequately at temperatures near its manufacturer-reported temperature rating. Click here for the complete Backpacking Light Position Statement on Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings.

Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt REVIEW - 4
The Shenandoah Summer Quilt with bottom drawstring cinched closed and Omni-tape strips secured to form a foot box.

What's Unique

The Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt is the lightest hammock underquilt commercially available. It's also the roomiest quilt available for the weight and loft. Versatility (hammock underquilt, ground and hammock top blanket) and the combination of features (width, loft, and price) make it stand out. Other companies offer good and even better options for specific uses: Speer Hammock offers a wonderful dedicated top blanket at about the same weight and loft and a better price; the narrower Nunatak Arc Ghost has a tapered foot box and lighter weight than the Shenandoah Summer Quilt, and has higher loft; and the MontBell U.L. Alpine Down Hugger Thermal Sheet is wider, but has less loft and is not set up for hammock underquilt use.

Recommendations for Improvement

The Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt fills a niche. I'd like to see Jacks 'R' Better apply their quality construction and materials to offer a lighter weight/same loft quilt for ground sleepers. With the changes outlined above, final weight could be in the range of 12 ounces for a 45 °F quilt. With the lower construction and material costs (no Omni-tape or foot end drawstring), the price could be very reasonable.


Citation

"Jacks 'R' Better Shenandoah Summer Quilt REVIEW," by Carol Crooker. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/jacks_r_better_shenandoah_summer_quilt_review.html, 2006-03-28 03:00:00-07.

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