Active Engineering LLC, a Washington based company, manufactures the JakPak that it describes as a jacket with a 3 season tent and sleeping bag. A more accurate description of the JakPak is a raincoat weighed down with:
- A half-length bivouac (which combines with the jacket to form a full length shelter);
- A tarp with mosquito netting;
- A suspension system.
The tarp also has two elastic straps that connect to each other with Velcro. These straps ensure that the tarp maintains a peak. Without the straps, the edges of the tarp would slide out and it would lie flat.
The suspension system ensures that the JakPak rides comfortably. The suspension system consists of two 1.5-inch wide elastic suspender straps. These straps connect to the interior of the jacket near the shoulder blade. The suspenders have clasps at the end for connecting to one’s waistband. There are also sliding buckles for tightening and loosening the suspension system (see first photo).
The JakPak includes other standard jacket features like two kangaroo flap pockets, a zip-up waterproof pocket located at the interior front left, a bungee cord drawstring for the waist that can be adjusted on the right and the left, a bungee cord drawstring for the hood that can be adjusted from the right and left sides, adjustable Velcro wrist straps, interior and exterior storm flaps along the front zipper (exterior storm flap seals with Velcro).
|Jacket / Tent / JakPak||Jacket / Tent / JakPak||Jacket / Tent / JakPak|
|Weights (oz) Med||30 / 13 / 44||40 / 15 / 55||29 / 13 / 42|
|Weights (oz) Large||33 / 14 / 47||44 / 16 / 60||31 / 14 / 45|
|Weights (oz) Ex-Large||36 / 15 / 51||48 / 18 / 66||38 / 15 / 53|
|Material||Waterproof 100% 70D ripstop nylon fabric with 1.5-oz urethane coating||100% 250D polyester fabric with 1.5-oz urethane coating|
|Fire||Meets CPIA84 Flame Retardant Standards for tents.|
During the month of October 2009 I tested a yellow, medium size JakPak in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, which straddles the border of Montana and Idaho.
Testing the JakPak in Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.
October had typical fall weather with cool temperatures and mild precipitation (for exact temperatures and weather descriptions see the Analysis & Testing section). Activities included trekking and manual labor, like fencing and construction.
Quantitative Gear Rating
I contrasted the JakPak with the traditional combination of tent and rain coat. In this case, the tent used was the 2009 Black Diamond First Light, and the raincoat was a 2004 Marmot Precip.
Black Diamond First Light at Rhoda Creek Camp.
|Categories||2004 Marmot Precip||2009 Black Diamond First Light|
|Material||Shell: 100% Nylon
Coating: 100% Polymide
Seams: 100% Polyester
|EPIC by Nextec Fabric|
The JakPak and the First Light/Precip were evaluated according to ten specific items critical to quality, or CTQ. Each CTQ was assigned an importance value. Importance values are from 1 to 3, where 1 indicates low importance and 3 indicates high importance. Then the JakPak and the First Light/Precip were rated on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 indicates poor and 5 indicates excellent. The rating was then multiplied by the importance, thereby yielding a final score. The importance, ratings, and scores for the JakPak and the First Light/Precip are presented below.
|Importance, Rating, and Score for JakPak|
|CTQ||Importance (1-3)||Rating (1-5)||Score (1-15)|
|Storage (pockets, straps, etc.)||1||5||5|
|Fit (suspension system, draw cords, etc.)||3||1||3|
|Shelter (tent, bivy, etc.) Comfort||2||3||6|
|Ease of Use||2||4||8|
|Importance, Rating, and Score for First Light/Precip|
|CTQ||Importance (1-3)||Rating (1-5)||Score (1-15)|
|Storage (pockets, straps, etc.)||1||4||4|
|Fit (suspension system, draw cords, etc.)||3||4||12|
|Shelter (tent, bivy, etc.) Comfort||2||4||8|
|Ease of Use||2||4||8|
Pareto chart score comparison of the JakPak and the First Light/Precip combo.
Analysis & Testing
The rating values assigned to each CTQ for the JakPak were formulated while using the JakPak for approximately one month. Presented below is the qualitative reasoning for the ratings assigned. The testing is detailed later on in this section.
- Weight: The yellow JakPak weighs 3.5 lbs. This is not overly heavy or super light so it received an average rating of 3. However the JakPak should probably be lighter considering that the First Light is a two person tent, and it only weighs 3.3 lbs.
- Durability: The polyester material is tough, but the elastic suspenders have already started to snag and fray after one month of use, which is most likely the start of rapid progression to catastrophic failure. This is clearly a below average performance and warrants the rating of 2.
- Breathability: There is no breathability with polyester – as anyone who has ever purchased a thrift store seventies garment can confirm => rating of 1.
- Water Resistance: The JakPak with polyester material and urethane coating is waterproof, thus a high rating of 5.
- Storage: The JakPak has ample pocket/storage space. It has a large waterproof pocket for valuable items and easy access kangaroo pockets in the front. The easy access kangaroo pockets with their flapped covers are especially desirable in that they securely house items without frustrating zipper fiddling.
- Fit: The JakPak does not fit well. A jacket that needs suspenders to adjust fit inherently will not fit well. The weight of the bivy and the tarp hang heavy on the back of the JakPak so that the front zipper winds up gouging into the larynx. To remedy the situation, a pair of poor quality suspenders, which are extremely frustrating to adjust, are provided => rating of 1.
- Shelter Comfort: It’s average, so rated a 3. It’s warm, but cramped and damp, and you can’t even comfort yourself in that you are saving on weight.
- Appearance: Horrendous. Every time I put it on I felt like I was about to get rescued by the Coast Guard, and all my friends loved to rip on me about it (see below). It really deserves a score of 0 for appearance.
- Ease of Use: Fairly easy to use, and it comes with instructions on the interior, near the waterproof pocket => a rating of 4.
- Cost: The JakPak, including shipping, costs approximately $199.00. This is a modest sum that compares favorably to the $420.00 for the First Light and the Precip. However the price is not a “deal” either, so it received a rating of 3.
As mentioned previously, testing occurred in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness. The two primary tests were a:
- Two-day, 26-mile trip up the Selway River
- Three-day, 45-mile loop to North Moose Creek and Isaac Lake
The 26-mile trip up the Selway occurred on 9/29 and 9/30.
Tango Creek camp is located right along the Selway River at approximately mile 18 of the trip. The night I spent there it rained/drizzled intermittently. I was concerned that the JakPak would not hold up to the weather, so I set up the JakPak beneath a large grand fir tree and also erected the BD First Light in case I had to bail on the JakPak. Fortunately, the JakPak performed well in the rain, and the First Light was not needed. The only major problem was a gap between the waist of the jacket and the top of the bivy where the rain soaked into the sleeping bag. Minus the wet patch in the sleeping bag and rattlesnakes, the JakPak experience at Tango Creek surpassed my expectations.
Rattlesnake on the Selway River Trail.
The following morning was damp, so I continued to wear the JakPak for the hike. With the tarp removed, the JakPak is relatively comfortable with a pack. However, it quickly had to be stowed because the zero-percent-breathability had me sweating bullets.
Hiking the Selway River Trail.
Our approximate route: 45-mile loop to North Moose Creek and Isaac Lake. The second trip was much cooler and at higher elevations.
The first camp was located in a small stand of large cedars at the confluence of North Moose Creek and Rhoda Creek. It was damp and rainy at Rhoda Creek Camp, and the JakPak again performed favorably, keeping me warm and relatively dry. The second camp was at Isaac Lake, where wolves joined our camp. The wolves put up two good howling sessions around 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. I wished at that point for some sort of clear plastic window in the tarp so I could watch. Instead there was only the glow of yellow neon that magically is still visible in the dead of night.
Hiking Up to Isaac Lake.
It was much colder at Isaac Lake, by approximately 20 to 25 F degrees. At these lower temperatures, the JakPak/0 degree bag combination kept me from freezing, but I was not warm. Chilled, I woke several times and had to burrow deep into the bag for greater warmth.
Isaac Lake Camp.
During the nights out with the JakPak the following details were recorded:
- Morning and evening temperatures
- Weather description
- Qualitative reaction
JakPak Performance Appraisal
|Date||Morning Temp (F)||Evening Temp (F)||Weather||Notes|
|9/29/09||50||60||Overcast with occasional drizzling.||Evening - Surprisingly warm in bivy and fly. Fly is real kicker. Real warm. Probably because of little volume. Very cramped though. Can barely move. Rolling over will be a nightmare.|
|9/30/09||50||55||Sunny, clear and dry.||Morning - Warm, but sleeping bag twisted like pretzel. Mild precip on bag. How well does this thing breathe?|
|10/8/09||40||50||Sunny, clear and dry.||Evening - Damp, cramped, and warm.|
|10/9/09||40||25||Clear with occasional snow showers.||Morning - Warm with precip on bag again. Probably not the best bivy for down bags like mine.
Evening - Cold. Good thing this thing is warm - although not near as warm as it was on previous nights
|10/10/09||20||50||Sunny, clear and dry.||Morning - Fairly warm, but a sheet of ice on my down bag. Definitely not the bivy to use with a down bag.|
All other impressions for deciding ratings for the JakPak were garnered from experience using it as a rain coat on the trail. As a rain coat, the JakPak works fairly well simple because one stays dry, but it is stiff, has zero breathability, and is heavy and bulky because the bivy cannot be removed like the tarp. The weight and bulkiness restricts movement, which proves frustrating with active jobs like fencing and construction. The ratings for the First Light/Precip were determined from approximately 70 days of use in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.
What I Liked
The worst part about the JakPak is also the best part: the bivy. The JakPak is not well suited for backpacking because of the weight, fit, and breathability issues discussed above. However it is advantageous for hunting. The weight and fit issues are not as prominent when hunting, and it is great to have a bivy that you can easily unfurl from your jacket when spending the pre-dawn hours sitting in cold snow. It keeps water out and warm air near the body. The tarp and netting, which sit close to the ground, also helped keep warm air near the body. They also kept rain off your head and were easy to setup, but the best part about was that they could be detached, thereby relieving some of the weight and fit issues. Overall, the bivy and tarp combo, minus the lack of breathability, performed quite well. At times, however, there was a gap between the bivy and the jacket. This was irritating in that it let in some rain that left a wet patch on the sleeping bag - this wet patch, however, was barely discernable from the dampness caused by the captured moisture.
The JakPak pocket system is praiseworthy. I liked its design for the simplicity. On the front of the jacket are two kangaroo pockets located at the easily accessible belly region. These pockets were designed with a pocket flap that keeps articles secure without an irritating zipper. For items that absolutely have to remain dry and secure, there is an internal waterproof pocket with a large zipper that is easy to grasp and operate.
What I Disliked
The primary problems with the JakPak are the excessive weight and the fit. Even when the tarp and netting is removed, the JakPak is excessively heavy, weighing in at 2.5 pounds, which is huge when compared against a typical backpacking raincoat that weighs approximately 12 ounces. This weight could be tolerated if it at least rested comfortably on the body’s frame… but it doesn’t. Much of the JakPak’s weight is due to the bivy that hangs heavy on the back, and this causes the collar and jacket zipper to dig into your neck - which is extremely uncomfortable. Granted there is a suspension system to help the JakPak ride comfortably, but the suspension system is of low quality. The suspenders are hard to adjust, the clasps on the suspenders readily and constantly detach, and the elastic material is shoddy. After only one month of use, the suspenders have already started to fray. The JakPak’s fit is further aggravated by the fact that it is entirely made of polyester, making it stiff and bulky. (Note that the blue or camo JakPaks may not have this problem, since they are made of nylon.)
It is unfortunate that the extra weight and poor fit are primarily due to the bivy, considering that it's the bivy that's the JakPak’s main selling point. If the bivy was made of some lightweight rip-stop material, like a tent or traditional bivy, perhaps the weight and fit issues would be alleviated. If the weight and fit issues were improved, the JakPak could be a highly desirable product for backpacking. Hopefully Active Engineering remedies these problems with subsequent JakPak models.
The other major gripe with the yellow JakPak is the complete lack of breathability. A heavy and non-breathable material like polyester is an extremely poor material choice for backpacking gear. Each night spent in the JakPak started out well because I was so pleased with the speedy set-up time, but in the morning, when I found my sleeping bag sopping with captured moisture, only frustration and irritation remained. Again, perhaps the blue and camo JakPaks have better breathability since they are made of nylon.
The JakPak is not designed for backpacking - at least I don’t think it was designed with backpacking in mind. It is a product more suited to disaster relief or a handy item to have under an airplane seat in the case of a crash. It might also prove popular as a shell for sports fans watching games in tundra-like country such as Lambeau Field and Buffalo, NY. Hunting is the only outdoor recreation activity for which I’d recommend the JakPak. It’s great to have a bivy in your jacket that you can slide into while hunkered down in wet snow, waiting for the sun to rise. However, make sure to purchase the camouflage JakPak - otherwise you’ll wind up a gleaming yellow beacon on the hillside.
For backpacking, the JakPak is like the baseball hat that comes with an umbrella. It’s a reasonable idea in conversation, but when it reaches the product stage, you realize it was best left as a conversation. Its functionality is mediocre, its fit is terrible, and the appearance is atrocious. It’s that camping item you buy at Walmart because it combines two critical needs and saves on cost, but only proves non-functional in both areas and winds up costing you more money when you buy the right tools for the job.The manufacturer provided this product to Backpacking Light at no charge, and BPL has returned or will return this product to the manufacturer upon completion of the review. The author/Backpacking Light have no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.