Rating: 2 / 5
I thought it better to keep the Packa reviews in one place, so this applies to the 2009 medium/large Packa. To be honest, I wanted a Roger Caffin style poncho, but could see it was going to take me more time than I was willing to spend, so I pulled the trigger on the Packa as a close second. Although I knew the Packa was a lot heavier than the MYOG Caffin one, I was willing to carry the extra weight for several reasons (aside from laziness). One was the taped seams. Silly me, I assumed that taped seams meant ALL the seams were taped, not just those that are easy to tape. None of the zipper seams are taped. This is OK for the pit zips, but not OK for the storm flaps over the long front zipper and pocket zipper. These are obvious points of water leakage. I will no doubt remove the pocket anyway as I can't see a use for it (and probably the pit zips too), but now I have to mix up some smelly silicone sealant to fix the front zipper and pocket seam. Also disappointing from a UL point of view is the over-engineered bungy cords and toggles. I have shaved 45 grams just by replacing these (hem, pack cover and hood) with with spectra cord and smaller or no toggles. The bungy and toggles on the wrist were just plain awkward, and I have already replaced them with ordinary lightweight elastic (more weight saved to). The extra flap at the back of the poncho seems redundant to me, but is easy enough to remove with a pair of scissors. What has really killed this garment from a function point of view is the hood. It's just too small. I have had four experienced friends try it on, and the feeling was unanimous...the Packa is made to fit a large body and a small head! There is a plastic stiffened beak on it, but the beak does not jut out beyond the crown of the head, so it offers no protection against windblown rain and snow. The volume of the hood is too small to batten down, and that's without a hat on.
Something else which never occurred to me until I actually tried it (and this would be true of the MYOG version as well), is that you can't use it as both a pack cover and parka when in camp. It is also an acrobatic act to remove my pack without taking the Packa off, say at rest stops/ nature calls. If you have hipbelt pockets these also become a hassle to access.
Other modifications I have in the pipeline include adding some snaps to the front zipper so that the Packa can be left partially opened from the bottom, and to also allow the storm flap to be battened down against rain driven from the side. And of course I need to redesign the hood. Thankfully I have some spare fabric that I can salvage from the rear flap to enlarge and extend the hood. THEN it should be a really nice parka that I will use, not because it covers my pack, but by having it go over my pack the ventilation is much better than I can get with a traditional WPB rainjacket, and easier to don and remove.
One good thing about the Packa is that the silnylon used appears to be a heavier, more robust and more waterproof version than I have seen before. It's shiny on one side and has a ripstop grid. The bad things about it is it's a lot noisier than the lighter silnylon, and the shiny side is on the inside which feels really gross against bare skin (I often wear short sleeved shirts under my raincoats). The non-shiny side feels so much better that I'm really surprised it isn't towards the inside!My partner complains a lot about the noise (and I'm not fond of it either). I'm hoping it will soften up with use...
Update after a few months of use. This is a great jacket for biking around town, but that's about it. The pit zips leak, and once you're wet on the inside (from perspiration and leaky pit zips), you can't dry it out by standing around camp in it. In fact, even after several days on a clothesline at home, it was still wet on the inside. It presents a very large surface area to any strong winds, acting like a sail.
I still haven't figured out a way to increase face coverage for when the wind is blowing water/snow around, and it seems impossible (which is to say I haven't figured out how) to remove a pack without taking the Packa off.