Here's the text for your editing pleasure. I was favorably impressed
by this garment.
Tiny URL is presently down. See
for my HTML version
Long Term Report:
Integral Designs PLQ Jacket
Report Date: March 17, 2005
This is the third report of three
My Initial Report may be viewed here
My Field Report may be viewed here
Product information in brief
Field and test information
Product Use and Performance
I enjoy walking in all its manifold forms, from a simple stroll in
the woods to multi-day backpack excursions. Though by no means an
extreme ultra-light enthusiast, from spring to fall my preference is
to carry a pack weight (before food and water) of 12 lb (5.5 kg), more
or less. In recent years, I've rapidly moved to a philosophy of
"lighter is better," within the constraints of budget and common sense.
* Name: Edward Ripley-Duggan
* Age: 52
* Gender: Male
* Height: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
* Weight: 215 pounds (98 kg)
* Catskills, New York State
Product information in brief
* Manufacturer: Integral Designs
* URL: http://www.integraldesigns.com/
* Product: PLQ Jacket
* Year of manufacture: 2005
* MSRP: US $200 (from website)
* Manufacturer's stated weight: 11 oz (315 g) for medium
* Measured weight, size XL: 13 oz (369 g)
* Stuff sack weight: 0.5 oz (14 g) or less (lower than my
scale can accurately register)
* Stated dimensions for size XL: 50" (127 cm) chest; 48"
(122 cm) waist, 33.5" (85 cm) sleeve; 26" (66 cm) front length, 30"
(76 cm) back length
* Measured dimensions for size XL: 50" (127 cm) chest; 48"
(122 cm) waist, 34.5" (88 cm) sleeve; 26" (66 cm) front length, 30.5"
(77.5 cm) back length N.B. all measurements were located on the
garment by use of Integral Designs' measurement chart
* Shell fabric: Pertex Quantum (according to label)
* Insulation: PrimaLoft Sport, 3 oz per sq yd (100 g per sq m)
* Shell color: black
* Front zip: part-length 12.5 in (32 cm) YKK zipper with
attached Integral Designs pull
* Pocket: one, with zip, on left side of upper chest
* Loft (total garment height): approximately 1.5 in (3.8 cm)
Field and test information
Winter has continued generally mild over the period of the Long
Term Report. On occasion, daytime temperatures have occasionally been
an atypical 65 F (18 C), with daytime lows of the period of perhaps 15
F (-9 C). The lowest nighttime temperature was around 5 F (-15 C).
There was comparatively little snow over the period, in the locations
in which the PLQ was used, but there has been a surprising amount of
rain (sometimes even at elevation), and frequent windstorms, as
temperatures seesawed from low to high. Elevations at which the jacket
was used vary from 500 ft (152 m) to 4,310 ft (1314 m), above
tree-line on Mt. Pierce and Mt. Jackson in New Hampshire's White
Mountains. However, most of use has been concentrated in the Catskill
mountains, among which I live.
Product Use and Performance
The PLQ Jacket (courtesy Integral Designs)
As noted above, the usual chill of a Catskill Mountain winter has
been largely lacking this year, with some periods, even in January and
February, that were balmy. For a cross-country skier, hiker, and
winter backpacker, this has to go down as one of the more
disappointing winters in recent years. Still, there have been frequent
high winds, as well as unexpected rains, even on summits that would
normally see only snow in winter. For this reason this was a good
winter for testing a synthetic fill jacket, as I'm convinced that the
loft of my down jackets and vests (which I generally left home) would
have been compromised by the unusual weather. The PLQ jacket has
performed extremely well in these somewhat demanding conditions.
I found the PLQ to be almost windproof, to the extent that a
wind-shirt was often superfluous. On a couple of occasions, after
getting cold extremities while hanging around on summits, I
deliberately broke one of the cardinal rules of winter hiking (stay
cool, not warm, when moving) and didn't take the jacket off once I
started to descend. I was, in fact, deliberately overheating (a
little, not a lot) to help ensure that my feet warmed quickly. While I
wouldn't universally recommend this practice, as I sweated into the
jacket to some extent, the PLQ continued to insulate very well in
these circumstances, keeping me warm during infrequent stops. This is
not a tactic that I would have been able to use with a down jacket.
The same was true when I used the jacket during light snow or
intermittent cloud and drizzle. While the garment is no substitute for
a shell in really inclement weather (I carried such a shell at all
times, along with several other layers, including vapor barrier), the
PLQ is extremely handy in these borderline conditions. Some moisture
beads off, some small amount seems to eventually soak into the
insulation (perhaps as the outer shell soaks out), but the jacket
remains warm regardless. It's important to note that I'm not talking
about getting the garment sopping wet; rather, allowing it to get a
little damper than I would ever permit the down equivalent to become.
I'm pleased to report that it also dried quite swiftly when it did
become damp, circumstances permitting.
Given the mild winter, I generally carried this as my primary
insulation piece on day-hikes. On backpacks, since nights were not
bitterly cold, I used the PLQ in conjunction with a shell and a fleece
layer (as called for) and generally found myself fairly comfortable. I
was much more careful about keeping the jacket dry on these trips. On
retiring to my tent, I would continue to wear the PLQ (the fabric of
which doesn't bind at all when I'm in my winter bags), although I
would usually take it off once I felt fully warmed. It is a handy
sleeping layer, and it took the place of my down shirts, which I
usually use for layering in my sleeping bag. It seems considerably
warmer than these.
I wore the jacket (cautiously) off-trail. It was never used in
dense spruce, or in conditions in which I thought there was a
significant chance of shredding it, but it survived a few relatively
sharp pokes from twigs. The apparently fragile Pertex shell seems to
me to be surprisingly strong, though I'd certainly not recommend this
jacket for a flat-out bushwhack. As I was frequently, because of the
milder-than-usual temperatures, wearing gloves without gauntlets, I
found the thumb loops very useful for ensuring that there was no gap
in insulation at my wrist. The sleeves work well in conjunction with
My only reservations are very minor ones, and were mentioned in my
Field Report. There is a tendency for the neck zipper to slide open,
particularly if there's another garment underneath. A tab at the top
of the zip backed with Velcro would add almost no weight and would
likely fix this problem. So, for that matter, would a locking zipper.
Also, since this is a fairly form-fitting garment without a full zip,
peeling it off involved some minor effort, and I would not have minded
the minor added weight of a full zip, although this might perhaps have
compromised warmth to some small degree. But really, these are minor
issues; this is an incredibly useful garment. It fitted well and
I'd describe the PLQ as a piece of clothing I now consider
indispensable. I carried it in my pack all winter, and it was in use a
few times on almost every trip. Generally, I didn't store it in the
supplied sack, but carried it uncompressed in one of the ultralight
dry-bags I use for this purpose. That way, I could be assured of
maximum loft. After a great deal of use, and some mild abuse, it looks
pretty much as new. I have carefully laundered the jacket once (using
a soap designed for insulating wear) and it emerged none the worse,
though smelling somewhat sweeter. I can detect no loss of loft.
The washing instructions indicate hand wash, drip dry. I spoke
with Integral Designs about this, and these instructions are
conservative. The garment may be tumble-dried (presumably at a low
setting, as I did), and the insulation is likely to benefit from this
treatment, as PrimaLoft has a "memory" and will return to its original
state, or close to it, if it has been compressed in the interim.
PrimaLoft is silicone-treated, and in time, washing will adversely
affect the coating on the insulation, but this would be over many
washes. The fact that it can be dried is a plus in terms of
maintaining and renewing the DWR, also. I'm a believer in washing my
gear the minimum amount needed to preserve hygiene and function.
In the initial report, I outlined a series of questions that I
would attempt to answer over the period of the test. I list these
below, with my responses after four months of hard use.
a. How does the XL fit suit my torso type? Is it loose enough
for a light additional layer or layers underneath? Is it thin enough
for layering over with a shell without causing the Michelin Man effect?
b. How much can be conveniently stashed in the front pocket?
c. Are the sleeves indeed of good length? Do they mate well
with gloves as I expect?
d. When used as part of my sleeping system, is the bulk such
that it causes any constriction in the bags I will be using?
The XL fit worked well, and I was able to wear a light Gore
Windstopper vest underneath (I almost invariably use this for winter
hiking, over my base layer, which is usually merino). The insulation
isn't particularly bulky, and (if I was concerned about aesthetics,
which I'm not, particularly) the PLQ looks fine under a shell. The
front pocket is sufficient for some GU gel, a bandanna, a compass and
a few similar odds and ends. I tended not to use it that much, as I
stash stuff in my pants pockets, where it is slightly more accessible.
The sleeves are an excellent length, and with the thumb loops on, thry
mate well with gloves. The jacket is a useful addition to a sleeping
system, and doesn't bind at all in either of my winter bags.
a. Is the Pertex shell and lining comfortable against the skin
or does its smoothness make it feel a little slick?
b. Is the collar, which seems to be high, comfortable against
the neck? Does it continue to be so when worn with a high-necked shell?
c. Is venting through the short neck zip adequate?
d. How smoothly does the zip operate in the field, and is it
e: Is the shoulder articulation adequate for a wide range of
motion for camp chores?
The jacket is, quite simply, comfortable. The venting through
the neck zip is minimal yet adequate under most circumstances, but
then I don't wear this while actually walking unless the conditions or
circumstances call for it, as I've outlined. I'm not convinced that
(for example) pit zips would be useful, and they would add to the
weight. I think it fair to say that is a minimalist piece of clothing,
designed for hikers and backpackers who know what they are about when
it comes to moisture control in winter. The zip operates smoothly. I
couldn't determine if it was waterproof, and didn't wear it in a
setting where this would be an issue. The shoulder articulation, even
with the sleeves extended by the deployment of the thumb loops, is
excellent. I can use this as a warm-up jacket for cross-country
skiing, no problem.
a. How tightly do the Lycra elasticized cuffs clasp the wrist?
Is there any sense of constriction?
b. Is the fabric reasonably resistant to tearing (impact
against rocks and branches) and simple general wear-and-tear?
c. How quickly does the PrimaLoft insulation loft after
storage in the sack?
d. Will the loft of the jacket remain constant over the test
e. Are there any cold-spots in the construction?
f. Does the construction of the garment guarantee that it is
reasonably windproof? What level of waterproofing does it possess? If
DWR, can the coating be easily renewed?
g. How effective is the PrimaLoft insulation when damp? Does
it retain a significant proportion of its insulating ability? Does it
dry through body heat quickly or stay soggy if it does become wet?
The cuffs fit well, without constriction. The fabric appears
pretty strong so far, resistant to both wear-and-tear and occasional
impacts with branches, though the latter is not something I'd push too
far. I used the storage sack only when backpacking to save space, not
on day hikes, and the jacket lofted quickly after removal from this.
After one careful hand-wash using a sports wash (Atsko), I've noticed
no discernible deterioration in loft. There are no cold-spots that I
have found, and the jacket is close to windproof, in my opinion. It's
adequately waterproof, as well. I've not needed to renew the DWR
coating, but the fact that the jacket can be run through a dryer,
which helps bond and activate DWR, will be helpful if I need to do so.
The jacket does continue to be effective when damp, with no
significant loss of insulation that I could detect, although I can't
speak to how well it would function if saturated. Mild dampness tends
to dry through body heat. For example, wearing it around camp seems to
dispel most residual moisture, without creating a sensation of undue
coldness or claminess.
4. Ease of use
a. How easy is the jacket (essentially a pullover) to put on
and take off?
b. How easily can it be tucked in to pants? Is it long enough
for this? If so, does it stay tucked in despite the smoothness of the
The jacket is easy enough to remove, although (the way I do
it, with crossed arms) it comes off inside-out. No big deal. It's just
about long enough to be tucked into pants, and I have done so in camp.
In this setting, it stays put. I find it has a tendency to drift a
little on the trail, but I'm not generally inclined to tuck it in, as
I like to keep my rump covered.
a. Over what range of temperatures is the jacket comfortable
when used in camp? When in exertion?
b. What is the approximate measure of additional warmth the
jacket adds when used in a sleeping bag, as part of a sleeping system?
I've used the jacket down to about 15 F (-9 C) in camp, and
have been reasonably comfortable without additional layers (this was
over my Gore Windstopper vest and a long-sleeve mid-weight merino
shirt). I've found it too warm to wear during full exertion, except
during descents, and only then when I'm feel that my hands or feet
have chilled a bit. As to added warmth in a sleeping bag, I find this
hard to estimate, as I've not been able to wear it through the night
This is a fine jacket, providing an excellent warmth-to-weight
ratio. I'd used synthetic jackets before, but they were generally
heavy for their warmth, so I've tended more to buy down garments in
recent years. However, I'm completely won over by the PLQ, especially
for unpredictable conditions of the kind I've experienced this year,
though I will continue to carry an extra lightweight down layer for
camp, "just in case," and heavier down layers for hikes in extreme cold.
* High warmth to weight ratio
* Sturdy construction and materials
* A useful additional layer for sleeping
* A minor issue, the tendency of the zip to slip when worn
over another neck layer.
I thank BackpackGearTest and Integral Designs for permitting me to
participate in this warm and cozy test!