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REVISED: Ted R-D GoLite Wizard FR

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  • edwardripleyduggan
    Further rewritten. Beware Yahooisms. May be found in test folder at http://tinyurl.com/4rkp5 -- this text is preferred. ******* Field Report (the second of
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 1, 2005
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      Further rewritten. Beware Yahooisms. May be found in test folder at

      http://tinyurl.com/4rkp5 -- this text is preferred.


      Field Report (the second of three reports)
      My Initial Report may be viewed here.

      Report Date: December 18, 2004

      Reviewer Information

      * Name: Edward Ripley-Duggan
      * Age: 51
      * Gender: Male
      * Height: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
      * Weight: 215 pounds (98 kg)
      * erd@...
      * Catskills, New York State

      Reviewer Background

      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 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.

      Product information in brief

      * Manufacturer: GoLite
      * URL: http://www.golite.com
      * Product: Men's Wizard Jacket
      * Year of manufacture: 2004
      * MSRP: $300
      * Manufacturer's stated weight: 20 oz (570 g), for size large
      * Measured garment weight (size XL): 21 oz (595 g)
      * Color: Twilight
      * Fabric: Alchemy3 main body
      * External Pockets: two external, zipped, with mesh pocket bags
      for venting
      * Internal pockets: one small pocket for MP3 player or similar
      small device
      * Main Zip: full front zip with chin guard
      * Pit zips: one under each arm
      * Hood: full, with slightly stiffened beak
      * Drawcords: at hood and at waist
      * Seams: taped
      * Additional features:
      * Integral SkullGlove balaclava in mesh pocket within garment
      * Transparent panel (WatchWindow) on left sleeve for viewing
      watch, altimeter etc.
      * Converticuff partial mitts

      Field and Test Information

      For this field report, the GoLite Men's Wizard Jacket was used for a
      mix of day hikes and overnight backpacking trips in the Catskill
      Mountains, at elevations to 3900 ft (1190 m). Most of the hiking
      involved off-trail excursions, "bushwhacks," and included a number of
      the more difficult Catskill peaks. Minimal pack load was 12 lbs (5.4
      kg) or so for day hikes and up to 28 lbs (11.3 kg) for backpacks. The
      lowest temperatures experienced during the testing period were at
      elevation at approximately –15 F (-26 C), with wind-chill in excess of
      –40 F (-40C). Most of the hiking involved at some traversing of light
      snow or ice on the summits, although due to a generally mild November
      and December there was overall less snow cover than usual. Still, most
      of these hikes were done during what were unquestionably winter
      conditions, and one backpack was undertaken in very severe weather.
      The highest temperature at which the jacket was worn was around 50 F
      (10 C).

      Product Use and Performance

      I received the jacket from GoLite in October, and immediately began
      wearing it. First, I wore it simply for trips to the stores etc., in
      order to get a sense of the functionality of the jacket. From
      mid-November on (I was briefly out of commission with a hiking-related
      injury), I used it on a mixture of trail hikes and bushwhacks to local
      peaks. On average, I go out perhaps twice a week in the Catskills.

      A typical trip was a bushwhack I took to Doubletop in November, which
      is a lovely 3860 ft (1180 m) peak. I was wearing a long-sleeve merino
      wool base layer and a Patagonia Puffball vest under the Wizard. This
      was somewhat more insulation than the 25 F (-4 C) temperatures called
      for, but I wanted to test the ability of the Alchemy3 fabric to
      transport moisture. I find this one of the more difficult parameters
      to judge, as I run hot when hiking and can work up a sweat in a
      T-shirt on a cold day!

      I was pleased to note that when I removed my pack the back of the
      jacket was quite wet, indicating that moisture was indeed being
      transported to the exterior of the Wizard shell. In addition, though
      my wool base layer was a bit damp, the Puffball was mostly fairly dry.
      As a result of this and other experiences with the jacket, I would say
      that breathability in fairly low humidity conditions is good or
      better. I will test it in wet conditions before the final report in
      four months' time. Do note that I don't advocate over-dressing (a
      common error among hikers, I've noted)—this was strictly for testing
      purposes. Usually, I dress to keep just warm enough while moving, and
      layer up when stationary.

      Also on this hike, I deployed the balaclava briefly while on the move.
      This proved easy enough in lightweight gloves, although I have since
      found that in mountaineering mitts it is a near impossibility—they
      must be briefly removed. I also used the ConvertiCuffs, but as already
      noted in my Initial Report, they do not provide very good coverage.
      They work very well as a palm-warmer and a wrist gaiter, but (perhaps
      because my hands are fairly long) only in the direst of emergencies
      would I consider deploying them fully. They simply do not provide a
      sufficiently airtight fit to retain warmth, and the fingers, the most
      vulnerable part of the hand, are most at hazard as the tips are close
      to the opening.

      I first noticed two significant issues on this hike, which other trips
      only reinforced. First, the WatchWindow proved problematic. Even with
      the cuffs deployed and out of the way and my wrist altimeter worn over
      my base layer (if worn directly on the wrist it is always impossible
      to glimpse through the window) a basic law of physics comes into play.

      Naturally, the air trapped under the jacket is generally going to be
      moist. The WatchWindow suffers from radiative cooling—heat escapes as
      radiation through the clear port to a greater extent than the
      surrounding fabric, so the view-port is always slightly colder than
      the surrounding area. The result is heavy condensation and, at colder
      temperatures, sometimes slight frosting. This renders the WatchWindow
      essentially useless, and creates a small cold-spot on the wrist.

      What ultimately proved a far more significant issue was the front zip.
      This is urethane-sheathed on the exterior, in order to provide good
      weather protection. About four inches below the neck, the zipper
      changes curvature slightly to form a neck-tube. Theoretically, with
      the zipper all the way up, the chin tucks slightly against the top of
      the zip (which has a fleece pad to avoid abrasion) and a cozy seal is
      maintained. In practice, the combination of the curvature and the
      urethane coating conspire to make it exceptionally difficult to pull
      the zip all the way up. In addition, the draft flap tends to become
      caught in the zipper, an added complication (pulling down on the front
      hem of the garment and leaning the head back helps create enough
      tension to minimize the risk of catching the fabric). If the zipper is
      not fully closed, it becomes difficult to properly deploy the hood and
      an opening is left for cold, snow or rain. I used graphite on the zip,
      which helped slightly at higher temperatures.

      In terms of size, layering did not prove an issue with the Wizard. I
      experimented with various layers, and I was at various times able to
      fit (over a base layer) a Marmot long-sleeve synthetic fill jacket
      (model not known, but roughly akin to the Moonstone Cirrus), a
      Mont-Bell ultra-light down inner jacket over a Puffball vest, as well
      as other jacket combinations. The limit seems to be two layers, or one
      heavy layer such as a down parka (the latter being, generally
      speaking, way more insulation than I use). This, given the fact that I
      am not exactly svelte, is altogether acceptable. I was at no point
      forced to run cold, nor did the jacket become over-filled with layers
      and restrict my movement.

      The Wizard did prove strong enough for off-trail hiking. I pushed
      through fairly dense spruce on occasion and was poked by the
      occasional spruce-peg and battered with needles and branches, but the
      shell seemed strong and was not punctured. At the same time, it is a
      trifle unnerving using a $300 shell in these conditions and I would
      propose wearing an old nylon jacket or something of the kind on very
      hard bushwhacks.

      Far and away the most extreme circumstances under which the jacket was
      used was on a winter backpacking trip to the summit of Lone Mountain
      (3721 ft, 1134 m), a bushwhack approach after a trail hike over
      another (somewhat higher) peak, Peekamoose. Before leaving, I had
      noticed that there was a wind-chill advisory from the National Weather
      Service in effect indicating exceptionally low temperatures, but I
      have to admit that I enjoy tricky winter conditions! In addition, this
      seemed to be an excellent opportunity to give the Wizard a really
      serious workout.

      On the way up, the jacket performed well, shedding snow and wind.
      Temperatures were around 15 F (-9 C). I made camp on the summit of
      Lone, in the lee of the wind. The temperatures were, as anticipated,
      dropping rapidly, and the wind was starting to come up. In addition,
      it was snowing fairly heavily. After eating rather quickly, I piled
      into my tent and spent a cozy night, periodically awake but lulled by
      the sounds of wind and snow against the sides of the tent. The
      temperatures within my little shelter dipped during the night to 5 F
      (-15 C) or possibly lower (measured by the thermometer on my
      altimeter). When I got up, it was hovering around -15 F outside (-26 C).

      I breakfasted in my bag, and attempted to put on the Wizard over my
      layers in order to go outside. The jacket was as stiff as a board.
      Evidently, there had been enough moisture trapped in the shell fabric
      to cause it to freeze solid. I had to huddle with it in my sleeping
      bag to make the fabric sufficiently flexible to put on. Even then, I
      had real problems with the ConvertiCuffs, which had become
      extraordinarily stiff, and only by dint of hammering them out with my
      fist could I get my arms through the sleeves. It should be noted that
      my pants, a pair of fleece-lined soft-shells, remained perfectly
      supple, whereas the fabric of the cuffs did not. This is a significant
      issue, in my estimation. In future, under such conditions, I will be
      forced to keep the jacket in my sleeping bag along with my water etc.,
      in order to ensure that it is sufficiently pliant.

      Further problems emerged with the zipper. It was now absolutely
      impossible to close at the neck, even with some force applied. This
      meant that I could not properly deploy the hood, although it would
      stay up after a fashion. In addition, even with the Wizard's
      SkullGlove balaclava in place, my neck was rather exposed, so I
      hastily added a down layer (I was wearing a vapor barrier shirt and so
      was not concerned with the down becoming damp). I was, given the
      difficult temperatures, not pleased with this turn of events. Weather
      of this order is potentially dangerous and equipment failures are not
      to be taken lightly. As it was, in an unguarded moment I removed my
      mitts to fold a tent pole and almost immediately got early-stage
      frostbite (fortunately, I caught it within seconds and no apparent
      damage was done).

      The return trip was interesting, even enjoyable, although the winds
      were ferocious along the ridgelines. The balaclava kept my head warm
      (it was sometimes augmented with a hat), and the hood could be
      deployed reasonably well to keep driven snow off my face, even though
      the jacket was not zipped fully. We made it back to the car in good
      shape. It was at this point that I found my beard (a short one) had
      become welded to the balaclava, which was so stiff with condensate
      that I could barely flex it. As the balaclava is sewn in, I could not
      take the jacket off until I had sat with my chin over one of the car's
      heating vents for four minutes. This sounds slightly hilarious (and
      indeed, I was laughing about it), but had it happened in the
      backcountry with a second night's camping ahead I would have to have
      either attempted warming my chin near the stove (rather risky) or
      taken scissors to my beard! I've never had a balaclava freeze up in
      this manner before.

      Once I got home, I called GoLite, whose representative was sympathetic
      and helpful. We primarily discussed the zipper, as that was the single
      most important issue. I am returning the Wizard and will be receiving
      a new one shortly. My hope is that the problem I was experiencing was
      the result of a slightly defective zip. I will report on whether the
      replacement was an improvement in my next posting in four months time.

      Two further points worthy of note:

      1. The waist drawstring functioned well. I was able to tighten it
      sufficiently well that I was able to carry a couple of quarts of water
      (approximately two liters) against my chest, so that it would not
      freeze too badly. The relatively short jacket length did prove a minor
      issue, in that the down layer I was wearing had to be tucked up
      inside, but I can't say that this struck me as a significant
      inconvenience and my comfort was not affected.

      2. The fabric of the jacket has (so far) withstood pack-strap abrasion
      well, and has not caused the straps to slip unduly.


      If the problem with the zipper is resolved by replacement, one major
      objection to this jacket for cold weather use will be addressed. The
      difficulties with the freezing of the jacket can be easily resolved on
      winter backpacks by putting the jacket in my bag. The problem with the
      balaclava is a little harder to address, and I may simply not use it
      on very cold days. However, the adhesion may be prevented by use of a
      heating pad and I will experiment with this. Despite these
      disappointments and some other reservations expressed in the
      paragraphs above, I think the jacket does have promise as an alternate
      to a heavy Goretex shell, which is poundage I prefer not to carry,
      provided my safety is not compromised.


      Light weight

      Good breathability in cold weather

      ConvertiCuffs form a good wrist gaiter and keep snow out

      Strong fabric for the body of the garment, can withstand fairly heavy use


      The fabric used for the cuffs and balaclava, which becomes inflexible
      when frozen

      The stiffness of the zipper (though this may not generally be an issue)

      WatchWindow does not have real functionality

      Future Testing Strategy

      A number of questions posed in the Initial Review have already been
      answered by the field test. However, many remain, and will be examined
      over the months to come.

      1. I will conduct further experimentation with the pit zips and mesh
      pockets to examine venting ability. How waterproof are the zippers ?
      Does the replacement jacket have a smoothly operating front zipper?
      How detrimental is cold to the operation of that zipper, and the
      jacket zippers generally?

      2. The Alchemy3 textile has, so far, withstood some heavy wear. Will
      it continue to do so? Does it lose its waterproof/breathable ability
      with wear or soiling? How well does the laminate on the shoulders
      continue to hold up to the rubbing of pack straps?

      3. How breathable is Alchemy 3 in wet conditions?

      4. Over what temperature range is the shell alone adequate?

      5. Does washing interfere with the waterproofing or the breathability
      of the fabric? Will it indeed be necessary to renew the DWR coating
      periodically (customer service indicated this might be a good idea)?

      I thank BackpackGearTest and GoLite for permitting me to participate
      in this very interesting test.
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