Shane Steinkamp - April 5, 2001
Name: Shane Steinkamp
Age: 33 DOB: 04/24/1969
Height: 5′ 10″ (1.778 meters)
Weight: 250 lbs (113 kilos)
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
City: New Orleans (Metairie)
Date: April 5, 2002
Backpacking background: Bit by the wandering bum disease at an early age, I have 10,000 plus miles of long distance hiking. After that I lost track… I have been hiking since age seven or eight, which is about 26 years. I have ranged from the southern tip of Baja to Barrow, Alaska and from coast to coast – although most of my wandering has been done west of the Mississippi river, with frequent trips in Florida. I have experienced all extremes of weather and terrain, with the exception of Antarctic terrain.
The Packa is produced by:
Cedar Tree Industry
425 9th Street South
Columbus, MS 39701
Year of Manufacture: 2002
Materials: 200 Denier Coated Nylon
Listed weight: 26 Ounces
Weight as delivered: 26.6 Ounces
Retail Cost: $40.00
Price Paid: $40.00
Listed weight: 10 Ounces
Weight as delivered: Unknown
Retail Cost: $110.00 (Not Purchased)
(Discussing the versions with Mr. Hinnant, he gave this comment: “The sil-nylons are ten times better: Much, much lighter, huge pit vents (20
inch), and pocket (only 1) lined with no-see-um netting (very light and will not retain water)”)
I found Mr. Hinnant to be very friendly and helpful.
Product Description: The Packa is a rain garment that combines a pack cover with a rain jacket. The easiest way to wrap your mind around the idea is to think of it as a fitted poncho. There are good pictures on the website.
There are several problems inherent to rain gear that all hikers encounter:
For traditional rain jackets, the pack must be removed before donning the jacket, and then the pack must be worn over the jacket. Because the pack’s straps are not protected, they become wet – possibly allowing water to seep into the bag. The pressure from the wet straps may cause some breathable ‘waterproof’ fabrics to leak and soak the shoulder, and no air circulation occurs under the rain jacket once the pack is secured. Further, the straps will still be wet when the rain jacket is no longer needed. In my experience, I often got as wet from my own sweat as I would have from the rain.
I (and almost every other backpacker I know) escaped these problems by using a poncho. The poncho is not without problems of its own, however; and the largest problem is usually with wind. While ponchos certainly breathe well and protect the pack, in strong winds, an unsecured poncho is not very effective. Most hikers rig their ponchos using cord, straps, or tape – and I myself used tape for a number of years. A poncho does not function well as a wind shell, either.
The Packa avoids these problems by providing the best ideas from both traditional ideas. It protects both pack and wearer, while allowing free air circulation like a poncho. It is fitted with a front zipper, arm pit zippers, Velcro closures at the wrist, and cinch cords in the hood and at the bottom to control air flow and wind penetration like a jacket. It serves well as a wind shell. Additional features include an integral hood, large front pockets, and spring loaded cord beads on all the cords. When in use as a pack cover, a drawstring is used to cinch the cover around the pack. The Packa is black, inside and out. All trim, zippers, sliders, cords, cord beads, and stitching are black. The only things that aren’t black are the large brass grommets, which are used as reinforcements where the cinch cords enter the garment.
The Packa arrived via priority mail, packed in a cardboard box. I actually received two, one for me and one for a friend. They were packed together with an ‘instruction’ sheet that is an identical copy of the website.
My biggest concern sight-unseen was fit. I am a large person, and few ‘one-size-fits-most’ items do not. The Packa fit me very well, as well as my friend, who is 6′ 4″ and 240 pounds. (1.930 meters, 108.8 kilos) Trying it on a few other people proved that it works on a wide variety of people, both large and small. It did not, however, fit my thirteen month old daughter (33″, 28 pounds), although she could have easily used it as a shelter. (For use as an emergency shelter for normal sized folks, see below.) From the top, in the front, where the Packa meets the throat, to the bottom of the hem, is 32.5 inches (82.5 CM). It cinches mid thigh on me.
The next question is weather or not it will fit large packs. The pack ‘section’ is hard to measure, since it isn’t a box, per se. It is 20 inches (50.5 CM) wide, 12 inches (30.5 CM) deep, but there is no real ‘bottom’ since the bottom tapers into the bottom of the jacket. To better understand this idea, please see the pictures on the website. It will hold a HUGE pack, and handles my large external frame ALICE very well. Packs, as a rule, are not square like a box, tending to round off at the corners. The Pack cover area of the Packa is shaped accordingly. Of course, there is an upper limit, and if you tie large items outside your pack, such as stoves or lanterns, then the pack cover may not work for you.
After trying it on, I checked the Packa thoroughly. All stitching was tight, and it seemed well made. My only concern is that the zippers are held by a single line of polyester stitching. My experience with zippers makes me think that a second row of stitching would be a good idea. The zippers themselves are a generic 5C coil zipper. I would have preferred to see a brand, such as YKK, and only time will tell as to the quality of these, but they seem OK. The 200 Denier Coated Nylon feels very substantial – this is NOT like a cheap windbreaker. I was not able to tear the material, and after stressing the seams and corners, I was very satisfied that this was something I would feel good about carrying in the back country.
My next concern was, of course, the ability of the Packa to keep me dry. For my first test, I put it on and headed for the shower. My shower is at or about sea level, on flat terrain, with an average temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5 Celsius). After a few seconds, it was ‘raining’. I am pleased to report that there was no leaking at the seams. The hood cinches well, and performs better (of course) than hoods on other rain gear I have owned that do not cinch.
Thereafter, every time it rained, I could be found walking my neighborhood in the Packa. I continued to have excellent results in various conditions, but I wanted to test the Packa in windy conditions, which are the bane of the traditional poncho.
While waiting for this opportunity, I practiced with the Packa, familiarized myself with the Packa’s features, and sought for ways that it could be used. I discovered a few things:
The instructions and the website indicate that the Packa ‘folds up into the pocket to make a pillow.’ Either my Packa lacks such a pocket, or I am too dense to figure out how to do it. (Discussing this with Mr. Hinnant, he commented, “The new Packas made by equinox will have a double pull tab zipper so that it really does fold up into a pocket properly.”
The Packa performs its role as a pack cover very nicely. It cinches well around my frame pack. The rest of the Packa neatly tucks in around the sides. It is possible to loosen the cords, retrieve the jacket, and put it on without removing the pack.
It is possible to remove your pack while wearing the Packa. If you pull your arms through the sleeves, you can remove the pack. This maneuver isn’t easy, and may not be possible depending on the size of your pack.
The Packa can be worn as a rain jacket without using a pack. The pack cover simply hangs limply behind you. Two pieces of tape can be used to hold the pack cover against your back, but the addition of two Velcro tabs at the top would resolve any flapping.
The Packa can be used as an emergency bivy with the use of an ordinary trash bag. Stand in the trash bag and put on the Packa. By cinching the bottom cord around the knees, the trash bag is held in place. By zipping all the zippers and cinching the hood, the Packa is turned into a satisfactory emergency shelter. For smaller people, I would imagine that this would work even better.
A draw string hefty bag works well as a rain skirt when wearing the Packa.
The opportunity to test the Packa in harsh conditions came on Sunday, March 31 on Santa Rosa Island in Navarre Beach, Florida. A strong line of storms was coming in from the East, with strong north winds. As the front came through, I donned the Packa and walked along the beach. The winds were a steady 10-15 MPH (16-24 KPH), with gusts to 25 MPH (40 KPH), the rain was heavy, and the temperature was approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). I found it necessary to wear a ball cap under the hood to keep water from running down my face – but this is true of other rain gear as well. With the Packa properly cinched, I experienced very little wind penetration. After 45 minutes and a few adjustments to allow venting, I found that I was very dry. I did experience some wetting at the armpits with the pit zippers open, but less water than I expected entered the Packa at the neck, which has always been where I have experienced leaking with other garments in the past. Under conditions where I had little right to stay dry, the Packa performed better than anything else I have used. Had I used a jacket, the pack straps would have been wet, and had I used a poncho I would have experienced more leaking.
I also performed this ‘torture test': I froze the Packa in my freezer for three hours. After this time, the Packa was still supple, if cold. I then put the Packa in the clothes dryer over night, running it continuously for eight hours with no heat. After this time, there was no separation of the coating, and no discernable damage, abrasion, or wear to the Packa. I am unsure what this test proves, or how beating around in a dryer for eight ours equates to trail use, but at least it didn’t fall apart.
THINGS I LIKE
HUGE front pockets, mesh inside.
Over all performance.
The Packa is LONG, which would protect shorts better than a regular rain jacket.
Large brass grommets at reinforcement points.
Did I mention HUGE front pockets?
THINGS I DON’T LIKE
Single lines of stitching where a second line of stitching would aid durability.
Generic zippers of unknown quality.
Velcro tabs to hold the pack cover against the back when not wearing the pack would prevent flapping.
QUESTIONS RECEIVED AFTER INITIAL REVIEW
Question: “Is it worth the money? It seemed kinda spendy to me for a glorified poncho. Will this replace your other raingear?”
Answer: The Denier version, at $40.00, is worth the money in my opinion, since it replaces both pack cover and poncho. The silnylon version, which is less than half the weight at 10 ounces, is $110.00 – which is too steep for me, but those looking to save the extra ounces might be willing to pay the price. I am fully satisfied with the ‘heavy’ version. $40.00 is a small price to pay for rain gear that actually keeps you dry. I need to add that the Packa is much more than a ‘glorified poncho’, and works better than any other rain gear I have ever owned. I don’t make that statement lightly.
Assuming I am wearing clothes, the Packa will replace my poncho, which I
have since thrown in the trash.
Question: “In the winter activities I do I usually require an ice axe, so I strap one on my pack (I actually use ice axe loops for an ice axe – what a concept!) How durable is the fabric? I can see my ice axe poking through something like this pretty easily.”
Answer: I don’t think any nylon material would last long against the edges of an ice axe. The fabric seems very durable, but only time will tell how long the coating will last, and how it will stand up to abrasion. My experience with other Denier nylons is that they are moderately resistant to wear, and the Packa seems as durable, if not more so, than other pack covers I have used. I do not, however, believe it to be outstandingly puncture resistant.
Thank you for your time.