Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cuben Vest + Sleeves

The cuben fiber vest I described in an earlier blog entry ( drew a lot of private conversations.  Oddly enough, most people were fairly accepting of a non-breathable, noisy and costly fabric that looked fairly dorky by most standards.

For the most part, people wondered how I used the vest in cooler temperatures with the primary question being whether I used another jacket to supplement the fact that a vest has no sleeves. 
Well, when I originally envisioned this vest, I planned on making it myself and part of the plan included detachable sleeves and a hood.  After injury and an assessment of my sewing skills (which were lacking), Ben from GooseFeet ( was kind enough to take on the project.  I’ve enjoyed working with Ben on a couple projects and each time he impresses me with his customer service, willingness to push the envelope, and quality of his products.  Of no surprise, in addition to making the vest, he also made a pair of detachable sleeves.  They were constructed in a manner similar to those sold by Jacks ‘R Better, which a previous evaluation proved they were too small in length and width and also weren't offered in cuben. 

The sleeves are stuck together with a piece of elastic strapping.  One strap crosses my back and the other crosses my chest with the tension of my arms in the sleeves pulling everything together and air-gaping the vest.  The cuffs have a small piece of shockcord to help ventilate the sleeves as desired.  It works wonderfully and the vest and sleeves look seamless together.  So in a nutshell, when I get cold, I simply put on the sleeves.  The sleeves are also a nice option as leg warmers or to wear with convertible quilts that have a head hole.  Think multi-use gear folks.
Cost of the sleeves, $100.  Weight, 3 oz.  Construction is 2 oz of 900 fill-down with cuben fiber fabric.  In short, sleeves plus vest are a 10 oz super-heater that easily beats anything on the market for a 3+ season jacket and could go easily into winter season with attention to a decent baselayer and layering with a windshirt and rain jacket.  I've used it in the teens and 20's and can say easily that it is the warmest jacket I own, even more than the New Balance Fugu.  This is likely due to the fact that it acts as a vapor barrier. My armpits need ventilation when I'm wearing the sleeves and the vest even when I'm not moving, so I simply pull out the sleeves a bit.  Other jackets are more comfortable to wear because of the breatheability issue, but this is a multi-use gear that does exactly what I wanted it to do.

And for those wondering about the hood, well, I saved some money by using a down balaclava hood from Nunatak USA which I had previously made to fit my New Balance Fugu jacket.  It adds 3 oz to the mix….or a total 12-13 oz winter jacket option in size XXL and tall.  Imagine that!  The balaclava is extremely warm though and often I opt for a lesser fleece balaclava, beanie, or hat.  For you average sized folks, I’m guessing you could do this set-up for 9 oz or less.  Yes, it isn’t cheap, but it sure it nice, warm – and light!


Unknown said...

Very cool. I'm glad I'm not the only one who will admit to not being good at sewing. It always makes me happy when people put together an item that is exactly what they need, rather than settling for something off the shelf that is only *mostly* perfect. I'll be interested in hearing how this works on the trail.

Unknown said...

Pretty nifty indeed. I think this will be a big trend in UL backpacking dressing - true multifunctional garments.