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Gear Test - Kickass Quilts Potomac


This page is a work-in-progress. It's just a log of my testing results, so don't take anything in here as a final conclusion. I'll continue updating it as I get more experience with the product, and eventually I'll consolidate it into a finished review.

Kickass Quilts Potomac on Hennessy Backpacker Ultralight Asym


First Look

Listed Specs: Measured Specs:
  • Length: 80" (203 cm)
    Width at widest point: 48" (122 cm)
    Width at head: 30" (76 cm)
    Width at foot: 24" (61 cm)
  • 28 oz (794 g)

  • Length: " (cm)
    Width at widest point: " ( cm)
    Width at head: " ( cm)
    Width at foot: " ( cm)
  • 29.875 oz (844 g)

* Quilts are now made with 2" (5 cm) less width, which reduces the weight by about 2 oz (57 g).

Accessory Weights:

  • Stuff sack: .875 oz (24 g)
  • Minibiners (2): .25 oz (8 g)
  • Loops (2): .125 oz (4 g)
Stuffed Quilt:
  • 17” tall x 7” (43 x 18 cm) diameter
  • Bottom measures 7.5" x 5" (19 x 13 cm) rectangle, but the sack rounds out when stuffed.

MSRP:$150 including shipping

What a great quilt! So far, it looks like a high-quality, inexpensive way to stay warm in a hammock.

I received a cardboard box containing the quilt, a mesh stow bag, a stuff sack, 4 small cord loops (2 needed for attachment - choice of 2 colors provided), 2 mini-carabiners, illustrated instructions, and a repair kit [3 cordlocks (.25 oz, 8 g each), yarn for quilting loops, and a cardboard pattern to ensure proper yarn length]. Oh, and a package of little plastic dinosaurs (not pictured)...they don't help keep me warm, but I guess they Kickass anyway...

Potomac's Pieces

I really like the bathtub design, and the sewing appears to be consistent with no skipped or loose stitches. There are a few places where double-stitches aren't parallel, but this is not apparent without close inspection and will not affect function.

The instructions are pretty clear, but I would like to see the diagrams inline with the text instead of included as attachments at the end. For example, I had a hard time finding the elastic loops to identify the foot end...there are so many loops that I couldn't find these specific ones until I saw the diagram at the end. The diagram made it very clear, though.

Attachment was pretty easy...not quite intuitive, so the instructions are probably necessary for the first attachment, but the instructions were very clear and I had no problems with the attachment.


Head End with Prussik Knot

Foot End with Prussik Knot

Corner of Potomac

Attachment to Asym Tie-out

One difficulty - a cordlock on the foot end, that should adjust the tension on that shockcord, was locked open. I thought it was broken, but Patrick said that they're shipped in that position. When I squeezed it tight, it popped open and now it works fine.

I'm still concerned about the minibiner that sits on top of the HH ridgeline, rubbing on the bugnet. Patrick addresses this on the webpage, but I still think it might rub a hole into the bugnet with prolonged use. Since the loops are already on the attachment quilt, I think a piece of shockcord with cordlock toggles could replace the minibiner. This would reduce the friction on the bugnet and might even save a few grams.

Carabiner Over HH Ridgeline

I also think an ounce or two could be saved by not using so much shockcord. I like how the shockcord snugs the quilt up to my shoulders, but I don't think so much shockcord is necessary to accomplish this. Three options:

  1. Sew about an inch of shockcord into the perimeter channels and cut out most of what runs through those channels.
  2. Use 1-2 mm line for most of the perimeter, only using enough shockcord to maintain the right about of tension to support the quilt and maintain adjustability. This would reduce stress points over the first option and still be easily field repairable.
  3. Better yet, use a surf-leash-style slingshot tensioner inside the channels with 1-2 mm line all around. This would really reduce the weight and still be field repairable.


Date: 27-8 Dec 05
Low Temp: 55 F
Weather: Steady rain, wind 2-5 mph
Gear: Hennessy Backpacker Ultralight Asym, KAQ Potomac Underquilt, JRB No-Sniveller top quilt, JRB 8x8 tarp
Worn: Nylon running shorts, cotton T-shirt, no socks

For my first use, the Kickass Quilt kept me warm and comfortable all night. It took a bit longer than down to warm up and start radiating the heat back to me, but only a few minutes. I didn't get cold all night (though it was only 55 F).

What I like so far:

  • I think the bathtub design fits better underneath the knees than simple rectangular underquilts. With my JRB's, the largest airgaps appear underneath my knees and sometimes make my legs cold until I adjust it. On the first install, the KAQ had a only a very small gap there, and this was almost completely eliminated with a simple adjustment.
  • I like how it snugs tightly around the shoulders, too – keeps drafts from blowing underneath, although this hasn’t really been a problem for me with the JRB. Might make a difference in heavy winds, though.
  • Easy to get in and out of the hammock...the underquilt pops right back into place after entry.
  • The quilt stayed dry even though it rained most of the night. No rain ran down the suspension lines because I used drip strings, and the quilt doesn’t stick out too far from the hammock so the tarp still provided good coverage.
  • Benefits and disadvantages of synthetic over down: no shifting, insulates when wet, cheaper, bulkier, heavier, easier field repairs b/c rip doesn’t blow away insulation, etc.

That's it for now. I think this is a great addition to hammock insulation options, and it seems to work well based on last night's use. I'll have to toy with the temperature range and adjustements, then see how easily I can pack it into snakeskins or stuff sacks. I haven't packed it in my pack yet, either - it'll be a bit bulkier than I'm used to.


Date: Dec 05 to Jan 06
Low Temp: High 40s F
Weather: Sunroom
Gear: HH Backpacker Ultralight Asym, KAQ Potomac Underquilt, JRB No-Sniveller top quilt. Also a fit test on a homemade Speer-type with ridgeline, without bugnet.
Worn: Nylon running shorts, cotton T-shirt

I've used the underquilt a handful of times on the HH this month, and it's worked very well as noted above.

Snakeskins

I also tried to stuff it into JRB Python Skins with the HH Backpacker Ultralight Asym. Didn't work...the quilt was too bulky. However, Patrick has since removed 2" of width from the Potomac, so that might be enough to make it work.

I also tried the Potomac on my homemade Speer-type (w/o bugnet). It fit inside the Python Skins, but the final 12-18" required quite a bit of stuffing. I'm pretty picky about compressing my quilts, and I wouldn't feel comfortable with the compression and stuffing/shearing motions needed at the middle when the two skins came together. I think the new quilts with the reduced width would probably fit well enough to solve these problems, though.

FYI, I measured the circumference of the Python Skins at 12" at the widest point...I think it's definitely worth making some skins large enough to fit the quilt. After getting the proper fit, my concern would be folding the snake in the same place every time for packing. It doesn't affect down any, but over time that might wear a thin spot in the synthetic insulation. I'm not sure it would cause any damage...just speculating.

Potomac on Homemade Speer-type

I need to play around some more to get a better fit, but it fits ok with a quick adjustment. I like how it minimizes the gap under my knees, and the adjustable shockcord on the sides makes it snug up around the hammock very well.

However, the bathtub shape causes gaps along the sides since it doesn't have the HH-style side tie-outs. I tried attaching the Potomac side connectors to the ridgeline with the shockcord. This helped with the gaps, but the fit around the shoulders changed because of the asym shape. Need some more tinkering to find the best solution here. I'll sleep in it tonight and see what I can come up with.

I also used webbing supports on the homemade hammock, instead of the Spectra cord on the HH. It held fine, but the prussik folded the webbing when I pulled it tight. In the field, I'd have to make sure the folds pointed down so they didn't funnel water into the hammock/underquilt. Coupled with a drip string (that's a good idea for any hammock/underquilt), I don't think this would be a problem...just something else to check at each setup. Unless the webbing twists during the night, maybe.

Still happy with this gear - haven't found anything that really turns me off yet!


Date: 29 Jan 06
Gear: Homemade Speer-type with ridgeline, without bugnet.

I got a pretty good fit with it today. I'm not even sure what I did differently...I was just fiddling around, and the next time I got in most of the gaps along the sides were gone. There's still a small pocket right next to each side tie-out, but it's certainly tolerable. I didn't sleep in it, but it felt like it would be fine.


Date: 1-2 Apr 06
Low Temp: 36 F (New low w/ this quilt)
Weather: Clear skies, very slight breeze
Gear: HH Backpacker Ultralight Asym w/ stock tarp, KAQ Potomac Underquilt, JRB No-Sniveller top quilt
Worn: Poly-cotton fleece pants, cotton socks, cotton T-shirt, polyester fleece shirt, earband

We went car-camping at Bottcher's Gap last night - beautiful night, tons of stars, very few clouds. My wife even came this time! That's a rare treat...

The wife and kids slept in a tent and I used the HH with the Potomac, using the Brunton ADC to record the low temp (36 F). That's the coldest I've been in the Potomac so far. I went to bed around 11pm at 38 F and woke up at 6 am and 40 F. Low temp was 36.9 F at 1 am, and it read 37 F at 2 am and 3 am before it started warming up.

The quilt worked well. I could feel a gap under my butt that I probably could have fixed, but I was already comfy...at 36 F it wasn't a big deal and I still slept pretty well, so I'm confident I could get down to at least 30 F with the setup. Although it was pretty wierd...my back was very warm where the quilt was snug, and then my butt was a bit chilled where the gap was - funny feeling. But like I said, I think I could have fixed the gap if I had gotten cold to motivate me.

I also didn't use the KAQ prussiks to attach it. Since I don't use the HH tarp prussiks for the tarp, I used the one on the head end for the quilt's elastic - worked fine. My foot end HH prussik is damaged and I haven't fixed it yet, so I ran the cordlock for the quilt's foot end through the loop in the tree hugger. When I attached the 'biner over the ridgeline for the foot end, that held just fine, too.

One other thing - since the quilt was snug to my back and the gap was under my butt and thighs, I opened the HH slit and pulled some quilt inside the hammock. When I let go of the slit, the quilt stayed there for a while and warmed by butt up...until I moved. But it worked enough to get me to sleep, then I didn't really notice it until I woke up ~6 am.

So the quilt worked great again, and I have a new low to report - I sleep cold, and I think I could be comfortable to 30 F with an absolute low around 20 F.

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