For the past six months I have had the opportunity to use incredibly unique 2013 Double Diamond Vest manufactured exclusively by Klymit. This is a vest that stands apart from the rest of the hiking vest community. It does not have down inside of it, nor does it have synthetic material inside of it to help keep you warm. Rather it uses NobleTex insultion, which is the use of specific materials combined together with the noble gas called Argon. Klymit over the last year or two has perhaps become more known for its sleeping pads than its vests, which is all that Klymit originally offered when they got started back in August of 2007. They reminded the hiking world of the fact that they are also a clothing manufacturer in October of 2012 when they announced their Ulaar Jacket via a Kickstarter project.
For 2013 they also made a few changes to their flagship vest, the Double Diamond vest. It, like their sleeping pads and other garments, features their signature welding process for material – giving it that distinct tube style design. Just to put this out there as a disclaimer before I go any further, Klymit sent this vest to me for T&E and I was/am under no obligation to publicly share my thoughts on this vest. I was intending to return the vest within sixty days or so after getting it, but here I am almost 200 days later and I am still wearing, testing, and trying to find my full thoughts on this product. More and more I am trying to spend at least 200 days using a product before I write my thoughts about it. In the early days of my hiking and writing articles I had no problem pushing out an article with a product I only had for a few days or maybe a week or two. The internet is becoming flooded with gear reviewers who do articles after getting their product and maybe using it for a day or two, if at all.
The more predominant I become the more I realize that is not fair to my readers, so I want to say a huge thank you to Klymit for allowing me to keep this vest way beyond their standard T&E duration. I will also disclose that I rarely discuss T&E gear. Usually if I accept a piece of gear from a company to do testing and evaluation I will do what needs to be done, and if I end up liking it I ship it back to them, buy one, and only then write an article about it. This vest, however, is one of those rare pieces of gear that so intrigues me that I have just not been able to give it up and send it back to them. I have had a serious use/not-use/use relationship with this vest. I have used it for a few hundred miles out on the trail, then it would sit on my table at home for weeks on end, only to make it back into my backpack. It has become extremely rare for me to have a piece of gear that seems so specific at being able to solve a specific set of requirements for certain weather conditions, and to be completely honest, I am still not sure if this could be one of those “all weather conditions” garments or if it should just stay at home for part of the year.
But, moving on from my own thoughts and uses on this vest, let us get into the specs and details. All of this can, of course, be found on the products website. The vest comes in at a little over 13 ounces – which is extremely heavy for any vest in this day and age. But the weight of this vest is one of the things that makes it stand apart from the rest of the vest industry, which has tended to focus on ultralight material and higher loft down. The direction that Klymit has taken has been to pretty much say you can wear this vest in any weather conditions and it does not matter one bit if it gets wet. Forget about ever having to worry about this vest getting wet and becoming worthless. Even if you have a down vest made of Gore-Tex, this vest by Klymit can still do what a Gore-Tex vest cannot do… it can get completely soaked and still provide warmth. Gore-Tex, eVENT, WPBCF, Toray Dermizax, blah to all of you. Through the use of Argon and the heavier 4-way stretch material, the Klymit 2013 Double Diamond Vest has helped me keep my core-temperature regulated in the most torrential rain storms that we can get here in the Redwood rain forests of Northern California. When controlling your core body temperature is more important than a few ounces of weight, I do not think a more logical choice for a vest exists. A few years ago I bought a Nuntak Torre Expedition Parkas with the Nextec ‘Epic’ material and that material is extremely water resistant, but even then I had worries at times about the parka not being able to handle long term rain storms without having a WP barrier over it. With the Klymit Double Vest that is something I never once had to worry about. I could/have cross streams, jump into rivers, stand under waterfalls, and not once did I have to worry about this vest having problems, because it does not use any down/syn material that we normally have to do everything we possibly can to keep dry. The question of weight versus usability is one that only you can answer, but the longer I have owned this vest the more I have ended up using it here in the rainforest of Northern California.
The material, as I mentioned above, is a 4-way stretch material, which makes it really able to handle moving around, crawling over downed trees, trying to find my way through half-mile patches of 6-foot tall ferns, and everything else I have been able to throw at it. I have no idea what denier material it is, but I have utterly beat the crap out of it and have not had a single problem with the material not holding up. At times I have used the vest as a sit-pad and even as a quasi air-pad (yeah, that is probably a good way to void the warranty) and it never let me down. It has suffered no issues from rubbing from the shoulder pads of my backpack for the few hundred miles I have worn it out on the trail. It has double zippers so you can easily vent from either the top of the vest or the bottom if you find yourself overheating. If you would like to see a video that really shows off this vests material check out this video which is for the Klymit Ulaar Jacket, but the jacket and vest are made from the same material, so it is all applicable.
The vest has two external pockets, but it also has a couple of huge internal pockets. By huge, I mean huge. You could easily stuff two snow skiing gloves inside just one side of the vest. What I have found that I end up doing is to place my Mountain Laurel Design eVENT gloves and my Black Rock Gear Nobul Hat into one side, and my snacks and compass into the other side of the internal pockets.
Within the left-side pocket is the inflator (dry air pump) that allows you to fill up the vest with air. Additionally, if you acquire the Argon Starter Kit, which I highly recommend you do, then you pull off the inflator pump and the Argon inflator attaches to the tube. Now here is one of the things that has made me put the vest aside a few times: for the 2013 edition of the vest Klymit did away with the control valve that use to be on the outside of the vest, located on the left-front shoulder region – reference this photograph – and now, instead, it exists within the left-side external pocket. I took this photograph to be able to present it, as Klymit does not display this on their website. The problem seems to be that if you have a few items in this outside pocket, say a pair of heavy gloves, the little button can get pressed in and it lets all of the air or argon that is inside of the vest and next thing you know, your vest is deflated. This is, and has been, my only complaint with this jacket in the six months that I I have been using it. If you are using regular air with the hand air pump, it is not all that big of a deal, but if you are carrying around the argon inflator (aka: klmitizer) and the 53.33 gram (1.88 ounce) argon canisters it can get frustrating, because it results in carrying more weight that you should not have too and because the argon canisters cost 20 bucks for a three-pack. So again, my only real complaint with this vest is this one issue.
So let’s talk about the warmth of this vest. Not being down or synthetic it depends on heavy material, pockets of air, and if you use it, argon, to keep you warm. There is one really huge trick that I learned (thanks to Grant Sible, Ron Moak and Ken Thompson, who were all telling me to do this on me on a hike just after I got it) is to use the draw strings on the bottom of the vest to really tighten it up and prevent air-flow. With all of my down vests I have never needed to do that, but that seems to be a big key when wearing this vest. Once I finally listened to those three guys and started doing this, within about 20 minutes I could easily notice a good twenty degree or more warmth difference.
When I asked Klymit about what temps the Argon really starts to play a role in things they indicated to me that you should ‘be able to feel the difference when you get below about 20-25 F‘. For me, it was closer to 38(f) but I am a cold weather woosie and anytime I expect it to be under forty degrees or so I just filled it up with Argon.
Regarding inflation durations, I get about one week of it staying inflated (if I happen to not press the little deflate valve inside the pocket) with it inflated with regular air and once I had it stay inflated for a little over two weeks. With the argon I am able to keep it inflated for a solid week, so long as I am wearing it all day long. I have noticed that with both air and argon if tends to deflate a bit sooner if I am not wearing it all day, and instead putting it into my backpacks front pocket.
Speaking of putting it inside of a backpack, one of the neat tricks I have been using it for at times is a quasi pack frame. Sort of like the Klymit AirBeam. I had this idea after using it as a sleeping pad one night on a SUL hike (I could not find a soft piece of ground to sleep on) and the next morning rather than deflate it (I had put argon into it and did not want to deflate it – it costs ~$2.50 to fill it up with argon) I was packing all my gear into my backpack and had the idea to use it as one of those inflatable air frames that I first saw Klymit and MLD partner together to make, called the Klymit Inflatable Back Pad. I figured it would be worth a try, so I zipped it up, put it into my backpack before anything else, and sure enough, it worked out pretty well to provide some nice rigidity to the pack. Highly doubt it helped with providing an real world load distribution to my hip, but it made the pack stiffer and that is all that I really cared about.
So what are my final thoughts on the Klymit 2013 Double Diamond Vest? I now wear it on an almost daily basis here in the Redwood rain forest of Northern California, both out on the trail and around town. I get a whole lot of folks looking at it and asking questions about it, and that is always a good thing. This vest is a top of the line hiking product that can be used in all four seasons – from torrential rain storms to mild summer evenings. It is extra long in length and that has its good points and its bad points – if you have it inflated and forget to unzip it before you sit down, it’ll hit you in the chin because the material is so stiff, but it is also nice because just about everywhere here in the Redwoods is wet year-around, so it makes it so I can sit down without getting my butt all wet. The vest has done an amazing job at keeping my core body warm – even when it and the rest of my cloths were completely wet from hours and hours of walking in the rain. My only final thought on this vest is that if it continues to perform as well as it has the last six months, and I fully expect it to do so, is that I just wish that the Klymit Ulaar Jacket was not 300 bucks, because that jacket could be very very tempting for me to buy as a four season jacket, for here in the rainforest of Northern California!
In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that the Klymit product(s) mentioned within the content of this article were supplied to me on a temporary basis as T&E product(s).
As of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell America, Gossamer Gear, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46.