Look out world – Sierra Designs upended their entire 2013 product line so that they could come out of the gate with a completely fresh approach for 2014. Their new designs are striking to say the least, with minimalist, design-centric products that are as fashion-inspired as they are functional. It’s quite a change of course from the old Sierra Designs Hurricane shells of days yore, and today we’re covering arguably one of the most stylish pieces in the line, the All Season Windjacket. It looks good, no doubt about it – but will it perform?
Sierra Designs All Season Windjacket Features:
- Double-woven, tear resistant fabric
- Windproof, breathable 1005D nylon/spandex fabric
- Fully welded seams eliminate stitching
- Die-cut underarm vents
- Hem drawcords and adjustable cuff tabs
- Fit: Trim (you may want to size up)
- Weight: 18.50z
- MSRP: $169.00
Suit up/style up for adventure
Sierra Designs appears to be completely rebranding themselves in 2014, and I like the direction they’re going. Many companies offer dozens of products, many of which have significant overlap with other products in the lineup. We’ve all scrolled through big-name companies’ websites and seen softshell after softshell and wondered what the vague difference is between the two. Sierra Designs’ approach is the antithesis of that clutter – they’re offering a fresh, clean lineup with appealing sets of product groups – three hiking shirts, three new sleeping bags, two pants, etc. The function of each product is clearly laid out and, miracle of miracles, SD has taken the unusual step of cutting some of the advertising bologna – they acknowledge that this jacket “Fabric blocks wind, yet some air-permeability dries sweat quickly.” How straightforward is that? No claims of extraterrestrial breathability, just simple language to describe the function of the jacket. That’s a refreshing change indeed.
Moving on now to the jacket itself. It’s visually striking, to say the least: the entire outfit is built with welded construction that avoids the leakiness common to conventional stitched seams. The zippered pockets are not sealed; rather, there fabric comes together at a razor’s edge to hide the zipper track and create a neat, tidy line. The toothy zipper main zipper runs in an equally close-set track, with face fabric abutting to the immediate left and ride of the zipper. The effect of all of this attention to detail is to create a jacket that’s defined by its sleek, minimal lines. The interior of the jacket speaks volumes of the benefits of quality construction: welded seams trace the interior of the stretchy nylon and the seams that hold the mesh pockets are carefully hidden away.
The jacket features a hem drawcord which is routed through the pockets for convenience – it’s a nice touch as you can fiddle with the toggles while your hands are in your pockets. The hood also has a shock-cord adjustment which is routed down inside of the jacket. On my jacket the shock cord is excessively lone, with around three inches of shock cord hanging out into the jacket on both sides. The neck of the jacket has a built-in microfiber patch to help protect the fabric against sweat and to keep you a bit more comfortable when you’re sweating/getting rained on while wearing the hood.
The fit of the jacket is definitely on the slim side – it can accommodate a baselayer and a conservative mid-layer at most. All told, though, I think Sierra Designs misjudged the fit of the jacket through the chest/sleeve area; the sleeves are fairly tight around the shoulder and I personally found the jacket a touch restrictive around the chest and shoulders. Narrower frames won’t have this trouble, but I do wish Sierra Designs would put a touch more fabric into the sleeves because they currently restrict range of motion. Since it’s advertised as a stretch jacket, range of motion is a category that the Stretch needs to meet. The fabric is treated with a great DWR and, due to the nature of Spring testing, I spent a lot of time counting the drops until I got wet. Being only a windshell it does wet out without too much provocation, but the DWR keeps things controlled through light rain or short, moderate-intensity rain storms.
Most of my testing was spent backpacking with the jacket and, I must say, it excels under a pack. A really good jacket will seem to disappear under a pack and, indeed, the All Season Windjacket manages to do that – its slim cut and seam-free design lead to exceptional trail performance. The pit area features diecut circular vents which are nicer than a zipper, but perhaps without the psychological cooling advantage. The 105D nylon/spandex weave is thick enough that it tends to hang on to moisture, but like any synthetic is dries reasonably quickly for its weight. I appreciated the design of the hood while wearing the pack, which stows away nicely and lies flat for when your pack lid is being obnoxious. The hand-pockets are placed high to not interfere with the pack’s waistbelt, but the zippered Napoleon pocket tends to interfere with the sternum strap. Earlier on I mentioned the special zipper track for the main zip – it’s a stylish touch, but it does tend to snag pretty regularly.
- Excellent, minimalist design
- Performs very well under a pack
- Careful touches create an impression of excellent craftsmanship
- Fabric has lots of inherent stretch and the 105D nylon is very durable
- Hand-pocket placement for hem drawcord is a fun touch
- Sleeves cut too tight for range of motion
- Stylish zipper track tends to snag easily
- Hood adjust cords are too long, somewhat ineffective
- Consider going up one size larger than normal
The Bottom Line
Well, they’ve pulled it off – an exceptionally stylish jacket that still performs really well in the field. The folks at Sierra Designs have cleverly integrated the basic design elements of the jacket in such a way that they add up to tangible performance benefits – notably the welded seams which lay so well under a pack and the sleek, simple fabric covering the hand pocket zippers. The All Season Windjacket is a very easy product to recommend and it gets complement after complement around town – Sierra Designs is headed off on an exciting direction and this jacket is a clear winner.
Buy now: Available from REI.com