There are a few staples that defined mid-century mountaineering. Wool was one necessity, 60/40 fabric was another – when Sierra Designs debuted their new cotton/nylon blend, adventurers everywhere were scrambling to get their hands on the new wonder fabric. In honor of their heritage as a truly barrier-breaking brand, Sierra Designs has been releasing a few pieces of their classic lineup featuring the unique 60/40 fabric. The Alpine Pullover is one of the more unique pieces and I’ve been thrashing it throughout the winter.
Sierra Designs Alpine Pullover Features:
- 60/40 Cloth
- #8 One Way Tooth Zipper 1/2 Zip
- Two Hand, Two Flap Lower Pockets
- One Upper Zipper Pocket
- Side Vents
- MSRP: $295 (on sale now for $148)
Alpine Pullover is American-milled, American-made
The title of this article says a lot about what kind of jacket this is. Back in the day, Sierra Designs was producing all of their gear in the US — no wonder you still see 50 year old jackets that are doing strong today. Like most manufacturers, Sierra Designs has shifted much of their manufacturing to more economical facilities; to give justice to these revived classics they’ve recreated the 60/40 line with all American-milled fabrics and stitched them together in American factories. The result speaks for itself – we also tested the Insulated Short Parka and both pieces say ‘quality construction’ and ‘built to last.’ The jackets are heavy, well-built with beefy zippers and classic fit.
On to the jacket itself. The Alpine Pullover is a hooded half-zip featuring a split pouch pocket, two zippered hand pockets, a contrasting Napoleon pocket and full-length side zips to dump heat. The zips are all exceptionally toothy 8mm YKK pullers which are highly durable, pull easily even when dirty and leak like sieves in the rain. The hood is partially adjustable via a shoelace-like pull string which uses two stamped leather friction locks to stay in place once adjusted. These are nowhere near as convenient as modern sprung friction locks but, hey, we’re going for a classic feel here.
The kangaroo pouch and zippered hand pockets offer excellent storage and are kinda fun at the same time; I think we all have a bit of a childish fascination with kangaroo pockets. My only complaint about them is that they’re set low enough that items left in the pockets will be smashed into your belly by a backpacking waist belt; however, the kangaroo pocket still offers pretty good access to goods when wearing a climbing harness.
So, that’s how the Alpine Pullover is built – I think most people out there, though, are more interested in how this classic piece functions in the modern world of techy petroleum fabrics. While it’s important to treat this all with a grain of salt (because, as we all know, fabric technology has advanced since the 60’s for a reason), the Alpine Pullover can hold its own in the right conditions. I tested the piece during a mild Spokane winter, so a typical testing day would often see me in a cold, light rain. The cotton/nylon blend can hold its own in wet weather and Sierra Design’s particularly strong DWR gives it a lift. There’s no doubt that it takes longer to dry out than modern fabrics, but it does have a trick up its sleeve; unlike modern laminates (notably eVent and Gore Active), the classic fabric in the Alpine Pullover doesn’t go to pot when its dirty. As I mentioned in our review of the Short Parka, you can roll around in a pigsty with this fabric and it will suffer no ill effects. True, it doesn’t breathe as well as a modern backless laminate, but the massive pit zips consistently enabled me to manage my microclimate effectively. What’s more, the pit zips are far easier to pull than what you’ll find on a modern jacket – the beefy #8 zipper, leaky though it may be, is nothing if not easy-pulling and strong. A quibble — I do wish that the Pullover was cut to accommodate a climbing helmet.
So, what’s the ideal environment to test the Alpine Pullover? I’d say light summer rain when durability and resistance to muck takes priority. I never used this on a winter multi-day simply because the cotton/nylon blend is too slow to dry, but it wouldn’t be a problem in the summer. Also, as a fact of life I wore this jacket around town quite a bit while testing it and I got a ton of compliments on how it looked. What’s more, this jacket is produced with excellent manufacturing standards in an American factory.
- Looks sharp with classic appeal
- Produced in America out of American-milled textiles
- Zippers pull easily
- DWR is very powerful
- Fabric is highly resistant to muck and wear
- Hood friction locks are very inconvenient
- Pockets are too low for a backpacking waistband
- It would be nice if it was helmet compatible
The Bottom Line
This is a specialty item which I really enjoyed testing – it probably says something that this stands out amongst all the products I cover as a particular favorite. The 60/40 fabric doesn’t perform as well as modern day tech, but there’s no doubt that it’s still useful and functional for outdoor pursuits. The jacket looks exceptionally good and it’s built to last. Sierra Designs is clearly respecting their past just as much as they’re ramping up for their future.
Buy now: Available from Sierra Designs (on sale for $148)
Just as a follow up, since this page pops up in Google when searching on SD jackets — these jackets are no longer produced in the USA.
Went to SD’s website last night (Sept 30 2014) to pick one up. Their “Heritage” collection page doesn’t show anymore. They still show some of the 60/40 jackets on a sale page. I called their 800 number today and asked if these were the same (made in the US). The guy put me on hold to check. He came back with the news that these jackets are no longer produced in the US. Too bad.