Fri, Dec 15, 2017
When it came time to replace my 15 year-old CB Sports Gore-Tex shell, I decided to really analyze what it was I needed in a garment. I looked around at various styles and decided that what I really wanted was a $300 North Face shell complete with both the full-sleeved and sleeveless, zip-in linings. And I wanted matching pants. And I wanted it all for under $150, and it had to weigh only 1.5 lbs. Yeah, right.
So when I came to my senses, I analyzed what I really needed. The garment I was replacing was a pull-over, CB Sports shell that I bought in their factory outlet in Bennington, Vermont, before I came to college in 1988. The shell was still in excellent condition, although water no longer beaded on the surface. The main problem, though, was that it was getting a little tight in the middle, and there wasn't really room to add layers underneath for warmth. The darn thing must have shrunk after repeated exposures to rain. After all, I'm so much more buff than when I was in high-school.
So I debated between getting an expedition weight shell and a packable jacket. Since I don't do that much serious winter camping, I figured that a good shell with some heavy fleece underneath would do me well enough. More importantly, I needed something that would work in the not so cold months when I do most of my hiking. After all, early spring and late fall are the toughest times of the year for me. It can be 70 degrees one minute, and then raining and 45 degrees the next. What I needed was something that I could pack along, and that would protect me from a decent shower (after all, I have real raingear -- the plastic kind -- for truly foul weather). And it also needed to be versatile enough so that I could wear it alone in the warm weather, or over a couple layers of fleece and other garments when it got cold out. And, it needed to be light so that I would actually pack it along and use it.
To summarize, these were my buying criteria:
I found everything I was looking for in the Peakbagger jacket by Sierra Designs. SD's own description lists these advantages:
The fully taped seams in this jacket should make it reasonably watertight during heavy rains. In the quick tests I tried during a couple of local rainstorms, water beaded nicely off of the jacket's surface. The adjustable hood makes the jacket a pleasure to wear with the hood up. At least you can pull the brim back so it doesn't fall into your face every two seconds. During the couple of occasions I have worn it, the jacket seems relatively breathable; there wasn't ever a clammy feeling while wearing it. I haven't had much of a chance to try out the venting yet -- it's been cool out whenever I've tested it. I can see some potential problems in this area, though.
The jacket is designed with a mesh lining behind the two front (handwarmer) and one rear pockets. The idea is that for ventilation, you can open the pockets in the front and back, and let air flow through. It seems to me, however, that during a rainstorm, having two gaping holes open in the front of the jacket isn't a good idea. There is little to keep water out while these pockets are open. Interestingly, though, there is also nothing to keep the fabric on the front of the pockets open while they are unzipped, either. So, during the few times that I tried to vent the jacket, the pockets seem to naturally flop shut, and little air circulates. Oh well. The vents are better than nothing, and otherwise this jacket seems comfortable all around.
I bought a men's XL, which is usually a little large for me. This jacket is a little too big in the sleeves, and it hangs off of me a little, but, I can put a fleece jacket and vest underneath and not feel restricted. This is key to layering in all but the coldest winter weather. The jacket has Velcro adjustable sleeves to help with the venting chores and to keep everything in place, no matter what is being worn underneath.
In short, although I paid over $150 for this jacket, which is about $50 more than Chris paid for his, I saved a little weight. That's to be expected, I guess. His Storm-Tech is a full shell and the Peakbagger is a special purpose backpacking jacket. The comparison is kind of like comparing a full-size SUV to a sports car. The sports car (Peakbagger) is lighter, more high-tech, and more expensive, but the SUV is probably more durable. In the end, I traded price and features for weight and performance per ounce. After my trip up Washington with this jacket, I think I made a wise choice. I recommend this jacket, especially if you wait a little while for the price to drop.
This jacket is produced by:Sierra Designs' Website. You can click here or on the banner above.
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Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy