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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > High Sierra Alta Interchange Jacket > Test Report by joe schaffer

High Sierra Alta Jacket

Test Report by Joe Schaffer

INITIAL REPORT - February 9, 2017
FIELD REPORT - April 9, 2017
LONG TERM REPORT - June 4, 2017

NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(at)yahoo(dot)com
AGE: 69
HEIGHT: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79 kg)
CHEST: 42 in (107 cm)
BELLY MAX: 39 in (99 cm)
HOME:  Bay Area, California USA

     I started backpacking when I was 11. I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to better my age in nights out each year; about 30 solo. For comfort I lug tent, mattress, chair and such. Typical summer trips run 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter base camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); a mile or so (1.6 km) on snowshoes.


pack frontProduct: Alta Men's Interchange Jacket

Manufacturer:  High Sierra Sport Company, Inc.
Description: (from mfr. website)
    • Three ways to wear it with zip out liner
    • Removable zippered hood
    • Waterproof breathable, fully seam sealed
    • Insulation
    • Two secure, zippered hand warmer pockets
    • Interior security media pocket
    • Center front zipper with chin guard and hook and loop on storm flap
    • Adjustable hood with draw cord system
    • Elastic, adjustable cuffs
    • Hem cinch cord
    • Drop tail-hem
Fleece Lining:
    • Two-sided brushed, two-side anti-pill
    • Two hand warmer pockets
    • Interior storm flap with chin guard
    • Center front zipper

•ARMADRI - Waterproof, breathable, durable and functional
•ARMAREPEL - Repels water, dirt and oil
•ARMAHEAT - Heat-trapping Insulation
• Shell: 100% Nylon Taslon
• Shell Lining: Taffeta liner
• Zip-Out Lining: 100% Polyester Fleece, 240gm
• Insulation: 100% Polyester– 120gm in body, 100gm in sleeve/hood

Available Shell Colors:
    Kelly Green (received)
    Mercury (gray)
    Pool (blue)

Liner color: Charcoal

My Specs:  (for Medium as requested)
        Weight: 1 lb 4 1/8 oz  (912 g)
        Sleeve (from neck to cuff outside): 31 in (79 cm)
        Hip cuff circumference inside: 46 in (117 cm)
        Weight:  14 1/2 oz (411g)
        Sleeve (from neck to cuff): 30 1/2 in (77 cm)
        Hip cuff circumference inside: 43 1/2 in (110 cm)
        Weight: 2 lb 14 5/8 oz (1,323 g) 
MSRP: $155 US

Received: February 8, 2016

Product Description:
    SHELL: This is a heavy-weather jacket offering the utility of zipping the liner in or out and the hood on or off. The insulated hood adjusts with an elastic draw cord and cord lock on each side, as well as a hook and loop strap at the back of the head. The removed hood does not have a neck closure. The jacket collar zips to the neck and snaps shut at each end of the zipper flap. The zipper flap is about 2 in (5 cm) wide running the full 30 in (76 cm) of the garment's length with five hook-and-loop closures distributed along the length. The zipper slider is covered at the neck. Body, sleeves and collar are all insulated. The exterior and interior is hard-finished, though the interior feels slightly softer. The collar is finished inside with more the feel of fleece. The inside color is mostly charcoal. Sleeves have hook-and-loop cuff adjustment; no pit zips. The jacket has no tail. The hip cuff has a cord-locked drawstring.

    Each side of the shell outside has a zipper-secured pocket with an opening of about 6 1/2 in (16.5 cm) into an area about 9 1/2 in (24 cm) high by about 7 1/2 in (19 cm) deep. The shell has a pocket inside at the right-side zipper hem, located 8 1/2-15 in (22-56 cm) from the collar top and secured by about 1 1/2 in (19 cm) of hook and loop. This pocket inside is about 4 1/2 in (11 cm) deep and about 8 in (20 cm) high, with about 1 1/2 in (4 cm) from the bottom of the opening to the bottom of the pocket. The left side has a breast pocket with an opening about 5 1/2 in (14 cm) wide for a "floating" pocket about 7 1/2 in (19 cm) wide and 5 1/2 in (14 cm) deep. This pocket is flap-covered and secured with two hook and loop closures. The company logo is stitched above the breast pocket about 7/8 in (22 mm) high and 1 3/4 in (44 mm) wide in charcoal thread and duplicated on the right sleeve about 3 1/2 in (9 cm) from the top center of the sleeve.

    LINER: The fleece liner zips fully from bottom to top; either to itself when worn alone or to the shell. Cuffs have elasticized constriction. There is no draw string at the hip cuff. The collar is about 2 1/2 in (6 cm) high and zips to the top. The zipper slider remains uncovered. The back of the collar at the intersection of the yoke has an elastic hang loop. Each sleeve also has the same loop. These three loops provide anchors for snap loops on the shell. The liner zips into the shell on each side from top to bottom. Just above the heart sports the company logo, stitched in about 1 3/4 in (44 mm) wide by 7/8 in (22 mm) high in thread only slightly darker than the garment.

    Each side of the liner has an outside pocket 8 1/2 in (22 cm) high by 6 in (15 cm) deep, sewn in from the bottom hem. The pocket opening is about 5 3/4 in (15 cm). Pocket opening hem corresponds to the vertical hem of the garment; and the other end of the pocket is sewn against the zipper. Corresponding pockets inside measure about 10 in (25 cm) by 7 in (18 cm) with an unsecured opening the full width of the pocket and large enough for access with a gloved hand.
The RFG (resident fashion guru) noted as I drew the jacket from the package that I should be easy to find if I get lost in the snow. I should be harder to find at night if wearing only the liner.
    My first impression was the precise fit and immediate feeling of comfort. I used the company's sizing chart to decide on medium, and it's exactly right as long as I only need a base layer under it. (The sizing chart might make note of that.)
    The garment seems well made and carefully thought out. I find no loose threads, errant stitching or needless features. Zippers work smoothly and easily, though the liner front zipper seems to start from the wrong side. I found no difficulty in zipping the liner in and out. The snap loops help minimize bunching while donning or removing the jacket; and the elastic loops ease the jolt of the bunching liner tugging at the loop anchor points.
    The integrated garment feels heavily insulated without feeling cumbersome or heavy. I couldn't wear either the shell alone or the liner alone inside my 64F (36C) degree house more than fifteen minutes before getting hot and moist. I will test the integrated jacket in temps below freezing, wearing only a base layer under it; and that will serve up the meaningful result for me.
    Getting the integrated jacket on is not too big a chore. As with all jackets (or gloves) combining a removable liner that I've tried, getting the garment off requires patience. The retaining loops help. I think the on-off bunching up must simply be accepted as a trade off in the utility of a 3-in-1 garment, and I find that feature more important than a bit of momentary fussing to get in or out of the jacket.
    I appreciate the relatively minimalist logo presentation as I don't like being a walking ad.

    I like the smooth and slippery feel of the inner lining, making the shell very easy to slide in and out of as well as enhancing freedom of movement. I'm not sure I'm ok with no pit zips. Would be cool if the hood alone had a neck closure for sleeping. Perhaps one side of the hook-and-loop attachments could be reversed to interface with the other. I severely dislike the floating nature of the breast pocket. I stick my wet fingers in there to retrieve something and get trapped like a monkey trying to snitch food from a bottle. I appreciate it's not being sewn to the outer layer, but seems it could be to the inner layer. The zipper flap seems very well secured by the hook-and-loop attachments. I like the snap closure at top and bottom of the zipper. My neck appreciates the top of the zipper slider "landing" under fabric, which can otherwise be a small but nettlesome cold point.

    I like the cushy soft feel of the fleece. Outside pockets are generously sized, though the opening is too small to access with glove in hand. That seems well-thought, making it a little harder for stuff to fall out. The inside pockets are bigger than I would want, but I want them and like not having separate seams to sew them in. They are not secure, but deep enough to be useful. They are so big I can reach into them wearing gloves.
    I may appreciate the elasticized cuffs when I'm slogging into a nasty headwind, but I otherwise very much dislike this method of stricture. I have small wrists and the cuff does not feel tight, but it also has no way to open up. Perhaps a snap strap on each cuff with two or three adjustments would be worth considering.
    By itself the liner makes a wearable light jacket, meaning I can delete a warmth layer from my pack.

Field Conditions:
    Feb 11-13/17: Blodgett Forest, El Dorado National Forest, California. 4,200 ft (1,280 m); 40-25F (4 to -4C); calm, clear, car-camped on snow; 2 mi (3k) hike in the liner; 22 hours at rest wearing both.
    Feb 28-Mar 3/17: Herring Creek, Stanislaus NF, CA. Soft, wet snow 6-18 in (15-45 cm) rotting in high temps, toting a 25 lb (11 kg) backpack and tugging an 80 lb (36 kg) sled 1 1/4 mi (2 k); 50-25 F (10 to -4 C).

    BLODGETT FOREST: Owing to an unexpected road closure we were forced to abandon plans for deep snow and adjust to as far as we could get on an unplowed road where we could find a shady flat spot with snow on it big enough to accommodate our troupe in Blodgett Forest. Beyond that patch there was not enough snow (mostly none at all), so no backpacking or sled pulling involved as we were resolute in our priority to camp on snow. For just sitting around, I found the Alta jacket quite satisfactory. At the upper end of the temperature range I got warm enough to open the jacket front, especially in those few minutes where sun came through the trees. At the lower end I was perfectly comfortable, even falling asleep for an undetermined amount of time in my tent while the lower half of me was covered with a sleeping bag. At all times I tested the jacket with only a cotton tee shirt as a base layer. (I know, but the expedition devolved to car camping and I wound up spending the weekend in my travel clothes.) I did hike a couple miles (3 k) one afternoon to see if I could find more snow at the top of the hill, and on that trek I wore only the liner over the tee. I got warm enough to remove the liner on the return leg as I was starting to moisten under it.
    I did about 20 minutes of mild stretching in the tent each morning and I seemed to get the beginnings of dampness in the elbow. Between those little exercises and the short walk I may have come to the conclusion that the liner is very warm, but maybe not breathable enough to keep up with any level of activity in temperatures not much below freezing.
    The shell is easily separated from the liner and can be removed without taking the liner off. I found it about equally as easy to restore the shell without taking the liner off. I'm not sure if I find the three retaining loops very useful, though the sleeve loops do keep the liner sleeve from creeping out past the shell cuff. I think if there were an adjustment here, I'd either leave all three off or put one more at the bottom cuff in back. When I slip the combo on, the liner bunches up in the back and I have to chicken wing arthritic elbows to pull it down.
    I found particularly good use of the liner's interior pocket size as an excellent temporary storage point for a hot water-filled Nalgene bottle. In the time gap between filling the bottle and getting in the sleeping bag, having it in one of those pockets was a rather pleasing way of chipping away at nighttime chores.
    I wore the combo for extended hours at a time and never noticed the liner sleeve cuff at all. I usually get itchy from elastic cuffs, but the liner cuff did not cause any discomfort.

    HERRING CREEK: I started off in camp with the shell only. I was wet from the backpack and heavy exertion but wanted to see if my wool base layer top would dry under the jacket. I was pleased that it did and in short time. The temperature dropped to freezing at sundown and I was comfortable enough in the shell while pitching the tent and setting to other camp chores. I typically don't risk favorite garments around the campfire, so as it got dark and cold I switched to the liner covered with a heavy fleece hoodie. I remained quite comfortable around the fire until retiring around 11pm and 25 F (-4 C) inside the tent. The first night I put my feet in the jacket shell and liner inside my bag. Second night I took out the liner and put in a hot water bottle, which proved too warm and I had to take out the shell. Third night I used only the shell around my feet. The last two nights I wore the liner all night and until sunup. Days were too warm to need either.
    The shell breathes remarkably well and provides a lot of insulation. The liner is surprisingly warm for how compact it is, but I find it does not breathe as well. If the temp is not low enough I seem to build a bit of moisture at rest. Temps were too high to need either piece for hiking.
    For me it is telling that I don't want to get cinder holes in the garment. I have in mind to install the jacket in my regular gear stash. My only complaint with the shell is that it doesn't compress very much.
June 4, 2017
Field Conditions:
     1. 4/20-23/17: Gooseberry Trail, Stanislaus National Forest, CA. Snow camping 7,200 ft (2,195 m).  60-35 F (16 to 2  C).
     2. 5/2-4/17: Pt. Reyes National Seashore, California. Backpacking, 13 mi (21 km); camp elevations 1,025 ft (312 m) and 955 ft (291 m).
     3. 5/14-15/17: Clark Fork, Stanislaus National Forest, CA. Car camping 6,100 ft (1,860 m) dry ground. 60-33 F (16-1 C); blustery, some sprinkles.
     4. 5/22-26/17: Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite Wilderness, California. 15 mi (24 km) backpack, 4,660-6,480 ft (1,420-1,975 m); 75-40 F (24-4 C).

    GOOSEBERRY: This outing surely was one of my warmest-ever snow camps. I wore only a heavy base layer to hike in, and spent much of the sunny part of the days lounging in that. Once the sun fell below the trees I did need to gear up, and I put on either the shell or the liner. The shell breathes better, but is a little bulky. The liner was all I needed most of the time until dark, 40 F (5 C) or so, and that's when I lit up the campfire. The first night I slept in the shell for a couple hours until I got too warm and had to take it off. The next two nights I started off sleeping in the liner, but woke up too warm and had to take it off. Some nights I just like to warm up the bag a bit before shedding the layers.

    I'm recanting my previous comment about getting rid of the liner-retaining loops. The liner sleeve cuffs won't stay inside the shell without them.

    In an ambient no-chill-factor down to about 40 F (5 C) I'm perfectly comfortable kicking back in just the liner over a heavy base layer. Below that I either need to move around some to warm up or put on the shell. With the shell and liner I'm good to 25 F (-4 C) as I learned from an earlier outing.

    PT. REYES: The first night at Sky Camp was about a zillion degrees warmer than the last time I camped there, probably never dropping below 50 F (10 C) and with no wind or noticeable humidity. When it was time for more than my shirt I reached for the jacket to pull out the liner. Turns out I'd never put it back in from the last trip. I feared I might feel tortured in the shell and was pleased not to be. I was too warm, but leaving it unzipped and of course not using the hood I was way more comfy than without it. I had my thermometer out the second night at Glen camp. I put the shell on about 6 pm at 60 F (33 C) in dripping humidity and wore it unzipped until going to bed at 10 pm and 45 F (7 C). The shell breathes really well and kept me comfortable. I didn't need it around my feet to sleep, and it makes a wonderful pillow.

    CLARK FORK: I wandered about in the woods for a couple hours in mid-afternoon while the breeze and I both tried to decide what to do and the clouds played hide-and-seek. It was too cold in just my long sleeve cotton tee, so I put on the shell. Great choice, as I remained comfortable until I started breaking up firewood and got too warm. I have concluded now that either the shell or liner alone is good to sedentary 40 F (4 C). The shell is more comfortable as it breathes better, but it is a little bulky. I laid the shell over my blanket in my 33 F (1 C) tent when I went to bed; the liner was still in the car. In the morning the sun would come out and warm things up, but then the clouds would blow in and cool things off. I really like the shell for how comfortable I can be in warmer temperatures--probably to about 60 F (16 C) in the breeze, leaving it on for when the clouds turn the thermostat back down. I didn't get enough rain on the jacket to form any opinion about water repellency. While the breeze wasn't particularly stiff, it did have a bite I could feel on hands and face, but not through the shell.

     STANISLAUS/YOSEMITE: Days were mostly too warm to need any wrap. I spent day four in camp where I wanted to avoid the sun while lounging in the shade, and with a slight breeze now and then at 6,350 ft (1,935 m) I needed more than my shirt to be comfortable. I put on the jacket liner, and found my sedentary ways most enjoyable. The last three evenings cooled to 40 F (4 C) at bed time and I wore the liner all of each of those nights under my 45 F (7 C)-rated blanket. The shell made a great pillow.

SUMMATION: When I can sit in 25 F (-4 C) and lounge comfortably, I know I have a good piece of gear. I never got a chance to get rained on in the shell, so don't know how it would perform wet. I got a very good sampling of performance in temperatures from 25-60 F (-4 to 16 C); spending as much as all night wearing the shell or the liner or both. My conclusion is that the Alta jacket is a wonderful piece of layering gear. The shell is a little bulky, but it allowed me to remove some layers from my pack. For my cold weather camping, the Alta will be a top choice.

Quick shots:
    a) comfortable
    b) well made
    c) light
    d) bulky
Thank you High Sierra and for the opportunity to test this jacket. This completes my test.

Read more gear reviews by joe schaffer

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > High Sierra Alta Interchange Jacket > Test Report by joe schaffer

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