Sierra Designs Cyclone Eco Pant
Test Series by Raymond Estrella
February 14, 2009
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Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Sierra Designs
Web site: www.sierradesigns.com
Product: Cyclone Eco Pant
Year manufactured: 2008
MSRP: $99.95 (US)
Size: Large, also available in Small, Medium, XLarge and XXLarge
Weight listed N/A:
Weight: 14.5 oz (411 g)
Color tested: Black
|Image courtesy of Sierra Designs|
The Sierra Designs (SD) Cyclone Eco Pant (hereafter referred to as the Cyclone or pants) is a hard shell pant made to take on tough weather and conditions. It is made with quite a few "green" materials and processes. I will quote what SD has to say about it.
"The Cyclone Eco Pant is Sierra Designs flagship pant built with green materials. It uses PVC-free seam tape, solvent-free waterproof breathable laminate, and recycled face fabrics to reduce the use of fresh water (our most precious resource) and harmful chemicals during the production process. It is designed to use green materials without sacrificing performance"
The pants are made from Drizone Green 2.5L. It uses a waterproof laminate (one layer) bonded to double ripstop polyester (second layer) that has a raised textured layer that is literally printed on the surface inside the pants. (This is the half layer of the 2.5) The raised print acts as a conduit to allow moisture in the form of condensation escape through the pores of the laminate layer. Otherwise my skin would be resting right on the laminate, possibly clogging its breathability.
The raised part is said to have a "dry touch back". While it is much less plastic-y feeling than most of the 2.5L fabrics I have used (I have three others) it is not the driest. But it is a close second place. I really like that as it makes a big difference to me when I wear it over shorts during summer rain storms.
All seams have been taped to make it extra impervious to water.
The Cyclones do not have a center opening of any kind. They are a pull-over style with a drawstring inside the waist that can be pulled tight to snug them around my waist. I am happy to see that they use a very small cord lock that sits fairly flat to hold the draw string tight.
The 1.5" (3.8 cm) wide waistband has elastic at the back half of the pants. There is also a flap that stays shut with some round pieces of hook-and-loop on each side of the pants.
Inside of the waist band at the back is a tag has materials and washing instructions. It is suggested to machine wash cold, tumble dry low, no iron, bleach or dry-cleaning.
I found it quite strange that the Cyclone has a 6.5 in (16.5 cm) fly sewn on the front. What is strange is that it has no purpose I can think of as it does not open. Maybe it is there to let the user know that it is the front, but as the elastic is at the back, along with a large SD Cyclone patch inside, I don't see that it is needed.
Opening the flaps on the waistband lets me access the zippers that run the full length of the legs. Here is a picture of the attachment point and a side zipper.
At the bottom of each leg is a snap to keep the zipper from opening unintentionally. The side zippers are double-ended, and can be opened from the top down, the bottom up, or both at the same time. By pulling the bottom slide all the way up to the waistband it can be completely separated. This will allow the pants to be put on without having to lift a foot. This is pretty important for winter use as it will allow the pants to be put on even if I am wearing skis or snowshoes.
The zippers are protected from the elements by a flap both inside and outside of the pants. The outer flap has sections of hook-and-loop at three points down the leg to keep wind or activity from making it open. All of the zippers with the exception of the fly have pull strings attached to them. I like that. Here is a shot of the bottom section of zipper and the protective storm flaps.
The knees are articulated for maneuverability. This too is very nice for winter use. On the left leg is a thigh pocket that runs vertically. It is accessed by way of a YKK Aquaguard zipper.
From my inspection of the pants, they seem to be very well made. The stitching is all very nice.
The Cyclone pants have been used, or along, on the following trips.
Dave and I went up to the peak of San Gorgonio via the Dollar lake trail as Dave has never been that way. It had rained the day before and they were calling for below-freezing temps so we figured we may see snow or ice. It was 35 F (1.7 C) when we started at an altitude of 6880 ft (2097 m). At the summit it was 31 F (-0.6 C) and the wind chill was registering at 17 F (-8 C). We went 23.2 miles (37 km).
Jenn and I went to the Ortega Candy Store trailhead and did the Bear Canyon/Bear Ridge loop in the San Mateo Wilderness. 6.8 miles (11 km) in temps to about 80 F (27 C) on up and down trails that were either sandy or rocky. We had 1100 ft (335 m) of elevation gain and loss.
Dave and I went 27 miles (43 km) on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Green Valley to Vasquez Rocks This hike saw 5000 ft (1524 m) of gain as we went over three passes in temperatures started at 43 F and climbed to 70 F (6 to 21 C). The terrain was dirt, scree or rock.
Dave and I spent two days in the Tehachapi Mountains just south of Sequoia National Forest. The temps were between 35 and 66 F (2 to 19 C). We went 42 miles (68 km). We had to carry all our water so my pack weight was 35 lb (15.9 kg) starting out.
Jenn and I celebrated New Years Eve by spending the night in Round Valley in Mount San Jacinto State Park. We snowshoed 6 miles (10 km) and stayed at an elevation of 9100 ft (2775 m) on 5 ft (1.5 m) of snow pack. The temps ran from 40 to 22 F (4 to -6 C). Thankfully there was no wind to speak of. The picture below is from that trip.
The most enjoyable use was as rain pants (a little) in Hawaii on the Big Island. Jenn and I spent six days hiking to snorkeling or scenic spots that are hard to get to without a boat. The hikes were anything from 0.5 to 3 miles (1 to 5 km) each way. Temps were between 76 and 82 F (24 to 28 C) and terrain was dirt, (lots of) lava, and sand. We also walked 2 to 3 miles (3 to 5 km) into town for dinner each day. We saw rain just about every afternoon or early evening.
But they have seen much more use in Minnesota where I have used them as rain pants in rain, freezing rain, winter mix and snow. With lots and lots of wind!
As is often the case when testing rain gear in Southern California I can go a long time without actually needing rain pants. We tried going to Mount San Gorgonio the day after a storm hoping (yes we are strange) to see a little weather. Alas while it was very cold the precipitation was past by the time we got there.
In Hawaii I just did not need to wear the pants. It is so warm that I was fine with letting the jacket protect the top of my shorts. Not much of the leg was exposed to the warm rain. I put them on one time for a walk around our condo in a slight drizzle. They were fine in this limited use.
The place that the Cyclone pants have got a workout though has been in Minnesota (MN) where they were subject to all kinds of weather including the worst blizzard I have seen since moving to the Fargo/Moorhead area. It was -12 F (-24 C) with a wind chill of -39 F (-39 C). I did not have any zippers open for this one.
I wore them over jeans or over heavy expedition-weight fleece pants. They kept the wind out which allowed the fleece to keep me very warm. But as they are not really made for snow use (and I did not bring gaiters as I never expected the amount of snow they ended up with) the lack of a snow skirt at the bottom of the legs let snow inside the pants where it then went down the mid-height Teva Ossagon boots I am testing. I had to dry the boots out almost every day I was there.
On the New Years Eve trip I wore them with gaiters over Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 ¾-leg merino wool base layers. And while this worked to keep snow out of my boots this trip is where I really started disliking the Cyclone pants.
I hate the fact that there is not a fly on these pants. To study the trees (urinate) I have to pull the hook-and-loop free at one side and unzip the leg, pulling the front of the pants down at an angle to expose… um, my fly. In rain this will leave my base layer or hiking pants getting wet.
And I really do not like the tabs of hook-and-loop running down the side of the legs holding the weather flap closed. It interferes too much with using the zippers for me. Speed can be of the essence when I put on my rain gear. These slow the process down.
I have carried the Cyclone pants, along with the matching coat and a pack-cover, in a sil-nylon stuff sack when overnight backpacking. On day hikes I just shove them into my pack for most trips or in the front shove-it pocket when I think I will need it quickly. To date there are no signs of wear.
Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty
While the water-shedding abilities and comfort of the fabric are good the hook and loop side closures and patches along the leg along with the lack of a fly make this a no-go for me. Please read on for the details.
I went on an overnight to San Jacinto State Park chasing storms. (They got stuck on the other side of the mountain though.) I stayed in Round Valley with a side trip to Tamarack. The temperature got down to 20 F (-7 C) and there was a lot of wind. Starting pack weight was around 37 lb (16.8 kg)
A week later I succeeded in finding a storm in San Jacinto State Park. I had to put the pants on the minute I stepped out of my truck as it was raining hard at the lower elevations. This time I stayed in Tamarack at 9120 ft (2775 m) elevation where it dumped snow on me as I set up my tent, stopping 10 minutes after I got everything inside. It started back up again at 11:00 PM. I was on five to six ft (2 m) of snow when I made camp. The temperature was 22 F when I stopped, 19 F when I made dinner and 17 F at 9:30 PM, the last time I looked at it. (-6, -7, & -8 C) There was a lot of wind in the early morning hours. I hiked 7 mi (11 km) all on snowshoes.
I took them on a backpacking trip with Jenn to San Mateo Wilderness in Cleveland National Forest. We did a 9 mile (14.5 km) first day with an all up-hill 3.5 mile (5.6 km) hike back the next day. It hit 75 F (24 C) for a high but felt hotter in the sun, and got down to a chilly 28 F (-2 C) at night. High elevation was 2000 ft (610 m) with a total of 1300 ft (400 m) of elevation gain and loss.
I took them on a 15 mi (24 km) winter peak-bagging trip to the Mt Baldy area. We summited Timber Mountain, Telegraph Peak and an unnamed peak in one day. Conditions ranged from dirt trails with some snow on the approach to ice fields, hard frozen ground and rock. I did not carry a thermometer but will guess the temps to be from 30 F to 60 F (-1 to 16 C).
We have had a pretty wet end of winter in Southern California which has been great for this test. Besides the trips taken with the Cyclones I have used it for walks I do about 5 days a week.
I have not had any problem with the water-shedding ability of the Drizone Green 2.5L fabric. But I cannot say that it breathes well. Hiking in a snow storm with the pants worn over my fleece pants I dropped the side zipper a bit along with the zipper on the legs of the fleece pants. Even vented as they were by the time I got to my destination my lower legs were quite wet.
Once in camp as I set up my tent I got up from crouching to snap in the fly buckles and realized my pants were falling down. With the zippers down on the sides the pants are only held closed by the hook and loop patches on the waist. The slightest bump separates them allowing the pants to flop down. I think a good strong snap would work much better.
The hook and loop along the storm flaps have continued to drive me nuts also. Trying to quickly put the pants on over my boots in a pouring rain was a hassle because although I had the zippers open far enough to easily go over the hook and loop kept hooking itself together. I would love to see these without these closure patches.
The lack of a fly is easily the third strike as far as I am concerned. It is hard enough getting through all the layers involved with winter/snow hiking as it is. Having to detach the side of the pants adds too much work to the process.
The best winter shells I have ever used were made by Sierra Designs. I still have them and have never seen anything better. (They were discontinued soon after I bought them.) As this test was done in winter it limited the way that the Cyclones were used. Maybe in summer they would be fine pulling over shorts during an afternoon rain shower. But as a winter shells they just do not make the grade for me.
I do thank Sierra Designs and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to try them out. I leave with a shot of them in the San Bernardino Mountains.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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