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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > White Sierra Sierra Rain Jacket > Test Report by Will Dalen Rice

WHITE SIERRA MEN'S JACKET
TEST SERIES BY WILL RICE
LONG-TERM REPORT
August 18, 2009

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TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Will Rice
EMAIL: will.dalen at gmail.com
AGE: 28
LOCATION: Charlotte, NC, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 7" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I began backpacking at the age of 13 when I first went to summer camp (1993). In 1999, I started working with a college tripping organization in outdoor trip logistics (in gear preparation), and then as a leader. My most frequented hiking locations are in the Carolina Appalachians and the Smoky Mountains during the cold early spring and the summer. I stopped being a trip leader in 2004, and now I average about 4 backpacking trips and 4 day hikes per year. I carry between 25 and 35 lbs (11.3-15.8 kg) on multi-day trips.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: White Sierra
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.whitesierra.com/
MSRP: US$ 100.00 (from hang tag)
Measured Weight: 19.4 oz (550 g)
Listed Weight: NA
Size: M
Size Range: M-XXL
Color: New Sage
Colors also Available: Black , Red, Navy, and Corn

Price tag was bundled with 4 other info tags
1) Waterproof/ Breathable Tag- says fabrics have been treated with microporous waterproof coating. Claims to keep out rain, sleet, and snow. Also says thermal seam tape was used to seal small holes from sewing.
2) Packable Tag- tells that the jacket packs into its own carrying pouch, which is great for travel and storage. No more info is given.
3) System Compatible- tells that any SC fleece can zip into an SC outer shell for maximum versatility, warmth, and layering options.
4) White Sierra Tag- says product is guaranteed against defect. Gives address and phone number. Other brief marketing info.

The jacket is a greenish color (sage). It comes with a hood and a bill. There are two bungee tightening cords on either side of the head in addition to another cord on the back that tightens both sides. The hood is sewn around the outside of the collar, so when the hood is down, there is still the collar around the back of the neck. There is no storage for the hood.

Under each arm there is a zipper for ventilation and at the end of each sleeve there is a hook-and-loop patch for tightening down the elastic cuffs. The front of the jacket has two zippered pockets. The front of the jacket closes with a full length zipper and hook-and-loop patches. Just inside the jacket there is a hook-and-loop closed pocket. The waist line has a bungee/ cord-lock tightener. The waist line is a straight cut.

The right pocket is designed to allow the entire jacket to stuff into it. When stuffed, the package has two loops for a belt attachment and also a corner loop.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The jacket tag claims it is made of: 100% nylon (shell), 100% polyester (lining and upper body), and 100% nylon (lower body and sleeves). Made in China.

The back of jacket tag says: Machine Washable with like colors in cold water, gentle cycle. Do not heat, iron, dry clean.

I like the thickness of the material. I think it is going to provide some warmth in addition to weatherproofing. It seems there are fewer seams than other jackets I have used, which means less to come apart.

I put it on as soon as I took it out of the packaging and it seemed a little big and a little long. It is not too big to be functional, but without any layers on underneath it, it is a lot of material. I feel like I could wear my backpack for school under it, but not my hiking pack. I made some adjustments with the pull cords in the waist and for the hood, so it looks a little better, but is still big.

IMAGE 1
Trying it On


The jacket has a very clean appearance with no frills. I like the muted color (Sage) as well.

When I took it off, I saw the tag that said it packed into its own pocket. I didn't know which pocket that was going to be, but I was excited about finding out. I have had this feature in a jacket before and I love it.

More about the zippers and storage pocket in my "Trying it out" Section.

TRYING IT OUT

The day after I got it, the weather turned wet. It was never raining hard, but it rained all day with a fine mist. I wore it on a 2-mile round trip hike in a wooded area near where I live. So, it spent approximately 1 hour in rainy conditions. I didn't get wet while wearing the jacket.

As I began to get warm going up the hill, I used the pit zippers to open it up. The zippers were a little sticky and took some fidgeting to get them to open. The front zipper also was a little sticky. I had some minor trouble getting the zipper started and then again getting it to come apart to take the jacket off.

With my hands in my pockets, I found out that the right pocket is the one that the jacket can stuff into. I stuffed the jacket into the pocket when I got home to see how well it fit. It was easy to fit the jacket into the pocket and there looks like enough extra room for an apple and a Powerbar. The outside of the pocket has what appear to be belt loops and also a loop in the corner for clipping to a pack or something.

IMAGE 2
Packed in pocket, mesh side
IMAGE 3
Packed in pocket, non-mesh side


The specifications say that it should have a zippered chest pocket. I am not able to find one. There is a chest pocket inside the jacket with a hook-and-loop closure.

TESTING STRATEGY

I spend a frequent amount of time walking on the greenway and to and from class (2 miles round trip). Hopefully we will get a bunch of rainy days where I can wear the jacket in the rain.

Also, I am planning on spending a significant amount of time doing field work in local streams this summer. I plan to get caught in the rain up some creek (literally) so I will bring the jacket as my primary defense against afternoon thunderstorms.

SUMMARY

So far so good. The jacket has kept me dry in light and misty rain.

Likes:
- simple design
- stuffs into own pocket

Dislikes:
- seems large


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND PERFORMANCE

I.
Date: 4/17-4/19
Location: Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina, USA
Weather: 40-75 F (4.4-23.8 C), Calm to windy (gusts of 10 mph/ 8.7 knots)
Elevation: 1700 ft (518 m) to 3428 ft (1044 m)
Terrain: VERY rugged

Activity: hiking (~8 miles/ 12.8 km), backpacking (10+ miles/ 16+km)

Performance: I did not get to see any rain with my jacket on this trip, but I felt it important to note the packing issues.

As I went on this trip, I swapped out my rain jacket for the White Sierra jacket. I typically store my rain gear in an outer pocket on my ultralight backpack. However, I discovered that when the rain jacket is folded into its own pocket, it will then not fit in my outer pocket. So, I packed it on top of everything else in my main compartment.

II.
Date: 5/4/2009
Location: Charlotte, NC
Weather: Light to heavy rain, 71 F (21.7 C)
Terrain: Flat

Activity: Walking in creek, hiking next to creek, field work

Performance:
This was one of my first field work days. I brought the rain jack as planned. As I was wading in my first stream of the day, it began to rain. I put on the jacket to protect my GPS unit and my digital camera. In the initial light rain, the thickness of the jacket made me sweat. Since I was wearing waders and carrying a small backpack, I would consider my level of exertion to be moderate. I unzipped both the pit zippers and was not wearing the hood (since the rain was light), but even with all the ventilation possible, I could feel myself begin to sweat below the jacket.

The second stream I was looking at didn't require wading, so I was mostly hiking next to it. This time however, I got caught in a monster thunderstorm. By the time I made it back to my car, I was completely soaked from the waist down, including my socks and shoes (which as I found later had held water). Upon taking off the jacket though, I was perfectly dry from the waist up and more importantly, my digital camera and GPS were both dry and operational.

With the hood on, my head and face remained dry. The depth of the hood in relation to the visor placement restricts the ability to see upward. I don't like having my field of view restricted, so it will take some getting used to. This however, is probably why it does such a good job of keeping my face dry and keeping rain from blowing into the collar.

III.
Date: 5/5/2009
Location: Charlotte, NC
Weather: Heavy Rain, Thunderstorms, 71 F (21.7 C)
Terrain: Flat

Activity: Easy walking

Performance:
On this particular occasion, a series of very heavy thunderstorms came through the area where I live. I took the opportunity to test the jacket by walking on a nearby greenway through a wooded area. The jacket kept me dry and none of the rain came through the zipper, through any seams, or in under my hood. I am still trying to figure out what is the best way to adjust the hood to have a nice and tight fit without restricting my peripheral vision. On this occasion, I tightened the side adjustments and the back adjustment to have a very close fitting hood. As a result, my face did not get any rain on it, even during wind gusts.

I am still noticing an issue with the zipper that is kind of annoying. The zipper does not easily come apart when fully unzipped and putting the zipper ends together and starting the zipper is difficult. It appears to be getting caught on something and just sticking, so to speak.

Also, when I am ready to unzip the zipper from full rain mode, I have to first undo the hook-and-loop closure to allow the zipper to fully unzip. I can see the benefit of having this extra flap over the zipper, but I find it annoying to have to undo it whenever I want to access the zipper.

Unexpected Benefit:
In the past, while putting my hands in the pockets, I have issues with water running down the underside of my arm sleeves. This jacket does not have that problem, and so far I have been able to keep my cell phone and wallet moisture free while still having my hands in the same pockets. The pockets are mesh on the inside, so even if rain did get it, it would not be able to pool.

IV.
Date: 6/2-6/4
Location: Northern VA
Weather: Thunderstorms, 87-62 F (30.5-16.6 C), Avg. Humidity 71%, Wind 4-13 mph (3.5-11 Knots)
Elevation: 2000-3500 ft (609-1066 m)
Terrain: Rugged

Performance:
We experienced some pretty intense thunderstorms and on the final hiking day there was a constant drizzly rain. The jacket kept me dry and helped keep me warm also.

Activity: multi-day backpacking on the Appalachian Trail

Unexpected Benefit:
It works well as a slightly warming wind-breaker. I am concerned the thickness will cause me to sweat too much under exertion during rain, but the upside is that when it is cold rain or when it is just cold wind before/ after the rain, this jacket keeps in heat.

It also worked really well as stuffing for a pillow while sleeping at night.

DURABILITY

The jacket does not seem to be degrading or breaking down at all. All seam stitching is still in place. I have stuffed and un-stuffed the jacket a bunch, and it still it fine.

SUMMARY

So far, this jacket has done a really good job of keeping me dry. I have experienced some pretty intense rain and wind, and it has held up and kept the water out. I am concerned about how well it performs for really strenuous activity in the rain and it breath-ability. However, for cooler weather and lighter activity, this jacket does really well in the rain.


LIKES

- Keeps me dry
- Thickness keeps me a little warmer in cold rain
- Sturdy design and construction
- Rain doesn't travel down sleeves into pockets


DISLIKES:

- Zipper sticks a lot
- Can't unzip fast because hook-and-loop patches get in way
- Adjustment on hood means either snug and no peripheral vision, or can see but not tight (bad for windy rain)

TESTING STRATEGY

I plan to continue hiking in the rain when I get a chance and carrying the jacket with me in case of rain doing field work.

Potential Trips
- weekend bouldering trip
- more hiking on the AT
- day hike somewhere later in June


LONG-TERM REPORT

CONTINUED USE and CONDITIONS

I have continued to wear this jacket while being in the rain. I have worn it while hiking, backpacking, and wading in streams. I have worn it in a variety of rain intensities, from misty conditions to heavy downpours. The jacket was used at elevations from 1000-5000 ft (304-1524 m). Temperatures have pretty much been above 70 F (21 C) during this last part of testing. The jacket was tested in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and in the piedmont area of NC as well.

All total, the jacket was worn in wet conditions from 10-14 times.

PERFORMANCE (by aspect)

Keeping water out
This jacket does very well at keeping water out. It's pretty thick and the seams are well sealed, so I have not had any trouble with water entering the jacket. The hand pockets are entries to mesh pockets, which are also on the inside of the jacket. This originally made me concerned that water would run down the sleeves into the jacket when I was using the pockets in the rain. This is not the case. I almost always use the pockets when it is raining and my hands stay dry with no water running down the sleeves.

The hood, when adjusted tight and snug stays in place well, even in windy conditions. It does its job, keeping water out, partly due to a deep head pocket and a good, flexible bill that directs water away from the face when it sheets off.

Letting moisture and heat out
The pit zippers are pretty long (approx. 8 in/ 20 cm). This helps in letting out heat. The pockets can act as further openings to interior trapped air. However, since the jacket material is rather thick, I found that the jacket is warm. It works well in cold rain and for me I could wear just the jacket as a warmth layer and water layer. However, it loses versatility for me in temperatures above 70 F (21 C) when I am doing any hiking of more than light intensity. I sweat even with all the zippers open and I can't comfortably leave the hood on. So, I switch back and forth between getting wet hair and getting sweaty hair. I do look forward to using this jacket more in the winter, with the added knowledge that it will keep me slightly warmer in cold rain.

Wind resistance
Due to its sturdy construction and stout seams, no wind comes into this jacket. It also has good, solid hem adjustment at the waist, which further aids in keeping out wind.

Packability/ Durability
I have packed the jacket with my field gear for research dozens of times. I have also packed it as general backup gear in day packs for outdoor activities. It has ended up with creek water and sediments on it, mud, and other random crud that it may have picked up from the floor of my apartment or my car. Regardless, the jacket shows no signs of wear and tear. The zipper, although it still catches and jams on the fabric, works well when unobstructed. I anticipated the break down of the fabric getting caught in the zipper, but it shows no sign of damage.

Other
I used the stuffed rain jacket in conjunction with my sleeping bag's pillow pocket and found out that it works very well as a pillow.

I was not able to test the capabilities of the jacket along with a liner.

The chest pocket also works very well for carrying a cell phone, especially because you can feel it vibrate right on your chest.

LIKES

Keeps me dry
Thickness keeps me a little warmer in cold rain
Sturdy design and construction
Rain doesn't travel down the sleeves into pockets

DISLIKES

Zipper sticks A LOT!
Can't unzip fast because the hook-and-loop patches get in way
Adjustment on hood means both snug and no peripheral vision, or can see but not tight (bad for windy rain)

CONTINUED PLANS FOR USE

I plan to keep this jacket as fall/ winter backpacking gear while using my lighter jacket for the spring/ summer. It is also going to be part of my standard day pack and emergency supplies for short hikes. It will also serve me as a loaner piece of gear for friends who are colder by nature and don't own rain gear.



Thanks to BGT and White Sierra for giving me the opportunity to test this jacket.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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