Through Monday, July 6, Sierra Designs is offering a 20% sitewide discount on tents, sleeping bags, men’s apparel, and women’s apparel. But my readers get even more love: take 25% off!
Since I partnered with Sierra Designs earlier this year, I’ve had the opportunity to test out many of its products, both current and future. Here are four of my top picks:
For most of the backpacking season, the Pack Polo is my go-to hiking shirt. It’s ideal in mild and warm temperatures for the shady East, and okay for the sunny West in conjunction with sunscreen. (Last year I picked up a long-sleeve version, which unfortunately is no longer in the line.)
For starters, the Pack Polo is sharp-looking, far more attractive than a boring and sloppily fitting athletic shirt. More functionally, the fabric offers superb air permeability (at walking speed, you can nearly feel a breeze), so I stay drier and cooler than I would in a stuffier fabric. And it’s shockingly durable, too: there is no pilling or picking even after about two months of use, including some extensive bushwhacking.
The shirt’s only short-coming is its lack of insect resistance. Bugs will bite through the fabric, so it’s not appropriate for moderate or heavy bug pressure unless you treat it with permethrin or send it off to Insect Shield.
Also, this shirt is too airy for cool or cold temperatures. Instead, try the Solar Wind Shirt (mens, womens), which I wore for 3 weeks straight in southern Utah in April. Its primary fabric has less air permeability, but the back panel is made of the same fabric as the Pack Polo — so it’s warmer but still equally resistant to SBS (sweaty back syndrome).
Be skeptical of any manufacturer claims touting the “breathability” of their waterproof-breathable rain gear. Technically, it may be breathable, but the technology is inherently flawed and you will almost inevitably end up wet — from the inside or the outside, or both — during extended wet conditions.
The Sierra Designs UL Trench Rain Jacket (mens, womens) offers a more effective solution to prevent you from soaking in your own sweat: generous airflow via a hip belt vent and armpit vents, and an open crotch courtesy of its long torso length and the matching Elite Chaps (unisex).
Publicity has focused on the Sierra Designs Cagoule (unisex), but after using both products I think that the UL Trench is the better jacket. It’s 4 oz heavier and $60 more, but I really value its full-length zipper and durable 3-layer fabric, versus the Cagoule’s pull-over design and 2-layer fabric.
There are four versions available: 1-person Elite, 1-person Featherlight (FL), 2-person Elite, and 2-person FL. The Elite version is lighter and stronger than the FL version, but will require seam-sealing and is not available in all states.
The Tentsegrity design solves many of the widespread problems with modern tents, and single-wall tents in particular. I’m not sure that retailers, backpackers, and media yet understand how this is a vastly superior design. There are many benefits to its inverted trapezoid profile over traditional dome tents and A-frame designs:
- Per its weight and footprint, the Tentsegrity has much more livable space.
- Its doors can be opened for entry and exit without exposing items inside the shelter to rain and snow, a.k.a. “dry entry”
- Condensation is less likely to occur because the ventilation features need not be covered up during a rain event, exactly when humidity is at its highest.
- Items in the “gear closet” can be easily accessed, but without being a tripping hazard like they are in a conventional vestibule located outside the front door.
Tentsegrity tents are definitely heavier than UL tarp solutions. And you’ll want to learn to set it up properly before going into the field with it (unless you want a sorry-looking pitch like some journalists have managed). But for backpackers who want or need a fully-enclosed shelter and the simplicity of a single-wall tent (rather than a modular system), this is an excellent choice. When Amanda and I go backpacking, for example, this is our pick.
Due to its oversized width, full-length insulated arm pockets, and its hideaway hood, I have found the Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt to be far less drafty (and thus warmer) than conventional quilts. These features have a weight penalty, but I feel that the extra ounces are invested well. The Backcountry Quilt is ideal for quilt virgins who are nervous about their draftiness, or for quilt veterans (like me) who recognize the limitations of conventional quilts.
This BCQ has been a hot item for Sierra Designs, and at this point they only have in stock the SYN 1.5-season version. However, Backcountry.com has the 800-fill DriDown version available right now for $240, or 25% off MSRP. For backpackers who are on a budget, who do not anticipate extensive use, and/or who are not weight conscious, the SYN version is adequate. But the DriDown version is the superior item: it’s lighter and more compressible for its warmth, and has a much longer lifespan.
I initially said Top 4, but I’m going to give you a fifth.
If you hike or camp in the wintertime — or want to — and don’t yet have a winter-worthy parka, consider the Sierra Designs DriDown Baffled Parka (mens, womens). When you are standing around in sub-freezing temperatures, oblivious to how cold it really is, you will appreciate this purchase. In contrast, maybe you’ll get to watch your hiking friend do jumping-jacks in order to warm up, since his attempt to extend his 3-season sewn-through parka (an inherently less thermally efficient design) is failing.
As a Sale item, the DriDown Baffled Parka is not eligible for my 25% discount. But it’s already at a great price ($150!), since it’s 50% off MSRP.