Brand: Sierra Designs
Model: Elite Cagoule and Elite Rain Chaps
Overall Score: 4.2 / 5
Rather than using a high-tech waterproof/breathable membrane, Sierra Designs used a light, less-expensive membrane and built the Cagoule to provide constant airflow through large vents. And though it looks a bit odd—a thigh-length, baggy pullover worn over waterproof chaps—testers say the design works. A 15.5-inch front flap lets you buckle your hipbelt under the shell to preserve venting through the bottom (Velcro dots close it in nasty weather), and covered armpit vents cool the upper body. The chaps, naturally, leave the lap zone unencumbered by fabric. The verdict: “The jacket’s upper gathered some condensation while I was hiking the steep trail to Kanaka Peak in Whiskeytown Recreation Area,” says a California tester. “But the open lap and butt and flowy bottom breathe better than most shells. It looks weird, but it works.”
The Cagoule’s very light, 2-layer nylon construction (except at the knees, which use 3-layer fabric for improved comfort with shorts) and complete lack of zippers enable the whole set to pack down to baseball size.
One tester was skeptical the system would keep him dry in a true downpour, but reported: “The tunic-length jacket covered up all the bits the chaps didn’t, so I was totally protected.” Fabric gutters along the front flap and pit vents help channel drips away from the body, and the adjustable hood cinches well enough to block sideways rain. Nitpick: Shortish sleeves exposed our arms to the rain when we reached.
It’s a hiking and backpacking cut: loose and billowy. The jacket is not ideal for speedy activities such as trail running or cycling. The cut easily fits midlayers and down puffies.