Brand: Sierra Designs
Real talk: One of the cheapest pieces of gear in this guide is a puffy, and it performs like it should cost twice as much. FireBall synthetic insulation keeps the Tuolumne’s price low, but the fill never betrayed its budget roots during one Colorado tester’s ski tours. “I threw this jacket on when we topped out on a ridge and the winds really started whipping,” he said after a day mission in Gunnison National Forest. “With just a T-shirt, the puffy, and a shell, I was totally comfortable in the single digits.” (It’s not as warm as the Patagonia, though.) At this price, you don’t get a hood, but that helps the Tuolumne layer better under a shell.
The 40-denier polyester ripstop shell is water-resistant, and our tester stayed dry in moderate snowfall. In addition to two zippered hand pockets, the Tuolumne has two internal pockets, perfect for keys and a phone. While some testers wrestled the Tuolumne into its own hand pocket, the rest of us settled for getting it down to coconut-size.
“I’ve used this jacket so much it’s paid for itself three times over,” one tester says. “I wore it mountain biking, ski touring, and mountaineering this past winter. Plus, since it has a non-technical look, I can get away with wearing it around town.” sierradesigns.com