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Sierra Designs Isotope Jacket : Big Protection in a Small Package

Every once in a while, an outdoor product comes along and becomes a permanent resident of my pack. I know I've struck gold when I find one, and Sierra Designs' Isotope Jacket is such an item. It's a waterproof, windproof,   breathable shell that weighs 8.5 ounces (and that's a size L, with a hood!)

I love this thing. It really is waterproof and breathable, thanks to Sierra Designs' proprietary Nanolite 2L fabric, a lightweight, rip stop nylon material. I've worn thin rain jackets before, but I might as well have worn a giant Glad bag. They're hot, sweaty, and muggy, and they ultimately fill with sweat because they don't breathe.

I toted my Isotope all around Norway last month, and it was great to have the peace of mind it provides stowed away in my pack. One notable emergency use came while I was bailing off an 8-pitch climb opposite the infamous Troll Wall. My buddy and I spied a storm front racing up a valley, and the first thing I did was pull out the Isotope. Within minutes we were deluged. I'm happy to report that my Isotope jacket performed admirably as we wrestled a wet rope through 4 belay anchors on the way down. When I'm going fast and light, I sometimes forgo the rain shell because it just won't fit in my bag. Now, I have no excuse.

I love the Isotope's nice, fat storm flap that covers the zipper -- it kept rain out every time I had to turn around to see what was going on. I also liked the elasticized waist hem, since I was able to cinch it tight and keep the updrafts at bay. Last but not least, the adjustable hood kept my brain case dry -- it even fit over my hemet.  

The Isotope Jacket is the lightest waterproof/breathable jacket I've ever owned. It takes up so little pack space and weighs so few ounces I'd be crazy to leave it at home.  

While no 8.5 ounce shell is completely bombproof, the Isotope does hold its own. Because it's made of rip stop nylon, I don't worry about getting snagged on something, the tear wouldn't fray and enlarge. The stitching is solid and the zippers strong. I'm impressed. Since the seams are fully taped, I didn't need to do anything to prepare it for bad weather.  

Available in men's and women's versions, in a variety of colors.

Bottom Line :  This jacket should be in everyone's pack, along with a first aid kit and a headlamp.--N.W. (Aug.   '09)


Price : $130.00

Manufacturer's Site:

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When hiking or camping, always carry the "10 Essentials":

Extra clothing, extra food and water, lighter or water-proof matches and fire starter, map in waterproof envelope, compass, pocket knife, sunscreen and sunglasses, flashlight or headlamp, first aid kit, emergency shelter.

Source: Seattle Mountain Rescue and Seattle Mountaineers.