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Sierra Designs Toaster Jacket

I like to keep it simple, so I appreciate it when I can find a jacket like the Sierra Designs Toaster Jacket that's equally functional on the trails and around town.

This lightweight, insulated shell is breathable, waterproof, and seriously hard-working. It's also the perfect jacket for Seattle winters. I've been wearing the Toaster Jacket for weeks in rainy, cold temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s, and have stayed dry and warm.

What I like most about the Toaster Jacket is its versatility. Because it's insulated, I don't have to wear a middle layer under it. I can toss it on over a long-sleeved cotton or merino wool shirt, and it's warm enough for most winter days here. If I decide to stop at the park for an impromput hike on the way home from work, I don't have to worry about changing into a different jacket. The Toaster has pit zips, so I can ventilate if I get too warm.

The fabric of the Toaster Jacket can be deceptive; it doesn't look or feel waterproof because it's not shiny or crinkly. Still, it performs like I'd expect a rain jacket to perform. The exposed zippers are all waterproof, and the major seams are sealed. I haven't worn it for long periods of time in a constant downpour but have been out in the rain for an hour or more at a time and stayed dry.

For colder weather, all I need to do is wear a merino or fleece midlayer. Becase the fabric is softer than a tradtiional rain shell and still waterproof, the Toaster would also work as a ski jacket (the hood accommodates a helmet and has adjustment pull cords on the sides and back).

The Toaster is great for hanging around outdoors in crummy weather, too. On a recent outing to Snoqualimie Falls with my girlfriend, the Toaster Jacket was impervious to a seriuosly chilly wind gusting off of the falls. Later that afternoon, we attended a riverside New Year's ceremony, and I think I was the warmest person there! It really makes a big differene when you have gear that works; weather literally doesn't get to you!

I like the style and fit of this jacket. I'm usually in between a men's L and XL (5'11", 195 lbs), and XL's are always too big. I tested a size L Toaster Jacket, and it fits great. I like the rain-jacket longer length, too, and have plenty of reach-up room in the sleeves. The Toaster has two generous zippered side pockets, a chest pocket, and a small sleeve pocket.

Avaiable in men's sizes S-XL (in red, green, blue, black) and in women's sizes XS-XL (in black, blue, pink, white/green). Also available in boys' and girls' sizes.

Bottom Line: An effective, insulated shell at an incredible price.-- B.M. (Dec. 2011)

BUY ONLINE: $137, now on sale at several locations for under $100. Shop at Altrec.

Manufacturer's Site: www.sierradesigns.com

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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.