Review: Sierra Designs Elite Cagoule and Elite Chaps

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cagouleFunctionality
Protection, breathability and packability are the very definition of functionality when it comes to this raingear combo. Bypassing the usual high-tech waterproof/breathable membrane with vents design, Sierra Design focused on simplicity and airflow. For both the ¾ length pullover and the chaps, they’ve combined 2-layer nylon (30D 100% Nylon, WR, PU clear coat fabric with a 7,300 mm waterproof rating and O CFM permeability, wind resistance) with strategic cutaways to make this no zipper kit work very efficiently. It’s simple and highly functional, if not a rift off the old poncho routine. The fabric “gutters” along the front flap and pit vents channel water away from the torso. The adjustable hood—perhaps the weakest link—cinches just enough to provide an adequate shield. I also would not recommend this for cycling or running as it seems to flap around a lot when you don’t have something like a backpack tethering it to your body.

pantsDesign and Aesthetics
The pullover and the loose-fit chaps not only offer excellent coverage with good range of motion, but also provides easy access to pockets and excellent mobility, or, range of motion. The chaps attach with adjustable webbing featuring color-coded, left (black) and right (red) leg-specific fit. Each chap legging also has a quarter-length slit from the knee to the ankle that opens and closes with Velcro™ so you can easily pull your footwear through each one. The hood is perhaps the weakest link. I’d like to see a little more cinchability. On the other hand, for the combined weight of this kit for the women’s medium—10 ounces (6.5 for the Cagoule; 3.5 for the chaps), I’ll live with it. Both pieces pack away into fist-size packages.

Durability
Both jacket and chaps feature flat factory-taped seams with strategically reinforced wear-stress areas (like three layers of nylon in the knees). The material is definitely abrasion resistant. I used it while hiking a trail bordered by ephedra and cat claw shrubs, and while they did snag multiple times, my legs never got poked and the fabric looks fine for all the trauma.

Value
The biggest drawback for some people will be the fact the pullover/chap is a system that really needs to go together. It doesn’t work well for rain protection without the other. I drew this conclusion after I wore both pieces dozens of times as a system and separately. You could use the chaps with a poncho, but really, why? If you can’t afford both pieces, wait until they go on sale. Then pop for both. It’s the only way to go and where you will find your greatest value.

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Jo Ostgarden

Jo Ostgarden is a freelance journalist who has traveled around the world by plane, train, thumb, bicycle and automobile. She bicycled across Canada, the Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to British Columbia and throughout 14 countries abroad. Additionally, she's an enthusiastic longtime backpacker who calls the Grand Canyon her own personal energy spot. She's also expert on travel in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and Ireland. She edited and re-wrote the final edition of Best Places Northwest Travel Guide, and has written about travel, health, nutrition and endurance sports gear for dozens of magazines and newspapers, including Bicycling Magazine.

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