Sitka Coldfront Rain Jacket
By Josh Boyd, Guest Contributor
I love the simplicity of packing and wearing lighter clothing in the warmer and drier early season. Yet with an eleven-week Montana hunting season that stretches beyond Thanksgiving, cold and wet hunts are inevitable in under the Big Sky. The area of the state where I dwell and hunt has extremely wet mountain precipitation levels resembling the Cascade Range of Washington. It’s not unusual for November storms to settle over the area, dumping snow then turn to rain for a week straight. Thick, heavy brush interlaces stands of dense, dark timber that stretch from valley floor to ridgetop, creating conditions that put the strain on any raingear. When these storms arrive, your choice is to either wait and hope the storm moves on quickly, or don rain gear and hunt.
It was in these conditions that I assessed the virtues and performance of the recently redesigned Sitka Coldfront jacket. The Coldfront is designed for use in severe, extended, cold and wet conditions, where rain falls for days on end and the temperatures hover just above freezing. The jacket is a 3-layer Gore-Tex softshell piece touting these features and benefits:
- Micro-fleece backing added to the arm, shoulder, and rear torso area for extra insulation.
- Fully taped seams
- Waterproof zippers
- Cuff ends rubberized with a Velcro closure for watertight weather protection.
- Attached hood that rolls up and stows in the collar.
- Extended tail allowing for complete protection when sitting or bending over.
- Five exterior pockets and one small interior pocket.
- Medium weighs 31 ounces; Large 34.4 ounces.
The seams of the jacket interior are taped with meticulous detail for a complete waterproof build
Real World Use and Durability
The dense weave of the exterior fabric combined with an effective durable water repellant (DWR) finish sheds water extremely well. The DWR became less effective with use due mainly to the jacket becoming dirty, but was easily restored with a gentle washing. Under the heaviest of rain, the fabric eventually “wetted out” (wetted out is when the outer layer of a waterproof fabric becomes saturated due to contamination or wear of the durable water repellant layer) but the interior of the shell remained completely dry. There were no snags, rips, or seam failures over the course of the season. The fabric isn’t quiet, but in the conditions I wear raingear, I’m more concerned with staying dry.
The 3-layer GORETEX soft shell with DWR is very effective at repelling moisture and wind
The jacket has a great anatomical cut with gussets under the arms, non-bunching sleeves, and room for layers if needed. I could draw a bow and shoulder a rifle effortlessly without worry of excessive fabric. The outer fabric and micro-fleece backing add weight and thickness to the jacket, making for a relatively heavy and less packable piece of rain gear. Yet its intended purpose isn’t to be an all-around backpacking jacket. I found the jacket to be overkill in mild conditions and during heavy exertion. But when the pace is slow, the temperatures low, and the weather brutal, the weight and bulk are easily forgotten.
The rubberized cuff ends remind me of the cuffs of a dry suit. They seal tightly and allow easy movement of the wrist without letting in water. The pockets are laid out with purpose and are very functional. The lower hand warmer pockets ride comfortably under a pack’s waist belt without bunching while the upper pockets allow for positioning hands and gear above a waist belt. The single outer chest pocket has room for additional gear and comes with a tethered lens cloth for cleaning optics quickly. The inner pocket is small but made with stretch fabric which can be sufficiently over-stuffed to hold valuables in a warm, dry environment.
The rubberized cuff seals tight to eliminate the intrusion of water at this critical interface
The lower hand warmer pocket is waterproof when closed
The upper chest pocket and upper hand warmer pocket were thoughtfully placed to ride above a pack waist belt
The extended tail adds to the weight of the jacket, but the benefit it provides is worth it. The extra length keeps water and wind away from the waist area and gives more protection when sitting on soggy wet ground. The main zipper is a double, allowing the bottom to be opened slightly when sitting on horseback or a snow machine, while the upper zipper is secure and watertight. One feature the Coldfront jacket lacks is zippered armpits. But the times I wished for pit zippers on this jacket were extremely rare and only when I was using it in warmer conditions.
A sturdy waterproof double zipper impedes moisture and allows for freedom of movement when unzipped from the bottom
An elongated tail provides extra protection in the waist and seat area
The hood is also articulated and when cinched down, moves with your head. The draw cord that tensions the face perimeter of the hood is accessed from the upper hand warmer pockets and released with two small adjusters on either side of the hood. The adjusters are small to eliminate bulk in the face area, and can be difficult to operate with bulky gloves. The cord that tensions the hood around the head is a simple pull on the back of the hood. It is larger and easily manipulated with a gloved hand. The hood rolls up and can be zippered into the collar when not needed. This fall I used this feature just enough to decide I did not like the bulk around my neck that this creates. It seems less restrictive when the hood is out.
A layer of micro-grid fleece adds extra insulation to the back, arm, and shoulder areas for extreme weather conditions
Overall this jacket is incredibly well thought out and designed. The build is flawless and the details are simply incredible. The durability has thus far been outstanding and, with proper care, I can foresee it easily lasting a decade or more. Keep in mind that this a very specialized piece of clothing designed for a more narrow range of conditions; conditions a lot of hunters will never encounter. But there some who hunt in these wet and windy places with regularity- Alaska, the western high-country in mid to late fall, and the Northeastern US. If you are looking for one of the best pieces of rain gear designed for these conditions, you should take a serious look at the Coldfront Jacket from Sitka Gear.
You can disuss this article or ask Josh questions here
Josh Boyd is 100% DIY, hunting rugged and wild country with minimal equipment and support for elk, mule deer, mountain goat, moose, antelope, black bear, and whitetails. As a freelance writer, Josh has been published in Bowhunter Magazine, Bow & Arrow Hunting, Extreme Elk Magazine, and Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. He is currently on the prostaff of Sitka Gear.
Josh spends over 200 days in the field every year in the wilds of Northwest Montana hunting, skiing, hiking, biking, and working. He works with the U.S. Forest Service specializing in watershed restoration and hydrologic data collection, putting him in the backcountry throughout the year.