Sitka Core Lightweight Hoody
By Dave Chenault, Rokslide Member
Sitka’s Core Lightweight (LW) Hoody is an excellent baselayer shirt for hot weather, or for wet conditions where quick drying layers are paramount. With quality construction, a great close fit, and exceptionally quick-drying fabric, it is the best 100% synthetic baselayer I’ve ever used, and among the very best of any fabric. For the demanding user I think all of the above quite justifies the high cost.
While merino wool and merino blends have a lot to offer (something I discussed in detail here), I still prefer polyester shirts for many hunts. Poly moves moisture faster and is tougher (and generally cheaper) than merino. Sitka’s new Core LW Hoody is a perfect example of this. The new fabric is an extremely light, very finely made example of grid fleece, which has been around for over 15 years in the form of the Patagonia R1 fabric. Grid fleece has a waffle-like pattern of fuzzy patches and voids on the inside. This pattern traps air, enhancing warmth, and allows air to circulate against the skin, speeding dry evaporation and thus cooling. Grid fleece has long been a favorite of alpine climbers for this versatile, high performance blend of potentially contradictory characteristics.
Sitka’s Core LW fabric offers this performance and offers it in a fabric which is thin enough, and therefore a shirt which is cool enough, to be worn for sun protection and concealment on 80-degree days. At the same time, the Core Hoody is very effective as an inner layer in cold conditions, where it moves sweat away from the skin and into insulating layers which (if chosen well) then allow it to evaporate and thus keep the hunter warm and safe long term. I’ve used plenty of light synthetic tops over the years, but none of them have been quite as good as the Core LW at moving moisture fast. For outings in cool, wet conditions I insist on every part of my clothing system being optimized for quick drying and minimal moisture retention, and therefore until I find something better, the Core LW will be along for any such trip.
Detailing and construction of the Core Hoody are typical Sitka, and refined in a way you’d expect from a 100 dollar shirt. The torso and sleeves are tapered for a close fit, with the back of the shirt several inches longer than the front to keep out drafts. The shoulders and elbows are articulated for uninhibited motion. The small chest pocket is laminated such that the zipper is stiffened and can be opened with one hand. All stitching on my shirt was neat and straight. The hood features an even lighter version of the grid fabric (the darker fabric at right in the above photo), and it is cut such that it hugs the face without inhibiting peripheral vision. A ball cap helps keep the hood in place, but the fit is fine without. I appreciate that Sitka did not include a zipper here, as it keeps the shirt light and sleek, though no doubt some folks will prefer to have the greater ventilation the zipper provides. I love the light hood, and ease with which it can be flipped up at any time for a bit of extra warmth and/or concealment. Unlike a light hat or buff, you cannot loose track of it.
Sitka’s Core Lightweight Hoody
Another potential issue is the tapered forearms and cuffs, which when combined with the 100% polyester (read: little stretch) fabric make hiking the sleeves up not very possible. The cuff opening of my size medium measures 8 inches in circumference, good for keeping out of a bowstring, bad for the popeyes amongst us. I’ve popped a few stitches trying to shove my cuffs up beyond mid forearms, and I’m far closer to a T-Rex than Hulk Hogan in this department. Some burly guys might have irreconcilable fitment issues here. Sitka could add a stretch gusset, but that would add complication and potentially add a fabric which would hold more moisture than the grid fleece. Nonetheless, I think it’d be a worthwhile addition, as it would help avoid bloody sleeves.
Sitka’s Polygiene odor treatment has been impressive for the first three weeks of use, largely eliminating stink, even after three consecutive days of warm temperatures and lots of sweating. What this treatment does not do is prevent the funky feel of a dirty, lived-in polyester shirt. Merino and merino blends (like the Rab Meco, my current favorite) still offer significant advantages here, though they don’t dry anywhere near as fast as the Core. Choosing between these two will be tough, and the Core LW fabric makes a strong argument that pure synthetic baselayers are still highly relevant and on the cutting edge.
Link to the Sitka Core Lightweight Hoody here
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