Sitka Subalpine Gear Review
I'll admit it, I'm a gear junkie to the core. It's like a disease. Don't confuse it with being a gear snob because I'm not. I'm just always intrigued to try new gear, camera equipment, shoot new bows, and so on. I have an annual cycle of taking a piece of one- or two- year old gear, selling it online, and replacing it with new gear that has piqued my interest.
For the 2018 season, this meant trying Sitka's line up of Subalpine Gear for an archery elk hunt in Montana. We spent 8 days hunting/living in the mountains and for the most part, my Sitka Gear performed flawlessly. Below is a breakdown of every piece I wore, temperature range, and sizing/fit. The weather was consistent over the whole week with highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s. For reference, I am 6'2", 210 pounds, normal to athletic build. I'm a large in almost everything and size 34 to 36 waist depending on brand.
Core Lightweight Crew LS - This is a warm weather piece. It's light, breathes well, and dries quickly. From an odor standpoint, the only way you could get away with wearing this for multiple days would be to rinse it out in a creek at least every other day. I wore it only on my heavy midday hikes in and out with full camp on my back. Size large fits perfect.
Merino Core Lightweight Half-Zip - Here is your standard, wear everyday as a base layer next to skin, long sleeve shirt. I wore this for five days straight and had zero odor issues. I was also pleasantly surprised by how fast this top dries. I think it's also worth mentioning I experienced zero itch with the merino. Size large fit well.
Apex Hoody - Wow. Fantastic piece. This can be worn as a stand alone base layer or a layering piece over a base layer. The body of the hoody is merino wool while the shoulders and underarms are made of a more durable, polyester fabric. The hood has a built in face mask. I used this as my first layer over my merino core half zip. Depending on exertion levels, I wore this combo from late morning to early evening every day when temps were in the 50s to 60s. During cooler temps with minimal activity I found myself layering up. A large fit great whether layered over the merino core or if wanting to wear as a stand alone piece.
Jetstream Vest - I personally love layering with a vest to keep my core warm. I've found you can cool off quickly through your less insulated extremities. Typically, if you can keep your core warm, your body will regulate the warmth in your extremities on it's own. The vest has a micro-grid fleece inner, a soft-shell outer, with Windstopper laminate sandwiched in between. I used this while hiking in those cooler temps ranging in the 40s and mid 50s during the early part of the mornings and late evenings. I feel that using a vest like this to regulate my body temp eliminated a lot of need to add or subtract layers during the bulk of primetime hunting hours. Size large fit well over the Merino Core and Apex Hoody. The vest is a touch short in torso length but nothing that would dissuade me from purchasing again.
Kelvin Lite - Typical puffy jacket that is super lightweight yet super warm. This jacket can pack into its hood and be used as a comfortable pillow. It was never cold enough to wear this jacket much besides in the middle of the night to get up to go to the bathroom. Size large fit me well for the most part. The forearms are pretty snug. I'm not sure if this is designed this way to ensure less bulkiness in the arms that may get caught on your bow string during shooting.
Note: My buddy had the Kelvin Active Jacket and boy was I impressed. It's just a touch lighter than the Kelvin Lite but it's much more versatile. The Active Jacket has great breathability which made it a great outer layer for him on those cold mornings. It's super quiet and makes a great lightweight alternative to the Jetstream Jacket if you're counting ounces.
Jetstream Jacket - The Jetstream Jacket has the same fabric principals as the Jetstream Vest. I wore this over the Merino Core, Apex Hoody, and Jetstream Vest every morning when temps were down in the mid 30s. Once I had scarfed down breakfast and had a mile or so of hiking in to raise my body temp, I would shed this layer and it stayed in my pack until the following morning. It is a bit heavy in weight so exploring a lighter outer layer may not be a bad idea (see Kelvin Active Jacket above). With that said, I like the peace of mind of having a layer like this at all times due to the unpredictability of mountain weather. Had we been caught in high winds, a day where temps did not exceed 50, and/or any type of mild precipitation, the Jetstream Jacket would be an ideal outer layer.
I wore an XLT which was a touch on the big side for me. I tried on my buddy's Large Tall and the fit was much more to my liking but the LT would've been tight to wear over the Kelvin Lite Jacket. You'll most likely want to order your size in the Tall version as the torso length is very short on the regular sized jackets. Torso length with the XLT and LT were perfect.
Apex Pants - The Apex Pants are a great lightweight pant. The pants are constructed of the same polyester outer fabric you find on the shoulders and under arms of the Apex Hoody. The fit is athletically cut and tapered. There is no loose fabric around the calves which eliminate any of the "swooshing" noise that can come from baggier pants. A size 34 was too small and the size 36 were just a tiny bit too big in the waist, but nothing a belt can't fix. I'm sure a size 35 waist would've been perfect but Sitka was sold out.
Mountain Pants - Bombproof. I wore these every day of our hunt. They are lightweight, breathable, and quiet. I put 60 miles on them over eight days of hunting and busting through brush and the pants still look new. Temps ranged from mid 30s up to mid 60s during my use with these. If the temps were 20 degrees cooler I would recommend a thin merino base layer under them.
Note: My buddy wore the Timberline Pants which seem to be constructed of the same lightweight material except for the waterproof knees and butt. The fit of the pants also seemed much more tapered from the knee down. I did notice the "swooshing" noise when his knees rubbed together where the waterproof fabric is located.
Cloudburst Jacket - Luckily I never had an opportunity to test this jacket out. It isn't the quietest but it does seem pretty bulletproof. I ordered an XL and I probably could have gotten away with a Large. With that said, the XL fits very well when used as an outer shell when layering over both the Kelvin Lite and the Jetstream Jacket.
Cloudburst Pant - Again, luckily I never used these pants. I have them in size XL and they are too big. The built in belt does help, but I'd prefer a Large. The side zips go all the way up to your hip so slipping them on over your boots is no problem.
Headwear & Gloves
Sitka Trucker - I kept it simple the whole time and just wore the Sitka Trucker Hat in Subalpine. I've got a big noggin so the high crown of the hat didn't bother me. The hat broke in quick and was comfortable to wear the whole week. On cold mornings I would just flip the hood up on my Apex Hoody and/or my Jet-stream Jacket.
Mountain Gloves - A medium weight glove that does the trick to keep the chill off your hands. With mixed reviews I wasn't sure what to expect with these gloves but I ended up liking them a lot. My main use was during cold mornings when gripping my bow bare handed would've resulted in a numb hand. They don't breathe much but seemed to dry out quickly after sweating them out a few different mornings.
No doubt Sitka Gear is expensive but you get what you pay for. For starters, the quality of every piece, from buttons and zippers to the stitching is second to none. Beyond quality is fit and function. You can tell there is a lot of thought that goes into each piece. If I had to come up with one downside, I think my main complaint would be the difference in sizing from piece to piece. Luckily there are enough reviews on Sitka's website to get a good idea of what size to order.