New for Fall 2011 is the Sonic Outlaw soft-shell jacket from Sierra Designs. What makes this soft shell unique you ask? It's the Xcelerator technology from Cocona. The name sounds fancy enough so it must be some new space age polymer frankenstein fabric, right? No, it's actually pretty down-to-earth stuff. The Cocona fabric technology consists of micro porous active particles derived from coconut husks (hence the name). These activated carbon particles in the fabric help move moisture away from your body to the outside of the jacket to help keep you dry. The surface area of these active particles reacts to increases body heat which, accelerates the evaporation of moisture through the fabric. It does all this while maintaining breathable and weatherproof (notice I didn't say waterproof - it is a soft shell after all).
The Sierra Designs Sonic Outlaw soft shell Jacket is a full on softshell with features that enable it to work as a single ski touring or inbounds jacket as well as a warm insulation layer under a conventional hard shell. It will keep you nice and warm thanks thanks to its micro fleece lining and it includes a removable powder-skirt for those epic deep days. The Outlaw also has a fully adjustable helmet compatible hood which adds wind and weather protection to the mix. It's four-way stretch softshell material provides great mobility on the skin track. These primary features make this jacket well-suited for a variety of conditions and tasks but as a result packability and weight are compromised – you can't have it all.
The Sierra Designs Sonic Outlaw features a softshell outer with a PU laminate membrane coated with Cocona’s Xcelerator particles. Unlike other softshells, the Sonic Outlaw is a three-layer weatherproof/breathable jacket (Waterproof rating of 10,000 and breathability rating of 8,900 g/m2) with Cocona's PU membrane sandwiched between a 4-way mechanical stretch shell and a brushed polyester fleece liner.
Seems - Fully taped PVC free seams for extra weather protection.
Pockets - One zippered and one open interior pocket, zippered sleeve pocket, two zippered hand pockets which are all mesh lined.
Zippers - Waterproof zippers to keep your things dry.
Condor Construction - An elongated panel under the arms provides unrestricted movement when reaching over your head.
Hood - Helmet compatible, fully adjustable hood with visor.
Powder Skirt - Removable, zip-off to reduce weight when not needed.
Helmet Compatible fully adjustable hood.
Zipper garages to keep things dry.
Soft fleece lining to keep you warm.
Reinforced arm pockets to stand up to wear and tear.
Adjusments are nicely stowed.
Interior mesh pocket.
Interior zippered mesh pocket.
Removable powder skirt to keep you dry when its waist deep.
Hem adjustments to keep things warm with or without the powder skirt.
Hood adjustments stowed away.
Sierra Designs was one of the original eco-conscious outdoor companies and they continue this trend with their new Xcelerator technology from Cocona. Any product on the market is going to have an environmental footprint but it is good to see some innovative solutions that don't sacrifice performance but rather enhance it. I found that the Sierra Designs Sonic Outlaw soft shell Jacket was indeed super warm and could easily be worn as a stand alone exterior layer for backcountry skiing or resort skiing thanks to it's durable finish and included powder skirt. I am not one to go ski touring without my waterproof hard shell but I do ski with many people who prefer a single shell solution so this would be ideal for them. I personally prefer the reassurance that I have a hardshell in my pack for when things go bad or when the weather takes a turn for the worse. For this reason I prefer to ski with a much lighter soft-shell layer as I found the Sierra Designs Sonic Outlaw soft shell Jacket too warm, heavy and bulky for my liking. This is not to say that this jacket does not have a place in the backcountry—it simply comes down to preference. Given the features of the Outlaw it will serve you well both in-bounds and out-of-bounds and also cruising around town just keeping you warm.
The fit was spot on (I wore a large and I am 175lbs and 6'1") and the interior fleece was super soft and comfortable next to bare skin. I really liked the high collar and fully adjustable hood as it allowed you to turtle in when the winds picked up. The cuff adjustments were not ideal as they bulked the jacket at the wrists and this already being a pretty beefy jacket it felt a little unnatural. The exposed seam tape provides some additional protection from the elements but this stylized aesthetic is not my thing - however form does follow function. Overall the Sierra Designs Sonic Outlaw soft shell jacket excels at what it was designed for but if you are like me and like to layer and go light then this may not be the ideal solution for you.
Price $299 US
Colour: Black, Midnight, Olive, Glacier
Weight: 822 g / 29 oz
Versatile soft-shell for a variety of conditions, unique enviro materials.
Heavy and bulky to pack down when not in use.
Fit / Mobility 2/2
Warmth / Breathable 2/2
Quality / Price 1/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.