The Elite Cagoule and Chaps from Sierra Designs ditches the concepts of traditional gear, and instead reaches deep inside their pocket of ideas for something lighter, breezier, and completely zipper free. Tradition is a strong force in backpacking, but sometimes different truly is better.
The Cagoule and Chaps are sold separately, but are designed to be used as a pair. The Cagoule is in essence a large poncho like jacket with a hood that uses only Velcro to seal up the chest and wrist cuffs. An extended length covers the top of the Chaps, which are the legs of the rain suit. This is designed to open up the mid section to better air flow, since you’re no longer completely sealed up inside your rain suit. Instead, the Cagoule has open pits, and a generous amount of space above the midsection to allow in an open breeze, without letting in rain.
The set is built from a 2-layer 30D nylon, except for the high wear areas of the Knees in the Chaps which are 3 layer 30D for added durability, all PU coated for waterproofing. The Chaps stay up with a simple adjustable hook and band that connects easily to your pants or belt. The Cagoule is only 6.5 ounces while the Chaps ring in at 5 ounces, which is just over 11 ounces for the pair. Retail is 109$ and 59$ respectively, available in black and yellow (the Cagoule anyway, black for the chaps).
What I liked
Ventilation in the set is quite impressive. The open, airy Cagoule results in a supremely breezy garment. The groin and rear are completely free to breathe without being exposed to the elements due to the overhanging Cagoule and the openness of the Chaps. The open pits and adjustable chest allows for even more venting, while the material itself is light and cools easily. Never before have I felt so cool while moving in a rain suit, great for humid areas.
The set is incredibly light weight. At under 12 ounces, they fit in nearly any pocket of my backpack, and take up absolutely minimal space.
Comfort isn’t lacking, with a loose, relaxed fit that seemingly floats on the body. Less constricting than a typical rain suit, the pair offers great amounts of freedom of movement. No more tight knees or butt while stepping over logs, and no more rigid zipper down the chest.
Taking the set on and off is also particularly enjoyable. Instead of dealing with zippers and pulling pants over pants, I was able to simply slide the Chaps up (even over most of my boots) and attach it to my belt. It’s doable while standing or sitting, depending on your current conditions.
Great conversation piece! Chaps aren’t something you typically see on the trail, and it will often spark up great trail chat and discussion.
A backpacks hip belt can slide through the chaps, allowing for a better fit, less pack slipping, and the retention of that all important front ventilation. The Cagoule also protects your butt when sitting in the rain, so no worries about a soggy tush. Clever Sierra Designs. Clever.
What I didn’t like
Soft, feathery lightweight materials will take a little TLC. I had to take care while dealing with briers and thorns. Simple 2 layer PU dependent build may require reapplication of DWR down the line (so far so good).
Limited color variety. The yellow looks surprisingly good, but I want some greens and oranges. Color is in, SD.
The Cagoule and Chaps are an interesting, innovative set that goes a long ways towards eradicating the bane of rain wear, ventilation. The breezy design minimized internal sweating, and provided for one of the coolest rainy day hikes I’ve experienced. The open feeling and freedom of the movement of the chaps is hard to not appreciate. At around 12 ounces, it has room in any pack, and the costs is right too at around 170 bucks for the set. Lots of care went into the design, and it certainly shows.
Huge thanks To Sierra Designs for providing this awesome set for review. A full disclosure is up on our About Me page.