One of the great things about Sitka Gear
is that it's a fairly mature line. They've been around quite a while and have added new and improved pieces to their line over the years as they get real-world feedback from users. This means there are lots of options to choose from depending on the conditions and style of hunt you plan to go on. Lots of options can sometimes get a bit confusing, especially if you don't have a store near you that carries Sitka
so you can check it out in person with the help of an experienced salesperson.
Today I'm going to try to shed some light on the differences between all the jackets in Sitka's Open Country line. I should start be mentioning that the Open Country line is designed for the active hunter who will be moving around on the ground, especially up in the mountains. The focus of the line is on light-weight, breathable, packable materials and pieces that layer together seamlessly with minimal weight and bulk. All of their jackets are cut athletically meaning they fit more like a shirt rather than a bulky jacket, but they are also cut to allow great freedom-of-movement. Most of the materials used are flexible and have some stretch. They end up being less bulky and loose fitting than typical hunting jackets.
I'm going to start with the lightest weight jackets for the warmest conditions and work my way up to the bulkier, warmer jackets for cold conditions.
The Sitka Ascent Jacket could really be called a shirt. It is extremely thin, lightweight, flexible and breathable. It is stretchy yet feels fairly durable considering how thin it is. It works well when you would really be comfortable in a t-shirt but need to be fully camouflaged and need some protection for busting through brush. It provides very little insulation. It's a great piece for early season archery hunting. It works well over a Core shirt when it's really warm out or over a Traverse shirt when the mornings start to get a little crisp. The Ascent material is very soft and, therefore, quiet. If it gets sweated up or wet from rain it will dry extremely fast.
The Jetstream Lite Jacket could also be called a shirt. Again, it is extremely lightweight and dries very quickly when wet. The Jetstream Lite is different in that it completely blocks the wind. As a result, it actually does provide some warmth. The exterior is smoother and less soft than the Ascent which allows it to do a decent job of shedding light rain. It also means that it is a bit noisier than the Ascent and doesn't breath quite as well. Both the Ascent Jacket and the Jestream Lite pack down very small and you would hardly notice them in your pack. I think of the Jestream Lite as a modern wind-breaker. Unlike windbreakers of the past, the material is softer, quieter and stretchy. I guess you would say it is a soft-shell windbreaker.
The 90% Jacket
is sort of like a cross between the Ascent Jacket and the Jetstream Lite plus it has a micro-fleece liner for a bit of warmth. Again, the 90% Jacket almost feels more like a shirt than a jacket. The fabric is a little smoother than the Ascent so it provides some wind protection and some moisture resistance, but it is not as smooth as the Jetstream Lite so it is quite quiet and breathes quite well. The micro-fleece liner is extremely thin so it just provides a little insulation - nothing like what you would think of as a typical fleece jacket. The micro-fleece is body-mapped so it is missing in the armpit areas to help remove heat. The material is stretchy, soft and a pleasure to wear.
The Jetstream Jacket is thicker and more substantial than the three I've mentioned above so I would call it a true jacket. Like the Jetstream Lite, it's exterior is smooth and it blocks wind and light rain very well while being a bit noisier than fabrics that don't do those things. Still, it is much quieter than traditional windbreaker material and much stretchier too. The inside has a micro-fleece liner quite similar to the 90% but without the body mapping. Instead, the Jestream has pit-zips for purging heat and moisture. The combination of the micro-fleece along with the thicker exterior material and wind stopping ability make the Jetstream quite warm. If you wear the Jetstream Jacket over a Traverse Shirt you will be warm enough for early to mid fall hunting. Add an insulating layer like a Kelvin vest or jacket and you're good into the winter. The Jestream Jacket also has a nice hood. It's a very versatile jacket that can get you from early fall all the way through the winter season depending on the layers you wear underneath. If you plan to wear it over a shirt layer or two in the early to mid fall season, order you typical shirt size. If you plan to add an insulating layer or two underneath, order a size up.
The Kelvin and Kelvin Lite Jacket are basically the same as each other but one is thinner and lighter weight. They are like a light down puffy jacket except they use Primaloft synthetic insulation which retains its insulating properties even after getting wet. They are light-weight, packable, warm and super-comfortable. The nylon exterior material is along the lines of the material on a sleeping bag so it is quite soft and fairly thin. The jacket blocks the wind very well and can handle some light rain. It can be worn as an inner insulating layer or as your outer jacket as long as it's not raining much. The exterior material isn't especially durable so it wouldn't be the best for busting through brush. Because it's nylon it does make some noise, but because it's fairly thin and soft the noise is not too bad. If you plan to wear the Kelvin or Kelvin Lite Jacket close to your body over a shirt layer or two you may want to order a size down as the jacket is cut a little large to fit over some thicker layers. The Kelvin and Kelvin Lite Jackets (or vests) are the key to serious insulating in the Sitka Open Country line. If you're planning any cold-weather hunting you should strongly consider this layer.
Next we get into the Gore-Tex, waterproof, breathable shell jackets. None of the jackets mentioned above are waterproof. If your hunt may include some extended rain or sleet a completely waterproof shell is generally a good idea. I'll get into the different waterproof shells in the Sitka Open Country line next time.