I got my Cascade Stormlight Jacket just before we headed off on a 6 night / 7 day hunt through the Kaweka’s and Kaimanawas over New Years. The previous two New Years trips had true NZ Alpine weather – meaning that the weather can turn a complete 180 in a matter of minutes – so good, reliable gear is very important!
On paper these jackets have some seriously impressive ratings, both the men's version (Vapour Stormlight) and women's version (Cascade Stormlight) both have waterproofing ratings of 30,000mm. This is basically a pressure test and means that with a 1 inch square tube over the fabric, you could fill that tube with water to a height of 30,000mm (30 meters!!) before the water would start to push through the fabric. The breathability numbers are really impressive at 42,000g, this means that 42,000 grams of water vapour can pass through the fabric from inside to out in a 24 hour period. These are the highest ratings on the market!
My first impression of the FirstLite gear (I've also got an Aurora Puffy) was no pink!!! Both of the jackets come in black and olive as well as two FirstLite camo variations – none of which have any pink logos, stitching, zips or blatant pinkness. I actually am a pink lover, and when I first brought hunting gear that wasn’t hand-me-downs from my partner Scotty or his brother, I specifically chose gear with the pink detailing. Fast-forward a few years, and while I still love pink, it gets a bit old to not actually have any choice. Women’s specific hunting gear is still limited (especially in NZ) and it seems as though companies just chuck pink on each and every women’s item. So with no pink at all and a camo pattern that isn’t realtree, it is a good looking jacket.
My second impression was how light the jacket is. This is such a bonus for me, especially as I am now doing much longer hunts and trying to cut down on weight wherever possible. The website says its 340 grams which is pretty dam light, and it does pack away nice and small into it's own pocket.
Size-wise it fits really well – I have a size small, which is pretty standard for me. What I like in hunting clothes, which I find some of my other gear lacks, is sleeves that are long enough and that don’t ride up, a tail (over bum cover) that again doesn’t ride up. The Vapour/Cascade Stormlight jacket ticked both of those boxes! With some tapering through the waist, Velcro and stretchy sleeve ends, bungy things to help tighten around the bottom and quite a cunning hood design. I found it super comfy and was happy with the fit. It is still easy to move around in, even over a few layers.
Happy with the fit, I chucked it in the pack for our New Years mission. It wasn’t until day 5 that I needed to pull out my rain jacket. We were staying in Harkness Hut in the Kawekas when a group of trampers showed up advising us that the rain was coming in the next day around 10am and would be setting in for at least the whole day. It was a 2 and a bit hour walk to the next hut, so we had decided to leave early, walk to Tussock hut to sit the rain out. We woke at 630am and got ready to leave in only a slight bit of drizzle. It didn’t take long for the rain to start falling harder and faster, and after about 1 hour we were in full on north island rain with still at least another hours walking. This is where the gear is truly put to the test, and I have to say I was very impressed with the jacket. It kept me dry, warm and was super breathable. It was easy to walk in, comfortable, the hood fit well and the sleeves fit well and after stopping for a coffee break to warm up, I was still dry underneath while Scotty was starting to get wet through the zip seams on his jacket.
We continued walking in the rain, arriving to the hut a hour or so later to dry off and wait out the rain. The Cascade Stormlight was quick drying and was soon packed back up.
Overall the jacket was awesome – all of my top layers remained dry even after over 2 hours in non-stop downpour. This, coupled with the look, fit and comfort of the jacket make it a winner in my books.
It's now been almost a year since that first trip with the Cascade, and i'm still impressed. So much so that Scotty has now upgraded to the men's version, I guess he got sick of getting wet.
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