Last fall, Sitka Gear released a new hunting jacket, the Stratus, in two versions: one in Blaze Orange, the other in Sitka’s Optifade Elevated II camouflage pattern.
The Optifade Elevated II is designed for the stand hunter who wants to blend in with the sky and light and fall leaves above him or her when that deer glances up.
The Blaze Orange option is for those states requiring this color during deer and other hunting seasons, plus for the safety-conscious hunter who wants the added protection.
I used both versions during 2020 hunts, plus wore them all fall and winter in my north-central Wisconsin town. The lightweight Stratus jackets are warm and comfortable, with many features hunters will appreciate. For later fall and winter wear, layering beneath the jackets will likely be required, and for that reason, I recommend buying a size larger than usually required.
The Stratus Jackets feature a Gore-Tex Infinium™ Windstopper® membrane sandwiched between what Sitka terms “micro-grid fleece.” The removable hood has specialized hearing ports that improve the ability to hear, plus a double-layer PolarTec® Alpha® Direct panels retain heat.
The jackets are made with the Constant-Connect Sitka® Safety Harness Pass-Through Port. The port’s Cobrax® secure slide-to-lock snap and magnetic closure eliminate the need to disconnect from a harness when adding or removing gear, keeping a hunter safer and quieter in the stand.
All of which means, what?
Well, Sitka rates the Stratus as “100-percent windproof” thanks to the Windstopper membrane and I think that’s correct. I wore the Stratus Optifade Elevated II jacket in West Texas on an early November deer hunt, and we had two days where the winds were gusting in the 20 to 30-mile per hour range, all day, and the jacket did a fine job as a windbreak.
With a tee-shirt, button-up long sleeve, and Sitka pants, the Stratus kept me warm down to 40 degrees without a problem. Colder and I started adding layers.
For Wisconsin temperatures down to +5, those layers were wool base layers top and bottom, plus Sitka insulated Thunderhead Pants and a Sitka Celsius Midi Jacket insulated with 100 g/m2 of PrimaLoft® Silver Active. And I was warm, sitting in the snowy woods for over an hour or taking a walk in the same weather.
The Stratus pockets are nice and deep. I dropped my cell phone into the left chest pocket, for example, and it slid down into place very secure. All the zippers worked smoothly, too, and never came off track.
The Stratus jackets feature a smallish pocket of sorts on the left shoulder to hold a grunt tube. The thinking here was that, especially for the archery hunter, the grunt tube in the pockets allowed for hands-free use of the tube. I tried it and it worked, though I would suggest a longer grunt tube than the one I have. My tube was 7-inches long, and I had to twist my head a little too much to get to it comfortably. Another couple inches of tube would solve that situation.
Of note, Sitka now offers pants in the Elevated II pattern, but not in the Blaze Orange.
Problems? None with the clothing itself. But let’s face it: Sitka Gear is very expensive, with the Stratus Jackets coming in at a cool $349.00. Each.
Sitka prices apparently upset many people, especially folks on social media who bash products that cost more than these folks think said products should cost.
Fair enough. However, Sitka doesn’t pretend to be a discount brand. I think of it this way. If I go shopping for a Corvette, and tell myself I won’t spend over $10,000? I’m really not in the market for a Corvette.
Sitka makes some of the best technical hunting clothing I have worn. With a wool base layer top and bottom, Sitka’s Celsius puffy jacket, and my Stratus jacket over it, I’ve done 45-minute walks in +8 degree winter weather and been warm, even with wind, and a fairly light clothing combination.
With most other hunting clothing I’ve used, I’d either have to add more layers or be in pre-hypothermia by the time I got home.