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Hunters like to throw around the phrase, “layering system.” While it can seem like a buzzword, gear companies design their pieces within a system. Base layers pull moisture from the body while mid-layers keep you warm. Outer layers protect you from unpleasant elements like wind and rain. When layered properly, every article works together to keep you comfortable. If you get it wrong, that’s when you get uncomfortable.
It took me some time to figure out where Sitka’s Women’s Ambient Jacket fit within my layering system. The fabric is quiet. The active insulation is extremely breathable. It’s lightweight and packable. Yet I was disappointed with the jacket’s warmth when wearing it as an outer layer during archery elk season. It wasn’t until I began wearing this jacket as a mid-layer, that I discovered its proper place. Nestled beneath another jacket, the Women’s Ambient Jacket provides a wealth of warmth without bulk.
Sitka Women’s Ambient Jacket Specs and Features
- Weight: 15 ounces
- 150 grams post-consumer recycled PrimaLoft Evolve active insulation
- Water repellent finish
- Zippered hand and chest pockets
- Drop-away hood
I own several pieces from the Sitka women’s lineup. Their sizing is a bit inconsistent. I wear everything from small to large. However, the Women’s Ambient Jacket fits what I would consider true-to-size. The stretchy fabric provides a wide range of motion, especially within the shoulders. It’s not too tight, yet it’s not bulky when worn underneath other jackets.
Wearing a medium, I comfortably layered it over Sitka’s Women’s Core Midweight Crew LS and Sitka’s Women’s Fanatic Hoody. I also frequently wore it beneath a medium Sitka Women’s Jetstream Jacket and was able to achieve full motion and not feel bulky.
The elastic cuffs make it easy to pull on/off, even when wearing a release aid during bow season. This is important to me as I often find myself adding and subtracting layers as I bounce between hiking and sitting, while battling Montana’s fall temperature swings.
Before I even try on a hunting jacket, I test the fabric for noise. If it’s not quiet, it won’t leave the house. The Women’s Ambient Jacket excels in this arena. Whether you’re drawing back your bow or sneaking through the timber, this fabric won’t give you away.
The lining is where the jacket shines. In photos and in person, the fuzzy lining jumps out at you as something you want against your skin. It’s incredibly soft and plush. The lining in the pockets warm up your hands on a chilly morning. I generally don’t wear hoods but found myself throwing this up frequently because it’s cozy and warm.
The jacket features active insulation. Sitka says it traps heat when you’re sitting and breathes when you’re on the move. The jacket breathes well. Unless you overdress for conditions, you won’t break a sweat. I hiked up mountains comfortably and then sat without getting cold. However, that was only in warmer weather. When temperatures dipped below 45 degrees, I got chilly sitting. I expected more warmth out of this insulation when worn as an outer layer. However, as soon as I began using it as a mid-layer the insulation trapped heat and warmed me up in weather that dropped below freezing.
The jacket retails for around $300. This price tag is on par with other hunting jackets for women from competitors and within Sitka’s lineup. While I would recommend using this as a mid-layer, because it’s quiet and functional, it can be used as an outer layer. It also packs enough warmth that it can replace two mid-layers in your layering lineup.
Testing the Sitka Women’s Ambient Jacket in the Field
I spent 10 days bowhunting elk in this jacket. Thanks to the typical fall Montana weather, I ran it in everything from the mid-30s to the low 80s in the wind and rain. Initially, I wore the Women’s Ambient Jacket in place of my go-to Sitka Women’s Kelvin Active Jacket. They’re both super quiet. They make it easy to sneak through the elk woods silently. For the past four years, I’ve loved the versatility of the Women’s Kelvin Active Jacket. On warm days I wear it over a base layer, on cooler days I add a mid-layer. However, I quickly realized that didn’t work with the Women’s Ambient Jacket.
For example, my typical layering system during September was:
- KUIU Women’s Ultra Merino 145 Racerback Tank
- KUIU Women’s Ultra Merino 145 LS Crew or Sitka’s Women’s Core Midweight Crew LS
- Sitka’s Women’s Fanatic Hoody
- Sitka Women’s Ambient Jacket
If it was any cooler than 45 degrees, I got chilly sitting for more than 30 minutes. Especially if there was any wind, it blew right through the jacket. It wasn’t until a windy, drizzly day that I tweaked my lineup and discovered where the Women’s Ambient Jacket fit best. When I threw the newly designed Sitka Women’s Jetstream Jacket over the top of the Women’s Ambient Jacket, I instantly warmed up. I could feel the heat the Women’s Ambient Jacket generated being trapped by the Jetstream Jacket. I warmed up so much, I had to take off my other mid-layer.
I’m not the biggest fan of soft-shell jackets, especially during bow season. I’ve never been able to justify wearing or carrying one. It just seemed like an extra, unnecessary piece. Instead, I prefer quieter down-style jackets and hope for the best with the weather. However, the Women’s Jetstream Jacket and Women’s Ambient Jacket changed my mind. They’re the perfect pairing that covers all the bases.
Sitka says the Women’s Jetstream Jacket is designed to retain warmth yet breathe. That’s exactly what it did. It stands up to windy and wet weather. When I layered it over the top of the Women’s Ambient Jacket, I felt like I gained 10 times the amount of warmth. I gained so much warmth, I began ditting one to two other mid-weight layers. On days without wind or wet weather, I wore the Ambient beneath my Sitka Women’s Kelvin Active or KUIU Women’s Kenai Hooded Jacket and saw the same effect: a lot of warmth with zero bulk.
This review isn’t about the Women’s Jetstream Jacket but leaving it out would be like offering chocolate chip cookies without milk. Chocolate chip cookies are delicious on their own, but they taste the best with a glass of milk. However, a glass of milk won’t run you $379 like Sitka’s Jetstream.
What It Does Best
If you stop thinking of Sitka’s Women’s Ambient Jacket as a cold weather jacket and instead treat it like a functional mid-layer, you’ll love it. The lining is soft and cozy. The fabric is quiet and won’t give you away. The hoody blocks the wind and feels nice against your face. The active insulation keeps you dry while you’re active.
It breathes better than you do when huffing up a hill. And it gives you a nice warm hug when you sit down. You can replace one to two layers of bulk with this jacket. And if it’s in your pack, you’ll hardly notice it’s there because it’s so light and takes up very little space. Because it has a hood and pockets, it can be used as a functional hunting jacket during warmer weather.
What It Does Worst
The lining makes it look super warm. It reminds you of plush fleece used in jackets designed for cold weather. But as an outer layer, I would only recommend it for warm weather. For spot-and-stalk hunts it’s perfect. It can be your super breathable outer layer while climbing mountains. Then you throw on another jacket over the top when sitting. However, for the women who purchase this jacket assuming it will be used as their primary outer layer during cold weather, they might be a bit cold and disappointed.
Figuring out your layering system takes time, experience, and varying weather conditions. We all have different body types and personal preferences. It also really depends on where, when, and what you’re hunting.
The Sitka Women’s Ambient Hoody is a worthwhile contender for anyone’s layering system. It’s breathable for active hunters. It’s lightweight and packable. It can help you shed bulk by replacing one to two mid-layers. Yet its quiet fabric, full zip, and pockets make it functional as an outer layer. If you’re looking to be on-the-go, streamlined, and stealthy, Sitka’s Women’s Ambient Jacket is a great addition to your lineup.