When I sauntered up to the Sierra Designs booth at this summer’s Outdoor Retailer, I noticed a few changes. Okay, I noticed a lot of changes. Instead of asking “what’s new?” for SD in 2013-14, it might be easier to ask “what isn’t new?” The iconic brand has undergone a major redesign, ranging from the company logo to all of their gear. It is a shakeup that you don’t often see from an established company, but with a bigger goal in mind.
Sierra Designs public relations guru, Scott Kaier, broke it all down for me. For over a year, SD has been plotting the overhaul. The goal was simple: get back to their roots as a backpacking and mountaineering company. They have certainly succeeded in that. The entire lineup of gear and outerwear has been updated to a more wilderness-appropriate scheme, while all the technology that makes SD an industry leader is still packed into each piece.
With so much new gear, it could have been an overwhelming task. However, Sierra Designs tackled it all with a “less is more” approach; the tent and sleeping back lineup were cut down to three main pieces each, which to me is a refreshing approach. The bag lineup features the Backcountry Bed, Mobile Mummy, and the Backcountry Quilt. The Quilt is a sub 2 pound, 800 fill, sleeping bag alternative. It’s longer and wider than similar quilts on the market, and features insulated hand and arm pockets. It’s even got a hideaway hood and will keep you toasty down to 30 degrees. The Mobile Mummy was my favorite in the lineup. It is a wearable, 800 fill, fully mobile mummy-style bag. The concept is that campers can sleep in any fashion they prefer without feeling constrained. Plus, you can walk around camp like the abominable sleeping back monster. The Backcountry Bed is just that: a bag that functions like your bed back at home. It’s zipperless, has a sleeping pad sleeve, and is extra wide so you won’t feel constricted while snoozing. All the bags are filled with SD’s DriDown technology.
Tents get a new look for 2014 as well. The company has rethought their Flash, Lightning and Flashlight tents with backpackers in mind. The Flash really stood out as a solid looking 2 person backcountry structure. It’s a freestanding, double/single wall hybrid design that eliminates vestibules. Instead, packers have two gear closets on the sides that have access zippers. This keeps gear away from the entrances and allows each occupant their own stash spot. Add in the heightened ceiling and double drop doors, and you and your companion will be living the backcountry luxury life.
Of course, outerwear also got a full update. Sierra Designs went with a throwback style that has all the bells and whistles built in. DriDown insulation is coupled with stretchable fabric in their sweater, hoodie and vest jackets. DriCanvas pants and shorts feature a marriage of cotton and technical yarns that are high on water resistance, as well as style and comfort. The mens and womens Trailwear tops are highly functional pieces that are very much fashion-forward. The whole lineup looks like it would be at home in a mountain lodge or 10 miles deep in the Uintas.
A complete brand redesign is a big undertaking, and a big gamble. Sierra Designs has pushed all their chips to the middle with this new lineup of gear. Having a proven track record of solid technology helps a lot, but time will tell how backpackers respond to the shakeup. It’s gutsy, but personally I really like the new look. Hopefully we will get our hands on some of the new gear in 2014, and can report back with more details.