Monday, February 23, 2009

SST Jacket

Bristol Bay, Tierra del Fuego, the Russian Arctic – they all share three things: good fishing, bad weather and a whole lot of SST Jackets. Since its introduction in 1989, the venerable SST has continually set the standard for on-the-water weather protection and this new iteration sets the bar even higher.

The 2009 version features our latest advances in shell design and technology, along with a host of new, angler-friendly details. We're building this jacket from 3-layer nylon double ripstop fabric with our completely waterproof/breathable H2No® barrier and Deluge® DWR (durable water repellent) finish. The new SST is durable and windproof yet still extremely light. Plus there are two features that you might not expect: 1) The jacket hem is folded over and glued which eliminates the conventional tunnel that can hold water. 2) The SST is fully recyclable (Common Threads Recycling Program).

The feature list continues with a new integrated hood with single-pull adjustment and waterproof, corrosion-resistant Aquazip center front, hand/cargo and back pocket zippers. The iconic large, gusseted chest pockets are seam sealed (waterproof) up to their opening and set high for deep wading. Each large pocket has a zippered tippet pocket inside. Our latest streamlined cuffs lie extremely flat and are virtually snag-proof when worn loose or tightened to seal out water.

More details include: Large back pocket, zippered inside pocket, hidden rod holder/accessory clip, lined collar/chin flap and two Beastie D-rings on front, one on back. For comparison, the SST is 2" longer than the Deep Wading Jacket. The Guidewater Jacket is our longest option - 2" longer than the SST.

Thanks to all of you who weighed in with advice on the Setting the standard post back in 2007, to YC who tested prototypes across the globe and who made sure the jacket worked with our favorite packs & techniques and huge thanks to the Patagonia design and development teams for jumping hurdle after hurdle to make this jacket the best. Onward.

Photos courtesy of Yvon Chouinard, Brian Bennett and Alistair Stewart Illustration by El Pescador


Anonymous said...

I'm prejudiced about the new SST jacket since I'm responsible for designing the first one twenty years ago.

Over the years the SST has evolved through a half dozen style and fabric changes, each change making for a better jacket. The latest change came about from wanting a lighter jacket that could be used year round yet didn't sacrifice durability or waterproofness. The result is a 4 season jacket that is bombproof, allows you to wade up to your nipples without getting your fly boxes wet and has such a great hood design that we are putting it on all our alpine jackets. I've been fishing this new SST now for over two years and I can't think of any improvements I would make to it.


Anonymous said...

I tested the 2009 SST in Quebec last year.

The new SST is a qualitative leap forward in wading-shell technology. The new cuffs are minimalist in design, easier to use, and offer ZERO opportunity for fly-line tangles.

The deep-wading chest pockets are a feature all of my fishing buddies have wanted for years. The idea is to keep water OUT in the first place--not make it easy for it to drain once it gets in there.

All in all, this is the finest wading jacket on the market. Mine's on order as I write. Many thanks to Y.C. and Steve Straq for raising the bar. Again.

Topher Browne

Taco Meeuwsen said...

Looks like you all did better on something that could hardly be improved on. Interesting new features!

KRAM Labs said...

Which backpack does YC have on in the photo above?

El Pescador said...

Thanks for adding your comments YC and Topher. Don't hesitate to add specifics about features that your testing has helped establish.

YC is wearing a proto Stormfront Pack in the post photo AMT. It's the same as production except for the color. We had to go with black shoulder straps (like I'm wearing in the upper shot) for fabric minimum purposes instead of the Desert Clay he has on (bottom shot).

Anonymous said...

And all for the low, low, price of $425... I love Patagonia gear, but don't you think it's getting a little ridiculous?

Anonymous said...

Is that really $425? I'm all for brand loyalty and there are few brands I'd like to be loyal to more than Patagonia... but a wading jacket for $425?? Is Yvon making these things himself? I'm sure it's a great jacket, but there is no way it is value for money. What a bummer.

El Pescador said...

It’s not uncommon to hear price referred to as “ridiculous” when it comes to high end clothing for fishing BEK (even though the marketplace embraced an $800 wader). I don’t hear it as much when it comes to high end equipment but we all know that you can plunk down some serious cash in the pursuit of fish (a spare spool for some Abel reels cost more than the SST). When it comes to the SST, we were looking to accomplish a lot yet still stay in the ballpark of our competitor’s top end jackets, and we did (Simms Pro Guide $450, Simms G3 Guide $425, Cloudveil 8X $425). If we’ve done our job well enough, the SST should serve it’s owner long enough to amortize the cost down to an acceptable level. We were also careful not to put all our eggs in one basket. Our wading jacket portfolio contains a very reliable $250 choice – The Deep Wading Jacket.

Thanks for the comment BEK. I’m sure you aren’t the only one thinking $425 is expensive. Know that we try to build the best, do the least amount of harm and still make our lines competitive.

dsflyfishing said...

I love the design and would love one of those bad boys, but the $400 plus price tag is bitter pill to swallow. If things keep moving in the direction they are, I'm going to market my trashbag/duct tape model. It's just like the sst, only... Well you get the picture.

Anyway, you know where to send factory seconds.

Anonymous said...

I sympathize with product designers. It's tough to keep everybody happy.

On the one hand, if you cut corners in order to keep the price down, the hardcore users take you to task for not designing a killer product that is tops on the market.

On the other hand, if you design such a product (and it's got a price to match), then some folks find it too expensive.

It's tough to keep everyone happy.

That's where product selection comes in. The Deep Wading Jacket is $175.00 less than the new SST. It's a hell of a jacket. It'll do pretty near everything that the new SST will do. I doubt I'd bust serious brush with the DWJ, but it's going to keep you just as dry.

Patagonia also sells hard-shell rain jackets for as low as $150.00 (Rain Shadow Jacket). It's not spiffed out for fishing like the SST or the Deep Wading Jacket, but it sure keeps the rain off your back.

Cheers, Topher

Anonymous said...

I guess it all depends on your perspective. The folks I know did not embrace an $800 pair of waders. They thought it was stupid. The folks I know won't embrace a $425 wading jacket when the one that is $175 less pretty much does the job. That is gas money I could spend to actually get to the water. I'm sure it is a thing of beauty, but in this economy, in this climate of fear and loathing, it seems excessive... it seems divorced from reality. You guys must have run the numbers and looked at the market and seen a place for this, but from the sidelines it looks like an odd call. That's armchair product development/marketing and I admit that.

Jay said...

It's funny to see how the SST's style changed from the typical large front pockets and an integrated collar and hood (pre 2008) to a style with pockets disappearing into an internal pocket and a separate collar and hood (style 2008) and back again.

I think the typical looks of the SST, which practically didn't change since its introductory, is SST's best kept secret and asset.

The price of $400+ is indeed pretty ouch. Especially since the fabric and manufacturing as grown up thus many other brands offering equally functional wading jackets for a lot less. But then, it's not a SST...

Anonymous said...

I'm no stranger to "high end clothing". I've been a serious steelheader for awhile now and have a lot of Patagonia stuff. Today I was swinging a fly with my two hander in 36F water with ice shelves and I had some of your stuff on of sure. One of the reasons I buy your stuff is that you keep the environment in mind when making it and you have awesome customer service. I'm not against a good wading jacket, it just seems that the jackets get more expensive as the changes get more minimal. I could handle a $325 SST, but another $100 is a lot of dough. Anyone that buys $800 waders is not living in my world. If you have to have a zipper to piss in the woods, then perhaps you should be worried about other things besides fishing. $800 waders are for the "I have to have the most expensive everything" crowd. If Patagonia comes out with a wader that has a zipper, I will be SERIOUSLY DISAPPOINTED. I agree, you get what you pay for... but things are getting out of hand in my opinion. Just because Simms comes out with a $450 jacket doesn't mean that everyone else should raise their prices. In my eyes, Simms stuff isn't even close to Patagonia in quality and customer service.

El Pescador said...

The updates to this jacket may seem “minimal” to some but please reserve judgment until after you kick the tires. The barrier/DWR technology, fabric choice, zipper choice, hood design, cuff design and pocket designs are leading edge in my opinion. Know that this redesign effort started over 18 months ago and it wasn’t about making an expensive jacket to keep up with the Jones’s. I was mindful of where the competition was at but that is just prudent practice for a product line director. The goal was to build the best jacket by adding only what was necessary. In this case, the result costs $425 and yes, it does look a lot like the 1989 version (same DNA Jay).

When it comes to price, I often see anglers select rods, reels, lines, fly boxes, etc. that are top end or even mid-priced technology (a single fly box can cost $50 let alone the flies that go inside) but when it comes to “clothing” it seems like this equipment should always be much cheaper than hardgoods in these same angler’s minds. I see this mindset amplified in some shops too, where the nice reels are under glass and the rods are in custom built cases but the clothing is rarely merchandised. In some cases it isn’t even out of the plastic bag or box. From my perspective, our waders, boots, jackets, vests and packs are equipment built to the highest quality standards and come with an Ironclad Guarantee. They are specialty, limited edition items that are difficult to build so I take issue when someone says that we are gouging the customer and that other companies can make the same gear for a lot less money. No way.

Regarding the economy Anon., I’ve been around long enough to have seen 3 or 4 economic downturns. In the case of Patagonia, those downturns have not meant that sales dry up because we are perceived as expensive. What it has meant is that when money is tight, consumers take careful consideration when spending their dough and they will often buy what they feel is of the highest affordable quality (long lasting) as opposed to just the lowest priced. In other words, Patagonia has fared well in tough economic times.

I know that everyone has limits and I respect that. I view everyone’s points as valid and I truly appreciate the fact that you are willing to voice your opinions. Keep making yourselves heard here at Way Upstream. Thank you.

Topher, no sympathy needed, those of us working for Patagonia in design and development feel pretty lucky to be where we are.

BEK, don’t expect to see a zipper in our waders anytime soon and thank you for the customer service compliment and appreciation for our environmental mindfulness. I hope the steelhead are cooperating.

Dsflyfishing, your comment about the trash bag jacket made me think of this video that I ran across on Vimeo -

Anonymous said...

Here's a bit more info:

1. The tunnel at the bottom of the old SST would hold water and when you got out of the river to pee, the water would dribble down into your waders. With the bonded hem that doesn't happen anymore. With this new jacket design you don't need the old drawcord anyway.

2. The new lighter nylon fabric we are using is actually stronger than the old SST fabric. And because it is nylon 6, it can be recycled into its original polymer and made into more fiber and fabric. This results in a 70% reduction in energy consumption over using virgin nylon.


Damon Bungard said...

Good gear is gear you never think about, does its job every time, and lasts a long time. I still live in an SST from a few generations back that's served hard time here at home in VT to AK. It's never let me down, and frankly now it's too nostalgic to ever get rid of. Guess I'll have to wait until my nephew is old enough to inherit it!

New one looks like a great sea kayaking top too....


Tim Pask said...

$400 plus for a jacket is huge and I won't ever think different. But I just gave away my very first SST I bought a VERY long time ago. It still works fine, but the wrests leak when I am dunking while releasing fish. Not a huge deal, but I fish often when the water temps are close to freezing, and I a bit older (and softer). I got my moneys worth out of my original SST and the guy I gave it to will get several more years out of it. I am now going to buy a new SST and expect to get 10 more years of use. $45.00 per year.... I NEED a jacket that DOES NOT let me down, so I buy Patagonia. "Iron Clad" guarantee and it is truly iron clad.

Plus I vote with my consumer dollars. And Patagonia is leading the charge to help save the wild fish I have growth to love. Sounds sappy, so maybe I am getting old.... But I know somebody has to care if we are going to save our resourc.. Patagonia not only cares, they talk the talk and then they walk the walk.

Anonymous said...

This is a great discussion, and one that has certainly caused me to stop and think about what we buy and why. For sheer angling effectiveness, I would argue that being warm and dry in inclement weather is the single most important factor leading to more hook-ups. At least in the coldwater steelhead, salmon and trout fisheries that I participate in. Warm and dry means you can concentrate better, fish and wade more skillfully, and such as it often is with steelheading, simply last longer on the river. Fishing is also a hell of a lot more fun when you’re comfortable.

In that light, I would then consider the idea that your outer, waterproof shell (both jacket and waders) is quite possibly the most important fishing gear you will ever own. I mean, at least if catching more fish and having more fun are your goals for the time you spend on the water.

Sure, great rods, reels and lines are important, and I’m not advocating skimping on them to buy a jacket. But I do think it’s worth considering fishing clothing as equally important to the equation, and as such, should be considered (from a price perspective) in that light. As El Pescador mentioned, when you compare pricing of some of the hardware out there, the SST starts to look like a bargain. Okay, maybe not a bargain, but certainly a great investment in fishing more effectively.

Also, while the changes may look minor and/or retro, they are in fact extremely significant when you put the jacket on and start fishing. The fabric alone is a major upgrade in performance, toughness and lightness, but that doesn’t really show when you’re looking at a photo on the internet. The other design changes have been well outlined by El Pescador and YC below, but I have to again point out that the new SST hood system is absolutely spectacular—one-hand adjust for complete comfort, fit and peripheral vision. You don’t even have to pause in your fishing to make it right. It’s awesome. And again, it doesn’t really show up in the photos.

So, that’s my two cents on the topic. Thanks again to everyone who’s contributed to this discussion—like I said, it’s really stirred a lot of thinking and for me, evaluation of the equipment I use on the water.



El Pescador said...

Thanks for making the comment about the SST being a good sea kayaking jacket D. I think all my saltwater friends will be happy to know that the Aquazips have a plastic pin, box and slider so go ahead and dunk this jacket in the sea. Instead of SST standing just for salmon, steelhead and trout; it now applies to stripers, snook and tarpon.

Note that we figured out the cuff taping detail Tim. The new SST wrist seams won't leak anymore.

Thoughtful comments Dylan. I couldn't agree more. You can be in the best fishing spots in the world but if your clothing system isn't up to snuff then you can be miserable.

adipose said...

I was a doubter when it came to no drawcord but after a week in BC I came away a believer. Some of our hardcore guide friends were also doubters but after using the product quickly became converts.
Classic Patagonia to create a value added feature by removing a design element. The best thing about the new SST is that you don't even realize you're wearing it! For me that is one of the things that differentiates exceptional gear from the average.

Tim Pask said...

Hey El Pescador, I have checked out the cuff taping and even had the chance to wear one of the newer Patagonia jackets on a 2 week float trip this fall. My arms stayed bone dry while landing and releasing fish. I work very hard at keeping my steelhead in the water 100% of the time, so its a huge help when my sleeves stay dry.

As Dylan mentioned below, I am big on staying dry and comfortable while I fish. And when your spending serious time on a float its often not easy to dry anything out.

Looking forward to checking out the new hood system.

El Paskador

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys
Has anyone seen the IMAGO jacket from Sweden and the neat back pocket for retaining your net?

Anonymous said...

The IMAGO jacket looks very similar to the SST except for back net retaining pocket. They say imitation is the best form of flattery

El Pescador said...

Thanks for the suggestion to peek at the Imago Amphibian. I try to keep an eye on the stuff going on across the pond. Have you tested this jacket Anon?

Jay said...

What are the decision factors for the color of the jackets? The greenish-colors of the past few years are a bit dull. Probably good for not spooking fish, but I really liked the marl tan color from the mid 1990's.

El Pescador said...

Color is one of the design elements that poses the biggest challenge Jay. With regard to the SST, the goal was to select one colorway from a finite palette that would satisfy anglers across the globe and work with the rest of the styles in the collection. Sage Khaki was our choice. If things go well enough to offer a second choice in future seasons then I'll keep Marl Tan in mind. Thanks for the suggestion.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I love the Eucalyptus colour. It's iconic to Patagonia jackets for me, and a nice contrast to the waders. I used to wear a sand / beige coloured jacket, but it was almost the same colour as m waders. Handy for camo in the desert, but not as appealing on the water.

El Pescador said...

El Pescador said...

Anonymous said...

Im still a little confused by the lack of drawcord hem and non fleece lined pockets. Can anyone provide insight? Sincerely, Greg

El Pescador said...

greg, note the comment from yvon (2/26/09) about the drawcord/tunnel. fleece lining was eliminated in the sst for the same gets-wet-dries-slow reason, but these features were not eliminated from the total fishing jacket offering at the time.