Hands-on Gear Review

Sierra Designs Exhale Windshell Review

Exhale
Price:  $125 List | $49.98 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Hood draw cords and Velcro wrist enclosures, very breathable.
Cons:  Poor wind and water resistance, very small fit in waist and arms.
Bottom line:  A good looking shell jacket for hanging at the coffee shop, not gonna get it done in the mountains.
Editors' Rating:   
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Measured Weight, size L:  8.3 oz
Material:  90% nylon, 10% spandex, DWR finish
Pockets:  3 zip (2 hands & 1 chest)
Manufacturer:   Sierra Designs

Our Verdict

The Sierra Designs Exhale Windshell is Discontinued as of Spring 2018
The Sierra Designs Exhale Windshell is a wind breaker designed to keep you comfortable in light winds and gentle rains. In our comparative testing, we found that it was the lowest scoring jacket, and based upon many of our findings, we believe that this jacket was designed as more of an "around town" piece than a piece for technical performance. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but typically we find that gear and clothing designed with outdoor performance in mind tends to score better in our performance-oriented field testing and metrics. While some of the features on this jacket are very useful and not found on any other wind breaker in our review, we had issues with the wind and water protection, as well as the fit. For people looking for a somewhat more subdued and fashionable jacket for around town, this is a viable option, but if you want the best piece of clothing to keep you warm and dry on awesome outdoor adventures, we wouldn't recommend bringing this jacket with you.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Windbreaker Jackets For Men

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman

Last Updated:
Thursday
October 20, 2016

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The best quality of the Exhale Windshell is the breathability of its stretch fabric. Much like the Outdoor Research Tantrum II or the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody, the stretch nylon material is quite air permeable, meaning that moisture has the ability to flow through from the inside to the outside. It also has real jacket features found on some of our favorite hardshells, like dual hood draw cords on the side of the neck, and adjustable Velcro wrist enclosures, not to mention real hand pockets.

However, this jacket scores poorly in our review because it doesn't hold up to the elements. We found it lacking in water resistance, despite claims to the contrary, and we also found the hem to be too high and the arms to be very short in our size large. Its highly breathable nature seemed to allow wind to penetrate easier than other jackets. The end result is that we don't hate this jacket, but the numbers speak for themselves. It was the lowest scorer in the review.

Performance Comparison


Nearing the top of Wildhorse Peak in the Uncompahgre Wilderness area in Colorado. We wore this wind breaker all day for a long run in mostly pouring rain  testing out its water resistance.
Nearing the top of Wildhorse Peak in the Uncompahgre Wilderness area in Colorado. We wore this wind breaker all day for a long run in mostly pouring rain, testing out its water resistance.

Wind Resistance


We gave the Exhale Windshell a rating of five out of 10 points for wind resistance, tied for the lowest in the review. We came up with this assessment after plenty of field testing, including one 22-mile training run through the wilderness in some terrible weather, and while testing during a ridgetop windstorm where we wore jackets side-by-side. It scored similarly to other highly breathable stretch fabrics, like the OR Tantrum and the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody. It is worth pointing out that this score is in comparison to other wind breakers, and doesn't actually mean that it has no ability to block the wind, which it does.

Testing the Exhale Windshirt against the competition on a high windy ridge at evening time in the San Juan Mountains. While the fabric is more breathable than most in our review  we also found that this allowed more wind to penetrate the jacket.
Testing the Exhale Windshirt against the competition on a high windy ridge at evening time in the San Juan Mountains. While the fabric is more breathable than most in our review, we also found that this allowed more wind to penetrate the jacket.

Breathability and Venting


Like the other jackets mentioned above, the lightweight stretch nylon on this jacket does a good job of breathing by allowing air to pass through. That said, we found the Polyurethane (PU) laminate applied to the inside of the shoulders and the hood certainly does prevent air transfer, and traps moisture on the inside of the jacket in a place (the top) where it most needs to breathe. We also liked how the pockets are large and mesh lined, including the chest pocket, allowing for increased venting capabilities. Overall we gave eight out of 10 points for breathability.

Dual mesh-lined hand pockets help the Exhale Windshirt with its ability to vent. We also found it to be  made of one of the more breathable fabrics. Both features lend themselves to great breathability  and having hand pockets also adds to the versatility of the jacket.
Dual mesh-lined hand pockets help the Exhale Windshirt with its ability to vent. We also found it to be made of one of the more breathable fabrics. Both features lend themselves to great breathability, and having hand pockets also adds to the versatility of the jacket.

Fit and Functionality


We really had issues with the fit of our size large jacket. In general, the jacket was very small. In particular, the sleeves were much too short for our arms, something that drives us nuts, and allows exposure to the elements. We also thought the hem line was too high, and it had a habit of riding up above our waist. Lastly, the fit in the back of the shoulders was too tight. The fit in the torso area was just big enough to layer underneath, but we certainly wish this jacket was bigger.

One of our critical complaints about the Exhale Windshirt is that the size feels quite small. This men's size large had sleeves that were clearly shorter than our arms  and the hem line tended to ride up above our waist when moving a lot.
One of our critical complaints about the Exhale Windshirt is that the size feels quite small. This men's size large had sleeves that were clearly shorter than our arms, and the hem line tended to ride up above our waist when moving a lot.

The hood of the Exhale Windshirt features a drawcord system similar to higher priced rain jackets than the average wind breaker in our review. Single pull draw cords on each side of the face enclosure snug up the hood opening and work well.
The hood of the Exhale Windshirt features a drawcord system similar to higher priced rain jackets than the average wind breaker in our review. Single pull draw cords on each side of the face enclosure snug up the hood opening and work well.

That said, we did appreciate the attention to detail with many of the features. We loved the adjustable Velcro wrist enclosures that are nicer than simple elastic. The hood fit well and kept our face covered during an epic rainy day run, and we liked that it is adjustable with dual, non-buckle pull cords next to the face. Hand pockets make this seem like a real jacket and not just a technical layer. Overall, five out 10, mostly because the fit was so bad.

This jacket was one of only two in the review that featured velcro tightening wrist enclosures  a nice feature for fine-tuning fit. Unfortunately  we found the sleeves to be quite a bit too short.
This jacket was one of only two in the review that featured velcro tightening wrist enclosures, a nice feature for fine-tuning fit. Unfortunately, we found the sleeves to be quite a bit too short.

Water Resistance


We had issues as well with the water resistance of this jacket. At the end of the test period the DWR coating had worn off of the shoulders, neck, and back. With a quick dousing in the shower, we had water running down the inside of the jacket, even inside the shoulders and hood, despite the added "water proofing" in those areas. It wasn't the worst in the test by a long shot, though. Five out of 10 points.

The inside of the shoulders and neck of the Exhale Windshirt are lined with "permanent water protection" although we were unable to ascertain what this liner was made of. Unfortunately  in our water test  we didn't think this liner aided at all in waterproof-ness.
The inside of the shoulders and neck of the Exhale Windshirt are lined with "permanent water protection" although we were unable to ascertain what this liner was made of. Unfortunately, in our water test, we didn't think this liner aided at all in waterproof-ness.

The views have disappeared in the dense clouds and pouring rain while out on a long run in the Exhale Windshirt. This wind breaker was one of the most rain jacket-like in the test  with a water resistant lining inside the shoulders and hood.
The views have disappeared in the dense clouds and pouring rain while out on a long run in the Exhale Windshirt. This wind breaker was one of the most rain jacket-like in the test, with a water resistant lining inside the shoulders and hood.

Weight and Packability


Our size large jacket weighed in at 8.3 ounces, a fair bit heavier than the advertised weight. This made it the third heaviest jacket, behind only the two jackets with insulated layers. For this reason we awarded it four out of 10 points. However, we also chose to deduct two points for the fact that it was the only layer in our test that didn't stuff into one of its own pockets for easier portability and versatility. This is just one of the reasons we suspect it wasn't designed with technical functionality in mind. It was also bulky. The end result was twoout of 10 points for weight and packability.

The ten wind breakers in this review stuffed into their pockets'  from left to right: Sierra Designs Exhale Windhirt (green) does not fit into a pocket  Marmot Ether DriClime Hoody (orange)  Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Pro (light orange)  Patagonia Alpine Houdini (navy  discontinued)  Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Jacket (glossy black)  Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie (neon green  discontinued) Patagonia Houdini (black)  Rab Windveil (white mesh)  Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody (brown)  Outdoor Research Tantrum (neon yellow).
The ten wind breakers in this review stuffed into their pockets', from left to right: Sierra Designs Exhale Windhirt (green) does not fit into a pocket, Marmot Ether DriClime Hoody (orange), Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Pro (light orange), Patagonia Alpine Houdini (navy, discontinued), Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Jacket (glossy black), Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie (neon green, discontinued) Patagonia Houdini (black), Rab Windveil (white mesh), Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody (brown), Outdoor Research Tantrum (neon yellow).

Best Applications


We sincerely believe that the best use for this jacket is simply as a light shell for around town. Our experiences in the field and in comparative testing convinced us that this is its true purpose, and it just doesn't stack up to the competition for technical outdoor use.

Showing the Exhale Windshirt in the wind at the Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. This wind breaker was unfortunately our lowest scorer overall  and it was our opinion that it was not designed for high output athletic endeavors.
Showing the Exhale Windshirt in the wind at the Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. This wind breaker was unfortunately our lowest scorer overall, and it was our opinion that it was not designed for high output athletic endeavors.

Value


This jacket retails for a price of $125. Like we have already said, if you are looking for a performance wind breaker, look elsewhere, regardless of the price. With our own money, we wouldn't consider buying this jacket.

Conclusion


The Exhale Windshell by Sierra Designs was the lowest scoring wind breaker in our review. While it wasn't a terrible jacket by any means, we have a hard time recommending it. Even for city users who want some protection from the wind and rain, we would have to point you toward our Best Rain Jacket for Men Review, where you can find a comparably priced jacket that will keep you a lot dryer in wet climates.

Andy Wellman

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Most recent review: October 20, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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3 star: 100%  (1)
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