First Lite Sanctuary Jacket Review

“You’re so cold, you’re so cold, cold, cold”.  

It may not be manly to admit, but like Mick Jagger said, I get cold really easily.  In my never ending search to stay warm I turned to First Lite, a Private(ly)(held company)(based in) Idaho.  First Lite Sells Sanctuary (Jackets). First Lite Sanctuary JacketI picked up a Sanctuary Jacket (SJ) last fall and spent a season with it.  I got mine in ASAT camo because I thought it would be ideal for late season treestand hunts and I thought the ASAT would be perfect in a treestand against a leafless skyline.  The SJ is also offered in Fusion and RealTree Xtra patterns.

Here’s my review:

At about 5’7″ and 160#, I’m a definitive medium-kind-of-guy so I ordered the jacket in size medium (imagine that logic).  When I unboxed the jacket I had some initial concerns that I should have maybe gone with a size small and it seemed just a tad bulky in the gut area.  I tried it on and it felt okay but still slightly “puffy” and longer than most of the hunting jackets I’ve worn in the past.  Not to worry, I found out later that my fears were unfounded.  The SJ uses First Lite’s proprietary “shooters cut” and while that may sound like marketing mambo-jumbo, the shooters cut really does work.  It really does.  First Lite engineered the shooters cut into most of their garments and it manages to keep the sleeves tight to the body without developing that annoying bunch-up of fabric around the armpits and allows the chest area to lay flat and natural while drawing a bow or firearm.  It’s a beautiful thing.  The sleeves are neatly contoured and taper to the wrist area without using bulky knit cuffs  and unnecessary material.

Trial By Cold

My first hunt with the SJ was on a bowhunt on chilly 17 degree November morning with a steady 10 mph wind.  I ranger rolled the SJ, lashed it to my Tenzing and headed out on a sweaty hike up and over a steep ridge to a hang-on stand I’d placed a few weeks earlier.  The rut was in full swing and I was anxious to see how long my svelte get-cold-easy ass would last in the stand.  I climbed the stand, got buckled in for the ride and slipped on my new Sanctuary Jacket and into a virtual cocoon of pleasure.  I’m being serious.   I fell in love with the SJ right then right there.  I was warm- and I stayed warm until I climbed out of the stand around noon.   The jacket is thermally mapped, as they say, to eliminate bulk where it is not needed and the insulation is amped up in the areas that need more, like the kidney area.  So I hunted the entire morning rather smugly while my buddies in the FHN were sending group texts about how freaking cold they were in their stands.  On this hunt, I paired the SJ with a First Lite Wind River Balaclava and that was a smart choice, but we’ll save that review for another cold day.


Later in the season after about half a dozen more hunts with the SJ, I had it hanging on the clothesline to air out in preparation for bear season.  A couple buddies stopped by and I took the opportunity to show off my new gear.  I bragged about how warm the SJ kept me.  The guys fondled my SJ but what happened next was point making.  My buddy Scott wrapped his hands up in the insulated fabric and remarked that he actually felt his skin temperature rise.  He said it felt like a sleeping bag.

Outside of being a hot box, the other best feature of the SJ is the fact that it is super quiet.  The fabric is church-mouse quiet and possibly more quiet than some of the expensive wool jackets I’ve owned.

Late season doe
Posing with a late season doe


The jacket is constructed of multiple layers of fabric including First Lite’s 37.5  that pumps moisture away from the body and allows it to evaporate.  It comes with a storm-sealed main zipper that would honestly turn wind and rain.  The hand warmer pockets feature built-in gasket cuffs.  While the cuffs don’t make it easy to stash gear, they make up for it by keeping hands toasty.  And while on the subject of pockets, the SJ features an external and internal breast pockets that are perfect for stashing electronics.  My cell phone stays warm and holds a charge on the internal zippered breast pocket.  I have a love/hate relationship with hoods and I have love for the SJ’s hood system.  It provides ample peripheral vision and snugs down just right with a pull on the shock cords.  While I’ve never worn my SJ in a driving rain, First Lite’s DWR  fabric finish does a good job of shedding light rain and precipitation.  One thing I don’t understand, though, is the mesh”hand warmer” pocket that runs horizontally on the inside of the jacket along the kidney area- possibly a pocket for body warmers?  If so, I’ve got to give that a try.

About Size

So this jacket does run true to size but keep in mind that this jacket is a true cold weather garment.  First Lite states that the jacket has a “roomy fit” and “it’s designed to be layered over a base layer system”.  I found this advise to be accurate.  After a season with the SJ I am very pleased with my size medium.

First Lite describes the Sanctuary Jacket as follows:
  • Purpose-built for bitter cold days in the tree stand
  • “this thing is an oven”
  • “you will be able to Stay Longer in your stand on those days when others are heading for home”
  • Dead quiet even in sub freezing temperatures

All of these statements are spot-on.  In fact, don’t buy this jacket unless you want need to stay warm.  The SJ is a legitimate cold-weather tool.  It’s a treestand hunter’s dream.  This jacket is not made for humping around, up and over the river and through the woods.  It’s made for static ventures- those long silent vigils in the stand on the coldest of days.  Pair this with some of First Lite’s merino base layers and you’ve got some serious gear that will keep you in the stand from D2D (dark-to-dark).

The YH Scoreboard

  • It’s as warm as claimed
  • Ultra-quiet fabric
  • Shooters Cut is a winner
  • Superior design and features
  • Nice pockets
  • It’s a legitimate cold weather tool

Since my initial bow hunt, I’ve hunted my Sanctuary Jacket numerous times in bow season, bear season, and in the Pennsylvania rifle deer season.  I’m so pleased with the SJ, I’m certain that, in the very near future, I’m going to try the Sanctuary Insulated bibs.

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