Hands-on Gear Review

Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Down Hooded Review

Price:  $300 List | $164.97 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Stretchy fabric, hydrophobic responsibly sourced down, dual interior stash pockets
Cons:  Relatively high cost, constricting fit, poor DWR coating performance, not compressible, heavy
Bottom line:  The unique stretch fabric design doesn’t mask the other flaws of this jacket.
Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
Down Fill:  Q.Shield 750-fill moisture resistant down, certified to Responsible Down Standard
Total Weight (Men's size tested):  18.5 oz. (M)
Baffle Construction:  Stretch welded channel construction
Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear

Our Verdict

The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded jacket is unique in that it is the only down jacket that we have ever tested that uses stretchy fabric in its construction. Rather than a simple nylon face fabric that has long been the norm for down jackets, this one uses polyester stretch weave that feels like a softshell and moves as you do. To pull this off, the baffles are welded together instead of sewn, creating a more impermeable layer against wind and water. Despite its innovative and unique design that has a number of advantages, especially for use in highly mobile activities, we found this to be the lowest performing jacket in this review. Compared to the competition it was heavy, didn't compress well, wasn't super warm, and didn't offer a lot of initial water repellency. All of these factors led to a low overall score.

Looking for Hoodless, or other options?
Like most of the hooded jackets we reviewed, this one comes hoodless. The men's StretchDown Jacket retails for $260 and is virtually the same but without the hood. There are also a number of other variations on the StretchDown theme, and each come both hooded and without. The StretchDown DS uses offset quilt patterned baffles and 800-fill power treated down. On the other hand, the StretchDown HD uses horizontal shaped baffles but mixes treated down with synthetic insulation in areas likely to get wet.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Down Jackets for Men of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman

Last Updated:
Monday
December 18, 2017

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When we heard about the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded's unique design that combined down insulation with the stretchy fabric that has revolutionized soft-shell clothing, we simply had to try it out. Let us just say one thing: the fabric used in this jacket is extremely stretchy, more so than any other "stretch" fabric that we have tested in other styles of garments. That said, much like we found with the design of the Columbia Outdry Ex Gold, one unique design characteristic simply does not cover up for myriad other flaws. We love the stretchy and comfortable fabric that comprises this jacket, but found that it wasn't worth a whole lot on a jacket that was not as warm as most of the competition, and was also heavier, poorer fitting, didn't have a good DWR coating, and didn't really compress at all. With such poor performance in so many of our scoring metrics, this jacket naturally ended up at the bottom of our comparative rankings. This is a shame because we found that there was a lot to like.

Performance Comparison


The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded was the lowest scorer in this year's down jacket review, though the competition was fierce.

The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded is remarkable because it is made completely out of super stretchy softshell like fabric  unique in this review. Here we are testing it on a fall hike into the alpine in Spirit Gulch  San Juan Mountains.
The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded is remarkable because it is made completely out of super stretchy softshell like fabric, unique in this review. Here we are testing it on a fall hike into the alpine in Spirit Gulch, San Juan Mountains.

Warmth


This jacket uses responsibly sourced, hydrophobically treated 750-fill power down. Instead of the much more common sewn-through baffle construction, this jacket uses stretch welded seams that don't leave any needle holes in the face fabric, and presumably stretch better as well. We didn't feel like there was a whole lot of loft in our test jacket, suggesting that not a whole lot of down was stuffed into the stretchy baffles. This was backed up in our comparative testing, where we could feel the cold through the jacket in our shoulders, neck, and even on the inside of the handwarmer pockets.

This jacket does not have a way to tighten or seal up the hood  and as you can see here the elastic does not seal off around the face very well. This was not one of the warmest jackets in the review.
This jacket does not have a way to tighten or seal up the hood, and as you can see here the elastic does not seal off around the face very well. This was not one of the warmest jackets in the review.

The truth is, this was one of the colder jackets, on par with the much lighter and thinner Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded, but still a shade warmer than the Columbia Outdry Ex Gold. We gave it 5 out of 10 points, and despite its innovative stretchy design, simply wished for more insulation.

We didn't find the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded jacket to be one of the very warmest in our side-by-side testing. However  when using it as a stand alone warmth layer on this fall hike in the alpine  it was plenty warm enough to keep us comfortable.
We didn't find the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded jacket to be one of the very warmest in our side-by-side testing. However, when using it as a stand alone warmth layer on this fall hike in the alpine, it was plenty warm enough to keep us comfortable.

Weight


Our size men's medium jacket weighed in at 18.5 ounces, which was the heaviest jacket in this review. Most of this weight seems to come from the obvious thickness of the stretch knit fabric used on the inside and outside because this jacket does not have extra features or insulation that is not also present in all of the lighter jackets we tested. This jacket was over an ounce heavier than the next heaviest, the Marmot Tullus Hoody, and was over 10 ounces heavier than the similarly warm Ghost Whisperer. 3 out of 10.

Water Resistance


The stretch knit outer fabric that makes up this jacket does have a DWR coating applied, but we found that it absorbs water faster than any other jacket in this review. Certainly, with stretch fabric water absorption is going to be a problem because the fact that they stretch so much means that the holes between the weave of fibers are going to be much larger than non-stretchy fabrics. That said, this jacket does use Q.Shield down, which is Mountain Hardwear's hydrophobic down treatment. Sandwiched in between layers of fabric, it was nearly impossible for us to see how well this down actually repels water, but along with the Rab Microlight Alpine and the Marmot Tullus Hoody, it was one of only four jackets in this review to incorporate repellant down. We gave it 5 out of 10 points for water resistance.

This photo was taken immediately after testing the DWR coating for water resistance. As you can see  water is not being forced to bead up and fall off  and is rather absorbing into the stretchy face fabric.
This photo was taken immediately after testing the DWR coating for water resistance. As you can see, water is not being forced to bead up and fall off, and is rather absorbing into the stretchy face fabric.

Fit


While we loved the fact that this jacket is super stretchy, making it a great choice for active pursuits, we honestly felt like the fit was pretty terrible. We tested a men's size medium and felt like it had one of the most constricting fits in the shoulders, across the upper back, and even in the armpits. We also felt like the sleeves were considerably too short. The size in the torso felt ok, and there was enough space to layer beneath it. We were super surprised to find the fit to be so wonky, as we also tested a size medium Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, and found that it fit pretty much perfectly, with literally none of the problems we experienced with this jacket. How two different jackets from the same company could be sized so differently is beyond us. Regardless, for a fit that was so poor, it made us not want to wear the jacket, we gave it 5 out of 10 points, the same score as the Columbia Outdry Ex Gold.

The fit of the StretchDown jacket was one of the most difficult for us. As you can see here  we found the sleeves to be quite a bit too short. Also  the fit in the shoulders  underarms  and across the upper back was very tight and restricting. This photo also does a good job of showing off the stretch welded baffles  eschewing the use of stitching through the fabric.
The fit of the StretchDown jacket was one of the most difficult for us. As you can see here, we found the sleeves to be quite a bit too short. Also, the fit in the shoulders, underarms, and across the upper back was very tight and restricting. This photo also does a good job of showing off the stretch welded baffles, eschewing the use of stitching through the fabric.

Compressibility


Much like the Marmot Tullus Hoody and the Outdry Ex Gold, this jacket did not compress into any of its pockets or an included stuff sack. To get it as small as possible, we rolled it up and stuffed it into its hood, but this package was still larger than a football. This was the single least compressible jacket in our test and combined with its heavy weight, certainly didn't inspire us to go lugging it around on very many adventures. 3 out of 10.

The three jackets that did not come with any sort of method to stuff them into a pocket or stuff sack. For this photo we chose to roll them up and stuff them into their own hoods  but they are still the least packable jackets in this review. Top left: Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded. Top right: Marmot Tullus Hoody. Bottom: Columbia Outdry Ex Gold.
The three jackets that did not come with any sort of method to stuff them into a pocket or stuff sack. For this photo we chose to roll them up and stuff them into their own hoods, but they are still the least packable jackets in this review. Top left: Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded. Top right: Marmot Tullus Hoody. Bottom: Columbia Outdry Ex Gold.

Features


Features were one of the few strong showings for this jacket. It has a solid collection of pockets, including two zippered handwarmer pockets, an external zip chest pocket, and our favorite — two interior stash pockets. We love these for storing hats, gloves, or any number of other items inside our jacket where they stay toasty warm. The hood does not have a drawcord and fits a bit small for our lead tester's larger head, but the elastic lining it does a good job of sealing out the cold weather. Likewise, the dual hem drawcords effectively seal out the cold from below and are easy to pull and release, even with gloves on. Taken as a whole, we felt the feature set on this jacket was comparable to that found on The North Face Morph Hoodie, but not quite as good as our favorites, the Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody and the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody. 8 out of 10 points.

One of our favorite features about the StretchDown Hooded  and all down jackets that have them  are internal stash pockets that are large and perfect for storing items like gloves when not in use.
One of our favorite features about the StretchDown Hooded, and all down jackets that have them, are internal stash pockets that are large and perfect for storing items like gloves when not in use.

Best Applications


While we liked the stretchy fabric idea that informs this entire jacket, we feel like the end result is a heavy, not very warm, and not very packable jacket, effectively eliminating most of the advantages of using down insulation. While our internet feed is full of ads for this jacket featuring a guy on a glacier coiling a rope, we wouldn't want to use it alpine climbing or mountaineering due to its weight and lack of packability. In fact, we struggle to understand exactly what sort of outdoor conditions this jacket would thrive under.

Due to its interior stash pockets and very mobile  stretchy fabric  we thought the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown was a pretty good choice as a belay jacket during cooler shoulder seasons. We wouldn't want to lug it along into the wilderness on a backpacking trip  however  as it isn't very light or packable.
Due to its interior stash pockets and very mobile, stretchy fabric, we thought the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown was a pretty good choice as a belay jacket during cooler shoulder seasons. We wouldn't want to lug it along into the wilderness on a backpacking trip, however, as it isn't very light or packable.

Value


This jacket retails for $300. This is slightly higher than average for this review of lightweight down jackets. Considering it was the lowest scorer in this review, we think that if you are willing to spend this amount of money, you would be better served choosing a different jacket, like our Editors' Choice award-winning Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody. We don't think there is as much value in this product as the others in this review.

Wearing the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded on a hike to check out the rock climbs of the lower gorge  Smith Rock State Park Oregon. We loved the use of entirely stretchy fabric in this jacket  but also felt like it lacked many of the best attributes of down -- light weight  packability  warmth to weight ratio.
Wearing the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded on a hike to check out the rock climbs of the lower gorge, Smith Rock State Park Oregon. We loved the use of entirely stretchy fabric in this jacket, but also felt like it lacked many of the best attributes of down -- light weight, packability, warmth to weight ratio.

Conclusion


The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded jacket is unique because it combines treated and responsibly sourced down with stretchy face and liner fabric. While we think this idea has some real potential, in our comparison review, it simply didn't stack up well against a handful of other very high-quality jackets. If this technology was used in a down jacket that was a bit warmer, lighter, and more packable, we could see this being one of the best products on the market, but as it is now, there is no way we could recommend it over the other great jackets in this review. If you are a fan of Mountain Hardwear in particular and want one of the best down jackets you could buy, we encourage you to take a peek at the Ghost Whisperer.

Looking at Eagle's nests  and rock climbs  in Smith Rock State Park  OR. Due to its mobile and stretchy fabric  we found this jacket to be great for day hikes and mild temperatures.
Looking at Eagle's nests, and rock climbs, in Smith Rock State Park, OR. Due to its mobile and stretchy fabric, we found this jacket to be great for day hikes and mild temperatures.

Andy Wellman

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Most recent review: December 18, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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Rating Distribution
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5 star: 0%  (0)
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3 star: 100%  (1)
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