Mountain Hardwear StretchDown DS Hoody Review
Cons: Expensive, heavy, not very compressible
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
Our Analysis and Test Results
We think this burly coat's closest competitor is the Black Diamond Forge Hoody, which has a similar fit and warmth as the StretchDown but lacks the stretch factor. The Forge Hoody is less expensive, stuffs away into its pocket and is three ounces lighter. The StretchDown is decent around town and close to the car, but it's too heavy for human-powered excursions into the backcountry.
This jacket employs 800-fill down, just like our Editors' Choice award winner, The North Face Summit L3 Down Hoody. However, the Summit L3 is loftier and warmer, suggesting that there is more down stuffed in the baffles. The Stretch DS uses a unique stretch wielded channel construction instead of traditional baffles to hold the down in place. Mountain Hardwear claims this design is warmer than sewn through baffles; our experience suggests otherwise since great designs like the Feathered Friends Eos and the Rab Microlight Alpine both use sewn through construction and are much warmer and lighter. The wielded baffles do give this jacket a unique look, allowing it to be even stretchier than previous versions.
According to our scales, a men's size small ways 18.4 ounces. This is quite heavy for a down jacket, especially considering that is stuffed with 800 fill down, which generally offers a great warmth to weight ratio. We choose down jackets when we want the most warmth for the least weight possible. The Feathered Friends Eos is much warmer and almost half the weight. As far as we can surmise, the excess ounces are attributed to the shell fabric, a stretchy polyester that's much tougher, but much heavier than the Pertex fabrics commonly used in high performance down jackets. At 18 ounces, why not just go ahead and use a less expensive synthetic insulation? This would add a few ounces to this model that we feel is already too heavy alpine missions and backcountry travel, but significantly reduce the price.
Mountain Hardwear includes a hydrophobically treated down that claims to stop water absorption. We didn't rip open our jacket to get eyes on the down, but the shell fabric doesn't resist water like a Pertex fabric with a DWR treatment. Water beads off jackets like the North Face Summit L3 Down Hoody, but the stretchy mat finish on the StretchDown absorbs water quickly.
The StretchDown DS has an athletic fit that fits nicely under a hardshell, and we enjoyed several storm days riding at the resort with this jacket as our midlayer. The shell fabric stretches more than some of our favorite climbing pants, providing comfort and mobility we're not used to from a down puffy. Our testers found previous versions of the StretchDown to be little short in the sleeves, but this jacket has an excellent fit in the sleeves; broader folks may find it a little tight in the shoulders. The hem doesn't extend as low as the Rab Microlight Alpine or the TNF Summit L3 but still sits lower than the Arc'teryx Cerium LT.
The thick and burly shell fabric prevents this jacket from utilizing the compressibility of the 800 fill down, and it doesn't stuff into a pocket or includes a stuff sack. This jacket does not compress nearly as small as the lightweight Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, though its unlikely to be full of holes after chasing the dog through the sagebrush. Durability is often the trade-off for lightweight compressibility, and if anything, the Stretchdown DS is one of the more resilient jackets we've worn.
The StretchDown comes with a nice complement of features. It has two cinch cords with low-profile internal cord locks at the hem keep out the drafts. Two zippered handwarmer pockets are generously sized and can accommodate ski goggles or even a small water bottle, and an external zippered chest pocket secures any important small items you may need to access quickly. Finally, two more drop-in pockets reside inside for keeping your gloves, water, or climbing shoes nice and toasty. The hood lacks a drawstring and is an awkward size, being a little loose, but too small to comfortably wear over a helmet.
For those who like the unique look of the wielded baffles, this is a nice jacket for the around the city, short hikes, resort skiing, and climbing, as long it's not too far from the car. We prefer the Ghost Whisperer or the Feathered Friends Eos for ski touring, alpine climbing, and backpacking since they are light and compressible.
If this jacket were less expensive, we'd be calling a great puffy for scrambling, camping, and working outside because it's so durable. As it stands, we don't think it's a very good value. It's one of the more expensive, yet one of the lowest scoring products in our review.
We've value down jackets for their warmth-to-weight ratio and their compressibility; the StretchDown DS just isn't up to snuff with the competition. We really like the improved fit, stretch, and durability of the DS, but feel that it's expensive, while the efficient 800 fill down insulation is underutilized due to its heavy shell materials.
— Matt Bento