Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
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.
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.
The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded was the lowest scorer in this year's down jacket review, though the competition was fierce.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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