Want a top-notch active insulated layer complete with super breathable stretch fabrics, but don't want to pay a top-notch price to get it? Look no further than the Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata Hooded, our Best Bang for the Buck winner. You can expect roughly a 30% discount at retail price compared to the most expensive and popular active stretch jackets, while not really needing to compromise at all in terms of performance. This jacket makes an excellent choice as a mid-layer during aerobic pursuits and works fine as an outer layer for activities like climbing or hiking if the wind isn't blowing too hard.
Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata Hoody Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Affordable, lightweight, very breathable, looks good
Cons: Chin a little too tight, not good wind protection, not super warm
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata Hooded is an active insulated mid-layer that uses PrimaLoft Gold Active to provide breathable insulation. It compares favorably in performance to the rest of the same type of jackets made by other manufacturers, with its own unique pros and cons. This jacket is a bit thinner and not quite as warm as some others, but also breathes exceptionally well, making it an excellent choice for high output activities. Like most layers of this nature, it doesn't protect well against the wind. However, it has a comfortable fit that looks good and does all that is asked of it.
The hood and cuffs use thin elastic much like many other hoods found on lightweight jackets that do not have the option of being tightened using drawcords. There is a drawcord on the hem, however, with an internally sewn buckle that is both low profile and easy to release once tightened. The two external hand pockets are both zippered, one of which serves as a stuff sack when turned inside out, and there is also a zippered external chest pocket.
The Kor Strata uses 50g/m2 PrimaLoft Gold Active synthetic insulation to keep one warm. This insulation is designed to stretch and be air permeable to allow for great breathability and simply feels a bit thin compared to some of the other options in this lightweight jacket class. The thinness is backed up by the fact that it's only 50g/m2, which means the insulation itself is less dense than the more common 60 g/m2 used by most competitors, and the light weight of the jacket implies that there are not extra layers stuffed inside to compensate for the lower density.
Simply put, this is not the warmest jacket you can buy, but that shouldn't be the reason you are buying it. It's designed to be worn as a mid-layer while you are moving to generate extra heat, where a super thick insulating layer would actually be detrimental. The elastic around all of the openings is not super tight, but does an okay job of keeping the heat in and the cold out, although the design of the collar leaves the chin exposed and unable to be covered up.
Weight and Compressibility
Our size large test model weighed 13.0 ounces on our independent scale, although on Mountain Hardwear's website, they claim that a size medium should average around 12.8 ounces, which is virtually the same weight. Regardless, this is one of the lighter choices you can make.
It is possible to stuff this jacket into one of its hand pockets, and unlike some others, we found this pretty easy to do, which makes it easy to bring along on climbs or stuff into a smaller daypack. The stuffed package is relatively small, and there is a clip-in loop for attaching it to harnesses.
This jacket is very comfortable, with only one small complaint as it pertains to the fit. We found it to fit great as an active layer, with little extra room that needs to be heated, while also allowing for perfect mobility of the arms and shoulders. Raising our arms overhead or swinging them about didn't cause the sleeves or hem to ride up too high, and we felt no constrictions in the shoulder or armpit regions. Our only complaint is that the top of the main zipper, in the chin and neck area, is too tight. We couldn't tuck out chin behind the collar because there wasn't enough room, but if we zipped it all the way up, then it also pressured the front of our neck.
The feel of the fabrics themselves, made of Pertex Quantum Air, are very soft and nice against the skin. These fabrics stretch easily, ensuring a great mobile fit.
Like all stretch active layers, one shouldn't expect much in terms of wind protection. The PrimaLoft Gold Active is designed specifically to be as air permeable as possible to release the heat and moisture built up when moving and sweating. This also means that wind from the outside can easily pass through the outer face fabric and insulation with no problem. If it is cold and windy, a light windbreaker or other type of shell is needed to stay warm.
We aren't sure whether the Kor Strata has a DWR coating applied to the face fabric or not, but regardless, there is virtually no water repellency beyond the very lightest of drizzles. In our comparative testing using the shower feature on a hose, water didn't bead up and run off like with other jackets, but simply soaked in immediately, thoroughly wetting out the exterior fabric. Of course, one of the significant advantages of synthetic insulation is its ability to trap heat while wet, but by no means should this jacket be substituted for a rain shell.
In our comparative breathability testing, the Kor Strata felt like one of the top scorers, allowing more air to pass through, which aids in the movement of hot, moist air from the inside of the jacket to the outside as quickly as possible.
As we have already mentioned, this jacket is simply thinner than many of its competitors, while using less dense insulation, so we felt like there was less material for air to pass through. When working hard and needing to dump heat, we found it worked great, but conversely, it is extra chilly in a cold wind.
This jacket is made with subdued earth tones and a matt finish fabric that isn't flashy or gaudy like lots of outdoor clothing. There is an extra logo on the wrist that doesn't need to be there, but overall it looks nice, unassuming, and stylish enough for wearing out on the town.
Since we are bestowing our Best Bang for the Buck award, we think it is a solid value purchase. While it's a bit thinner and less warm than some active mid-layers, it has its positive attributes like its low weight and enhanced breathability. Overall, the performance is just as solid as far more expensive competitors, so it makes a great value purchase for the budget-conscious.
The Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata Hooded is a lightweight, highly breathable active mid-layer that looks nice and is versatile for lots of different activities. Perhaps its best attribute is its low price, which makes it the obvious choice for our Best Bang for the Buck award.
— Andy Wellman