REI Stratocloud Hoodie Review
Cons: Poor wind and rain protection.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Stratocloud Hoodie is as close as we came to testing a classic down sweater in this category. For many, this style of jacket is the epitome of a winter jacket. The puffy look, the light fabrics, and the outdoorsy fit combine to represent this classic style.
There are warmer jackets in our test, and there are less insulating pieces. In the grand scheme of things, the REI sits just below the mid-point of warmth for the products we tested. It is best compared, in many ways, to the Columbia Gold 650 Turbodown. The REI is slightly warmer, and does so with a blend of down and synthetic insulations. The Columbia is exclusively down insulation; its insulating power, therefore, will likely last a little better, but the REI jacket starts warmer.
Aside from a durable water repellant coating and the inclusion of some amount of synthetic insulation, the Stratocloud makes no claims of water proofness nor of great weather protection. This style of down sweater is mainly regarded as an insulating piece, requiring a separate shell for truly abysmal wind and precipitation. Sure enough, in a wet and windy early season ski outing, we got wet through the REI jacket. Fully waterproof jackets like the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun or Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka are better choices for wet and windy weather.
We refer to this style of jacket as a down sweater. And, true to the term, the Stratocloud is like being wrapped in a light puffy, soft knit sweater. It is assuredly the most comfortable jacket in our entire review.
The counterpoint to comfort, in this case, is features. The simplicity of the Stratocloud makes it comfy. But it suffers in terms of features. The cuffs are simple stretch affairs, the pocket selection is effective but minimal, and there is no draft skirt nor separating zipper. The hood is simple and clean, with no frills. Something like the Mountain Hardwear Therminator, checking every one of the features on our list, is far more robust in this category. The Stratocloud is just insulation packaged for human wear.
The Stratocloud is decidedly an athlete's look. It taps into an outdoorsy fashion base. At this point in history, this look is fairly widely accepted, but it still is a little out of place in the most formal of settings. For big city, business and formal wear, something like the Arc'teryx Camosun or Fjallraven Greenland are less obtrusive.
Like they did with the feature set, REI compromised durability to get comfort. The super light fabrics are vulnerable to tearing and abrasion. The ultra beefy Canada Goose Expedition Parka, with rugged fabrics and full down insulation, will last years and years beyond the Stratocloud.
This is an excellent mid-weight insulating layer or a great mild-conditions winter jacket. For windy, wet, and deep cold, something else is more appropriate. Also, in those more adverse conditions, one can layer over the Stratocloud with something from our Hardshell Jacket Review.
REI's products are widely available, well-made, and backed by an excellent warranty. The price of the Stratocloud is gentle, but consumers should understand the limitations we outlined above.
The REI Stratocloud is built as an insulating layer that can be pressed into all-around use. Things like the Marmot Fordham or Arc'teryx Fission SV are more all-purpose winter jackets, but the REI fills an important niche.
— Jediah Porter