I spent three weeks in Iceland last winter, climbing up in the Westfjords and touring around the southern part of the island. Iceland is one of the windiest places I have ever visited, with a damp, cold, biting wind that cuts right to your core. I brought my Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Jacket with me and ended up wearing it pretty much 24 hours a day.
In normal down jacket construction, the baffle seams are stitched. This creates tiny channels for all that warm air you have built up to escape, creating cold spots. Brands have tried numerous ways to get around this, but Mountain Hardwear settled on a new, bonded-channel construction. This construction not only traps in the warmth, but it also gives the jacket a ton of stretch (thread doesn’t stretch but fabric does) and more durability as it is less prone to blow out than threaded seams.
I was originally worried that as there is no down between or behind the bonded seams, that wind would cut right through. To my surprise, this was not the case. When climbing, I paired it with the Black Diamond First Light Hoody and threw on the StretchDown Jacket for belaying or for when it was cold enough I needed an extra layer to climb — the stretch in the jacket made it super comfortable to climb in. For all other days, I never took the jacket off.
The jacket is stuffed with 750-fill water resistant Q.Shield Down so I never worried if it snowed or water poured down a climb. You get two zippered hand pockets and two internal, deep, stretch pockets for stuffing your second set of gloves or your sunglasses. Elastic cuffs and a high neck help keep the cold from getting inside your jacket.
The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Jacket retails for $250 and is available now. The StretchDown Jackets come in an RS version ($280) as well — the main difference is the use of a lighter and a bit more technical 15D Ghost Lite Risptop face fabric. Both also come in Hooded versions ($290-$320).