Down jackets are arguably one of the warmest pieces of apparel you can wear, but sometimes they can be pretty difficult to move around in, especially for active winter pursuits like climbing or skiing. To give you more mobility, Mountain Hardwear created stretchy down jackets that are designed to move with you, however crazy the activity.
Most down jackets are made from some form of nylon shell fabric and inner liner that are stitched together to create baffles where the down is stuffed. These baffles keep the down from migrating throughout the jacket in order to deliver even warmth. The problem with both nylon fabric and stitching is that neither are extremely stretchy. If you wear a tight-fitting down jacket, it can be difficult to comfortably raise your arms above your head or out in front of you.
By comparison, Mountain Hardwear’s new Stretchdown line of jackets are made using a combination of stretch material and welded, expanding seams in lieu of the traditional stitched seams. This unique duo makes for a more durable, form-fitting, and extremely comfortable jacket.
The company gave us a Stretchdown Jacket at Outdoor Retailer to wear for the rest of the show and test out over the winter. When we first put them on, all of us started pulling our arms in front of us and reaching over our heads. They really are stretchy and unquestionably comfortable. What I will be curious to see over time, however, is how the somewhat large, welded seams affect the warmth of the jacket–Mountain Hardwear claims this construction is warmer than standard stitching. This makes sense as you are not creating holes in the fabric where heat can escape. But seams in general are notorious for creating cold spots and companies such as Columbia came up with Turbodown Wave to try to get rid of non-insulation covered areas altogether.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown collection will include two jackets for Fall ’16–the Stretchdown Jacket ($250) and the Stretchdown RS Jacket ($280). Both feature the stretch-welded channel construction and are stuffed with 750-fill Q.Shield Down (hydrophobic) insulation. The regular Stretchdown Jacket uses a dynamic stretch knit throughout and weighs on average just over a pound. A bit more weather resistant, the RS version uses a 15D Ghost Lite ripstop nylon face fabric with a dynamic stretch knit lining and weighs on average 14 ounces.
Both jackets come in hooded and non-hooded versions, and are available in a variety of colors. I am digging the “Spruce Blue” color (pictured top) that appears to be popular for next season.