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Stretch Puffy: Mountain Hardwear DS Hooded Review

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Stretch it! A new construction method adds stretch and makes this 2017/18 Mountain Hardwear jacket unlike anything on the market.

Mountain Hardwear StretchDown DS Hooded Jacket review
With scant stitching throughout, the StretchDown DS Hooded is more dynamic than most jackets built for cold

The color scheme on my Mountain Hardwear puffy turned heads. Its pod-pattern construction brought questions from people used to more of a Michelin Man look in the category of uber-insulated winter coats.

New this winter, the StretchDown DS Hooded Jacket is something different. It has no logo, and many times, in the city and on the trail, people asked, “What is that jacket?” Its knit polyester body is stuffed with 800-fill down, though not in a traditional baffled design.

Mountain Hardwear has an entire line of outerwear with stretch-based down construction. This jacket actually uses the technique for warmth and (as a bonus) it adds an aesthetic flare; the DS Hooded Jacket ($340) looks like nothing I have seen before.

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Review: Mountain Hardwear StretchDown DS Hooded Jacket

Beyond looks, it is warm and fits well. The hood hugs tight, and it turns with the head despite no adjustments. Mountain Hardwear is a top outerwear maker, and the company knows how to build a jacket that has technical attributes but is also comfortable for everyday use.

I’ve been living in this jacket all month. The insulation, which is a Nikwax Hydrophobic Down categorized under Responsible Down Standard (RDS) protocol, can provide warmth in weather down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re standing around. And you can push that temp much lower if you’re on the move with just a single layer or two underneath.

It’s a beefier build than the brand’s popular Ghost Whisperer (which is a GearJunkie staff favorite). The feel is different, with the StretchDown DS more substantial and made to be a primary outer piece. It will serve as a layer only in the most extreme circumstances where wind howls, spindrift flies, and you need to batten down the hatches and pull on a big shell.

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But most wearers will never consider the StretchDown DS anything less than a final buffer against cold. It’s highly water-resistant with a DWR treatment, and wind bounces off the face. That said, there are no closures at the wrist cuffs and no collar adjustment. And, as noted, the hood frames the face but does not cinch tight, letting some air inside if you’re not wearing a hat and a neck gaiter underneath.

Construction: Stretch-Weld Down Jacket

On the DS Hooded, the company touts the stretch-welded channel construction traps more warmth than standard stitching. I would agree, depending on their definition of “standard.”

There are certainly down jackets as warm as the DS Hooded, though the welded design does prove efficient for climbing and all-around winter use.

Mountain Hardwear StretchDown DS Hooded Jacket review
‘Welded’ fabric creates a geometric pattern to hold insulating down

It’s an original construction, with pods of down patterned in a strange geometry. Stitch-less, flat-fabric welds dice it up, giving definition and symmetry while also holding the goose feathers in place.

There are fewer stitches throughout the jacket than most anything comparable. This gives a clean look and, I assume, an efficiency in manufacturing not present in a traditional sewn-baffled design.

StretchDown Jacket: Details

Its namesake stretch is noticeable, though not a primary reason to buy. Because there is so little stitching, the outer fabric stretches as you move; pull it taut, and you feel the give.

In action, the dynamic nature is present, though it’s only a small upgrade from normal, “non-stretchy” coats. In other words, it’s a nice feature, but one I never really knew I needed until it was there.

Mountain Hardwear StretchDown DS Hooded Jacket review
Size small (women’s) StretchDown DS Hooded

Overall features are few on this Mountain Hardwear model. No pit zips are included, but there’s a bungee at the hem to cinch the jacket on your waist. Pockets come generously, including three zipped and two big, open internal stow pouches where I toss gloves and a hat when I heat up.

I wore a size medium, and it weighs about 19 ounces. That’s average-to-light for a jacket with this warmth. It doesn’t pack as small as some of my down puffies. But roll the DS Hooded up and you get a stowed piece that’s smaller than a football and easily stashable in a pack.

A note on fit: Sizing runs perhaps a bit off on this jacket; I am 6-foot-1 (185 pounds) and found the size medium to be almost a perfect fit. Its wrist cuffs were positioned right, and the hem sat right at my waist.

I would not want this jacket any larger. I recommend buying down jackets that hug close to the body. Dead space inside gives more air to heat, and the jacket is less effective. The medium DS Hooded fit me just right in this area, mapping close to my torso without feeling tight.

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Overall, I like this jacket and recommend it to anyone looking for a do-all insulated puffy. It will serve a climber or a skier, though the design lacks technical facets for either of those sports. Instead, look to the DS Hooded to keep you warm this winter across activities, and to look good along the way.

–The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown DS Hooded Jacket comes in men’s and women’s. Both cost $340 MSRP.

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