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I’ve had a Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Jacket for a number of years. And while I’ve loved it (the stretch is impressive and transforms the comfort of a puffy jacket), I’ve had a hard time finding its niche, outside of an everyday to-and-from the car jacket. The stretch woven nylon and elastane face fabric is bulky, and combined with the amount of down in the jacket, it’s tough to get it to pack much smaller than a volleyball.
When Mountain Hardwear expanded the Stretchdown lineup to include a range of weights, cuts, and pants, I was excited to get my hands on the “Light” pullover version. While it uses the same face fabric as before, it uses slightly less 700-fill down (and gets rid of half the zipper), positioning it perfectly as a jacket just warm enough for active shoulder season missions, but small enough (now we’re talking football-sized) to make the packing cut. It’s not a warm enough jacket for alpine ski tours in the dead of winter, but blustery fall day hikes in the San Juans, cool summer backpacking trips, or inbounds ski descents at Telluride after a sweaty uphill workout are ideal for this puffy. It saw most of its mileage, for me, between 50° (if I’m not working too hard) and right below the freezing mark (if I’m moving).
It does layer easily over a fleece, but if you’re not an anorak evangelist like I am, it might take some getting used to, though the stretch makes it incredibly easy to slip over your head. A stretchy, fully-insulated hood slips over a helmet, and the single, fleece-lined pocket in the front was a cozy respite for my hands on cooler-than-expected fall mornings.
All that, and it still has enough stretch that you can shadow box without the jacket’s hem pulling up from under your backpack’s hip belt. With this jacket on, Telluride lap transitions have me feeling like Rocky.
Buy Now; $240