The world can be a cold place. With a little luck, some science, and a cooperative humankind, it may even stay that way a while longer. With the arrival of winter in Colorado coming late this year, we’ve had to seek out high-altitude opportunities to test out cold weather gear. Even Engearment HQ at 7700′ isn’t high enough. We can’t recall a November with more days in the 70s.
It finally did snow this week and temperatures dropped dramatically. With the ground still warm from our unseasonal warmth and a 65° temperature swing, the roads turned to sheets of ice. But, our return to normal, seasonal temperatures means we can finally tell you about our favorite down jacket of the season – Mountain Hardwear’s StretchDown RS Hoody. Check out the video overview and scroll down for the review.
Editor’s Note: The RS has been replaced by the new StretchDown DS. Check out our review to see how Mountain Hardwear changed (and maybe improved) our favorite down hoody.
Mountain Hardwear has three different versions of their StretchDown jackets. The standard StretchDown uses a stretchy, knit polyester for both the inner and outer fabrics. StretchDown Plus uses the same fabric but adds more down for more cozy warmth. Our tester, the StretchDown RS, uses the same stretchy fabric in the liner but features MH’s 15d Ghost Lite ripstop nylon with a DWR treatment.
Inside, you’ll find Q.Shield, 750-fill down. We’re pleased to say that as of this fall, 2016 season, all Mountain Hardwear down apparel adheres to the Responsible Down Standard. MH says the Q.Shield treatment of down lasts the lifetime of the jacket and makes the down (we’re quoting here) “waterproof.” Without proper precipitation to test that claim, we can’t tell you if it’s true. But, the one snowstorm we’ve had was blocked by the DWR. Any water that did get inside didn’t have any effect.
Our large StretchDown RS Hoody weighs in a 15.6 oz (444g). MSRP – StretchDown Jacket – $250 | StretchDown Hoody – $290 | StretchDown Plus Hoody – $320 | StretchDown RS Jacket – $280 | StretchDown RS Hoody – $320.
Also new in the fall 2016 lineup, and shared with MH’s parent, Columbia Sportswear, is the bonded channel construction. Rather than sew baffles to hold the feathers in place, the fabric is bonded together. This elimination of seams keeps you warmer because there are no little holes from which heat can escape. It also makes for a more secure down prison.
Two hand-warmer pockets and one Napoleon pocket round out the storage options, though because the hand pockets are sewn through to the inside of the jacket, they form makeshift drop pockets. The right-hand pocket has a zipper pull on the inside so the StretchDown RS can be packed away inside. The hood is a scuba-style without a drawcord. Elastic hemming cinches it comfortably around your face. The lower drawcord feeds through captive cord locks that live inside the hem. Cuffs share their elasticity with the hood and hug your wrists comfortably to keep the cold out.
This is, without a doubt, our favorite down jacket right now. The StretchDown RS maintains a technical, alpine fit and outer face fabric. But, the inner stretch liner adds just enough flexibility that you never feel wrapped in down-filled plastic wrap. Instead of you sliding around inside the jacket, the StretchDown RS feels like it moves with you.
Not everything about the StretchDown RS is unicorn poop, however. The nature of the stretch lining means it isn’t as slippery as the usual nylon ripstop. Against the skin, this is a blessing. Against a mid or base layer, things can bunch up a bit as you put the hoody on. We also wish for another inch or so in the sleeve length.
Without adding extra weight or sacrificing technical ability, Mountain Hardwear manages to significantly bump the comfort level of the standard down hoody with the StretchDown RS. We have to imagine the standard StretchDown is even more of a down hug. If you’re in the market for a down jacket, this is the one you want to buy this season.