Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded Jacket Review

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mhw-stretchdown-jacketDave takes the new top range down jacket from Mountain Hardwear for some winter and rock fun.

A state-of-the-art revelation, the StretchDown™ Hooded Jacket is made with cutting-edge stretch-welded channel construction that traps more warmth than in standard stitched-construction jackets–it works like no insulated jacket we’ve ever made.

 CGR Rating 4

Insulated jackets have to perform a variety of functions for the modern climber – they obviously need to perform in the field, there’s no room in my pack for a jacket that isn’t going to do the trick on long belay sessions. Even the climbing wall can be cold during the winter months – believe me I work in plenty of them! They have to work casually, so they have to look good when the climbing has finished, or when travelling so there’s no use travelling around Europe or the Sates in your huge belay jacket when you need a jacket that will pack easily and feel light on the body and it has to look good après climb when enjoying the beers and telling everyone how much of a hero you’ve been today. So a jacket has to be all these to enjoy a value for money tab.

Enter the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded Jacket (the range also has a non hooded version, but a hood is so versatile), with its welded baffle construction, stretch fabric and hydrophobic down it could certainly fit all of the above criteria easily. Firstly I should say that the StretchDown Hooded Jacket is not a belay jacket, the cut was too athletic for it to go over winter layers and zip up comfortably. I recently used it on a week’s ice climbing in Cogne, Italy. Fortunately the weather was warm enough to use it to just throw on over my layers when gearing up – I wouldn’t have wanted to use it as a proper ‘mothership’ belay jacket on a gnarly Ben Nevis day. Also the hood is not helmet compatible – it works great as a hood to use on a sport climbing belay session or bouldering but it didn’t like going over a helmet and being zipped up.

As I said earlier the fit is athletic, so it is close fitting and the jacket worked best when I had lightweight layers and used the jacket for warmth. The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded Jacket is very warm, I liked the way the jacket hugged my body close without feeling to constrictive – I have tested athletic down jackets that fit tight and feel very restrictive across the lat muscles. The StretchDown jacket didn’t do that, it was a great fit – as long as I didn’t have too many layers on! The fit was good enough for the jacket to fit well with a harness on with little rise on through the waist and I could crank out for those long reaches without the jacket rising through the waist belt. So the jacket is good for climbing in if you need to do that. So although the specs say standard fit – I would say it tends towards the athletic. The stated weight is 519g and the trusty CGR scales weighed the test jacket in at 532g. It did compact down nicely into my pack.

Not quite a belay jacket but OK to throw over everything else when gearing up.
Not quite a belay jacket but OK to throw over everything else when gearing up.

The StretchDown jacket is warm, not only is it packed to the gunnels with 750 fill power hydrophobic down the baffles are welded and not stitched, you can see it clearly in the design. However, the whole jacket is not welded. The hood, sleeves and sides are stitched so a little heat can escape from here. Not that I noticed though, I thought the way the jacket fitted and the welded construction did make a difference – especially when it was windy. There have been reports that the welded seams let warmth out, I would say I didn’t notice that any more that a stitched construction would – as the technology advances I would expect the width of this to decrease.

The stretch knit outer polyester fabric had a nice matt look to it, so refreshing after years of shiny outers! The fabric seemed to stretch better lengthways and has a DWR finish, it shedded melting ice nicely on belays and the odd shower back home in the UK. Again I don’t think it would offer adequate defence against a Point 5 Gully spindrift maelstrom but it was fine for the odd bit of moisture. The Q Shield hydrophobic down also helped keep moisture out. I’ve been testing these types of insulated jackets since they first came out and what I find most useful about hydrophobic down isn’t that it helps keep the jacket dry it’s more it helps dry the jacket out quicker which is important if you are using the jacket day after day on a climbing trip.

The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded jacket has 5 pockets, two handwarmer, one chest and two internal pockets that have been cleverly designed by sewing the bottom of the hardwarmer pockets to the hem.  This low position of both pockets limits there use when wearing a harness but the interior pockets were easily big enough for stuffing gloves, hats and other stuff into when belaying. The chest pocket was well positioned on the left hand side and easily big enough for my phone and the odd energy bar or two as well as my glasses.

Perfect for cold spring bouldering days. The hood was fine for keeping my head warm.
Perfect for cold spring bouldering days. The hood was fine for keeping my head warm.

As stated earlier the hood is not helmet compatible and it also had no adjuster tags so it did tend to flop around a little when it was windy. But for general belaying and mooching around it was fine and warm when deployed. The jacket would benefit from adjusters though so maybe this is something to consider in future updates. Another small issue is that the StretchDown Jacket does not come with a stuffsack or it doesn’t stuff into a pocket so there is no way to take this jacket on a route if you are not using a pack.

So, I have used the jacket as any normal climber would. For winter days out from ice climbing to bouldering. I have used it for socialising and training at the climbing wall and I have found it useful for all those. The fit is great and I like the dynamic stretch of the jacket and it be useful to you in activities such as belaying during the spring and autumn,  general wear around town and the climbing gym.

The Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded Jacket comes in sizes S to XXL and six colour options! There is also a Women’s version that comes in sizes XS to XL and five colour options.



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