A Puffy for Stretch Armstrong

Mountain Hardwear's StretchDown hooded jacket is innovative and comfortable

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Details Details

Price: $290

Sizes: XS-XL

Lengths: Center Back Length: 25 in / 64 cm

Materials: Fabric Body: Dynamic-Stretch Knit (polyester)
Insulation: Q.Shield DOWN 750-Fill

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PHOTO: Maggie Kaiserman

When my brother and I were kids we chose our Halloween costumes based on what could fit over a down jacket, mittens, and snow pants. We almost always went trick-or-treating in the snow, and whether I went as a purple Crayola crayon or a turtle or a clown, I walked like a stiff mummy thanks to too many layers.

Layering up to ski can feel the same, and I have often sacrificed warmth for more mobility. It sucks to be cold, but it also sucks to be suffocated and restricted. Mountain Hardwear’s StretchDown hooded jacket doesn’t want you to compromise, so clearly, we want the same things.

When I ski, I move (because lift-line dancing!), and the stretchy polyester fabric plus bonded-channel construction in this jacket keeps me loose. What’s truly unique about this jacket, however, is instead of traditional stitching, the seams are welded together so there is nowhere this jacket doesn’t stretch. You could do yoga on a glacier if you were so inclined—this jacket has the comfort of wearing a well-insulated pair of your favorite leggings.

You could do yoga on a glacier if you were so inclined—this jacket has the comfort of wearing a well-insulated pair of your favorite leggings.

StretchDown is a real innovation, not just a marketing term, which is refreshing. The absence of stitching also eliminates all of the tiny holes that are standard in the usual puffy, which means there is nowhere for heat to escape or feathers to pop out.

With 750-fill Q.Shield Down, this jacket will cook you fast if you take it touring (it’s not the most breathable), but when the wind is howling and you want to be outside, it gets five stars for warmth and and five more for comfort. It saved me when I was in Banff last spring at the Pond Skimming World Cup Championship. The weather that weekend was cold and damp, but in this jacket, I wasn’t.

More versatile than the average down puffy, the Q.Shield Down in this jacket is water-resistant. The fibers are infused with a permanent water repellency that helps maintain insulating performance even when exposed to moisture. When the flakes are really wet and heavy, I layer this puffy under a shell to protect it, but on a misty morning, it does fine riding solo.

The medium is true to size, and flattering in the way it fits my longer torso and even longer arms. And props to Mountain Hardwear for having sizes that run XS-XL. The stretch also helps it fit over curvy hips and bums, which is a plus. Weighing in at just a pound, this jacket packs down small or makes a great airplane pillow. If you don’t want to be easily spotted from 100 yards away, steer clear of the scarlet red colorway, which leans more toward pink, and I happen to love.