Down jackets aren’t typically known for being the most comfortable jackets around—and for good reason. Their job is, first and foremost, to efficiently trap your warmth. Which is what makes the Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown so unique. The 700-fill down stuffed inside is amply warm on even the chilliest New England days. But when you slip the jacket on, you know it’s different. It’s comfortable, and not even just when you’re standing still. The Stretchdown stretches and moves with you like your favorite hoody—and it has some added benefiits—thanks to some fancy Mountain Hardwear ingenuity.

The Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown looks as good as it feels.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown looks as good as it feels. | Courtesy: Mountain Hardwear

Woven, Not Stitched

What makes the Stretchdown line so unique is how Mountain Hardwear chose to put it together.

Imagine a regular down jacket is like a sandwich: One piece of fabric, a layer of down feathers, and a second piece of fabric. And then in addition to stitching around the edges to keep it all from flying away, there is additional stitching throughout the jacket that keeps the down feathers confined to baffles, instead of it all just falling to the bottom. Baffles are an important part of down, which is a natural feather and doesn’t come in the self-contained sheets that synthetic insulations do.

But the problem with those baffles is that anywhere you had to stick a needle to stitch the two pieces of fabric together, you’ve introduced holes that down feathers can escape from. Thats why when you wake up in the morning, you might see a down feather floating around your tent, or why they’ll occasionally get pulled out of your jacket.

So what if you could attach those to pieces of fabric together and create baffles without a needle? That’s the question Mountain Hardwear asked when they build the Stretchdown. In fact, they went one step further: What if you could sandwich that down in place with only one piece of fabric at all? Believe it or not, the two halves of a Stretchdown jacket—the inside piece of fabric that touches your base layer and the outside piece thats in contact with the elements—are technically the same type of fabric. Rather that taking two pieces of fabric and stitching them together, the brand actually wove them as one single piece of fabric. Everyplace the jacket’s baffles meet, the two layers are actually fused into a single layer, all using the same ultra-durable material.

The Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown is stretchy enough to climb comfortably in.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown is stretchy enough to climb comfortably in. | Courtesy: Mountain Hardwear

Mobility in a Down Jacket? Meet Stretchdown

So what does that mean?

For starters, when you remove stitch holes, you’re removing places where down feathers can escape. Frankly, down is expensive, so the less of it you lose the better.

But the lack of stitching at all those baffles also means the jacket can be made from a stretchier material and can be pulled without compromising the baffles. The result is a down jacket that you can actually move in. Reaching for that upper hold while you’re rock climbing is no problem for a jacket like this. Making big pole plants while skiing or even biking in the jacket is comfortably thanks to the dramatically-increased mobility the fancy baffle tech offers.

It’s also a boon to durability. Mountain Hardwear can get away with using a beefy 20-denier face fabric that once again shows its metal while rock climbing: Working around coarse granite wont do nearly the damage here as it would with the more delicate fabrics we typically see in down jackets—When the jacket snags, it stretches, rather than tears.

Our goEast testers lauded the Stretchdown, obviously for things like fall rock climbing, but also for cold weather ice climbs and ski tours, car camping trips, as well as just grabbing a beer in town. The combination of durability and comfort made it our go-to any time we actually wanted to move.