Review: Sierra Designs DriDown Hoody
In the realm of outdoor gear, synthetic insulation has come a long way over the past two decades. Unfortunately, its warmth to weight ratio remains steep. Down, made from the plumage of geese (premium, lightest) or duck (denser, lower cost), is without a doubt the more desirable solution. Ounce for ounce, it’s lighter, warmer, and more compressible and resilient. These are all things that make it a more desirable insulation for gear used on long-haul adventures.
Down does, however, have a few limitations. It’s costly, especially really fine down from mature geese, which is typically labor intensively hand gathered. Unlike synthetic insulation, which traps heat when it gets wet, duck and goose down insulation both quickly turn gear into a heavy burden that’s nearly impossible to dry without a clothes dryer. Until recently, this has led many to make a Faustian Bargain, favoring the convenience of synthetic fill over comfort, and shorter-life over long-term investment.
Waterproof down, or more accurately “hydrophobic” down will soon change that. Sierra Design pioneered the breakthrough product they call DriDown,™ discovering a way to make the natural insulation hydrophobic by applying a “molecular level polymer” to individual down plumes.
Sierra Designs doesn’t just “waterproof” their down. Design elements and technical fabrics help ensure that DriDown jackets retain 98% of their loft—and therefore 98% of the thermal efficiency. The shell of this super lightweight, 11-ounce, 800-fill DriDown jacket is finished on the inside with a light, vapor-shield PU coating that gives this jacket major integrity, shedding wind and rain, or snow. This membrane has also the ability to transfer any moisture or condensation in the insulation to the exterior of the jacket where it can evaporate. It actually does a nice of job it—fast and effectively.
Design and Aesthetics ★★★★★
I love my Sierra Designs Gnar jacket more than any other outerwear I own. I have worn it over a light wool top while hiking the Cascades, used it as a pillow in the Grand Canyon (stuffed into its silky carry sack), and worn it as a layer under a waterproof/windproof shell while snowshoeing and as a sweater on cold days when my furnace is in conservation-mode. My only complaint is its color—an impossible-to-keep-clean-while-backpacking white. Still. I love it. But I finally found a reason to replace it: the DriDown Hoody, a nearly identical design with DriDown and a wicking shell.
Other key design innovations brought over from the Gnar: The insulated hand pockets (one of which reverses and converts into a jacket storage pod) are zippered; Elasticized cuffs with sealed stretch thumb ports self-seal when not in use. The women’s version drapes the body with a bit of a curve to offer a more feminine look when worn over layers, eliminating the typical puffy-coat-Michelin-Man look; The men’s has a regular tapered cut.
As the industry leader, Sierra Design worked with third party testers, including SGS North America, Inc., California Down and Feather Testing Laboratory, and International Down and Feather Testing Laboratory to establish test procedures to help set industry standards for comparing the performance of various hydrophobic down insulations. You can learn more at http://www.idfl.com/downfeather/
The 20D Polyester Ripstop fabric exterior provides zero air permeability from the outside without sacrificing a silky, ultra-lightweight feel. This is coupled with an insulated storm flap to block wind and moisture.
This jacket is built to last, not only the DriDown fill, but the materials used to build it. There’s no corner cutting anywhere. Sierra Designs offers a lifetime warranty, which guarantees that the materials and workmanship in all their products stand up to the use for which it was designed. Exclusions include improper care, accidents or the natural breakdown of materials over extended use and time. All defective or damaged products are evaluated and then repaired or replaced at the company’s discretion. Damages due to accident or improper care will be repaired at a reasonable rate.
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