The original Stretch Ozonic jacket is a long-time fan favorite in Mountain Hardwear’s selection of shells and rain gear. It’s generally renowned for its light weight, its breathability, and for the soft, stretchy feel of its fabric. Mountain Hardwear recognized the gem they’d created and decided to winterize it: enter the Stretch Ozonic Insulated Jacket. It comes with all the trappings of the original shell, but with added synthetic insulation and a few tweaks. I was keen to test whether it lives up to the original Stretch Ozonic’s strong reputation.
Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Insulated Jacket Features:
- 2.5L stretch ripstop fabric that is super soft and quiet
- Mapped 100g stretch insulation with stretch lining for full freedom of movement
- Adjustable hood with rear cinch
- Underarm zip vents with mesh backing
- Zippered chest pocket, two zippered hand pockets, and an internal drop pocket
- Hook-and-loop adjustable cuffs
- Dual drawcord hem adjustment
- Weight: 1 lb 6 oz
- MSRP: $250
Insulated Raincoat or Winter Jacket?
One of the key strengths of the Stretch Ozonic shell is the fabric, and the Insulated Jacket receives that same 2.5 layer, 50D stretchy ripstop. Out of the box, it defies the norm in raincoats with how soft and pliable it is. The shell material is just incredibly light, and it works the same wonders in the Insulated Jacket as it does in the original shell. The major deviation here is the insulation Mountain Hardwear added in – a 100g insulation designed to stretch alongside the shell. To be brief, it works super well. Both the insulation and the shell work in harmony when I’m wildly gesticulating to my partner that we should get off this windy ridge and into tree cover. The jacket has range of motion in spades.
Beyond its stretchiness, the insulation is quite warm. Paired with a t-shirt, this jacket has become my around-the-town go-to for Bellingham’s 40-degree rainy days. Whether I’m doing some low-output hiking or walking or just standing in the cold, the Stretch Ozonic Insulated Jacket keeps me nice and toasty. When it comes to higher output activities, the jacket proves to be a bit too warm for me. It breathes decently well, aided by mesh-lined pit zips, but the insulation is thick enough to force me down to a base layer when I’m snowshoeing or winter peak-bagging.
When I’m shedding layers, I encounter one of two major drawbacks I see with the Stretch Ozonic Insulated Jacket – packability. The original shell packed down into its own pocket and weighed in at 304 grams. The Insulated Jacket, by comparison, over doubles that weight at 611 grams. There’s plenty of extra material added with that insulation, and it takes up space. When I roll it up to stow it away on big hikes, it’s challenging to negotiate it into my 22 liter daypack – a far cry from own-pocket storage. It is, in fact, so bulky when packed that I’ve taken to strapping it to the outside of my pack.
What’s the other drawback? We’ll get there. First, let’s talk about waterproofing. The shell material beads water well and has yet to let any water soak entirely through. I’ve spent a lot of time out in the rain and snow over the past 3 months while testing the jacket, and the 2.5 layer fabric of the shell has always done its job. It should be noted that the surface layer now saturates fairly quickly after my months of heavy use (looks like I’m due for a DWR refresh). Again, water hasn’t permeated through the shell, but it is more prone to significant surface saturation. At least the water is still on the outside, right?
And yet, I still get wet when I wear the Stretch Ozonic Insulated Jacket on downpour days. That’s the second of the two major drawbacks – osmosis undermines otherwise good waterproofing. While the shell keeps water out, the surface does saturate quickly. That surface saturation pools at the wrists and the hem, eventually creeping up into the insulation on the inside, and slowly spreading upward through the jacket. Admittedly, that inner saturation does take hours of heavy-weather exposure, but this jacket is supposed to be able to deal with just that.
The rest of the jacket’s design is generally good. A zippered chest pocket and two zippered hand pockets provide just the right amount of external storage, while one internal zippered pocket and a large mesh storage pocket cover all the internal storage needs. All the pockets are exactly where I want them to be, but each has a very small and not-so-glove-friendly zipper. It’s not the end of the world, but they can be a little fiddly in the cold. The external hand pockets house the hem’s elastic drawcord ends, each of which is outfitted with a key holder clip. It’s a nice double-feature to get easy key storage and to be able to tighten the hem, all while keeping my hands warm.
Fit: I’m 5’11” and 165 pounds. I tested a size Large, which fit well overall aside from slight boxiness in the torso.
- Excellent stretchiness and mobility
- Soft, thin outer material
- 2.5 layer shell doesn’t allow water permeation
- Insulation is warm enough for use on cold winter days
- The right pockets in the right places
- Doesn’t pack well
- Saturated wrists and hem osmose water up into the insulation
- Small zippers for a cold-weather jacket
The Bottom Line: Stretch Ozonic Insulated Jacket
The Stretch Ozonic Insulated Jacket takes a handful of excellent, tried and true features from Mountain Hardwear’s beloved shell, and throws them into a new equation where they don’t quite fit. Ultralight design is hampered by thick, compression-resistant insulation, and reliable waterproof outer material is undermined by a tendency for water to osmose up the jacket from the saturated edges after long exposure to heavy weather. There’s a lot to like about this jacket, but it has drawbacks. It’s great for around-town use, but not optimized for the alpine.
Buy Now: Available at REI