Sierra Designs recently upgraded their DriDown Hoody to ‘Elite’ status with the addition of 850-fill hydrophobic goosedown. It’s a warm, lightweight puffy for the functional minimalists out there.

Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Hoody Features:

  • 20D ripstop nylon fabric lining, polyester/nylon blend face fabric
  • Light PU coating for water/wind resistance
  • 850-fill hydrophobic DriDown insulation
  • Insulated storm flap with anti-snag construction
  • Zippered handwarmer pockets
  • Elasticized cuffs with thumb holes
  • Packs into reversible hand pocket
  • Hood interior has a soft stretch liner
  • Price: $249
Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Hoody

Fending off snowflakes and sleet

Get into the 850-fill down game

You couldn’t quite call Sierra Designs’ design philosophy minimalist; all of the features of a normal puffy jacket are here, but they’ve been re-imagined to get rid of some of the chronic complaints. So, for example, instead of a clever hem adjustment system, they’ve removed those parts and have simply elasticized the waistband. There are no ‘hard’ parts anywhere in the jacket, except for the zippers. That means less items to break, but does it also mean decreased performance?

Of the many reimagined features, the most interesting is the hood, which has no adjustments but is specially tailored to fit closely around the lip of the face.  This is aided in part by a soft, stretchy panel of fabric at the forehead of the jacket that feels gentle against the skin.  If you’re not interested in wearing the hood, it can also be folded down into a rather unsightly protective collar that does an excellent job of creating a seal around your neck.

Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Hoody

The collar seals against the neck quite well

At the other end of the hoody are two tiny thumb holes in the ends of each sleeve.  These thumb holes are sealed over with a soft, stretchy fabric which do nothing to encumber freedom of motion – the important part here is that the thumb holes automatically seal up when you’re not using them, so you won’t get any drafts coming through above the cuff of the sleeve.

One of Sierra Designs’ biggest contributions to the industry was its popularization of hydrophobic down.  We tested one of their earliest DriDown jackets and have been pleased with the stuff ever since.  DriDown, as almost everyone now knows, is harder to get wet and tends to dry more quickly than untreated down.\

Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Hoody

Thumbholes, anyone?

Sierra Designs chose to supplement this with the addition of a light polyurethane layer, which adds something to the wind and water resistance of the jacket.  It didn’t affect the feel of the jacket, but theoretically it also may have decreased breathability a tad. Really though, does anyone care about the breathability of down garments? With the rise of active insulators in the last couple of years, I only use down puffies for sedentary activities are just sitting around campsites while backpacking.

A thoughtful touch which is easy to overlook is the fact that the Hoody has angled baffles down the underarms of the jacket.  The main source of heat loss in a jacket like this is through the stitched-down areas between baffles that don’t have any insulation.  By angling the baffles, Sierra Designs created a longer uninsulated stretch which allows heat to escape under the arms where you don’t want it.

Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Hoody

There’s the magic word

The one feature which I am not fond of is the hoody’s elasticized waist.  This is a part of Sierra Design’s mission to eliminate plastic toggles and shock cord from their down garments and it certainly has some advantages.  It’s simple and can never break, and it does well underneath a harness. You will likely want to use this beneath some sort of shell with a normal shock cord hem keeper if you’re climbing, though.

The cut of the Hoody is quite long and I’ve found that that waistband likes to rise up and sit precisely on top of my butt, where it bunches up the front of the jacket into voluminous folds.  I can always yank it back down, of course, but soon it creeps up again.  I would almost prefer having no elastic or shock cord at the hem at all; or, perhaps they could add some silicone grippers to the waist band to keep it in place.

Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Hoody

I was pleased with the packed size

The final claimed weight of the Elite puffy is a measly 12.5oz, which I think is for a Medium jacket. This has been reduced over previous versions thanks to the wonderfully light 850-fill goose down that now fills the baffles. Since you can stuff the jacket into the right pocket, that makes for a competitively priced, highly packable, fully-featured down jacket. It’s not as light as, say, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, but the 20D and 30D fabrics in the Sierra Designs offering are many times more durable. This is a lightweight puffy that’s in it for the longhaul.

For reference, I am 5’11” and weigh 185lbs.  The Large that I tested was too large for me overall.

The Good

  • Very light, highly compressible and water-resistant
  • Packs into its own pocket quite small
  • Hood fits well
  • No plastic parts to break
  • Thumb holes are especially well-designed

The Bad

  • Fit is quite large overall
  • Elasticized waistband isn’t quite as effective as a shock cord hem

The Bottom Line: Sierra Designs Elite DriDown Hoody

Sierra Designs’ Elite DriDown Hoody is one of the most competitively priced ways to get into 850-fill down. It’s a relatively warm, highly compressible jacket with something of an odd fit. I recommend trying it on in the store or else ordering two sizes, but if it fits you then you’ll have a piece that you rarely want to take off.

Buy now: Available from SierraDesigns.com

About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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