As Sierra Designs continues to celebrate their 50th anniversary, the list of new and creative products from the 2014-2015 season is getting longer and longer. I’ve had one of their DriDown Hoodies in for review and it’s a thoughtful take on the classic down jacket.
Sierra Designs DriDown Hoody Features:
- 20D ripstop nylon fabric exterior
- Light PU coating for water/wind resistance
- 800-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: $199
Innovation meets conservatism
The hallmark of the DriDown Hoody is its careful balance between innovation and conservatism; in many respects, the familiar outline of a simple down sweater or hoody asks for no improvement. A down jacket with clean horizontal baffles, two pockets, a main zipper and a hood has something of a right in and of itself; tinkering with this design is just as likely to destroy its classic elements as it is to improve on anything.
So, when Sierra Designs began marketing a down hoody in the year of their 50th anniversary, I suspected that I might find something quite special coming from a company with a deep heritage and an unusually excellent design team. The result, of course, is the DriDown Hoody that is the subject of this review. It retains many, many classic elements, namely its toothy front zipper and zippered pockets, conservative baffle design and relaxed fit. From its first use, the hoody felt like an old and familiar favorite and, now that it smells like smoke and sweat, its mystique is even more keenly felt.
Although it certainly feels like a classic, Sierra Designs carefully chose a few elements to improve over a classic hoody. The most obvious 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 doesn’t an excellent job of sealing out drafts and drifts when on a snowy peak.
At the other end of the hoody are two tidy thumb holes in the ends of each sleeve. These thumb holes are sealed over with a remarkably soft, stretchy fabric which do nothing to encumber freedom of motion – I’m typing this with my thumbs in them right now, actually. It’s a wonderful, unobtrusive feature that adds a little luxury to the experience.
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 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.
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.
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. However, 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.
I would not call this an especially warm down jacket – I’m comfortable in it and a light baselayer down to the low 40’s, but I quickly needed other layers when the temps dipped into the mid to high 30’s. This balances out the tremendous insulating power of their Baffled Parka and it makes the Hoody suitable for active pursuits.
For reference, I am 5’11” and weigh 185lbs. The Medium that I tested fit me well.
- Thoughtful changes to a classic design
- 800-fill DriDown continues to impress for loft, warmth and wet-weather performance
- Thumb holes are particularly well done
- Innovative hood fits well, lies down neatly when not being worn, and can be used as a protective collar
- Very packable – just 12oz and fold into its own pocket
- Zippers are durable and rarely snag
- The elasticized waist is not my favorite design
- Hood is not helmet compatible
The Bottom Line: Sierra Designs DriDown Hoody
The DriDown Hoody is an admirable contribution to the world of down garments. I’ve always appreciated Sierra Design’s down products and their newest ones continue to be worth their salt. Sierra Designs has generated high expectations and they continue to come through.
Buy Now: Buy at SierraDesigns.com