Backpacker - - NEWS - $340; 1 lb. 3 oz. (m’s M); m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL;

OUR TAKE We gave a pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this jacket an Ed­i­tors’ Choice award last year for its im­pres­sive stretch and dura­bil­ity, rare qual­i­ties in puffies. The new it­er­a­tion of­fers even more mo­bil­ity, plus the wel­come ad­di­tion of a hood. To achieve the for­mer, Moun­tain Hard­wear ditched hor­i­zon­tal baf­fles in fa­vor of a grid pat­tern; fewer fixed seam points meant even bet­ter free­dom for our backs and arms. “It never lim­ited my pole plants on steep slopes, and thank­fully never rode up; ex­pos­ing my lower back to the bit­ter cold would not have been fun,” says a tester who used the StretchDown as night­fall neared on a ski tour near Crested Butte, Colorado.

THE DE­TAILS Welded seams seal in heat bet­ter than stitched ones, which we ap­pre­ci­ated while wait­ing a half hour for the rest of our group to catch up on a frigid ski tour out­side Jack­son Hole, Wy­oming. The hood fits over a climb­ing hel­met, while re­main­ing snug enough to zip un­der a shell hood. The off­set baf­fle grid pre­vents the 800-fill goose down from bunch­ing up, which helps elim­i­nate cold spots. And al­though the jacket isn’t waterproof (it does have DWR), the hy­dropho­bic down never clumped up when faced with wet snow and mod­er­ate rain. The StretchDown com­presses to can­taloupe size, adding to its take-it-any­where ap­peal.

TRAIL CRED “On a spring hik­ing trip in New Zealand, it sud­denly started to snow heav­ily and the temp dropped into the 20s,” one tester says. “I threw a light­weight shell over this jacket, and even though I was work­ing hard mov­ing up­hill, the knit fab­ric breathed well enough that I stayed in that sweet spot—not too cold, not too hot.”

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