It can be hard to keep up with the latest outerwear trends. From fit to functionality, puffies, baselayers and hardshells undergo small design tweaks every year and we are here to help you parse out the gear that best fits your backcountry needs.
For our 2017 Apparel Guide, we focus on the timeless and the trending. These are classics that we know and love, alongside the best in new materials, styles and tech. For our next installment of the Apparel Guide online, we introduce puffies, some with new tech, others with a cozy familiarity.
Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded
$290 – mountainhardwear.com
Mountain Hardwear takes a new approach to puffies with their StretchDown technology, prioritizing range of motion alongside warmth with their stretch-welded channel construction. In layman’s terms, that means Mountain Hardwear employs an inner and outer stretch fabric—as opposed to most puffies’ less elastic, ripstop materials—for a more forgiving and comfortable coat.
The proprietary polyester material is then welded into compartments. By ditching the stitches, Mountain Hardwear aims to increase the coat’s warmth (stitching creates holes in a jacket, after all), and the welding accommodates more flex than do traditional stitches. Those compartments are filled with Q.Shield Down, Mountain Hardwear’s name for fibers that are treated to be water-repellent and retain loft even after exposure to the elements.
As a result, say goodbye to Michelin-man fit. The StretchDown is form-fitted without feeling skintight, and between the fabric and the welded seams, it accommodates everything from pole plants to après dance moves. Plus, the two front pockets are roomy enough to hold skins and a PB&J, and a chest pocket stores the inevitable odds and ends.
Bottom Line: The StretchDown Jacket is warm and comfortable and is revolutionizing the world of puffies.
Marmot’s Astrum, built with breathable synthetic insulation, is designed to be used not just as a layer to throw on for transitions, but to be worn on the skintrack, descents and everywhere in between.
Features: The Astrum’s light, nylon outer shell and breathable inner fabric both compliment Marmot’s proprietary Thermal R Active insulation. That proprietary, synthetic fill is made of hollow fibers that wick away sweat and keep the jacket’s weight light.
Fit: Marmot pegs this as an active fit, in contrast to the souped-up puffies of yesteryear.
Bottom Line: It’s warmer than a midlayer, but lighter and more breathable than a traditional puffy.
Scott Insuloft Explorair
The Achilles’ heel of down insulation is precipitation, but Scott’s trying to change just that with the water-resistant down of their Explorair Puffy, all while maintaining the cut of a classic insulated jacket.
Features: Scott fills their Explorair with natural down that’s woven—not quilted—into cell-like construction to keep the jacket lofty and stop down migration. The down is also treated with a water–resistant coating, dubbed Allied Resist-Down, to stay drier for longer periods of time, and, should it get wet, dry more quickly.
Fit: Scott’s Explorair is made with an athletic fit, sitting loosely, but not baggy through the midsection and shoulders.
Bottom Line: Between the water-resistant down and bonded seams, the Explorair feels like a cloud—a warm, dry cloud.
Montbell Plasma 1000 Puffy
When Montbell introduced their Plasma 1000 Puffy in 2013, they quickly became the standard bearer for lightweight and warm down insulation. Like the name suggests, this jacket relies on 1,000-fill insulation, as opposed to most companies’ 500- or 700-fill approach.
Features: The sheer amount of down in the Plasma 1000 is this jacket’s most noteworthy accomplishment, and this jacket’s ability to scrunch down into about the size of a softball is notable, too. Montbell keeps feather quality high, as well, using large amounts of small, fine feathers to hit their 1,000-quota.
Fit: Montbell is a Japanese brand, and the sizing reflects it. Big-boned Americans should consider ordering a size up.
Bottom Line: The Plasma 1000 changed the limits of puffies, creating a lightweight, high-quality, packable option for those who run cold.