Review: Sierra Designs DriDown Gnar Lite

A high-tech lightweight down jacket that stands up

What magic is this? Down that is dry? Just when you think innovation in outdoor gear has stalled out, along comes new tech like the Sierra Designs Gnar Lite down jacket.

The Gnar Lite uses 800 fill DriDown, which unlike a lot of vendor buzzwords actually means something great: The down feathers are treated with a polymer to make them ten times more water resistant than untreated down. As a result, DriDown retains 170 percent more loft when wet and dries 33 percent faster, according to SD. Other claimed benefits are increased durability and better warmth-to-weight, due to its ability to resist normal background levels of humidity (like your own nasty sweat, you animal).

The treatment doesn't wash out over the normal lifespan of the garment, and it doesn't add any measurable weight. Given the overall wonderfulness of this featured technology, it would have been easy to overlook the other design choices in a jacket, but SD didn't break stride. The Gnar Lite is based on a proven design and is a rockin' jacket in its own right. Weighing just 11 ounces, with three of those ounces being fill weight, the Gnar is a beautiful minimalist light down jacket that is comfortable down into single digit temps.

A polyester ripstop shell houses two zipped hand pockets backed by two open interior stash pockets and an interior zipped chest pocket. The zipper parks in its own little garage to prevent a chafed neck, and there are thumbholes on the cuffs, if you're into that. Even if you're not, the cuffs are cut a bit long and have an elastic opening, which is great both for pulling over and slipping under glove cuffs. There's an internal hem drawcord, and the jacket even comes with its own stuff sack. The sack is redundant, because you'll be wearing the Gnar everywhere; it has that "livable-ness" that almost prevented it from getting reviewed since it so quickly became just the thing that lived on our back. And yes, the colors are just as cool as they look. Highly recommended.

Hits: Water-resistant down in an ultralight jacket you’ll find yourself wearing every day
Misses: Water-resistant, of course, isn't quite the same as waterproof. Damn.
MSRP: $229

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