The rage: the down sweater. The motive: obvious. If you’re on the go in the backcountry, keeping a five-ounce layer of down insulation that compacts to baseball size is smart and costs you almost nothing in heft or space. At twice that weight, the 800-fill Sierra Designs Gnar down hoody won’t squish to quite that small (think softball), but I’ve also found that it’s a lot warmer. No surprise, really: That weight buys you higher loft and greater fill content.
Yes, it’s still viable to go with a down sweater instead, but you’ll almost certainly have to pack at least one extra-warm mid layer to compensate for its lightness, which just might nix the volume and weight gains you were trying to achieve. And what I found with this sweet SD hoody is that I could use it down to near zero with a hard-shell outer and a merino sweater beneath and as long as I stayed active I was exceptionally comfortable.
Along with more weight comes more thoughtful detailing: The Gnar sports three zippered external pockets (handwarmers plus one on the chest) as well as three internal pockets. One of these is big enough to hold a hat, another has a zipper for important valuables. The one downer? The polyester rip-stop face fabric isn’t quite as robust as it could be, so a few snags I got during tree skiing ran long enough for me to need a needle and thread to repair.