Sierra Designs Whitney DriDown Hoodie
$169, 14 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
Sierra Designs Sierra DriDown Jacket
$159, 12 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
The best, three-season down and synthetic insulated jackets stand out for high-quality construction and materials—which translates to abundant warmth per ounce, low weight, and excellent packability. They also range from over $200 to nearly $400, and while worth every dollar, those prices put them out of reach for some consumers. What do you do? More-affordable puffy jackets generally have lower-quality insulation. That’s why the Sierra Designs Whitney Hoodie and Sierra Jacket, stuffed with 800-fill, water-resistant DriDown, look so enticing. My field testing found some flaws but still demonstrated why they’re a good value. Read on.
I wore the Whitney Hoodie—which is simply the hooded version of the Sierra DriDown Jacket, both of which come in men’s and women’s sizes—on numerous spring evenings and mornings camping in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve. I saw very windy conditions that created a wind chill in the low 40s Fahrenheit, and wore the hoodie in rain showers one morning. A friend wore it on cool evenings camping on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim and Esplanade on a four-day May backpacking trip on the the Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop, and in camps on a six-day bikepacking trip in May in Arizona, with a couple of mornings around freezing.
Most unique for moderately priced puffy jackets, SD’s Whitney Hoodie and Sierra Jacket are stuffed with 800-fill DriDown insulation. Its water-resistant down feathers repel moisture well enough to essentially postpone the usual loss of loft and warmth that occurs when standard down gets wet—even the various forms of water-resistant down will get soaked eventually if rained on enough. The Whitney’s shell got quite wet during about two hours of light but steady showers in camp at the City of Rocks, but I stayed dry inside it and noticed no compromise in the jacket’s warmth or loft.
Both jackets have features you’d find in pricier models: two zippered hand pockets, a zippered chest pocket, and an internal kangaroo pocket, and they stuff into the left zippered hand pocket, creating the ancillary benefit of a large, soft backpacking pillow. If squished inside a pack, it compresses to about the size of a cantaloupe. A note about the weight: My men’s medium Whitney Hoodie weighs 14 ounces on my scale, significantly less than the given weight of nearly 18.7 ounces at SD’s website. SD also lists the Sierra Jacket as 1.7 ounces lighter than the Whitney, which is why I give its weight above as 12.3 ounces.
One of the nicest design features is the sleeve cuffs, which have an elasticized inner cuff within the external, puffy sleeve, sort of like an internal gaiter on snow pants: The inner cuff seals snugly around the wrist, completely blocking out cold air. The hoodie’s and jacket’s construction is high quality, with baffles that prevent the down from migrating, an adjustable hem to seal out drafts, and a reasonably durable 40-denier polyester nylon shell.
The Whitney and Sierra differ only in that the former has an elasticized, helmet-compatible hood—which is the focus of my one complaint about the Whitney: Why isn’t the hood adjustable? Sure, that would increase the price, but it’s a nicely insulated, high-volume hood designed to accommodate a helmet; without a helmet on, the hood doesn’t fit closely around your head, and it certainly doesn’t turn with your head. A strong gust blows the hood off. The collar also does not fit closely around the neck, even with the jacket fully zipped, allowing cold air to creep in. SD explained to me via email: “Elastic hems and high, zippable collar seal in the warmth, it keeps the design simpler, and the fitted hood helps to accommodate helmets.” But the hood isn’t sufficiently elasticized to create a close fit on the head and bring the collar in tighter.
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If you’re a climber and need an affordable, water-resistant, packable down jacket primarily for wearing a helmet while climbing, or if you’re wearing the hood over a warm hat and thus filling up the hood volume so that it fits better, the Whitney’s a good value. For backpackers and others, get the Sierra DriDown Jacket and just pack a warm hat.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a Sierra Designs men’s Whitney DriDown Hoodie at Moosejaw.com, or a Sierra Designs women’s Whitney DriDown Hoodie at Moosejaw.com, or the men’s or women’s at sierradesigns.com; or SD’s hoodless version of the Whitney, the men’s Sierra Dridown Jacket at Moosejaw.com, or the women’s Sierra Dridown Jacket at Moosejaw.com, or the men’s or women’s at sierradesigns.com.
See my “Review: The 10 Best Down Jackets” and my blog post, “Ask Me: How Can You Tell How Warm a Down Jacket Is?,” and all of my reviews of insulated jackets and outdoor apparel that I like at The Big Outside.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.