Hydrophobic down – aka water-resistant down – there wasn’t a category more interesting to us at GearGuide this season. Manufacturers developed products with this capability in two main classes. Chief among them was the sleeping bag, and down sweater or jacket. Frankly, given the hype in the category, we expected to see more jackets unveiled than we ultimately found. Only a few companies had them available, and they were not all from the usual suspects. Here are three:
Brooks-Range Mojave Jacket – Made in the U.S.A. by mountaineering-focused Brooks-Range, the Mojave delivers top-end water resistance and features like a hood and adjustable cuffs unavailable on other products. See review.
L.L. Bean Ultralight 850 Jacket – At a bargain price of $179, you can’t go wrong with this product. The Ultralight 850 Jacket is well constructed and has a traditional outerwear cut, large enough for a base and mid layer underneath. See review.
Sierra Designs Gnar Light Jacket – More sweater than jacket, the Gnar Lite was indeed the lightest in our test. Although the DriDown delivered as promised, the jacket’s construction lend it more to use as a mid layer instead of outerwear. See review.
Sure, you could take these jackets to the car wash for a test. But we didn’t think that was an accurate reflection of the real world use of these jackets, so we took a different approach.
The Lab Test – First, we set the jackets side by side along with a control product – an Eddie Bauer Downlight Hoodie with standard down. We poured water on each jacket to check the durable water repellent (DWR), and then created a baseball sized depression in the jackets’ exteriors allowing the water to pool, set the timer and waited. After 10 minutes, we found no penetration of water on any of the jackets. We then agitated the jackets to simulate wear (and paid special attention to the seams). Again all jackets, including our control product, showed no visible signs of water penetration.
The Real-World Test – Our second test was conducted in the real world, in real rainstorms. That test showed different results. In moderate rain all three hydrophobic down jackets showed some water penetration at the baffle seams. The DWR and down did a reasonable job of containing that leakage, but it was still evident. That seepage was particularly pronounced on the Sierra Designs Gnar Lite which allowed water to penetrate to the interior of the jacket after about 10 minutes of exposure. With both the Brooks Range and L.L. Bean jackets however, water did not penetrate into the insides of those jackets.