Sierra Designs Women’s Gnar Lite Jacket

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Manufacturer Description

Great for under a shell on colder days or as an outer layer when temps are warmer, the Gnar Lite jacket features 800 fill DriDown hydrophobic down insulation for outstanding warmth in a very light and compressible package that’s designed specifically to fit a woman’s physique. The Gnar Lite was highlighted by Outside magazine as one of the “The 7 Best Multi-Use Jackets of 2013”

Features

  • 800 fill Goose DriDown
  • Shell fabric – 100% polyester ripstop
  • 2 Zipper Hand Pockets
  • 2 Interior Dump Pockets
  • 1 Interior Zippered Pocket
  • Interior Center Front Storm Flap
  • Elasticized Cuff with Thumbhole
  • Lighter Weight Quilt Through
  • Includes Stuff Sack
  • Tested size medium
    • Weight – 287 g (10.1 oz)
    • Center back – 63.8 cm (25.1 in)
    • Pit to pit – 54.5 cm (21.5 in)
    • Sleeve length – 87.3 cm (34.4 in)
  • Retail – $229

YMMV Review

Sierra Designs has been an innovative company in the outdoors since 1965. Sierra Designs has been outfitting athletes on the highest peaks for years. For YMMV Reviews, I have tested a couple of items of theirs with great success. Careful thought-out  designs and quality construction were both evident. Sierra Designs again was new in the market with their latest innovation: DriDown. I first saw it at the Outdoor Retailer show where it was quite the talk of the show. This winter Melissa was able to review it for the site, so while I will be writing the review, it will be all her thoughts conveyed to me.

Front View - Click to See Larger
Front View – Click to See Larger

Testing

Melissa tested the Gnar Lite by wearing it all winter. It did not matter if it was to work, the store, the mountains, or when she was cold, she just liked wearing the jacket. She tested it on some of our hiking trips and made a point to wear it out in the rain and snow just to see how well it worked.

Design ★★★★☆

Appearance (25%) ★★★★☆

Construction (40%) ★★★★☆

Sustainability (10%) ★★★½☆

Weight (25%) ★★★★☆

When looking at the overall design of the Gnar Lite Jacket you would say it looks like many other down jackets on the market. The Gnar Lite uses a baffled construction that has that puffy look you are accustomed to seeing in an insulated jacket.  The outer shell of the jacket is 100% polyester ripstop that is not only lightweight, but will resist tears and abrasion.  Inside the polyester shell, the jacket has used 800-fill goose down insulation.  One of the drawbacks to down insulation has always been that it loses its insulating properties when it gets wet. For this reason, Sierra Designs has come up with a new type of down: DriDown.  While I will get into what makes DriDown special below, if you would like to know more about down in general, take a look at my Knowledge Base article by clicking on the banner.

Down-Article-Banner

Simply put, DriDown is regular down that has been treated with a molecular-level  polymer to create a hydrophobic finish on each individual down plume.  This finish allows DriDown to stay dry longer, loft better, and dry faster than untreated down, keeping you warmer in any environment. According to Sierra Designs testing, DriDown stays dries 10-times longer than untreated down, retains 170% more loft then untreated down when exposed to moisture and humidity, and dries 33% faster than untreated down. Down has always been known to be a superior insulator, but with a fatal flaw.  The DriDown treatment is a molecular-level  polymer; it creates a hydrophobic finish on individual plumes of down.  This polymer finish maintains the integrity of the down and increases the durability without adding discernible weight.

Back View - Click to See Larger
Back View – Click to See Larger

The down used in the Gnar Lite is an 800-fill goose down. This is very high quality and gives the jacket and excellent warmth to weight ratio. It also gives the jacket outstanding compressibility, whether being stuffed in a backpack or used for a pillow. The Gnar Lite Jacket has many features that are found in other down jackets. There are two zippered hand warmer pockets and two interior drop in pockets.  There is one more pocket that is zippered on the interior of the chest. The jacket has a full length front zipper with an interior storm flap behind it.  At the wrists on the Gnar Lite has a simple elastic cuff with a thumbhole for locking the wrist for extra warmth. Around the waist, there is an adjustable bungee for helping the jacket fit the way you want. The Gnar Lite Jacket rates fairly high for sustainability as down insulation is a sustainable source. Yes down is taken off of dead birds, but the birds are used primarily for food so the use of the feathers is more of a byproduct.  The nylon shell of the jacket is not renewable but fortunately that makes up only a small percentage of the jacket.

Fit ★★★★☆

Adjustability (10%) ★★★☆☆

Arm Length (25%) ★★★★☆

Comfort (25%) ★★★★½

Cuff (15%) ★★★★½

Torso Sizing (25%) ★★★½☆

I have been really happy with the fit of the Gnar Lite Jacket. I am normally a medium, and that is what I tested on this jacket. It was not overly tight or loose. I was able to easily layer underneath the jacket on cold days while not swimming in it on day I had a T-shirt underneath. This ended up being my go to jacket for most of the winter due to its excellent fit and comfort. The jacket is so light that it does not feel like you have much on even though it keeps you plenty warm.  At the bottom hem, there is a bungee adjustment that can be used to change the fit. I found that I did not change that very often, it was really a set and forget about feature for me. This is the only adjustment on the jacket, and for me I did not feel like there needed to be any more. I like jackets that have a simpler cuff, and the Gnar Lite has exactly that. The wrist cuff is a simple elastic opening with a thumb loop for those colder days. Of all the jackets I have tested this has the best cuffs to date. I really like the simple low profile opening, and the thumb loops are better due to the fabric that gives it more comfort and prevents air from coming in when not in use.  I like low profile wrists on almost all my jackets, but since this is a midlayer jacket, it makes sense to have one for better layering.

Wrist Cuff - Click to See Larger
Wrist Cuff – Click to See Larger

As I mentioned above the Gnar Lite is lightweight and very soft. On my backpacking trips with JJ, I even used the jacket as my pillow. There are not many hard parts on the jacket so it can be stuffed in your hood for a better night’s sleep.  I tested the black jacket with blue accents and really liked the look of it. It has nice-looking  lines that I think makes it look feminine and classic. With the thumb loops on the wrists, Sierra Designs has given the jacket slightly longer sleeves to accommodate those. For me, the sleeves felt like a perfect length. I had extra room when needed and not too much when wearing normally. The elastic cuff helps keep it in place so it was not very noticeable which I really appreciated.

Thumb Loop - Click to See Larger
Thumb Loop – Click to See Larger

Performance ★★★★☆

Breathability (10%) ★★★½☆

Durability (20%) ★★★½☆

Packability (15%) ★★★★½

Pockets (10%) ★★★½☆

Warmth (25%) ★★★★☆

Weather Resistance (20%) ★★★★½

I was really excited to test out this jacket. Since DriDown is a new technology, I wanted to see what the hype was all about. I definitely put this jacket through the paces. I used it hiking, snowshoeing, and all around town.  Even though Bend is on the drier side, I was still able to test the jacket in some adverse weather. I never totally soaked the jacket but the rain and snow I did get when wearing it never made it feel heavy or damp. I was impressed how the jacket always had that light and fluffy feel even at the end of 4 miles of snowshoeing in wet snow. I do not think water from the outside is the real issue. It is the moisture and humidity generated from the inside that can have a large effect on the down. The nylon shell helped keep water out on its own. In a light rain or snow, the water will bead up on the outside.

Front Zipper - Click to See Larger
Front Zipper – Click to See Larger

What has impressed me most about his jacket is how warm it can be while being so light weight. It feels like you have nothing on, yet it is so warm.  The other thing that is great about the Gnar Lite is how compressible it is.  You got to love down jackets and now since the down is resistant to water it make it much more versatile.  The Gnar Lite has plenty of pockets.  Having hand warmer pockets is a must for me.  My hands get cold easily so I need these to keep them warm. I used the thumb loops from time to time, but it did not always make sense. I did not use the inside pockets as much but having them is nice.

What has been my biggest gripe with down jacket has always been how they lose feathers. If you end up wearing the jacket with nicer clothes, then you do not want to take it off and have a bunch of feathers stuck to your clothes.  Fortunately, this has not been an issue with the Gnar Lite. It has lost maybe only a couple of feathers since I have tested it. This is profoundly better than most other down jackets I have owned. The Gnar Lite has held up well to everything I have thrown at it; it feels very well made.

Bungee Adjuster - Click to See Larger
Bungee Adjuster – Click to See Larger

Overall ★★★★☆

Overall, the Gnar Lite has been one of my favorite jackets I have used. The Gnar Lite is very light but still warm. I get cold easily so having a lightweight down jacket is a must for me. I like how down can be so warm and so light at the same time. What then sets this jacket apart is the DriDown insulation. Now you have a down jacket that you can use in virtually all situations instead of just dry conditions. It is pretty cool. If you are looking for a lightweight down jacket, this one is absolutely worth looking at especially since it much more versatile than a standard down jacket. The Sierra Designs Gnar Lite Jacket retails for $229, and I would definitely recommend it. As always, your mileage may vary.

Pros [field name=iFrame]

  • Lightweight
  • Down is resistant to water
  • Awesome wrist cuffs with thumb loops
  • Does not lose feathers
  • Great warmth to weight ratio

Cons

  • Nothing of note

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Adventures

About the Author

I am JJ’s wife and main training partner. I also do triathlons, hike, and ski with JJ. When possible, I chip in with a review here or there.

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