There’s no denying the superior warmth of natural goose down, but it doesn’t exactly play nice with moisture. A synthetic insulation handles perspiration and precipitation, but doesn’t compress as easily and doesn’t offer the warmth to weight. Enter DriDown, a down treatment process that treats the fibers with a hydrophobic polymer at the molecular level to repel moisture. It stays drier, retains loft better and dries faster than untreated down.
The $279 Super Stratus jacket is at the top of Sierra Designs’ insulating layers, packing 160 grams of 800-fill DriDown. When I saw the photos online I was picturing George Costanza in his Puffy Coat but I was astonished when it arrived and realized how thin and light it is. Weighing in at just over a pound, it can compress to the size of a football in its included stuff sack. It’s also thin enough to layer under a rain shell if it’s really dumping outside.
You’ll find the usual pockets: two handwarmer pockets, an interior chest pocket, and two interior dump pockets—useful for stashing your gloves when you go inside. There are thumb holes at the elastic sleeve cuffs too, to seal off any pesky drafts. Inside the hood is a separate collar, so you can zip it up snug without adjusting the hood. Even the hem has an adjustable draw cord. The main zipper seems to have traded robustness for light weight, so I frequently have a hard time getting it to engage. It can be pretty frustrating with frosty fingers.
Unpacked and adorned, it is remarkably warm. So warm, in fact, that I could rarely wear it while riding a bike. A few trips on the mountian bike with temperatures in the teens left me unzipping things in a hurry. Only when the thermometer hit the single digits and I rode at a casual pace did it find its way into my on-bike ensemble. When things did get a little too hot to handle, the DWR-coated nylon fabric kept much of the moisture off the down, and the DriDown insulation kept me warm. Almost too warm.
The Super Stratus is hardly designed to be cycling gear, but I have been carrying it with me on my winter mountain bike rides as an extra layer just in case. It’s also a wonderful piece to have ready when you get back to the trailhead and you’re ready for a nice goose hug. For touring and bikepacking, it offers a lot of piece of mind and warmth security in a small, packable package. If you’re serious about getting into the outdoors in the winter a good puffy coat is a key piece of gear and I rarely go without the Super Stratus.