Gear Review: Gnar Lite Jacket by Sierra Designs

Feb 5, 2014

Gear Review: Gnar Lite Jacket by Sierra Designs

Water is to down what kryptonite is to Superman. Until now…

Most outdoor enthusiasts know that rain and down don’t mix. Once down gets wet, it loses its ability to insulate, leaving you shivering in a blanket of wet feathers. This is the main reason that it’s recommended to not bring a down sleeping bag or down jacket on a multi-day whitewater rafting trip.

Enter the Gnar Lite Jacket. Named by Outside magazine as one of the Best Multi-Use Jackets of 2013, the Gnar Lite has brought water resistance to down insulation. Using new technology that treats each down plume with a hydrophobic finish, the jacket boasts the ability to keep you warmer and stay drier in wet conditions. In fall and spring time this jacket can be used as an outer layer and in winter time, as an excellent mid-layer under a shell.

Weighing 10 ounces, the jacket is incredibly lightweight and packable, compacting into a stuff sack the size of a Nalgene bottle. Pocket lovers have no fear: There are two zippered hand pockets, a large pocket inside to store things and a small inner zip pocket for your keys/cash. The slim-fit jacket is well tailored to a woman’s body and the arms a suitable length, though the jacket length could be a few inches longer.

A hood would be a welcome addition to the Gnar Lite, and Sierra Designs fixed this in their newer DriDown jackets, the Stratus Jacket and the Stretch DriDown Hoody. Like the Gnar Lite, these jackets are 800 fill down insulation and double as outer and insulating layers as well.

Sierra Design Gnar Lite Jacket

In terms of river trips, the Gnar Lite is an excellent choice to add to your gear stash. I live in the jacket in the mornings and evenings in camp and often stash it in my day bag for a quick layer in calmer waters. Different than other down insulating layers, I don’t sweat it if it gets wet, because I know it’ll still keep me warm and dry out next to the fire quicker than other puffies at night.

No one plans to wear a down jacket in the rain, but sometimes it happens. Maybe it’s an afternoon drizzle in camp, or a quick downpour that has you hiding under the trees. The Gnar Lite jacket gives you just enough wiggle room with weather conditions that it warrants a solid slot on the gear checklist.

What I loved: Thumb loops, inner zip pocket, water-resistant down = happy river guide.

Not so much: Slightly longer in the back. A hood would be an excellent addition. (The Stretch DriDown Hoody is a good alternative with a hood.)

The Gnar Lite Jacket can be bought here on the Sierra Designs website for $229.

 

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Joslin Fritz
Joslin is a river guide, international tour leader and freelance writer. When not on the river or leading a tour abroad, she enjoys playing the ukulele, stand up paddleboarding and perfecting her Moscow Mule recipe. But not all at the same time. She lives (for now) in Seattle. You can learn more about Joslin here.