First Impressions

Sierra Designs manufactures some of the best technical apparel around. We’ve been particularly impressed with products like the Savage Jacket and Transporter Glove from past reviews. When we heard they took up the challenge of delivering to market some of the first hydrophobic down products, we were excited to put them to the test. The company’s new Gnar Lite jacket arrived with a DriDown logo proudly proclaiming its status as one of the first on the planet to employ this innovation.


The Sierra Designs Gnar Lite employs 800-fill-power down and as the name implies is very light weight at under 11 ounces. Frankly, the product feels more down sweater than jacket. That approach makes the Gnar Lite very versatile, able to act as an exterior layer on milder days and as a layer under a hard shell when extra weather protection is needed.

The Gnar Lite has two exterior handwarmer pockets and three on the interior. Two interior pockets sit low and just behind the handwarmers. They are just large enough to fit a pair of goggles. On the upper left chest, Sierra Designs locates a zippered pocket for securely stowing smaller items.

Fabric: Ripstop polyester
Insulation: DriDown down
Weight: 10.625 oz

A few other nice details round out the package. These include thumb holes at the wrist enabling the sleeves to act as partial gloves. And a small stuff sack is also included. With it, the Gnar Lite can compress down to the size of a softball for easy transport.


Two questions here. First, how did it literally fit? And second, how “fit” is the jacket to the task. In other words, did it live up to expectations. On the first question, the Sierra Designs Gnar Lite was perfect. The men’s medium did the task for my size 40 frame. Fit was closer to the body given the more sweater-like approach Sierra Designs took with this product. Sleeve length was good, with just enough length to make taking advantage of the thumb-hole partial glove easy.

On the second question, the Gnar Lite delivered mixed results. In our lab tests, the product performed on par with the other jackets in the test. The durable water repellent worked well on the exterior of the jacket and we found no penetration of water after 30 minutes of pooling on the exterior. In the real world rainstorm test, results were different. After roughly 10 minutes of exposure, the Gnar Light showed moderate seepage at the seams. It was more pronounced than on either the LL Bean or Brooks Range jackets also tested. But the DriDown never lost its loft and the Gnar Lite continued to keep us warm.

Final Verdict

The Sierra Designs Gnar Lite jacket delivered the best combination of features of all the jackets in our test, with more pockets, lighter weight, and greater versatility – able to work alone or as a mid layer. Waterproofing didn’t quite make it to the same level as others in the test however. That doesn’t seem to be a failing of the DriDown, but rather an issue with construction (seams that pass through from the jacket’s exterior to interior) and the DWR.

Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide. And thanks to Sierra Designs for providing product for this review.