Staying warm in the winter is far less biology and much more science. Well designed gear can transform a desolate winter hiding underneath the sheets into a wonderful season of exploration and comfort. The Elite DriDown Parka was built from the ground up with that in mind.
Drawing much of it’s inspiration from the sensational Mobile Mummy sleeping bags from Sierra Designs, the Elite Parka has a large fluffy hood, generous fill and a form fitting shape that eliminates the need for cinches and zippers as adjustments. In fact, the only adjustment at all is a central zipper that runs the length of the chest. There are two external hand pockets along with two large interior pockets, one of which functions as a self-stuff sack for compressibility and for working double duty as a substantial camp pillow. The waist, wrists and hood all have a comfortably sewn in elastic band to mold to the body and trap heat inside. Being a parka, the jacket runs longer than most, extending past the waist, covering part of the back side for extra protection. The jacket is built from a blend of 88% nylon and 12% polyester rip-stop with a light DWR PU coating for water resistance. The Fill is DriDown, which makes it further impervious to the elements, as it resists wetting out and going flat like traditional down fill. Generously packed with high fill power 850 duck DriDown, the jacket weighs in at 19 oz. It’s available now in a variety of colors and retails for $349.
What I liked
The Elite Parka is a feathery furnace indeed. Almost the entirety of the weight of the jacket is the high quality, ultra-light fill and baffles. Slowly walking on a flat trail during a snow storm in the low teens, I began to notice my chest building up moisture from sweat. I was wearing but a single synthetic t-shirt underneath. It’s that warm. Never before have I wore a jacket that provided such incredible insulation. Strong winds, ice, snow and humidity appear to be non-existent when this mobile volcano is wrapped around my body. Excellent for frigid temps, the cold natured, or simply hanging around camp in the dead of winter. I cannot find a way to get cold inside this jacket, short of jumping haphazardly into a half frozen river.
At 19 ounces, it’s quite light for it’s performance level. While there are certainly lighter options on the market, few will provide the stern, stubborn resistance to the elements that this jacket provides.
Not only is the jacket warm, it’s impressively comfortable as well. Adjustments on the jacket are practically non-existent, simply because the jacket doesn’t need them. Instead of relying on cinching and Velcro tabs to make the jacket jacket fit, good design is applied instead. The hood rolls in on itself, creating a tucked in blanket sensation that stays in place and naturally contours itself to fit the head. The soft wrist cuffs gently snug around the wrists, but happily expand to fit most gloves and mitts, and multiple elastic bands in the waist softly but reliably pull the jacket around the body to hold it close, blocking breezes and preventing heat loss. The overall shape is elegantly designed to follow the body in a natural way, while still allowing room for layers underneath (should you somehow need them). This all comes together to create a feel that’s gentle, unobtrusive, and enjoyable experience.
The hood converts into something of a built in, highly protective scarf. Excellent for venting the head while protecting my overly sensitive neck.
It packs down fairly small into a ball of around 8″ in diameter. It also makes a pretty solid pillow.
What I didn’t like
While the fit is impressive, I do occasionally like to let out the waist of my jackets for a little extra wiggle room and venting. That’s not an option here, but I never actually found myself missing it while wearing it in the unforgiving cold of winter.
$350 puts the Elite Parka right where it says it does, with the elite. You’ll certainly get what you pay for though.
The fit runs on the athletic side. I found the medium to be accurate to it’s size (and to their sizing chart). If you like a baggier fit around the hips, you may consider sizing up. I did, however, find the sizing was ample for layering up without needing to step up to a large. Overall, I’m quite happy with how it fits.
Sticking it to winter has never felt so good. The lavish amount of fill paired with deep baffles paired with the air trapping design produces one of the warmest jackets that I’ve ever tested. I simply cannot, and probably wont, find the lower limit of this jacket in Tennessee (where I’ve tested it). It’s light weight, comfortable, and also looks fantastic. If you’re determined, or desperate, to stay warm, this is certainly a solid option, and I cannot recommend it enough.
The highest of recommendations
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For more information on Sierra Designs and their Elite DriDown Parka, check out http://www.sierradesigns.com/
I wanted to send a special thanks out for Sierra Designs for their extended support and for providing this excellent piece of equipment to review. We couldn’t do this without their help. Thank you so much! Our full disclosure can be found on the about me/contact page.