Sierra Designs throws a few curves in its new down jacket, the Gnar, available in hooded and naked, and in men's and women's. We tested the naked men's version; the fit looks to be different on the women's, which has a much more contoured look. The Gnar is a lightweight 11.7oz 800 fill down jacket with a down-proof nylon DWR ripstop shell. That's easy enough. The curves it throws are in both the fit and the features.
The fit is boxy in the torso for a medium. This is not necessarily a bad thing unless you're looking for a trim fit for stand-alone or inside layering use. If you're the kind of knuckle-dragger who throws his down on over his shell, or if you've got a barrel-chest appropriate to growing up at Machu Piccu, you'll appreciate the extra room in the torso. The sleeves are cut long for another curve: thumb-holes, common in fleece layers but a first in our experience on a down piece. Again, neither good nor bad: if you like thumb-holes (we do) or you just like a little extra length in the sleeves you'll really appreciate it. The elastic cuffs and adjustable hem keep the drafts and powder out, and a full-length zipper flap and garage make a nice little nest for your chin. One quibble: the zipper pulls are teeny-tiny, almost unusable with anything thicker than liner gloves, so you'll need to tie off a cord pull of some kind because it's not included.
Both hand pockets are zipped as is the external chest pocket, which could use a cord port. The inside pocket arrangement is a bit peculiar: each side has a 6in wide by 8in deep pocket toward the front next to a narrow 2.5in wide pocket toward the rear. The narrow pocket is not really useful; anything you drop into it disappears and has to be pushed back up from the bottom. Except for numchucks, which stick out the top perfectly. On the left inside only is a single zippered stretchy mesh pocket on the inside of the large and small open pockets, spanning both. It would have been better to simply have this useful – and zippable – mesh pocket on both sides, and just ditch the open pockets.
That said, inside pockets are unusual and appreciated in a lightweight down piece like this. If you must have the pockets, and the sizing works out for your body type, you'll find the lofty and highly-compressible Gnar delivers on what it's supposed to do: keep you warm without taking over your pack.