The Mountain Hardwear Stratus Full Zip takes the challenges of breathability and movement in the outdoors and hits them head-on with a lightweight fleece that uses a heat-trapping grid pattern that breathes well, wicks away sweat, and still retains warmth. This piece works well as a thin athletic fleece during high activity with the fitted hood, thumbholes, and high-mobility raglan sleeves. As a stand-alone garment, it tends toward the thinner side of the fleeces we reviewed, making it less ideal to wear on its own during cold weather. However, as a layering piece, this jacket performs well, fitting and moving well with other jackets making it a great piece to take hiking, climbing, and while out in the backcountry.Editor's Note: On November 14, 2022, we added the Stratus to our lineup.
Mountain Hardwear Stratus Range Full Zip Review
Cons: Thin with little warmth, little leisure wear transition,
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
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|Pros||Athletic fit and performance, breathable, technically proficient||Breathable, lightweight, inexpensive, comfortable for athletics||Lightweight, easy to layer, breathable,||Affordable, cozy, simple||Inexpensive, warm, comfortable|
|Cons||Thin with little warmth, little leisure wear transition,||Average weather resistance||Thin with lower warmth, no hood, few features||Poor layering, bulky, lacks breathability||Bulky, hoodless, poor layering|
|Bottom Line||This highly technical fleece works well during high-intensity outdoor activity by offering performance and breathability||Highly featured and even higher performing, this cost-effective option provides a hard-to-beat value||This simple, breathable fleece acts as a great layering piece at an excellent price||This price-point jacket provides ample warmth and a casual feel||Affordable, comfortable, and functional, this fleece offers the no-frills basics that you'd want in a jacket|
|Rating Categories||Mountain Hardwear S...||Outdoor Research Vi...||Marmot Reactor 2.0||REI Co-op Groundbre...||Columbia Steens Mou...|
|Layering Ability (15%)|
|Weather resistance (10%)|
|Specs||Mountain Hardwear S...||Outdoor Research Vi...||Marmot Reactor 2.0||REI Co-op Groundbre...||Columbia Steens Mou...|
|Measured Weight||13.3 oz||13 oz||10.9 oz||11.6 oz||16.6 oz|
|Main Material||100% polyester||94% polyester, 6% spandex||100% polyester||100% polyester||100% polyester|
|# of Pockets||2||3||3||2||2|
|Unique Features||Raglan sleeves, thumb holes, three-piece fitted hood||Thumb holes, UPF 30, 3-panel hood with binding||Windflap with roll-over chin guard, flatlock seams||Stretch binding at waist and cuffs||None|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Mountain Hardwear Stratus Full Zip became our go-to jacket for climbing, evening hikes, and early morning runs because of its lightweight, well-fitted hood, numerous features, and excellent fit. Our testers loved the jacket's ability to breathe well while running in the Flatirons of Boulder, Colorado, and its mobility while climbing next to the river on steep sport climbs of Button Rock, Colorado. Though it had some minor flaws, the jacket stood up with the top contenders in this review.
The thin Stratus Full Zip works well in its ability to trap heat while active. The grid pattern of the fleece kept our testers warm. The thumbhole cuffs kept the raglan sleeves in place and the well-fitted hood protected our tester's ears from too much wind. The Stratus tends to be a bit light for days when you're stationary in the cold, but during high amounts of activity, it excels, providing consistent warmth.
When the weather turned for the worse, when the temps started to dip, or when they stopped moving as quickly, our testers looked for a heavier fleece or put on a hard shell for further warmth.
The lightweight, grid pattern of the 100% Polyester Stratus feels soft against the skin. The three-piece hood conforms to the head and the textured fleece is hybridized, with a bit of stretch to it, making it move easily. The fleece has a generally close, athletic fit which makes it great for moving.
As with most fleeces, in light rain and mist the Stratus did well, but when the clouds opened up, our testers needed to start running for shelter or put on a hardshell. One tester wore it climbing technical rock terrain at 12,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park; it kept them warm and dry until the afternoon thunderstorms really let loose at which point they quickly became wet. As with most fleeces, if the weather report calls for serious precipitation, it's best to bring a heavier shell.
The breathability of this jacket makes it less than ideal for weather resistance as does its thinness. However, the jacket did fine in comparison with the other models in the review.
The Stratus fell into the lightweight end of the scale for the fleeces we reviewed weighing in at a mere 13.3 ounces for a medium. Even with the hood and the full zip, the jacket achieved a reasonable weight.
This comes in part from the thinness of the grid pattern fleece, which saved a bit of weight. The zippers pulls are quite thin cord, which helped with keeping things streamlined but one tester had problems with the cords coming off of the zippers. Ultimately, the fleece feels like a heavily featured lighter weight model.
This fleece performs well in this category. While trying to climb a difficult sport route next to the river at Button Rock in Lyons, Colorado, our tester stayed warm — without overheating. The grid fleece helped regulate our testers' temperature and allowed them to shed moisture when it became too hot.
A great feature of this jacket is the full-length zipper which allows for more ventilation when needed. If you're skiing or hiking uphill, the jacket can be fully opened without feeling like it will fall off.
For a full zippered hoodie, the Stratus layers exceptionally well. The chest pockets — as well as the two handwarmer pockets — stay well out of the way adding little bulk to the jacket. The thumb loops keep the sleeves in place when putting on another garment and even the three-piece hood fits well under other layers.
The Stratus slides under a harness and our testers were able to comfortably climb in it even with the usual annoyance of a zipper. The jacket stays doesn't ride up despite not having an adjustability at the hem, making it a great piece for stand-alone use or for layering.
Should You Buy the Mountain Hardwear Stratus Full Zip?
Considering its high performance, the Stratus comes at a decent price. Similar to the Patagonia R1 Full Zip but at a fraction of the cost, it offers a premium model with great features — without the high price tag. As one of the more technical pieces in the review, it performs exceptionally well. Our testers were a bit disappointed by the overly thin pull cords, which came off the jacket and one tester had stitching come off at the hem, causing the elasticized waist to detach.
What Other Fleece Jackets Should You Consider?
The Mountain Hardwear Stratus Full Zip is a high-performing fleece offered at a great value. This full zippered hoodie works well when you need something comfortable, breathable, and easy to layer over. While not the warmest or best option in a downpour, it's great for high-demand hiking, backcountry skiing, or climbing. The Outdoor Research Vigor is a similar jacket at a similar price.
— James Lucas
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