“I don’t need it,” she said in the aisle of the Bailey’s Crossroads REI. “Believe me, you’re gonna want it,” I said. “But I already have fleece jackets and Capilene shirts, and they’ll keep me warm,” she said. “I’m telling you, when you’re done hiking at altitude for the day, and the temp drops when the sun goes down and the wind kicks up, you’re gonna really appreciate it,” I took the jacket off the hanger and pressed it into her hands. “I really love mine and wouldn’t leave home without it.” “OK,” she relented. “My motto is ‘I’m worth it and you are too’,” I smiled.
Three weeks later at 11,600 feet, we sat on the rocks outside the guide’s hut in the lower saddle of the Grand Teton as the sun dropped over the Idaho horizon. Turning her gaze East toward the Teton Glacier, she said, “Holy shit, I love this puffy coat.” “Yeah, me too,” I said as I zipped up my jacket against the chill. “Comfy, right?” “Puffy jacket, I love you,” she said.
Full disclosure: I love Patagonia. I love them as a company, love their products, love their customer service, and love their iron-clad warranty. I’ve been using their mountaineering gear since 1994 and have been a life-long customer. Are they pricey? Yep. Do they deserve the rep of being called Pata-gucci? Nope. Do they build high-performance, durable, and reliable backcountry clothing? Absolutely.
One of my go-to insulating layers for almost every backcountry trip I take is the Patagonia Nano Puff jacket. Patagonia first introduced the Nano Puff around 2010, and it’s been a staple of their lightweight synthetic jacket line for more than a decade. Here’s why it just might become your most essential piece of backcountry gear.
I’ve bought several variants of the Nano Puff jackets and vests over the years, and there’s not much to unbox. Either you’ll pull it off a hanger in-store, or get it in a postal mail envelope if you order it online. Either way you get it, you’ll be adding a versatile, packable, and warm layer to your outdoor wardrobe.
How we tested the Patagonia Nano Puff jacket
Over the past six years, I’ve taken my Nano Puff jacket on all but the warmest weather trips. Yes, I’ll even pack a light warming layer in the summer. I’ve been caught in downpours before in July where the temp plummets from the high 90s to the mid 60s, and was grateful to have something warm and dry to retreat to. I’ve worn the Nano Puff on cold, windy mornings while climbing in the Tetons in August; I’ve worn it layered up and hunkered down in my sleeping bag in 3 degree Fahrenheit weather in the winter in Pennsylvania; and I’ve worn it walking the streets of New York City in the early spring. Both in the city and in the field, the Nano Puff has been a favorite when I’ve needed a warm, wind-proof jacket that’s also water-resistant.
What we like about the Patagonia Nano Puff jacket
First off, I like the Nano Puff for its warmth. Patagonia uses 60 grams of PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco in the Nano Puff, and both the shell of the jacket and the lining are made from 100 percent recycled polyester. The cool thing about PrimaLoft Gold is that it mimics the properties of down insulation, but, unlike down, will insulate even when wet. What’s even better about PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco is that it’s made from 55 percent post-consumer recycled content — rerouting millions of plastic bottles intended for landfills to new service as jacket filler that retains 98 percent of its warmth when wet. Insulation in clothing is all about trapping warm air between windproof layers, and the Nano Puff has enough fluff to do the job.
Second, I like the cut and feel of the jacket. Patagonia tailors the Nano Puff for athletic builds, so the jacket is loose enough to move around, doesn’t rise up when raising your arms overhead, and is tailored in the right spots to eliminate unnecessary material and bulging. Plus, the lining is soft to the touch and feels like you’re sliding into a silk smoking jacket. The shell has a cool-looking brick running bond stitching pattern and is made from rip-stop polyester with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish. DWR is a special coating that weather-proofs garments by forcing water to bead up and roll off the fabric, keeping the wearer dry and preventing the insulating material from becoming sodden and compacted. An additional advantage of DWR is that the jacket will slide under other layers like a hard or soft shell jacket.
Third, the Nano Puff is ridiculously packable. The PrimaLoft Gold is super compressible, and the entire jacket can be stuffed into the zippered chest pocket — which, by the way, comes with a handy loop for clipping to a climbing harness with a carabiner. It’s also light, weighing in at 337 grams (11.9 ounces).
Fourth, Patagonia paid attention to the small details. The front zipper has a wind flap and zipper “garage” at the top that keeps the zipper pull from abrading the wearer’s neck. The Nano Puff has a zippered hand-warmer pocket on each side. The sleeve cuffs have elastic gatherings, and the bottom hem has an adjustable drawcord hem to help keep the wind out and the warmth in. I very much appreciate zippered pockets outdoors — especially at night — as they help keep pocket items in place and prevent them from falling out.
What we don’t like about the Patagonia Nano Puff jacket
I’ve thought long and hard about this and find very little to dislike about the Nano Puff. The jacket is a mature product that has been in production for over a decade, and Patagonia has made incremental improvements over the years in its design and throughout the jacket’s supply chain and fabrication with an eye towards sustainability and lowering its environmental impact. Like all lightweight insulating jackets, care must be taken around campfires. The shell fabric is durable, but it is thin and doesn’t get along well with airborne embers. A few small holes will add to the jacket’s patina over time and larger holes can be patched. The other thing to note is that I typically don’t wear the Nano Puff while on the move, favoring the Patagonia R1 hoody for physical exertion in cold weather. It’s best, in my opinion, for wear when you’re resting or finished moving for the day and need additional insulation to stay warm.
The Patagonia Nano Puff is a winner among lightweight insulating jackets with near perfect balancing of warmth, water and wind repellency, and packability. Patagonia’s designers did a great job in creating a synthetic jacket that mimics the best properties of down insulation, in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way. I highly recommend this jacket for backcountry backpacking, climbing, ski touring, and hanging out in Manhattan.
FAQs about the Patagonia Nano Puff jacket
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Patagonia Nano Puff jacket cost?
A. The MSRP price is $199.99, but you can find it for less online, and I’ve seen Patagonia sell them at season’s end for $149.99 and elsewhere online for $99.99. Also, Patagonia now sells previously worn clothing both online and in their stores under their Worn Wear label, and you can pick up some sweet deals at bargain prices there.
Q. Does Patagonia offer other variants of the Nano Puff jacket?
Q. What’s the big deal about recycled fabric and insulation?
A. Synthetic fibers are plastic, and plastic is essentially whipped up petroleum. Recycling polyesters, like cleaning, cutting up, and respinning plastic bottles, reduces the use of virgin petroleum-based products and extends their lifecycle. It essentially turns our trash into clothes we can wear and reduces greenhouse gas emissions in fabrication.
Q. I heard down is great. Is synthetic insulation material better?
A. Down is a great insulator and has been for many years, but if it gets wet and it’s cold outside, and you’re a long way from home, you can be royally screwed. Hypothermia is no picnic. When down gets wet, its insulation clumps up and loses loft, and thus its ability to keep you warm. Down is best in cold and dry weather. It also takes a long time to dry. Synthetic insulation tends to be bulkier than down, but is very water-resistant and will keep you warm even if it gets wet. It also generally costs less than down. Also, down is harvested from geese and ducks, so that can be a factor in your decision-making process.
Q. Is Patagonia’s Ironclad legit?
A. Short answer: Yes. Long answer: I bought an early generation Super Alpine mountaineering jacket from Patagonia before climbing Longs Peak in Colorado in the winter of 1994. I wore that jacket for 20 years. Eventually, the seam tape wore out and the jacket was no longer waterproof. Patagonia is famous for repairing their products, so I sent it in asking for them to re-seal the seams. They no longer used the same seam-sealing technology original to that jacket, so they kept the jacket and sent me a gift card to replace it. I was blown away. So, are they pricey? Yep. Do you get what you pay for? Yep. Do they stand by their products? One hundred percent.
Got questions? Comment below & talk with T&P’s editors
Joe Plenzler is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1995 to 2015. He is a backcountry expert, long-distance backpacker, rock climber, kayaker, cyclist, wannabe mountaineer, and the world’s OK-est guitar player. He supports his outdoor addiction by working as a human communication consultant, teaching at the College of Southern Maryland, and helping start-up companies with their public relations and marketing efforts.
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