Patagonia have something of a reputation when it comes to creating cult classics, and the Nano Puff is one of them. This jacket, which combined synthetic fill and a lightweight synthetic outer, became immediately popular all over the world, not least in Britain where its ability to stay warm when wet mattered one hell of a lot more than in the colder/drier climates of North America and Europe. However, Patagonia are innovators both in terms of product specs and environmental credentials, so here comes the Micro Puff Hoody, which could be considered to be the next stage of development being lighter, warmer, and more packable. Sounds great, but how does it perform in use?
Firstly there is no denying that this is a light jacket, that much is obvious from the moment you pick it up. At 258g on my scales it is - and I do not exaggerate here - barely noticeable; as such it's an obvious choice for summer alpinists looking for lightweight warmth or trad climbers after a super light spring/summer belay jacket to keep the chill away. In terms of my own use, I put the jacket to the test throughout three weeks bouldering in Bishop, where temperatures frequently plummeted below zero, but equally could get over twenty in the sun (it's a weird environment…). The rough rock also put the lightweight fabric to the test, but after three weeks no scrapes or scratches were to be found. That said, this is not a jacket you are buying for the durability and I suspect part of the reason for the lack of damage was simply luck: one less lucky moment could clearly have torn a reasonable chunk out of it (but that's what patches are for, isn't it??).
Material-wise the Micro Puff features tried and tested Pertex Quantum alongside their new synthetic PlumaFill insulation, which attempts to replicate the structure of down (something that a great many brands seem to be doing, or at least claiming, at the moment). This continuous fabric goes throughout the whole jacket with a minimalist stitch pattern to keep it in place, thus avoiding cold spots or too much additional weight. However the big question is actually how warm is it? To answer that without a lab test is quite difficult, but anecdotally I'd say it's pretty damn warm for such a light jacket. One thing to remember though is that even by having a windproof layer a whole lot of warmth is already added, but there's no doubt that the extra layer of insulation adds a whole lot more. I was frequently out in sub-zero temperatures, and using the Micro Puff with just a baselayer and fleece midlayer I was rarely (if ever) cold.
The whole design is based on a minimalist ethos. The cuffs and hem are both elastic to keep them snug, with no other frills such as draw cords to keep them tight(er) than they might otherwise be. This system appears to work well, with everything being kept nice and snug. Dare I say it, but I tend not to use cords around the hem too much anyway, as when tightened they tend to make the garment rise up to your midriff, which is really annoying - particularly in winter. Another nice feature is the glove and/or climbing shoe slots on either side, and the reversible pocket, which acts as a stuff sack. These features are great in terms of functionality, but could easily have been missed out for reasons of headline weight saving. The jacket is all the better for including them.
If the Micro Puff is let down in any department it is in the fit, which I find a little boxy. This is so particularly around the chest area where it tends to bag out a little, particularly when the arms are lifted, or when seated. This definitely means a low score when it came to climbing, because the ruffling really is quite noticeable, not to mention annoying. This came as something as a surprise, because whilst I'm aware this is designed as a super light belay style jacket (i.e. one to be worn while stationary) it would have been obvious to have made it suitable for active use too, because - lets's face it - that tends to be how most people use stuff. If you're cold on a belay, you're probably not going to take it off before climbing - you're going to keep it on in an effort to warm up.
However, the skeleton in the cupboard with the Micro Puff is the price tag of £250. I guess if this was a heavier jacket you might have an easier time getting your head around this, but seeing as it costs in pounds almost as much as it weighs in grams it does take a bit of time to swallow, especially as there are similar (albeit heavier) jackets available at a fraction of the price (eg. my old Mountain Equipment Kinesis Jacket does something similar, weighs 325g, and cost £150). Still, if weight is paramount, you can get it to fit, or you just like new/shiny kit, then the Micro Puff has a hell of a lot going for it.
On my recent Bishop trip the Micro Puff was the jacket I kept reaching for, not least because its weight meant I had no excuse not to pack it, and the fact that once on it is very comfortable indeed. Despite its minimalist nature there's a good number of useful features, but overall the jacket is really let down by its cut, which could easily have been better - particularly considering the price tag. That said, for those who find it does fit, or for those specifically looking to reduce weight, it really is a lovely piece of kit.
n.b. please note that the colour reviewed will not be available until Autumn/Winter'18, in the meanwhile you've got a selection of others to choose from - visit the Patagonia website for more details
The best warmth for weight jacket we've ever built, the Micro Puff® Hoody delivers ultralightweight, water-resistant, down-like warmth with PlumaFill synthetic insulation—a revolutionary featherlight down alternative.
- Price: £250
- Sizes: XS - XXL (men) XXS - XL (women)
- Shell and lining: 0.7-oz 10-denier 100% nylon ripstop Pertex Quantum® with a DWR (durable waterproof repellent) finish.
- Insulation: 65g PlumaFill 100% polyester
- Ultralight nylon ripstop Pertex Quantum® shell is water-resistant, windproof and treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish
- Revolutionary PlumaFill insulation replicates the structure of down in a continuous synthetic insulation material, offering the warmth and packability of down but with the warm-when-wet performance of synthetic insulation
- Innovative quilting construction complements the insulation by stabilizing and maximizing the loft of the PlumaFill strands with minimal stitching
- Center-front zipper has wicking interior storm flap and zipper garage at chin for next-to-skin comfort
- Two welted zippered handwarmer pockets; left pocket doubles as a stuffsack with a reinforced carabiner clip-in loop
- Under-the-helmet hood construction is light and simple
- Elasticized cuffs and hem seal in warmth
For more info see patagonia.com