For once, I’m actually psyched to “leave it on,” as their ad campaign suggests. For climbers and skiers, the best characteristic of a jacket is not noticing it while it’s on, so you can focus on the task at hand. Then afterwards you realize, oh yeah, I was warm the whole time, but I’m not sweaty. Perfect.
Review by Drew Thayer, Senior Correspondent
banner photo of Brittany Griffith courtesy of Patagonia
I’ve owned a lot of insulated jackets and they all have pros and cons depending on their warmth, wind-blocking properties, bulk, weight, etc…these factors combine to define an optimal use of the jacket. Quite simply, the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody is the most useful lightweight insulation layer I’ve ever had.
Basic run-down: Patagonia designed this jacket to be warm enough to insulate while resting while ALSO breathable enough to be worn during intense activity in cold weather. This is a really hard balance to achieve, but if accomplished its utility in mountain sports, especially alpine climbing, would be unparalleled. Did they do it?
My experience field testing the Nano-Air Hoody in conditions ranging from rock climbs on Devil’s Tower to ice climbing at 13,500 ft on Longs Peak concludes that Patagonia did indeed make a super versatile jacket that accomplishes their goal and simplifies an alpinist’s wardrobe.
Details: Let’s get down into the details that make this jacket so useful. I’ll compare some features to competitive lightweight insulation jackets, the Patagonia Nano Puff and the Arcteryx Atom LT. On the subject of sizing and fit, I’m 5’11”, 155 pounds, even ape index, the tall-and-skinny type.
Fit: Patagonia advertises a “slim fit” vs the “regular fit” of the Nano Puff. For a guy of my stature, this is about perfect for a light jacket: not quite form-fitting, it leaves enough room for under-garments without being boxy like Nano Puff and letting wind gust around inside and effectively erasing the warming effects.
Stretch: The material is really stretchy, more than the Atom LT. It does not restrict gymnastic movement, so while climbing I forget it’s on, in contrast to the Nano Puff which doesn’t stretch.
Hood: They made the hood small enough to seal well with just a hat on, so it’s a bit tight with a helmet, although the stretch allows it to work—I wore the hood over a helmet while ice climbing and didn’t notice any restriction to movement while craning my neck around trying to see through spindrift. For comparison, the Atom LT hood is more of a helmet fit so it can blow off when you’re not wearing one, which happened repeatedly while walking down the blustery streets of El Chalten, Patagonia.
Length: This is a seemingly trivial detail which actually matters to climbers. This jacket is just long enough to stay under a harness with a bit of fussing if long reaches are involved (honestly, when are they not?), but minimal fussing. I didn’t have to re-tuck the whole waist line at every belay, so it scores a B on the length test.
Weight: At 13.6 oz, this jacket is on par with similar lightweight puffys: Arcteryx Atom LT weighs 13.7 oz, Rab Xenon weighs 13.1 oz, and Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody is slightly lighter at 12.6 oz. The Nano Air’s compressibility allows it to easily stuff into a small pack.
Wind/water repellency: The DWR coating repels a light drizzle or wet snow flurry. Its breathability means it’s not very windproof, which allows great heat management while in motion but requires a windbreaker at gusty belays. The synthetic insulation will keep you warm if it gets wet.
Best Uses: The brilliance of the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody is that you can shove it in your pack and be ready for a wide variety of conditions. It can serve as an active layer and light belay jacket in both summer and winter. Add a light windbreaker or raincoat, and this combo will handle basically all conditions except really cold winter climbs when you want a big belay puffy. I wore the Nano-Air Hoody on a gusty day on Devil’s Tower, donning a super-light windbreaker for belays, and I wore it beneath a softshell jacket while mixed climbing on Longs Peak in sub-freezing temps. These days, the Nano- Air is in my pack when I’m out climbing, mountain biking, skiing, or even walking on the beach…that’s the definition of a versatile piece of clothing.
The Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody (Women’s) on backcountry.com
The Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody (Men’s) on backcountry.com
In the vertical world, quality gear is as important as good weather or the right partner. At the Climbing Zine, we review gear that we put to the test in our personal climbing pursuits, over months of use. If we like it we’ll tell you, and if we don’t we’ll tell you. That’s our policy…If you have gear for us to consider for a review please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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