User Review: Patagonia Men's Down Sweater
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $118
The Patagonia Down Sweater is a fairly lightweight and highly packable warm layer. The down sweater's relatively roomy fit is great for layering and won't constrain movement. Based on a couple years experience, the jacket is very well made and will last for years with normal care. While it is not the lightest or most full-featured jacket and can be pricy unless you buy on sale, it is one of the more versatile puffy layers around. Highly recommended.
- Good basic features
- There are better ultralight options
- Can be pricey
I have had my Patagonia Down Sweater for a few years. I use it a lot in the spring and fall on cooler days, particularly if I expect to sit still for a while, and as a layer on winter days where i'm not particularly active. It might be the perfect cool/cold night layer for sitting around in.
I love the versatility of this jacket, and it has proved to be surprisingly durable. My size XL weighs 13 ounces on a digital hand scale.
FIT: This jacket has what I think is an average fit in terms of length and girth, but it is clearly designed for layering as opposed to jackets that are trim 'active fit.'
The sleeves are perfect for my height (I'm 5'10"), and the hem falls right around hip length. I can wear a few thin layers or one thick layer underneath—plenty of room for an expedition-weight base layer or a light wool sweater, for example. The jacket isn't very thick, so it fits easily under a shell.
FEATURES: This is a pretty basic jacket, but Patagonia clearly put some thought into the design. The cuffs of the sleeves are not adjustable, they are elastic. Not what I would call an aggressive or hard elastic, though. The hem has an elastic shock cord, adjustable via a single pull on the right side. It has two outside zippered pockets, perfect for keeping your hands warm, and sized to hold small basic things — glove liners, hat, energy bars, compass, etc.
It has one zippered inner pocket made out of stretchy mesh — once again, large enough to hold a few things. the inner pocket also serves as storage — you can stuff the entire jacket into that pocket, so no need for a stuff sack.
The outer pockets and front zipper have pulls that are easy to use with gloves on, and the zippers slide easily, don't snag. The front zipper has a small draft tube backing it, which can help keep out the breeze. Note that the draft tube has a strip of nylon to help avoid snags - very helpful.
HOW IT PERFORMS: One thing I have noticed is that the outer shell is made to last. It may not be the lightest nylon in the world, but it doesn't easily snag or rip. I haven't had to patch it once. The other is that it is treated with some kind of water repellant treatment, because a light drizzle doesn't immediately collapse the insulation. This wouldn't be my choice for a rain jacket, of course.
Because you're wearing two layers of nylon with down insulation in between, this does a pretty good job with wind. it is a sewn-through jacket, no baffles, so in a really healthy breeze, you can feel a little air getting in. [brief explanation - a baffle is a separate piece of fabric in between each 'tube' that contains down insulation. the best high-quality, high-loft down jackets use baffles to increase the loft of the insulation, hence the warmth.
A jacket that is sewn through has no baffles, it merely stitches the inner and outer nylon together, with down in the small 'tubes' created by the stitching. Jackets that are not baffled tend to let some wind through via the seams; baffled jackets tend to create more buffer and are better at keeping wind out, in addition to allowing more loft].
As an insulator, this is a great jacket. It probably has 2-3 ounces of down, 800 fill power. [another brief explanation — there are different qualities of down. 500 fill power down tends to fluff up less than 600 fill, which tends to fluff up less than 700 fill, etc. Down, whatever the fill power, is a very efficient insulator; the fluffier the down, the more warmth per weight of the insulation. 800 fill is pretty high quality; there are some 850 fill jackets out there, and some very high quality jackets even have 900 these days.]
I grab this jacket for any trip where I expect to stop or sit around at night in temperatures roughly 30 degrees or higher, unless i figure it's going to be a really rainy or damp situation. stuffed into its own pocket, it is roughly the size of a small cantaloupe, so that's a lot of cozy, warm nights for such a small package. the loft hasn't waned that i can tell, despite a couple of years of scrunching and stuffing.
[for any down jacket, though, it is important to store it in a way that keeps it in good shape - on a hanger in a dry place, with room to loft. it also helps a lot to clean it occasionally, because wearing a down jacket a lot tends to allow some oils from your body to get into the insulation - which can lessen its effectiveness. i have only washed the jacket once, using dedicated down wash in a front-loading washer on a delicate cycle, extra rinse.]
I live in the mid-Atlantic, where cool weather tends to be confined to November through March, or so. True winter weather is kind of scarce, so this can take me much of the way through winter with a few exceptions. But, even summer nights in the nearby Shenandoah mountains can be cool sometimes.
I use this in a tent at night, while i'm cooking dinner or hanging out by a fire, and I sometimes pull it on while stopping for a healthy break or lunch if i start to feel chilled. For the few winter trips back to my Northeast U.S. roots, I opt for a warmer jacket but still occasionally bring this as a mid-layer.
DURABILITY: Much better than I initially expected. Picking up a jacket like this, I figured it was bound to snag on something, or abrade. it hasn't. Nothing has failed. I credit Patagonia for making this well and expect to use it for years to come.
PRICE: Patagonia products are not cheap if you pay full price. Note the lovely neon yellow shade - I hunted for the lowest price, which turned out to be a website selling a discontinued color. that was the price of my 42% discount. well worth it, in my opinion.
BOTTOM LINE: Not much I would change about this. For more dollars, you can find down sweaters that insulate just as well as this but weigh a few ounces less. Mountain Hardwear's Ghost Whisperer is insanely light yet warm, for a retail price 50% higher.
If you prefer jackets with a more athletic cut, there are better choices: the Eddie Bauer First Ascent down sweater has a trimmer fit, for example. If you're one of those people who always wants a hood, Patagonia makes a hooded down sweater, but I haven't worn it. Overall, I have been very, very happy with this jacket. I don't expect to replace it for a long time, but I would easily buy one again if I had to.