Patagonia Stretch Triolet Jacket
Fabric: 3-ply H2NO Storm w/ H2NO Stretch panels
Price Paid: $379 retail
After using Patagonia's excellent Torre Jacket for a couple years (see my review below) I decided to try the Stretch Triolet to get a lighter, more stuffable jacket. The Patagonia people claim the Triolet is cut off the same pattern blocks as the Torre, and in fact the body fit is very similar. Length just over my butt in back, a bit shorter in front. Room for layers. The same great hood: big enough for a helmeted head, but collapsible for less bulky headwear. The same great reach-across bellows pockets; no matter how many pack straps and slings are strewn about your torso you can still get to the stuff in the pockets. No interior pockets at all.
The H2NO Storm doesn't seem to breathe as well, but it's OK. Certainly waterproof, and the incredible Patagonia DWR turns most moisture away before it gets to the W/B barrier. The face fabric is a taffeta without any reinforcements. It hasn't been heavily used yet, but seems to shrug off ice tool scrapes, dangling ice screws, bushwhacking, and encounters with rocks.
Patagonia has fixed several things I disliked about my (early version) Torre. The foam cordlocks are gone, replaced by an ingenious jamlock device. Low-profile, no moving parts at all, can be adjusted with gloves or mitts on. The new pit zips run better than Patagonia's original water-resistant ones, though they're still not as smooth as Mountain Hardwear's. The pit zips now have a slider at each end, so they can be opened even with a pack on.
So far so good; it's the STRETCH thing, the new Triolet's claim to fame, that fails utterly. The idea was that the stretch panels at the back of each arm and across the torso would allow free arm movement despite gear slings, packs, etc. In fact the Patagonia guys told me they cut the sleeves an inch shorter than those on the Torre because the stretch panels would increase the movement so much that the extra sleeve would be unnecessary. The panels do in fact stretch. If you put the jacket on, grab a sleeve in each hand, and pull your arms forward you can feel the back of the jacket stretch. In fact there's a lot of stretch there. But tighten those sleeve ends, grab your ice tools, and go for that high stick, and the sleeve strips all the fleece off your arm for several inches. I have several theories why this might be happening, but the simple fact is that this jacket does not offer the same freedom of movement the Torre does. Putting a pack on further inhibits the arm movement; so much for the Stretch thing. It's not just me. In the most recent Rock and Ice, Gear Editor Clyde Soles tests a number of shell jackets; he came to the same conclusion about the Stretch Triolet - lousy freedom of movement.
Now Clyde and I both have pretty long arms, and it's possible the current sleeve length will be just fine for those with shorter appendages. It's hard to imagine that the snubbing I felt with a pack on is going to be affected by arm length. The cut just isn't very good for a climber.
Patagonia claims there's nothing else like the Stretch Triolet on the market, for freedom of movement anyway. Unfortunately I can think of a number of jackets I've used that had JUST this sort of freedom of movement - too-short sleeves, lousy reach. In short, not good. It's hard to believe Patagonia's stable of testers doesn't include one ape-armed person who could have warned them about the design's defficiencies. Oh well.... A shell jacket with a lot of potential and some nice features, but try it VERY carefully in the store before you buy it.
Patagonia, if you're listening. More sleeve length please, and a modified cut to the stretch panels so they actually give that easy movement you talk about. If you do this I'll be happy to trade you this one for one that actually works..
Fabric: H2No Storm + Storm stretch
Price Paid: $585 CDN
Cool jacket -- the stretch panels really work and the pocket arrangement is great. As always, the quality from Patagonia is outstanding; great stiching, simplicity, attention to detail. Quite sturdy too -- I recently wore it on a long alpine rock route which involved some off-widthing and arm-barring, and the jacket sustained only minimal abrasion.
Price Paid: about $400
Bombproof, attractive, well made jacket with the usual Patagonia warranty. If it goes bad, send it back! A wonderful product.
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