Patagonia Leashless Jacket
The best hardshell I have owned for backpacking and…
Source: bought via a "pro deal"
Price Paid: Around $200
The best hardshell I have owned for backpacking and climbing.
While there is no such thing as a perfect blend between waterproof and breathable, this jacket comes pretty darn close. The Patagonia Leashless Jacket is designed primarily for hikers and climbers doing high output activities in the worst weather conditions.
I have worn this jacket for a few seasons of use now in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The White Mountains are notorious for having some of the worst weather conditions in the country, so I was excited to put this jacket to the test there when I moved to New Hampshire.
The Leashless Jacket is constructed with three layer Gore-Tex active fabric and comes in a variety of colors and in a small, medium and large. I own the medium size in a green color.
The jacket fits me well, it is a little on the large side, which is helpful when layering a fleece or puffy underneath it. It has adjustments on the hem, velcro cuffs, and three hood adjustments to seal out the weather. The hood is helmet compatible and works equally well with or without a helmet on.
I prefer not to zip the jacket all the way up because it interferes with talking and breathing, but there is a small piece of microfleece on the inside so the zipper doesn't rub against your chin. The sleeves are a bit long, which I find often in Patagonia products. This is not cumbersome however and it allows for a greater range of motion when climbing or scrambling.
The breathability on this jacket is excellent. The Gore-Tex active fabric helps control moisture and the pit-zips are an effective way to rapidly dump heat from inside the jacket and prevent moisture. Even when moisture does accumulate inside the jacket, (which is bound to happen when you are hiking while wearing the jacket, especially in high humidity) it does not get that clammy feel that I have experienced with other jackets.
This jacket is 100% waterproof. This does not mean that you can jump in a river and expect to stay dry, but in any precipitation you are likely to encounter (short of biblical events) it will keep you dry. When paired with a set of rain pants, I feel prepared to tackle any weather. Snow, rain and slush bead right up and roll off for hours.
It is important to maintain the DWR on the outside of the jacket by regularly washing and drying it properly, and it may even be necessary to reapply the DWR after extended use. The jacket is also highly wind resistant. After a midnight summit of Mt. Liberty last weekend, I can attest to that. If you are concerned about being soaked through to the bone on your next climbing trip, this jacket will be your best friend.
This jacket does not have many features. It has two hand pockets which get covered by a hipbelt and harness depending on how you wear it. It also features a Napoleon pocket on the left breast, pit-zips and an interior pocket.
All of the zippers are waterproof, which means they can be a little stubborn when they are new, but all work effectively. The waterproof zippers really do work. Patagonia could do away with the storm flap underneath the main zipper. When compressed, this jacket takes up very little room in a pack, and it can be conveniently stored near the top or on the outside to pull on at the hint of bad weather.
My absolute favorite thing about this jacket is its durability. This is a really important factor to me because my gear sees a lot of use and needs to last me a long time in tough conditions. The outside fabric is burly and very tear-resistant. I have not been too easy with this jacket and it shows very little wear. I don't even stop to check if it ripped after chimneying up Yosemite granite because of how tough it is.
The construction is almost perfect. While tightening the elastic in the hood on a sub-freezing morning in New Hampshire, the little plastic pull-tab popped off the elastic string. I simply tied the strings in a big knot and kept climbing. Considering how durable this jacket is, I expected it to weigh a lot more. It weighs in at around 13oz, which is about average for a hardshell of this caliber.
In conclusion, I think this is an excellent hardshell for all around use backpacking and climbing, and on alpine expeditions. It functions well in a variety of conditions, and most importantly, it is effective at sealing the weather out. I am disappointed to see the pull-tab break on my jacket and will be contacting Patagonia about this.
If you are looking for a lightweight shell for emergency use, I would suggest the Alpine Houdini from Patagonia. It weighs a lot less, but you sacrifice many features and weather protection. This jacket works well as part of a layering system with a baselayer and an insulation piece. If you are expecting wet, windy weather on your next high output adventure, look no further than the Patagonia Leashless Jacket.