Patagonia Retro Pile Vest

rated 4.50 of 5 stars (1)
photo: Patagonia Retro Pile Vest fleece vest

Specs

Men's
Price MSRP: $119.00
Current Retail: $89.73-$119.00
Historic Range: $58.83-$119.00
Weight 363 g / 12.8 oz
Body 8.7-oz Polartec 100% recycled polyester double-sided solid shearling
Pocket bags 3.5-oz 100% polyester warp-knit brushed mesh
Women's
Price MSRP: $119.00
Current Retail: $88.73-$119.00
Historic Range: $58.83-$119.00
Weight 306 g / 10.8 oz
Body 8.7-oz Polartec 100% recycled polyester double-sided solid shearling
Pocket bags 3.5-oz 100% polyester warp-knit brushed mesh

Reviews

A versatile insulator. From cutting the chill on a spring day to augmenting core warmth on really cold ones, this soft, comfortable fleece does the job. Don't expect it to stop any wind, as even a mild breeze runs right through this, unless you wear it under a shell. Brand new, it sheds until you wash or tumble dry it, and durability/pilling could be a longer-term issue.

Pros

  • Soft feel
  • Warm
  • Versatility
  • Details—pockets and hang loop

Cons

  • Initial shedding
  • Nearly no wind resistance
  • Pilling

retro.pngOVERVIEW

I had been eyeing the Retro Pile Jacket when I received this as a gift. Mine is size XL and weighs 14.4 ounces on an electronic scale. As the photo shows, three pockets—two large lower ones, one smaller one at the chest. All, including the front zipper, are large-tooth YKK zippers with sewn-on nylon pulls. If looking like sheep doesn't suit you, it's also available in a number of other colors. Whereas the Retro Pile Jacket reportedly has a more athletic fit, the vest is true to size, generously sized actually, so it's easy to wear over the heaviest base layers I own. The fabric is quite stretchy. It's hip length; the collar zips up nicely and isn't tight; it's also not a very tall collar.


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The feel of this fleece is a major plus. It's super-soft. I folded it a few times and used it very effectively as a pillow on international flights. I find myself wearing it on colder days because it just feels nice/cozy to put on.  

That softness could also be a disadvantage in one respect—brand-new, it sheds. It left white fuzzies on the seatbelt of my car and my office chair. I expect, with a lot of use, that it will pill in spots, though that may be difficult to spot because this is already a rumpled-looking, informal texture, as opposed to a smooth-faced fleece. One run through the washer and 10 minutes tumbled in the dryer (I damp-dry fleece to avoid wrecking it from too much heat, then hang them to dry the rest of the way) took care of most of the shedding.


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INSULATING VALUE

This depends a lot on what else you are wearing and the weather you're in. The fuzzy exterior is exactly like the interior, with no windproof layer bonded to it. (it's fundamentally different than Patagonia's Retro-X Jacket or Vest, both of which have wind blocking membranes bonded to the interior). Notably, while it does a nice job trapping air under a shell, it is not as thick as I expected—not as thick as Patagonia's now-ancient reverse pile fleece, for example.

Air runs through this easily, meaning that in a stiff breeze, it provides very limited warmth. If it's not windy, though, or if you wear this under a jacket or shell, it's quite warm. That is why I say it's a highly versatile layer—I have worn it in the high 50s over a golf shirt on a family vacation in Israel and over a warm base layer and under a shell in low 20s and a stiff northeasterly wind...and everything in between.


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MOISTURE HANDLING

Another real strength of this vest is the way it handles rain and sweat. I wore this under a Gore tex shell during a couple of days of drenching rain, doing quite a bit of walking, and the loose weave of the fleece did a really nice job letting perspiration escape outward and limiting internal dampness. In one instance where I got caught in the rain without a shell, and the vest got nearly soaked, I got under a protected doorway, shook most of the water out, and put it back on—and it maintained most or all of its insulating value. Most fleece layers do that, but this is easy to shake a lot of the moisture out.

HOW I HAVE USED IT

I have worn this a lot over the past several weeks. Many chllly mornings over a base layer without a shell; over a short or long-sleeved base layer and under a wind shell or waterproof/breathable shell; at the office, around the house, walking the dog, trekking through airports with a 90-liter duffel on my back, on long international flights, sitting and standing at a December college soccer game under a fleece jacket.  

TAKEAWAYS

This layer performs similarly to Patagonia's Nano-Air in many respects—providing warmth, breathability, great moisture-wicking capability, and the ability to help navigate a very wide temperature range. Think of it as a less-technical and much less expensive alternative to that, with a very different look and feel. I'm going to have to try on the jacket someday. A new favorite, for sure.

Experience

See above: several weeks of extensive wear in a variety of temperatures and weather conditions.

Source: received it as a personal gift

Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Great review, Andrew! I always appreciate a good vest.


1 month ago
g00se

Nice review, Andrew. Vests are an amazing thing. It's weird how I can run in extremely cold temps as long as I have a decent vest on.


1 month ago
300winmag

Patagucci calls this vest "Retro" B/C it is. In 1980 when I was a Nordic Ski Patroller for the Lake Placid Winter Olympics a fellow patroller had one of these. So, 40 years later it IS retro!.


28 days ago

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