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Patagonia Retro Pile Vest

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Patagonia Retro Pile Vest fleece vest

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.


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


  • Initial shedding
  • Nearly no wind resistance
  • Pilling


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.


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.



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.


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. I have worn this layer a lot over the past few months, over a base layer, to provide an extra boost of warmth, and on more than one long hike, the outer surface had a healthy layer of frozen rime or sweat/moisture that had moved through the base layer and the vest.  I have been carrying a very light wind shell to wear over the top on windy days.  

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.


I have worn this a lot over the past several months, and it often accompanies me in a day pack in case I need to layer up in colder weather. Many chilly 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.  


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.


See above: several months of extensive wear in a variety of temperatures and weather conditions - now worn a lot in cold weather.

Source: received it as a personal gift

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Price MSRP: $129.00
Current Retail: $30.00-$278.95
Historic Range: $13.96-$278.95
Weight 363 g / 12.8 oz
Body 8.7-oz Polartec 100% recycled polyester double-sided shearling fleece
Pocket bags 3.5-oz 100% recycled polyester warp-knit brushed mesh
Other Fabrics are certified as bluesign approved / Fair Trade Certified sewn
Price MSRP: $129.00
Current Retail: $119.00-$129.00
Historic Range: $40.48-$159.20
Weight 306 g / 10.8 oz
Body 8.7-oz Polartec 100% recycled polyester double-sided shearling fleece
Pocket bags 3.5-oz 100% recycled polyester warp-knit brushed mesh
Other Fabrics are certified as bluesign approved / Fair Trade Certified sewn
Product Details from Patagonia »

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