We’ve been testing the Nano Air Hoody, but Patagonia also makes a non-hooded version of the jacket. I haven’t found myself using the hood much so far, but I do think it will be a nice feature for ice and rock climbers. (Jonathan: Yep. I’ve used the hood on some hikes when the wind has kicked up fierce, and the hood has worked very well and been much appreciated.)
The Nano Air’s hood is has a stretchy “binding” around it that keeps in in place very well, and gives it a snug fit. The hood isn’t quite like a storm hood you’ll find on a hard shell—the brim extends down at the front toward your face, covering the forehead, and touching just above the eyebrows. The sides of the hood cover the ears well too, yet no part of it reduces my vision at all.
I’ll need to confirm this, but I think the hood should fit over a low-profile climbing helmet without a problem.
Conditions during our trip to New Zealand were often quite warm, often pushing 50 degrees F on days we were skiing, with even warmer temps on days when we were off the mountain.
As such, we haven’t yet had the chance to wear the Nano Air in full-on, mid-winter conditions, but my hunch is that if you’re moving—skinning or hiking—it should be able to keep you warm and comfortable in temps around the mid-20s. The jacket kept me perfectly warm while hiking above Telluride earlier this month while the town was getting hit with its first dose of (wet and warm) snow.
When it comes to providing warmth when you’re sitting still, the Nano Air isn’t on the same level as the Nano Puff or TNF Thermoball Hoodie, so strictly speaking, those are probably better belay jackets in cold temps.
However, the Nano Air is a close second in terms of warmth, and it’s definitely more breathable than the Nano Puff or Thermoball Hoodie. I haven’t had the opportunity to try it, but layering a light shell like the Mountain Equipment Arclight or Westcomb Apoc over the Nano Air will make it a bit warmer (partially by gaining some wind resistance), perhaps without sacrificing too much in the way of breathability.
We want to wear the Nano Air on more bootpacks and a few tours to really get a full and complete sense of how well it breathes, but so far we’ve been pretty impressed, especially given that it seems almost as warm as the Nano Puff.
I wore the Nano Air while hiking from the parking lot to the lodge at both Broken River Ski Area and Temple Basin Ski area with temperatures in upper 40s / low 50s. The rest of the group was hiking in only base layers or t-shirts, and while I did need to take the Nano Air off halfway through the hike because I was starting to sweat, I remained comfortable and dry in the jacket longer than I would have expected, given how warm the ambient temperature was. Had I been wearing the Nano Puff, I’m certain that I would have had to take it off sooner.
Obviously it’s going to depend on how active you are and how strenuous a given activity is, but as a general guide, I think you can expect to wear the Nano Air during aerobic activities and remain comfortable in temperatures in the upper 40’s. And as I mentioned above, while I still need to confirm this, given its warmth, I think the Nano Air will keep you comfortable (both dry and warm) on skins, bootpacks, or while climbing in much colder temps, well below freezing.
Jackets made with a low-density knit fleece material, like The North Face Radium, Mountain Equipment Concordia Jacket, or Patagonia R3 (which all use Polartec Thermal Pro High Loft) also offer an impressive warmth-to-weight ratio, and these do breathe better than the Nano Air. However, these jackets offer practically no windproofing or waterproofing, so they fall well behind the Nano Air in those respects.
While it is quite breathable in its own right, and considering the warmth it can provide, the Nano Air also blocks wind relatively well, while offering some water resistance.
Patagonia says the Nano Puff is 100% windproof, and that seems right to me. By comparison, I’d say that the Nano Air blocks about 30% less wind. It definitely offers some protection, but Jonathan and I find that we lose heat more easily wearing the Nano Air in cold, very blustery conditions than when wearing the Nano Puff or Thermoball Hoodie.
So while the Nano Air’s superior breathability doesn’t sacrifice a whole lot in terms of warmth over the Nano Puff, the difference in wind resistance between the two is more noticeable. The same could be said for the Nano Air’s water resistance.
While the outer shell fabric of the Nano Air is treated with a DWR (durable water repellant) finish, it is only substantial enough to fend off dry snow and very, very light drizzle / mist. Small droplets of moisture will bead up and can be brushed off the jacket, but if any get pressed into the material (by a backpack strap, for example), the shell fabric becomes saturated quite easily. Wet snow or ordinary drops of rain will soak into the shell material in their own pretty quickly. The outer shell material of the Nano Puff will also become wet in similar conditions, but it may last a bit longer before saturating.
If you’re going to be brushed with a little bit of dry snow or a very light drizzle here and there, the Nano Air will remain breathable and keep you dry, no problem. And it’s also well worth noting that even if the outer shell material does get saturated, the Nano Air’s insulation will continue to hold it’s loft, and you will have quite a while before you actually feel any wetness on the inside of the jacket. I haven’t gotten the Nano Air totally soaked yet, but I was still warm and dry while much of the shell material on the sleeves and the shoulders was wet and it dried quite quickly.
*An aside: Neither Jonathan nor I have experience with the Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody, but when it comes to balancing breathability, water and wind resistance, and warmth, it looks to be the jacket that’s most comparable to the Nano Air currently on the market. We hope to review the men’s Atom LT soon to see how it stacks up.
Weight / Packability
Neither the Nano Puff, The North Face Thermoball Hoodie (Large = ~395 grams), or the Nano Air (Large = ~410 grams) are highly packable, but the Nano Puff will compress down to a slightly smaller size—it stuffs into one of its own pockets to about the size of a softball. The Nano air is just a bit bulkier, and the FullRange insulation seems less willing to compress than the Nano Puff’s.
The Nano Air’s 20-denier shell material is soft and quite thin, although there is a gridded ripstop pattern woven into it that’s very difficult to see.
Neither Jonathan nor I have had any durability issues with the Nano Air so far, but (as with most midlayers) we’d recommend avoiding tree branches while touring or hiking in the jacket, and being careful when shouldering skis. More time and use will tell, but we’ve found no reason to say that the Nano Air’s outer shell material is too light or too thin to use climbing.
Given their outstanding breathability, there is still a place for hi-loft, open fleece jackets like the Radium to provide warmth during high-output activities. There is also still a place for synthetic insulators like the Nano Puff or Thermoball Hoodie that offer a bit more warmth and weather protection than the Nano Air—they’re probably better suited for sedentary activities like belaying, hanging out at camp, etc. (Though again, pairing the Nano Air with a light, breathable hard shell might outperform a single piece like the Nano Puff when things get windy or wet.)
But the degree to which the Patagonia Nano Air combines much of the breathability of open fleece with some of the water & wind resistance of a puffy jacket is very impressive.
The Nano Air is a highly versatile layering piece that can be used comfortably in a wider range of conditions (either as an outer layer or under a shell) than either the Radium, the Nano Puff, or the Thermoball Hoodie.
And we’ll say it again: the Nano Air is just plain cozy, and works great as a casual piece for kicking around town.