Warmth-To-Weight Ratio and Comparisons
In a word, the warmth-to-weight of the Ultralight is ridiculous.
Here are some points of comparisons with a couple of other very good jackets:
Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody: 263 grams / 9.3 oz. – $329
Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody: 396 grams / 14 oz – $249
Patagonia Down Sweater Full-Zip Hoody: 430 grams / 15.2 oz – $250
The Ultralight Down Hoody is definitely warmer than the Nano Puff Hoody. I can comfortably wear the Ultralight with just a short sleeve cotton t-shirt beneath it at temperatures above 15° Fahrenheit.
And while the Down Sweater is warmer than the Ultralight, I don’t find the difference to be great enough to put up with the additional bulk—what now feels like the needless heft—of the Down Sweater. Over the past two years, I’ve rarely used my Down Sweater as a mid layer because of its bulk, and I just reached for my Nano Puff.
Conversely, I rarely use the Nano Puff as an outer layer, I just grabbed the Down Sweater.
But I now use the Ultralight as both a midlayer and an outerlayer far more than I use the Nano Puff or Down Sweater for anything.
Having said that, I can still see the rationale for the Nano Puff (hooded or hood-less), since the Ultralight generates a ton of warmth as a midlayer.
Today at Alta, for example, afternoon temperatures were 19° F at the top, and I was completely comfortable in a long-sleeve, midweight base layer, a Nano Puff jacket, and a very thin Gore-Tex Pro shell. For me, the Ultralight would have been fine strictly for resort riding, but if we had decided to do any side country skiing and boot packing, the Ultralight would be overkill.
And the colder you run, obviously, the more psyched you’ll be about the Ultralight in warmer temperatures.
The Nano Puff is the most versatile of the three jackets as a midlayer—it would have to be brutally cold, for example, for me to ever consider touring in the Ultralight or Down Sweater.
(Side note: In his review of the Scott Decoder, Jason Hutchins mentioned that he could go running in his Scott Decoder. I couldn’t possibly go running in the Ultralight Down without overheating. So for more aerobic pursuits, the Nano Puff or the Scott Decoder may be better options.)
I have found the Ultralight Down Hoody to be nearly as warm as the Down Sweater, but less bulky (so it works much better as a mid layer), and is far more packable.
The hood has a fantastic fit, and it seems like Patagonia really did their homework on this one. Not too big, not too small (at least for my head). Very warm, comfortable, and functional.
If you intend to primarily use this jacket as a midlayer, however, I would consider whether you will really use the hood. I use the hood all the time when I’m wearing the jacket as an outerlayer, so I want the hood. But it doesn’t magically disappear beneath my jacket when skiing, and while it doesn’t really bother me, you’ll keep a sleeker profile if you’re willing to forgo it.
One thing to note, however, is that the toggle on the back of the hood (see above) that allows you to dial in the fit isn’t so pleasant if you’re sleeping on the ground or on a plane to South America. Bring a pillow, or sleep on your side.
Fabric / Construction / Durability
Surprisingly tough, beautifully constructed. Patagonia is right to emphasize in their description of the Ultralight just how impressive the outer material is, and how well the “variegated channel construction” works.
In a year of use and abuse, my Ultralight literally looks brand new. I don’t have any tears in the fabric, nor any signs of wear. Obviously, I don’t recommend treating this thing roughly, but I don’t baby any of my gear, and, as I said, this thing still looks brand new.
Plus, I may have had three or four feathers of insulation work their way out of the fabric. Compared to any other down jacket I or any of my friends have owned, I find that remarkable.
Patagonia Ultralight Down vs. First Ascent MicroTherm Down
Garrett Altmann recently published a favorable review of the very good First Ascent MicroTherm Down Hoody. The First Ascent MicroTherm in a size medium doesn’t fit that much different than the Patagonia Ultralight in a size Large. Sleeve length on the two jackets is very comparable, though my Large Patagonia is longer.
But the fabric of the MicroTherm doesn’t feel as substantial as the Patagonia. The Patagonia “feels” much better and also feels like it would be less prone to snag / tear. This First Ascent feels like tissue paper, which is a little odd given that First Ascent is using a 20 Denier fabric vs. the Ultralight Down’s 10 Denier fabric. Point goes to Patagonia.
But if you’re primarily looking for a midlayer for skiing and you don’t run terribly cold, the FA MicroTherm is a very solid option, and maybe a better one. It’s not as warm as the Ultralight Down, but typically after one or two laps, I personally don’t need all of the warmth of the Ultralight Down.
The only caveat is that the MicroTherm doesn’t have a drawstring adjustment at the waist, should you need one to keep out the cold.
Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody vs. the L.L. Bean 850 Ultralight Down Jacket
Patagonia’s jacket isn’t cheap, so I wanted to compare the Patagonia to a much less expensive “ultralight down” jacket, like this one by L.L. Bean. Their jacket is much cheaper at $179, but it is also much bulkier than the Patagonia. Feathers work their way out of that jacket like crazy, and it doesn’t have a draw cord at the waist. Truly, the only impressive thing about this jacket is the price. It’s not in the same ball park as the Ultralight Down Hoody, or even the same league.
The Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody is an exceptionally good jacket, and is one of my favorite pieces of gear to date. If you don’t have issues with the fit, I can’t imagine that you’ll be disappointed with this piece, as it is incredibly light, warm, comfortable, packable, durable—and good looking, too.