Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hands On: Patagonia Nano Puff™ Jacket


New from the good folks at Patagonia is the Nano Puff™ Pullover. It's a super lightweight, super warm insulation layer that's perfect for your inshore or offshore gear bag -- especially when keeping excess weight down is important. It is available in both men's (left) and women's (right) styles in some very fashionable colors with exotic names like Golden Palm and Green Oasis.

The Nano Puff™ is a loft insulation piece suitable as either a middle or outer layer, depending on the conditions. It has a polyester shell that is coated with Patagonia's DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating, allowing it to shed light rainfall & spray and block the wind.

The small rectangles (men's) or diamonds (women's) sewn into the pullover keep the insulation evenly distributed while the inner lining has a smooth face to make it easy to get on or remove. The insulation is made with 60g PrimaLoft® One that, unlike down insulation, will keep you warm even when it's wet. In fact, one of the big selling points for PrimaLoft One is that it absorbs three times less water, is 14% warmer when dry and is 24% warmer when wet than comparable types of insulation.

Since it's a key feature of this pullover, I'd like to elaborate on a term that I used earlier: "loft insulation". While it's less common in the marine marketplace, loft insulation offers advantages over more traditional pile fleece layering pieces. Instead of relying on bulk and weight for warmth, loft insulation works by creating an area of warm air between you and the shell of the jacket, which consequentially keeps you warm. This difference in creating warmth allows loft insulation jackets to be much lighter and more compressible than fleece of equivalent warmth.

The Good

Like I said earlier, this is a great warm layer that blocks wind and spray, performs when wet and is ultra-packable. It's really a must-have for offshore jaunts when space matters and will help you win points with a skipper that gets all flustered about the weight of your gear bag.


Illustrating the ultra-packability, a convenient feature of the Nano Puff™ is that it packs into it's own pocket, making a nice little carrying pouch. This is the perfect feature when you're on a long windward leg and all you get in response to asking someone to go down below and get your jacket is a few choice four letter words. It can easily be stowed in a cockpit pocket next to the winch handles or you can simply clip the pouch on to your belt loop (ignoring that it'll probably hit the guy next to you in the face when you're crossing during a tack) -- either way, you have your insulation ready at hand if you start to get cold.


One of the features I appreciate most about the Nano Puff™ is it's simplicity. There's no unnecessary features here - a bit of elastic at the wrists and waist to keep the jacket in place and only the single chest pocket.

Another nice feature of the jacket is that the outer shell is very smooth which allows it to slide easily under outer layers - more so than fleece mid-layers. Despite sporting a DWR coated shell, this pullover is very soft, making it comfortable to wear on cold deliveries or just sitting around the boat park as the sun is going down.

The Bad

The Nano Puff™ is not necessarily going to be the best insulation for super wet sailing. While the PrimaLoft® will still keep you warm when it's wet, if you're getting fire hosed the pullover will tend to stick close to you and the loft really isn't going to be able to do it's job properly. For these conditions on a dinghy or super wet keelboat, you'd be better off with fleece.

Also, the shell of the jacket really isn't built to stand up to the rigors of scrapping rigs & shrouds and sliding along non-skid decks on a long term basis. The marine environment, especially when racing, can be harsh -- this is why trousers and shorts have Cordura (or similar) reinforcements and jackets/smocks are made with hard wearing exteriors. While the Nano Puff™ can surely be worn as an outer layer on land and while cruising/motoring/informally club racing, I would advise a spray top or jacket to be warn over it when you are moving around the boat under racing conditions to prevent a tear from an offending screw head or cotter pin.

Conclusions

At $150.00 the Nano Puff™ is buy no means a bargain, but it is reasonably priced when you consider its versatility. It kind of stands alone in the marine marketplace when you consider its warmth, water/wind shedding and pacakability and makes a great addition to any sailors gear bag. While it's probably not the best thing for dingies or boats where you are getting wet all the time, it does have tremendous crossover applications for other sports and activities -- anything from walking around town to skiing in Wyoming. At the end of the day, I mostly sail dinghies and probably will stick with fleece, but I'd recommend this to keelboat/offshore sailors when paired with an outer shell.

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