Patagonia DAS Parka REVIEW

Product performance review of the Patagonia DAS Parka, a lightweight synthetic insulated backpacking jacket.

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by Alan Dixon | 2005-02-22 03:00:00-07

Overview

Patagonia DAS Parka - 1

Even with its huge, helmet compatible hood and generous sizing, the DAS Parka is arguably the warmest jacket for its weight. At 24 ounces (680 g) the DAS still retains just about every feature one would want in a cold weather synthetic parka. It has excellent breathability - in my opinion a key feature to staying warm. I did my coldest field testing of the DAS on an October ascent of Mt. Rainer. Even when I was damp and sweaty from climbing I dried out quickly when I threw the DAS parka over me. This was crucial to staying warm on the mountain. While clearly designed for alpine climbing, it works equally well for backcountry skiing, snowshoeing and other cold climate endeavors. It is the winter parka of choice for a number of our staff.

In Brief

  • The lightest synthetic jacket suitable for temperatures well below freezing
  • Highly breathable inner and outer shells readily pass moisture so you quickly dry out at belays and rest stops
  • Fully featured for alpine climbing
  • Generous size to fit over everything
  • Huge helmet compatible hood with dual drawcord adjustment
  • Large number of pockets - three external, and two internal storage

Specifications

• Garment Style

Full zip, high-loft, synthetic insulated parka with hood

• Fabric Description

Outer shell: 1.5 oz/yd2 (51 g/m2) 30d high-tenacity ripstop polyester, Deluge DWR; Lining: 1.6 oz/yd2 (54 g/m2) microdenier ripstop polyester, DWR finish

• Insulation Description

5.3 oz/yd2 (180 g/m2) Polarguard 3D in the body; 4 oz/yd2 (136 g/m2) Polarguard 3D in the sleeves

• Other Features

Two insulated zippered handwarmer pockets, one zippered external chest pocket, two large mesh interior cargo pockets, hood with aperture and rear volume drawcords, drawcord hem and elastic cuff closures. Stuff sack included.

• Weight

1 lb 8.1 oz (680 g) as measured, size men's M; 1 lb 11 oz (765 g) manufacturer specification

• Loft

1.3 in (3.0 cm) single layer loft in torso, 0.9 in (2.5 cm) single layer loft in sleeves

• Model Year

Fall 2003 (Fall 2002 tested as well)

• MSRP

$259.00 Manufacturer's suggested retail price

Warmth

Patagonia DAS Parka - 2
At a late October base camp on Mt. Rainier when temperatures plummeted in the evening as winds blew cold air down from the summit, the author stayed warm and dried out clothes wet from the long approach climb up the Inter Glacier.

At 1.3 inches of single layer loft (5.3 oz/yd2 Polarguard 3D insulation), the DAS parka is arguably the warmest production jacket reviewed. It is certainly the warmest jacket for its weight. I did my coldest field testing of the DAS on an October ascent of Mt. Rainer. By October it's close to winter conditions on Rainier. Mid-day summit conditions were 15 °F with 60 mph winds, gusting higher. You need a helluva jacket to stay warm in that environment. The DAS kept me warm enough at rest stops and belays. Another advantage of the DAS parka is its highly breathable shell that allows the rapid transfer of sweat and moisture from your damp clothing so you can take advantage of rest stops and belays to dry out as much as possible. Even when I was damp and sweaty from climbing I dried out quickly when I threw the DAS parka over me. This was crucial to my staying warm on the mountain.

I also used the DAS parka as part of my sleeping system. Rainier can be a wet place, and climbing a wet and sweaty activity. I chose a completely synthetic setup with the DAS parka, Mountain Hardware Polarguard pants and a North Face Cat's Meow sleeping bag. The DAS parka and bag combination kept me comfortably warm even on the coldest and windiest nights around 0 °F (in a two-person mountaineering tent). I routinely went to bed with wet clothing and some extra wet socks and glove liners in my jacket. By morning everything was dry. Both my clothing and sleeping bag insulation stayed dry and loft did not deteriorate during the multi-day-climb.

The parka has a generously sized insulated hood that fits easily over a full-sized climbing helmet. The front aperture drawcord and horizontal volume control drawcord let you cinch the hood down to fit a bare head just as easily. The high collar made a good seal around my neck and lower face. The front zipper is backed by a webbing stiffened draft flap, and the handwarmer pockets are insulated on the outside by the 5.3 oz/yd2 Polarguard insulation of the jacket's torso. The uninsulated inner liner of the pockets does let some cool air in unless you have the hem drawcord cinched.

Storm resistance

The DAS has a light and very breathable outer shell fabric of 1.5 oz/yd2 30 denier high-tenacity ripstop polyester with a Deluge DWR finish. While it is not waterproof, it is water resistant enough to weather light and/or intermittent rain and snow. As an outer garment I found that the DAS kept me sufficiently warm and dry in everything but constant rain. The polyester shell with its excellent DWR absorbed little water and dried quickly.

Most people layer their parka on top of their other layers unless conditions are dreadful and then a waterproof/breathable shell goes on top. Again a key feature of the DAS is its highly breathable inner and outer shells that readily pass internal moisture through the garment so that you can dry out at belays and rest stops. For most activities and conditions this is much more important to your warmth than the weather resistance of the insulated jacket's shell. If you are in very wet weather at near freezing levels, you may want to carry a light waterproof shell to layer over the parka or consider one of the two more waterproof parkas in our review suite, the Arc'Teryx Fission Belay Parka or the Mountain Equipment Co-op Magma Jacket.

Usability

At 1.5 pounds, the DAS was one of the lightest jackets tested; yet it has most features one would want on an alpine climbing jacket. It has a generous fit that layers over most anything you're wearing. The medium length hem comes down to just cover my crotch and butt. The modified Y-Joint sleeves provide good articulation and freedom of movement and the hem does not lift while raising your arms. It has plenty of pockets - two insulated handwarmer pockets, a zippered chest pocket, and two capacious inside mesh pockets for drying gloves. It has a two-way front zipper that works well for your harness and belaying. The zipper pulls on the jacket are first rate and very easy to use with gloves. The simple elastic cuffs are just right, neither too tight nor too loose. They form a good seal but fit easily over the wrist and light gloves.

Value

The DAS Parka is a standout performer. It is light and warm while retaining just about every feature needed in a cold weather synthetic parka, including excellent breathability. While clearly designed for alpine climbing, it works equally well for backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and other cold climate endeavors. It is a very good value at $259.

Recommendations for Improvement

The DAS design is pretty much dialed in. I think that the shell fabric is the right choice. I wouldn't want a more waterproof but less breathable fabric. I would like to see the DAS use the slightly higher performing Polarguard Delta insulation; the choice could be made to shave a bit of weight or add a bit more warmth to the jacket and remain at the same weight.

Other than that, a backpacking version - where fabric durability is not as big an issue as for alpine climbing - could include a sub-1-ounce liner fabric to reduce the weight a bit. An alpine climbing version might benefit from some exterior reinforcements in high wear areas. Both versions would be a little more luxurious with a slight amount of inner insulation for the handwarmer pockets, although if it's cold enough to wear the DAS you'll likely have warm hand wear on.


Citation

"Patagonia DAS Parka REVIEW," by Alan Dixon. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/patagonia_das_parka_review.html, 2005-02-22 03:00:00-07.

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