Patagonia Micropuff Vest REVIEW

Simple, lofty and light - to be replaced fall '06 with a heavier version - too bad.

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by Don Wilson | 2006-05-17 03:00:00-06

Patagonia Micropuff Vest REVIEW

Introduction

The Patagonia Micropuff vest is the sister garment to the Micropuff pullover, which was the top performer in our lightweight synthetic vests Review Summary in late 2004. With the same 2.7 oz/yd2 Polarguard Delta insulation, but simpler construction, the Micropuff vest has a specified weight of only 6 ounces.

What's Good

  • Excellent loft to weight ratio for a synthetic garment
  • Warm, 3 inch high collar
  • Stuffs nicely into internal pocket
  • Roomy enough for a light layer underneath

What's Not So Good

  • Elastic hem can ride up on your waist

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Patagonia

  Year/Model

Spring 2006 Micropuff Vest

  Style

Pullover vest

  Weight

6.6 oz (187 g) measured weight size L; manufacturer's specification 6 oz (170 g)

  Loft

1.3 in (3.3 cm) double layer as measured

  Loft to Weight Ratio

0.20 in/oz

  Shell Fabric

1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2), 20d ripstop polyester with Deluge DWR finish; Lining is 20x20d mini-ripstop nylon with Deluge DWR finish

   Insulation

2.7 oz/yd2 (92 g/m2) Polarguard Delta

  Features

Snapped placket, inside pocket can be used as stuff sack, elastic hem and arm holes

  MSRP

$89

Performance

The Patagonia Micropuff vest is a light, packable, warm and versatile layer. One has been my constant companion on trips for most of the past year. I've had it with me on cold desert nights on the PCT, summit days in the Peruvian Andes, damp forest camps in the Amazon Basin, and winter hikes throughout the desert southwest. The Micropuff vest will keep you warm in wet weather and is a great choice to supplement other layers and add warmth to a clothing and sleeping system.

The measured loft of the Micropuff vest is 1.3 inches (double layer) giving it an impressive loft to weight ratio for a synthetic garment - 0.20 inches per ounce. This loft to weight ratio is more than double the ratio of the leading vest from our 2004 lightweight synthetic garment review summary. A key to the light weight of this vest is the lack of a zipper and the simple snap system on the 8 inch chest placket. The snap closures also help improve compressibility over a zipper.

What makes the Micropuff vest a good performer? Two things - simple design and good insulation. There are few garments on the market with as simple and light a design as this vest. No pockets, no zipper, simple elastic closures on the hem and armholes, a light snap system on the placket, and a warm collar to keep your neck toasty.

Patagonia has also hit the mark with their choice of Polarguard Delta insulation. All Polarguard insulations are continuous filament insulations, which, according to the manufacturer, make them more durable and strong and less likely to form clumps or mattes than cut staple insulation such as Primaloft. Continuous filaments also help to maintain insulation when wet. On the other hand, Polarguard will absorb more water than Primaloft insulation of the same weight. In Backpacking Light tests, Polarguard 3D absorbed more water than Primaloft One fill of the same weight, but the Polarguard 3D had superior performance in maintaining insulation when wet. Polarguard Delta, as used in the Patagonia Micro Puff Pullover, is the latest and most efficient insulation offered by Polarguard. See our companion article on down versus synthetic clothing for additional test results and comparisons of down and synthetic insulation performance when wet.

I had the Micropuff vest with me in Peru this summer, where conditions ranged from surprisingly cool, moist forests in the Amazon basin, to cold, nasty days in the Andes. I found the vest to be a versatile layering component, and wore it every day. On a cold hiking day at high altitude, it is the perfect layer to wear under a wind shirt or waterproof/breathable rainwear. Without a zipper, and with the small placket, the vest offers few options to cool off when you get warm - taking it off is the only reasonable option. I also found it to be a good combination with a down jacket while around camp or in a sleeping system. Combined with a light jacket such as the Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket or the GoLite Cumulus, you get a heck of a lot of warmth for less than 20 total ounces.

The cut of the Micropuff vest is loose enough to wear a light layer underneath, but not too baggy. The shoulders are cut widely, easily covering my shoulders. Torso length is moderate, with a slight drop tail. Both the arm holes and waist hem are lined with elastic. One thing about the vest I did not like was the tendency of the elastic hem to ride up on my waist during activity. The was mostly an issue when not wearing a pack; the vest would ratchet up my waist during hiking or walking, and need to be pulled down frequently. The 3-inch collar is a nice touch when the weather is cold or windy. The collar and placket have a series of plastic snap closures which do a pretty good job of sealing off the elements, but not as good as a zipper and storm flap. There is an inside chest pocket with Velcro closure which doubles as a stuff sack. The vest stuffs easily into the pocket and can be sealed with the same Velcro closure. My vest is in great shape after several washings and at least 75 days of outdoor use this year.

Patagonia Micropuff Vest REVIEW
The Patagonia Micropuff vest stuffs easily into the internal chest pocket.

NOTE: Patagonia will discontinue the Micropuff vest in its current form with the release of their Fall 2006 line. It will be replaced by a full zipper vest, which also has a zippered pocket. Other features will be largely the same as the current vest, including the Polarguard Delta insulation. The manufacturer's specified weight for the new vest is 9 ounces, a full 50 percent increase in specified weight over the current Micropuff vest.

Patagonia Micropuff Vest REVIEW
The Micropuff vest excels as a layering garment. Here the author (left) has a Micropuff vest layered beneath a waterproof/breathable layer before the onset of bad weather in Peru's Vilconata range.

What's Unique

Patagonia has done a great job of maximizing performance per weight with the Micropuff vest by minimizing features and choosing high quality materials. Combined with the attractive $89 price, this makes the Micropuff a great value.

Recommendations for Improvement

I'd rather see Patagonia keep the current version of the vest than the updated, heavier version they will release in Fall 2006. In the current version, I would prefer a lightweight drawcord to the current elastic hem so that it could be adjusted to keep the vest from riding up.


Citation

"Patagonia Micropuff Vest REVIEW," by Don Wilson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/patagonia_micropuff_vest_review.html, 2006-05-17 03:00:00-06.

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