Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review

Patagonia introduces the lightest down jacket to be found. We now have four good contenders for an ultralight down jacket shootout; which one will come out on top?

Overall Rating: Average

Although the Patagonia Down Shirt is a very useful insulation layer for active pursuits, when we match it up against other jackets in the same category, it falls short. Overall, its total weight and fill weight are similar to other jackets in its category, but its water-resistance is poor and it’s overpriced compared to similar jackets.

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by Will Rietveld |

Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review - 1
The Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt has a measured weight of 5.6 ounces (159 g); it’s the lightest down pullover currently available.

Introduction

Patagonia calls it a Down Shirt rather than a down jacket; actually, it’s a pullover. And, Patagonia modestly calls it their “lightest-weight insulation” with no hype (thankfully) about it being the lightest down garment in the world. Technically it is. It’s insulated with 800-fill power down and has a very lightweight 0.8 oz/yd² (27 g/m²) shell fabric, so obviously it grabs our attention.

With Patagonia’s new Down Shirt we now have a total of four really lightweight down insulated jackets to choose from: the MontBell Ex-Light Down Jacket, MontBell Down Inner Jacket, Crux Halo Top, and Patagonia UL Down Shirt. Looks like we have four good contenders for an ultralight down jacket shootout.

Specifications and Features

Manufacturer Patagonia (http://www.patagonia.com/)
Year/Model 2011 Ultralight Down Shirt
Style Hoodless insulated pullover
Fabrics Shell and lining are 10d 0.8 oz/yd²) (27 g/m²) ripstop nylon with Deluge DWR
Insulation 2 oz (56.5 g) 800 fill-power down
Construction Sewn through with 1.25 x 2 in (3.2 x 5.1 cm) square quilting, set-in sleeves
Loft Measured average two-layer loft is 0.9 in (2.2 cm)
Features Down-filled stand up collar, 12.75 in (32 cm) #3C YKK zipper with one slider and storm flap under zipper, beard guard at top of zipper, elastic cuffs, no elastic in hem, set-in sleeves, stuff sack included
Weight Size Medium tested
Measured Weight: 5.62 oz (159 g)
Manufacturer Specified Weight: 5.9 oz (167 g) size Medium
MSRP US$250

Description

Before we get to the shoot-out, let’s review the new Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt. As mentioned, it’s insulated with 800 fill-power down, has a lightweight 10 denier (0.8 oz/yd²/27 g/m²) shell, and has Patagonia’s Deluge DWR finish for water-repellency.

Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review - 2
Front and rear views of the Patagonia UL Down Shirt.

The UL Down Shirt has a trim fit and is intended to be worn as a midlayer or outerlayer. The style I tested is a pullover, but a full-zip version (called the Down Sweater) was introduced in spring 2011. I normally wear a size Large, but the Medium I tested fit, well, like a shirt.

The construction is sewn-through, which is typical of ultralight down garments. It’s quilted in a 1.25 x 2 inch (3.2 x 5.1 cm) pattern to hold the down in place, but the quilts compress the insulation to some extent. I measured the double-layer loft to be 7/8 inch (2.2 cm), so it does not have a lot of loft. From the testing and research I conducted for my Ultralight Three-Season Down Jackets State of the Market Report 2010, I found that a jacket’s fill weight is more related to a garment’s warmth than loft is.

The UL Down Shirt has almost no features, just a stand-up insulated collar, #3 half-height front zipper, and elastic cuffs. No pockets.

Performance

Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review - 3
I wore the UL Down Shirt as a midlayer and outerlayer on eleven trips in early 2011 while backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, day hiking, and spring backpacking trip in southern Utah canyon country. Wearing the Patagonia UL Down Shirt as a midlayer with a hardshell jacket (left) or windshirt (right) over it helps a lot to seal in the heat.

I mostly wore the UL Down Shirt as a midlayer while active on colder days and for extra warmth in camp. It does fit like a shirt, so the best way to think of it is as a substitute for a fleece layer, which can weigh twice as much. In the past, I have carried a microfleece pullover for a midlayer, which is one of the lighter midlayer alternatives available. But a typical microfleece top weighs around 8 ounces (227 g), so the Down Shirt is about 2.5 ounces (71 g) lighter, quite a bit warmer, and is more water-repellent.

While backcountry skiing, I found the Down Shirt to be comfortable as a midlayer while active on below-freezing days. While climbing with skins on, on a 25 F (-4 C) sunny calm day, the Down Shirt was too warm, and I had to open up my jacket to cool down or take off the midlayer to avoid overheating. It was quite comfortable while climbing on an overcast or windy day. While backpacking, I found the Down Shirt worn as a midlayer to be enough warmth for nighttime and morning temperatures down to freezing. In my opinion, it’s too thin and not warm enough for mountain backpacking; it might be adequate for mid-summer, but not for the shoulder months.

Worn as an outerlayer in cool conditions, the Down Shirt is warm and quite wind-resistant. I purposely wore it in such conditions on several day hikes and was impressed with the amount of insulation and protection it provided for such little weight. That said, I want to emphasize that the Down Shirt performs well in active pursuits, but its warmth is limited in less active situations, like staying warm in camp.

Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review - 4
From wearing the Down Shirt in the rain (left), I found it only somewhat water-repellent; notice wetting in the seams. In my indoor “puddle test,” where I place 1/8-cup (30 ml) of water on the garment for one hour, the Patagonia Down Shirt flunked badly. Nearly all of the water penetrated the jacket’s seams and created a sizeable puddle on the tray inside (center). After two hours, the entire area was wetted out and the down was soaked (right). I have applied this test to a lot of down jackets, and this is the lowest water resistance I have observed.

Ultralight Down Jacket Shootout

As mentioned, we now have four contenders in the ultralight down jacket category: the MontBell Ex-Light Down Jacket, MontBell Down Inner Jacket, Crux Halo Top, and Patagonia UL Down Shirt. Their specifications are compared in the following table.

Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review - 5
Patagonia UL Down Shirt (left), MontBell Ex-Light Down Jacket (center), and Crux Halo Top (right). The MontBell Down Inner Jacket (not shown) is similar to the Ex-Light except it's insulated with 800 fill-power down and has hand pockets.

Comparative specifications for four ultralight down jackets. Data are manufacturer specifications for size Medium. Loft measurements are by the author.

  Mfr. Weight oz (g) Down Fill-Power Fill Weight oz (g) Shell Weightoz/yd² (g/m²) Measured Double Layer Loft inches (cm) MSRP (US$)
Patagonia UL Down Shirt 5.9 (167) 800 2.0 (56.5) 10d 0.8 (27) 0.9 (2.2) 250
MontBell Ex-Light Down Jacket 5.7 (162) 900 1.8 (51) 7d 0.74 (25) 2.0 (5.1) 165
MontBell Down Inner Jacket 7.3 (207) 800 2.0 (57) 15d 0.82 (28) 2.0 (5.1) 155
Crux Halo Top 7.9 (224) 832 3.7 (105) 15d 0.97 (33) 1.25 (3.2) £140 (approx 226)

Key Points from data in the table:

  • The MontBell Ex-Light Down Jacket is the lightest by manufacturer specifications, but the Patagonia UL Down Shirt measured weight is slightly lighter, so it's essentially a tie.
  • The MontBell Ex-Light jacket is insulated with 900 fill down, has much more loft, has lighter weight shell fabric, has a full-height zipper, and costs much less.
  • The MontBell Down Inner Jacket weighs a bit more, has the same fill weight, has more loft, has hand pockets, and is value priced.
  • The Crux Halo Top weighs 2 ounces (57 g) more, but it also has the highest fill weight and presumed warmth. It has a long torso, so it’s a good choice for tall hikers, and it’s a good value for European buyers.

Overall, it looks like the MontBell Ex-Light Down Jacket wins the shootout. It weighs about the same as the Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt, but has higher quality down, more loft, lighter shell fabric, a full-height front zipper, and costs US$85 less.

Although the Patagonia Down Shirt is a very useful garment, it comes up short on its specifications, is overpriced compared to the competition, and the poor performance of its Deluge DWR treatment is a surprise. For its US$250 price tag, I would expect an ultralight down jacket that exceeds the MontBell Ex-Light’s impressive specifications, e.g. 2.5 ounces of 900 fill-power down, and a better DWR treatment.

Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge and is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/patagonia_uldownshirt_review.html, 2011-09-13 00:10:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review on 09/13/2011 13:35:41 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
_ on 09/13/2011 14:56:02 MDT Print View

"Although the Patagonia Down Shirt is a very useful garment, it comes up short on its specifications, is overpriced compared to the competition, and the poor performance of its Deluge DWR treatment is a surprise."

Well put. Thanks for the solid review.

Patagonia's gold plated pricing often reflects topnotch design, materials, and performance. I'm amazed that they dropped the ball so badly on this garment. Apparently it was not put through its paces by some famous alpinist in North Iciclestan. Then again, maybe it was, and the famous alpinst's fee had to be covered somehow.

Edited by El_Canyon on 09/13/2011 14:57:02 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review on 09/13/2011 17:31:39 MDT Print View

Interestingly, I came to a similar decision last winter when I decided to get the Montbell Ex-Light jacket based on your SOTM review of down jackets. I couldn't find anything in the specs for the Patagonia down shirt that could possibly justify the extra price. After reading this article, I'm really glad I made that decision! I'm very happy with the Montbell jacket!

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
x2 on 09/13/2011 21:45:38 MDT Print View

Mary, much the same feelings here. The EXL is a pretty exceptional jacket and I've been plenty happy with mine. Great ON when I need warmth and wind blocking capability and especially great OFF because it is so light when carried for situations I might need protection in.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
What use are these? on 09/13/2011 21:58:30 MDT Print View

In general what do you use these for?

As Will mentions, it was to thin to be a good insulating layer for sedentary activities in cold weather, like sitting around eating breakfast on belaying a climber.

At the same time, for active pursuits, wouldn't you rather choose a garment that manages moisture better like a fleece or synthetic hi-loft insulated garment?
I thought whole idea of modern apparel was to limit moisture build-up in the clothing system, to prevent even colder chilling when you stop moving.

Also at these super thin weights, does down realy provide such a benefit? If for example, synthetic insulation weighs 50% more for the same R value, then in a sleeping bag with 16oz of down, you save 8 oz, plus you don't sweat as much at night as when climbing up a mountain. In this jacket however, you only save 1 oz, and have to deal with the slow drying and poor moisture transfer of down.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Re: What use are these? on 09/13/2011 23:32:33 MDT Print View

My Montbell ExLight is for keeping me warm around camp and during rest stops in cold weather. It also supplements the sleeping bag when nighttime temps get below the bag's rating, and I wear it over my vapor barrier to keep it dry. Unlike Will's experience of the Patagucci down sweater, I find the Montbell jacket plenty warm (when combined with my other clothing) down into the mid teens F in those conditions. On a recent trip, it was too warm while I was sitting around camp on a breezy 40*F morning.

For me, while I'm actively hiking in cold weather, a wind shirt (or rain jacket if it's precipitating) and base layer, plus headband and gloves, are sufficient to keep me warm but not actively sweating down to about 25*F. If it gets colder than that I add either a second base layer top or a very lightweight fleece vest, and a full hat instead of the headband. When I stop, the Montbell down jacket goes over what I'm already wearing (but under the rain jacket when it's precipitating).

No, I don't want to use down when actively moving, either! Sweat and down don't mix very well!

Edited by hikinggranny on 09/13/2011 23:38:25 MDT.

Stephan Doyle
(StephanCal)
Re: What use are these? on 09/14/2011 08:09:49 MDT Print View

Their use is for sedentary activities in warmer weather.

I have paired my Down Shirt with my 30º quilt to great success over the last four months. Used from everywhere from the California Coast to 14ers in the Sierra to Yellowstone. If I can take a 30º quilt, then my Down Shirt is enough.

It may also end up as an extra safety layer in the winter. Its lack of loft and close fit makes it easy to layer other down garments over the top.

terrance guidetti
(Baloo) - F

Locale: calif
feathered friends daybreak jacket on 09/14/2011 10:05:48 MDT Print View

Full zip, hand pockets, 3.1 oz. 850 down, 7.5 oz. total wt., $226. looks lofty.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - M

Locale: Southeast
Re: feathered friends daybreak jacket on 09/14/2011 10:44:56 MDT Print View

That Daybreak jacket uses a heavier fabric and more down than the Montbell UL Inner, but is claimed to weigh slightly less. I suspect one of them is exaggerating their specs.

Ryan

Lawrence Cooper
(LawrenceCooper) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
You forgot the LL Bean Down Sweater on 09/14/2011 11:42:04 MDT Print View

I've been using the LL Bean Down Sweater for a couple of years now (most recently at Philmont above 9,500ft) and I think it beats all the ones in this article. That's on performance and price.

Mark Primack
(Bufa) - MLife

Locale: Cape Cod and Northern Newfoundland
MB EX L on 09/14/2011 12:20:21 MDT Print View

I'd been thinking of getting the MB EX L jacket for a while and this article and a visit to the Pata outlet store on Monday including trying on the Down Shirt($170 at the outlet store) pushed me to hit the Buy button for the MB EX L on sale at Campsaver for $131 with free shipping.

My primary use will be to supplement my Feathered Friends Hyperion down sweater/jacket. I love my Hyperion but it and all the other down sweaters are not warm enough for sub-zero winter weather. Last winter I used the Hyperion with a great light down vest, the Rab Microlight, but I found that my arms and particularly my elbows were cold when the temp dropped. I plan to use the MB as a layer under my Hyperion. This combo is still 8 or 10 ounces lighter than my old TNF Nuptse and allows much more versatility. I also plan to use the MB EX L as a warm layer on its own or under a shell when the temps are 20-40F.

Jon Hamilton
(instantjp) - M
Not impressed on 09/14/2011 15:21:17 MDT Print View

I'm not impressed with anything Patagonia has been doing. Their prices are going up and up but the quality is just not there. I've had two different down jackets this past year bust seams after minimal use.

Oliver Nissen
(olivernissen) - MLife

Locale: Yorkshire Dales
Re: What use are these? on 09/14/2011 17:26:12 MDT Print View

Hi Tjaard,
I have to give a defence for down here and clear up a bit of a misconception. Yep, the weight advantage of down over synthetic fill is less pronounced in garments than sleeping bags, however it's wrong to assume that synthetic insulation 'manages moisture' better than down. Down is hygroscopic (absorbs moisture from the atmosphere) which allows the moisture to be transported through a mass of down relatively unimpeded. On the other hand the synthetic fibres that make up Primaloft fill are hydrophobic and as they don't wick they're not managing/transferring moisture at all. Fleeces are better as they can wick moisture but if you were to sandwich them between two wind proof layers (of Nylon taffeta) would they 'manage moisture' any better than a down garment? Probably not.

Jonathan Pratt
(Tyke)
Synthetic jacket review on 09/14/2011 18:32:59 MDT Print View

Will,
Any plans for a synthetic jacket shootout? I've just bought the Montane Prism 2.0 jacket and would love to see an updated review on BPL - along with other recommendations.

The Prism works well in active situations and with a base layer carries moisture away nicely - assuming you're in winter or cool spring/autumn. It doesn't hit the UL weights for these down shirts, but it does have other advantages.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Not impressed with the entire category on 09/14/2011 18:41:18 MDT Print View

Tried the Montbell UL down liner many moons ago but sold it - though light there's just not enough down, especially if a shell jacket is pressing on the down. Not about to give the category another go at these prices unless the garment shells get more windproof and streamlined as a whole.

Edited by hknewman on 09/14/2011 18:46:29 MDT.

Gabe Joyes
(gabe_joyes) - F

Locale: Lander, WY
Ex Light fit vs. Patagonia Down Shirt on 09/14/2011 18:45:52 MDT Print View

For what its worth to others out there, I compared the Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt and the Montbell Ex Light and I like the Patagonia way more because of the fit. I felt like the only way the Ex Light could fit me was if I had a big old beer belly (no offense anyone). If I wore the Ex Light in any remotely cold weather I would have drafts coming up from the bottom and I would be frigid in no time. Even though the Patagonia Down Shirt doesn't have a drawcord hem either, it is much slimmer fitting and hugged my body just below the hips. I know people like to rave about the specs and price of the Ex Light, but there are lots of other factors to making a nice jacket.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
EXL loose fit? on 09/14/2011 20:27:36 MDT Print View

Gabe, I've always heard most comment that Montbell runs atheletic to small. My medium is snug fitting and I'm 5'9" and 150 lb. I feel it fits great and keeps the heat in. Weird you had such a different experience.

Nicholas Truax
(nicktruax) - F

Locale: Montanada
I'm with warren on this one on 09/14/2011 21:49:44 MDT Print View

+1^^

I have similar specs to Warren: 5'10", +/- 150lbs. Medium EXL fits me great. Hands down to the EXL imo. Love you Pgucc, but the MB piece wins here.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review" on 09/14/2011 22:22:29 MDT Print View

Average rating, well above average price, less than average versatility.... seems like a no brainer to me.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
MB Ex Light For Larger Guys on 09/15/2011 06:27:44 MDT Print View

Oh to be able to wear a medium again (or, quite honestly, just a large or XL)...

I'm a big guy - 6' and 260 pounds. I have the Montbell Ex Light in XXL and it fits me well. I wear it around camp and have slept in it. The XXL weighs 7.8 ounces and is half the weight of any of my XXL fleeces and much warmer.

I've switched over to hammocks and have found that the Ex Light jacket, unzipped and opened, makes a great second quilt for over me at night. I'm much more comfortable draping it over me and tucking the arms under me than I am sleeping in it. It also makes it quite convenient to grab it and put it on in the morning.