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