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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Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt Review
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Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Ex Light fit vs. Patagonia Down Shirt on 09/15/2011 06:39:29 MDT Print View

MontBell does tend to run smaller (Japanese people generally run smaller) but it's not what I would call an athletic fit. The items I've owned from them have been very boxy in nature. Of course, the same is true for pretty much everything Patagonia makes except items in their alpine climbing line. Those seem top be cut more for a climber build.

Jared Pardi
(jared465)
overpriced...... on 09/15/2011 13:00:42 MDT Print View

i thought @ 250 it was wildly overpriced, but i grabbed one during Pata's most recent closeout sale for 1/2 price. At that point it seemed like a pretty good value. I have not been able to take it for a spin yet.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Re: Synthetic jacket review on 09/15/2011 19:31:04 MDT Print View

Hi Jonathan, sorry no synthetic jacket articles in the pipeline. Its been discussed, but other projects took priority. I agree that we need to do something on synthetic jackets, but it will be hard to actually measure performance differences. There are quite a number of synthetic insulations with different properties, durabilities, warmth, compressability, etc. which makes it challenging to evaluate and compare jackets on these factors. Best, Will

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Eddie Bauer Microtherm Down Shirt on 09/15/2011 21:39:25 MDT Print View

Eddie Bauer just came out with a VERY light down "shirt", as they call it.

The Down Shirt has 800 fill down in sewn thru horizontal quilting and weighs 8.3 oz. (men's size med.)
The shell is 20 denier ripstop and has "Stormpel" DWR finish.


So, Will, add #5 to your down shirt comparo.

I'm partial to EB down products because I have their 14 oz. First Ascent Down Sweater which has served me very well as recently as last week in northern Nevada's Ruby Mountains.

Erick Erick Kwak
(kwakagy) - F
Re: Eddie Bauer Microtherm Down Shirt on 09/16/2011 17:19:23 MDT Print View

Per EB, the weight of the down shirt is 9.96oz for the M, not 8.3. My size L weighs 10.4oz (I posted this and other impressions in another thread). The EB is more similar to Patagonia's ultralight down jacket than their shirt in terms of design, fill weight and total weight (although the Patagonia has a slightly higher fill weight and and yet slightly lower total weight). The EB does have a trimmer more athletic cut than the Patagonia however (Patagonia says it has a slim fit and I guess it does in comparison to the usual boxy fit of their jackets, it's not nearly as slim as the EB).

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: Synthetic jacket review on 09/17/2011 19:44:20 MDT Print View

I agree with others that using a down shirt/jacket for hiking is tough considering the high price and moisture issue in that application. A light fleece seems like a much more durable, moisture resistance, and CHEAPER option.

I am less worried about mositure & wind resistance since I would combine it with a wind shirt or rain jacket. I think that provides a more versatile system.

Regardless, the higher price of the Patagonia down shirt is the only reason to completely eliminate it from consideration.

Martin RJ Carpenter
(MartinCarpenter) - F
Down vests on 09/18/2011 03:21:51 MDT Print View

Well in terms of synthetic equivalents, if you consider that the version of the Halo with baffles similar to those on the UL shirt - and almost twice the down fill - tested as roughly == the cocoon 60 then its clear the UL shirt can't be very warm.

In fact in terms of insulation at this weight point it very likely loses rather badly to something like PHDs ultra/WM's flight vest. Certainly an awful lot more core warmth, if of course less on the arms :)

Suspect implementation was reasonable, but they just pushed the basic design idea a bit further than it really rationally goes.