To help you find workout gear that's as functional as it is stylish, we're trying out the latest products and letting you know how they fare when we put them to the test.
With jacket season, it seems like you have two options: wear a Michelin Man-sized coat and stay warm, or settle for a lightweight jacket that you can move in, but is barely insulated. Sure, there are lightweight down jackets that would solve this problem, but do they actually work? Recently Patagonia released a jacket like this, called the Micro Puff Hoody. Supposedly, it's the "lightest, most packable insulated jacket the company has ever created," according to a press release. And despite its weight, they claim it really can keep you warm.
Technically, the Micro Puff Hoody isn't a "down jacket" at all, because it's filled with synthetic insulation called PlumaFill, that's made up of several strands of heat-trapping filaments. The jacket feels a lot like down in that it's soft and packs down easily, but unlike natural feathers, the synthetic fill can stay warm even when wet, and won't get soggy.
There's also a purposeful quilting pattern on this jacket that's meant to keep the insulation in place, prevent any clumping that could happen over time, and block cold spots. Most quilted jackets have even squares, but this one has rectangular ones. With "fewer, yet larger, pattern pieces, heat is allowed to move more freely within the jacket, offering consistent warmth," according to a press release.
To put this jacket to the test, we hiked, rock-climbed, rode horses, and ran errands in different temperatures. First, I wore the Micro Puff Hoody for a few easy day hikes through Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The temperature fluctuated between the mid-50s and low-60s depending on the amount of sun, but the jacket was great to have on hand when it got slightly more chilly in the shade.
One day, it started snowing in the middle of our hike, and the jacket provided just the right amount of heat, but was thin enough to continue vigorously hiking. And because it packs into its pocket, I could shove it in my day pack if it got too warm (although it was also light enough to wear around my waist).
When Refinery29 senior editor Rebecca Adams wore the Micro Puff Hoody rock-climbing in upstate New York, she said it felt like the jacket adjusted to her body temperature, which helped because she tends to run cold. The weight and fit also makes it great for layering: "I was able to wear it with a simple T-shirt when I was mid-hike or mid-climb, but then I could also add on warmer layers easily when I was resting," she told me.
If you're doing an activity in severe weather, then you should definitely layer underneath the hoody. I wore it horseback riding in Colorado, but the temps were in the low 40s and it was snowy. An extra layer would have been a good idea, because lets just say that I relied on the large animal between my legs for body heat.
Compared to some of Patagonia's other lightweight jackets, like the Nano Puff Hoody, the Micro Puff packs smaller, feels slightly warmer, and is lighter (by about two ounces). While the Micro Puff is about $50 more than the Nano Puff (and about $70 more than competitors' packable down jackets, like ones from the North Face), it might be worth your pennies if you're camping and really care about the warmth-to-weight ratio of your gear.
In terms of fit, we both thought the hoody runs slightly large, so if you prefer a snug jacket, you might want to buy a size down — but otherwise it's a comfortable wear and moves easily with your body. For what it's worth, I also wore it at my desk all day because our office can be freezing, and it was remarkably comfy and not restricting, kind of like a hooded sweatshirt.
So, would we recommend buying this?
It might seem tough to stomach spending $299 on a lightweight jacket, but if you're a gear junkie and want the lightest and warmest option, this one is definitely a worth-it investment. If you need a high-tech jacket for colder weather, the Micro Puff Hoody performs — and it also goes well with street clothes. That said, if you just want a cool Patagonia jacket to wear around town, you might want to save the $50 and go with a cheaper option. But either way, you can't go wrong, because Patagonia has an "ironclad guarantee" that allows you to replace any of their products for free if they break or don't work out for you.