Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Light, compacts small, warm for its size, ethically harvested down
Cons: Expensive, limited versatility compared to other types of insulated jackets
Best Uses: Gener winter use in climates that range from cool to cold (but not really really cold places)
The Patagonia Down Sweater narrowly misses getting the Editors' Choice award because its main fabric is not as durable as some of the competition. It is made with recycled materials, so if you are an Earth-conscious consumer, this could be a plus. Patagonia has a well-known and dependable warranty program, which could override the low durability scores. However, this jacket is expensive, and there other jackets that scored higher and cost less such as the MontBell Alpine Light Down Parka, which won our Best Buy award because you get the most for its price.
So why is this BY FAR the most popular down jacket you see in cities and mountain towns? Style and brand. People love the look of this jacket and people love Patagonia. Many of our testers own this jacket and love it. Most people who buy a garment probably care more about the looks and Patagonia logo than how it performs in intense outdoor activity versus the competitors. And again, it performed great in our tests… just not the best.
Some of our family members, even after seeing our scores and tests, still wanted the Down Sweater over the alternatives just because the brand and style are so important to them.
Check out the Best Down Jacket Review to see how this compared to our other jackets in this category.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This jacket is so light, comfortable, and warm that I used is as my go-to jacket every time I headed out in the cold. I packed it with me on a chilly month-long float trip down the Grand Canyon in November and it became an indispensable piece for camping outside for that length of time.
The Patagonia Down Sweater weighs in at 11.3 oz, which is the next lightest jacket after the Mountain Hardwear Nitrous. For only 1.3 ounces more weight, the Down Sweater has the added features of zippered hand pockets and an interior mesh pocket that the jacket can stuff into rather than a separate stuff sack.
It weighs little yet delivers a surprising amount of warmth for its size and packs down small. It is of a weight that layers well in just about any temperature. For cool fall days it works on its own. For really cold winter days it can be combined with other fleece and shell layers. It packs down ridiculously small, which makes it ideal for fast and light backcountry excursions. For skiing, it can cram down in your pack for the climb up. At the top of the run, pull it out as you take off your skins or take a break for lunch. Because it has more baffles than the typical down jacket, it is a little more durable. We find even after crushing it down a bunch, it bounces back reasonably well, whereas many other down jackets we have to baby a little more.
After a lot of use I easily tore a hole in this jacket and was disappointed in its durability. But like everything, it has its tradeoffs. The fabric is light and stuffs easily, which are major pluses of this jacket, but the lightness makes it more fragile. The Down Sweater is made with a recycled polyester material that seems to be slightly less durable than the Pertex Quantum material on The North Face Catalyst or the Ballistic Nylon on the MontBell Alpine Light.
This jacket is so light and packable it can be used for any kind of outdoor adventure, from long backpacking trips to clipping on your harness for a multi-pitch climb. It can be used as a mid-layer or an outer layer. It is also stylish enough and comes in many fun colors so it could be your every day winter jacket.
At $200 for the non-hooded version and $250 for the hooded version, the Down Sweater is average in price for a lightweight 800 fill down jacket. Patagonia guarantees their products with a fantastic warranty. I have a friend who sent her Down Sweater back because the zipper started failing, and she got a brand new jacket sent to her. With a quality promise like this, it makes buying an expensive Patagonia product virtually risk-free.
We really like the hooded version of this jacket, which is called the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody. However, they charge you another $50 for the hood, which at $250 puts you toward the price range of the $300 Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL that is a lot more jacket for the money (but for more intense cold weather activities). Or, if you are looking for lightweight warm jacket, synthetic jackets like the Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover - Men's or North Face Redpoint Jacket - Men's cost $50 less, are much more durable, and will keep you warm if they get wet. The Nano or Redpoint serve a similar function to the Down Sweater but we will much more comfortable about tossing it in the washing machine.
The Patagonia Down Sweater - Women's, $219, is the women's version of this jacket.
The Patagonia Down Sweater Vest, $180, is the vested version of this jacket, while the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, $270, is the hooded version.
The Patagonia Primo Down Jacket - Men's, $650, wins our Editor's Choice Award, as it presents a solid package of effective and durable performance.
A big part of Patagonia is the history, manufacturing process, and philosophy behind their gear that is told in Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard. Highly recommended reading.
The Footprint Chronicles: Patagonia Down Sweater
— Chris McNamara
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: December 5, 2013
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