Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Warmer and lighter than R2, more breathable than Nano Puff, crossover chest pockets are harness and pack compatible and easier to access on the go.
Cons: Chest pocket zippers could be higher, more expensive than R2 and Nano Puff jackets.
Best Uses: Alpine climbing, backcountry skiing.
The Nano Puff Hybrid combines our top rated Patagonia R2 fleece and Patagonia Nano Puff synthetic insulated jacket to create a high performance mid layer for high-output activities. The original 2012 version of this jacket was more R2 than Nano Puff, but now Patagonia has gone the other way and the jacket is mostly Nano Puff. We are disappointed with the change because the jacket is considerably less breathable and less comfortable. The new design competes with the Arcteryx Atom LT, Rab Strata, Mountain Hardwear Zonal, and others, that have mostly synthetic insulation and some fleece. But our testers generally prefer either 100% fleece or 100% synthetic insulation and lean away from hybrids. Therefore, we don't recommend the new (Fall 2013) Patagonia Nano Puff Hybrid. If you stumble upon the old version, which only has synthetic insulation on the top of the chest and shoulders, we've left our original review intact below.
Check out the complete Men's Fleece Review to compare all of the models tested.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Review for the original, 2012 Nano Puff Hybrid:
The Nano Puff Hybrid combines our top rated Patagonia R2 fleece and Patagonia Nano Puff synthetic insulated jacket to create a high performance mid layer for high-output activities. This could be Patagonia's most technical midweight synthetic insulated product (including all midweight fleeces and synthetic insulated jackets) and it might be one of the highest performance technical midlayers we've ever tested.
There are two reasons why the Nano Puff Hybrid excels as a technical midlayer: (1) it's warmer and lighter than similar fleece jackets such as the Patagonia R2, our highest rated fleece jacket, and (2) unlike the vast majority of fleece jackets and many synthetic jackets, the Nano Hybrid's pockets are compatible with harnesses and backpacks and can be easily accessed on the move.
Insulated jackets face an inherent and critical tradeoff between warmth and breathabilty. Fleece is generally more breathable and warmer when wet than synthetic insulated jackets. In contrast, synthetic insulated jackets are generally warmer for their weight, warmer in a wider range of conditions (their shell fabrics trap more air and are more wind resistant), and serve better as an outer layer than fleeces. (See our Layered Clothing Systems Article for an overview of layering.) The Nano Puff Hybrid's synthetic insulated parts make it warmer than most fleeces without significantly impairing breathability.
Roughly 70% of the jacket is constructed with Patagonia's R2 fleece (6.1oz Polartec Thermal Pro), which offers an excellent warmth to weight ratio and is highly compressible. Roughly 30% of the jacket is made with Patagonia's Nano Puff (60g of PrimaLoft ONE, PrimaLoft's's best insulation) to cover the front of the chest, top of the shoulders, and top of the back. The synthetic insulated areas are warmer than the fleece because they're less breathable (they trap heat that would otherwise escape with water vapor). The Nano Hybrid, as a whole, is warmer than the R2 yet nearly as breathable; it's an excellent choice for climbers and skiers that want to balance warmth and breathability without compromising weight or compressibility.
Warmth to Weight Ratio
The Nano Puff Hybrid weighs 11.6 oz on our scale. In comparison, the normal Nano Puff Jacket weighs 12.5 oz. and the R2 Jacket weighs 13.1 oz. In absolute terms the Nano Puff is the warmest of these three layers, but the Nano Hybrid's slightly lower weight and significantly increased breathability allow it to perform much better as a midlayer in high output activities.
The Nano Hybrid's pocket design is one of the best parts of the jacket. It employs a time tested design favored by climbers worldwide: there are two crossover napolean pockets (user's right hand crosses to the left pocket) that sit high on the chest above a harness and above a backpack's waistbelt. This allows you to store temperature sensitive items, like a camera, in the jacket and access them easily while on the move; just unzip your shell partway to gain access the Nano Hybrid pockets. Crossover chest pockets can also be better for storing things than handwarmer pockets, which are typically set by the waist on fleeces and insulated jackets, because items bounce around less during fast moving activities. Unfortunately, the standard Nano Puff lacks external chest pockets (it has two handwarmer pockets that are not harness or pack compatible). The R2 fleece has two handwarmer pockets and one external chest pocket. Bear in mind that that crossover chest pockets do not comfortably accommodate your hands. Our testers prefer handwarmer pockets for casual use around town.
The Nano Hybrid's strategic construction makes it feel like you're wearing a fleece, not a sometimes sticky synthetic jacket. It's incredibly comfortable even when worn over a short sleeve baselayer and it stretches and moves with you like an professional dancer.
The Nano Puff Hybrid provides and excellent opportunity to simultaneously test two materials. Under a wide variety of conditions we observed that the jacket's Nano Puff parts do very little to increase the overall warmth in windy conditions, which reinforces the fact that this is best as a midlayer. We also observed that the R2 fleece is considerably less durable than the Nano Puff (the tiny fleece fibers are more susceptible to abrasion). The fleece also gets dirty easier and dirt doesn't come off as easily as a synthetic jacket. Dirt is bad because it reduces loft (read: warmth). These observations are mostly trivial to the jacket's performance but important to note.
The Nano Puff Hybrid is best suited to alpine climbers and alpine skiers looking to push the performance envelope. In the vast majority of conditions we believe this offers increased performance over the R2 fleece.
But the Nano Puff Hybrid is expensive! The standard Nano Puff costs $50 less and can often be found discounted. The R2 jacket costs $90 less and is widely available for for significantly less than retail. For people looking for one jacket that balances casual and technical use, the Nano Puff Hybrid's lack of handwarmer pockets and increased price might be reason to look elsewhere. The jacket works well around town but is closest to home in technical terrain in the mountains.
Other Synthetic and Fleece Hybrids
We're in the process of expanding coverage of hybrid jackets. Check back later to see how this compares to other fleece and synthetic combos such as the Arcteryx Atom LT and Mountain Hardwear Zonal. Of Patagonia's three Fall 2012 hybrids we believe the Nano Puff Hybrid offers the highest performance and is most likely to receive the highest score in our hands on review.
Also see our comprehensive Men's and Women's fleece jacket reviews and Men's and Women's synthetic jacket reviews.
— Max Neale
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Most recent review: May 23, 2013
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