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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Large fit, crinkly and noisy, only one hood drawcord, small chest pocket
The Patagonia M10 jacket is our favorite hardshell for backpacking and the lightest jacket that we tested. At $379 it is also one of the most affordable hardshell jackets in our review and as such is worthy of our Best Buy Award. Our tests show that the jacket is more durable and more versatile than other light shells and nearly as tough as jackets that weigh twice as much. Advanced fabrics and streamlined features make the M10 fantastically versatile; it's small and light enough to accompany you anywhere and it is one of the most comfortable jackets we tested.
Though the Patagonia M10 is fantastic, our testers prefer the Arc'teryx Alpha FL (4 oz. heavier) for alpine and ice climbing and backcountry skiing because of its more ergonomic fit, larger chest pocket, better aesthetics, and astonishing durability. For many people, and backpackers specifically, the M10 could be the best hardshell due to its extraordinary light weight and tiny packed size. Despite the limitations identified below we highly recommend it.
RELATED: Our complete review of hardshell jackets
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Patagonia M10 is a lightweight hardshell that is designed to do everything. It uses a three-layer H2NO performance standard membrane that is simultaneously very thin, breathable, waterproof, and stretchy. It is a minimalist jacket with a set of features designed to save weight at all costs. Sonically welded seams mean there is literally no stitching in the main body construction, which makes it more abrasion resistant, durable, and lighter. Patagonia considers this to be one of their top-of-the-line products for fast and light alpine climbing, and we would have to agree that it is indeed a fine piece of technology. Best of all, it's one of the most affordable jackets we reviewed, so we gave it our Best Buy Award.
What the Patagonia M10 gives you with extreme light weight, it loses a bit in weather protection. While it did an adequate job, we found it to be one of the least protective hardshells that we tried. Many of its protection flaws had to do with minimalist features designed to save weight. Our biggest complaint was that the hood had only one adjustment point, in the rear of the head, and this did not adequately allow for cinching down around the face if you are not wearing a helmet. Additionally, we found that the DWR coating wore off very quickly compared to other jackets (especially the Westcomb Shift LT); this caused the fabric to wet out in spots after only a few uses. We gave the M10 a 6 out of 10 for weather protection.
Weight & Compression
At 8.8 ounces for a size large jacket, no other jacket was lighter than the M10. Only the Mountain Hardwear Quasar packed down into a neat little package anywhere close to as small as the M10. In order to pack it down you can stuff the entire jacket into its chest pocket; there is also a reinforced clip-in loop for help storing it. These features made the M10 our favorite choice for backpacking and we gave it a 10 out of possible 10 points.
Mobility & Fit
This was clearly one of the most mobile jackets in our tests, receiving a 9 out of 10. The nylon face fabric is highly stretchable ripstop that moves with you as you move. We loved the stretchable fabric and the fit of the hood while wearing a helmet. The hood gripped the helmet perfectly and the entire hood opening turned with our head and face, as opposed to the storm hood on the Arc'teryx Alpha SV; the hood on SV also fit great, but we could turn the head independently of the hood, meaning that the hood sometimes obscures the vision.
While the Patagonia M10 is very mobile and supple, one thing that bothered us was the fit of the jacket. We found it to be boxy and quite large. One could certainly look at this as a plus that many layers could be fit underneath this jacket, but of all the models we tried, this was the only one where we wished we had ordered a medium instead of a large. Our head tester almost always wears a men's large, but this large was just too big.
Breathability & Venting
Much like the other lightweight alpine climbing jackets we tested, like the Arc'teryx Alpha FL or Westcomb Shift LT, the Patagonia M10 eschews any sort of pit zips or extra venting in the name of saving weight. Due to the great breathability of the H2NO standard membrane, this works out ok. While we thought the M10 was one of the most breathable jackets we tried, we had a similar experience to every hardshell in our review - we were still able to steam up the inside enough that there was water build-up, suggesting that no hardshell is perfectly breathable.
Our tests show that the M10 is the most durable ultralight hardshell (classified as less than 10 ounces). During our testing period, more than 10 people used this jacket on a host of backcountry ski tours, alpine climbs, and extended backpacking trips. We bushwacked through absolutely heinous terrain, such as the temperate rainforests of Olympic National Park and through the North Cascades, and the face fabric shows only small signs of wear. Other shells, like the Mountain Hardwear Quasar, have rapidly deteriorated when used side-by-side with the M10 in the same conditions.
This jacket calls into question the need for heavier "bombproof" hardshells like the Patagonia Super Alpine and Arc'teryx Alpha SV. We feel that for 99% of applications a jacket like the Patagonia M10 is best. Our testers rarely reach for super bomber jackets anymore because pieces like the M10 hold up very well and are much more comfortable to wear. Just keep in mind that while heavier duty jackets earned 10 out of 10 in our weather protection metric, the M10 only scored a 6.
The Patagonia M10 has the same set of features as our other favorite lightweight alpine climbing jackets: a helmet compatible hood, water tight zippers, single chest pocket, Velcro wrist closures, and waistline draw cord. However, we feel that other jackets' features are a bit more refined and function a bit better. The M10 has only one hood adjustment point, and we wish it had three. The zippers are a bit tougher to manipulate than the Arc'teryx jackets, and the chest pocket, while it does double as a stuff sack, is quite small for all the things you want to fit in there. Overall we gave it a 7 out of 10.
The Patagonia M10's low weight and minute packed size make it fantastically versatile. Its lack of handwarmer pockets makes it less than ideal for walking around town in the rain because you can't shelter your hands. But handwarmer pockets are best if you don't have gloves or are on super long expedition with lots of down time. The single chest pocket is our preferred pocket configuration for alpine climbing.
Backpacking, Alpine Climbing, Backcountry Skiing
For only $379 a brand new M10 can be yours! Seriously though, this is one of the best values out there, enough so that we gave it our Best Buy Award.
The Patagonia M10 is an extremely lightweight and minimalist hardshell fit for almost any purpose. It is a highly versatile piece of gear that has been used by leading alpinists on crazy missions all over the world. Compared to many of the jackets in this review it is highly affordable and backed by Patagonia's Ironclad Guarantee, you really can't go wrong. We love this jacket, and we think you will too!
Patagonia Alpine Climbing Ambassador Colin Haley raves about the M10 in the video below.
Women's M10 Jacket
Patagonia Leashless Jacket and The Women's Leashless Jacket
— Andy Wellman and Max Neale
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Most recent review: December 17, 2014
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