Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Very light, versatile feature set, generous fit accommodates wide variety of body types.
Cons: Not as comfortable or as durable as the Arcteryx Alpha FL, chest pocket could be larger.
Best Uses: Backpacking, alpine climbing, backcountry skiing.
The revised 2013 Patagonia M10 jacket is our favorite hardshell for backpacking and our second highest rated jacket overall. Our tests show that the jacket is more durable and more versatile than lighter shells, such as the Mountain Hardwear Blazar and Haglofs Gram Comp Pull 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've ever tested.
Though the M10 is fantastic, our testers prefer the Arcteryx Alpha FL (2 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—it's our second highest rated jacket and we believe it’s Patagonia’s best waterproof breathable jacket ever. Despite the limitations identified below we highly recommend it.
Check out our full Hardshell Jacket Review to compare all of the models tested.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The M10 has a full-length zipper, a generous helmet compatible hood, adjustable waist, and two adjustable wrist closures. Lighter hardshells skip the adjustable waist, which is an unfortunate drawback, and don’t have adjustable wrists, which our testers prefer for ice climbing because the M10’s velcro can freeze up with ice and snow, but we very much appreciate the velcro wrists for all-purpose use.
The M10 is the only hardshell we’ve tested that stuffs into its own pocket. Though this feature is fantastic for wind shells and insulated jackets, we feel it is a drawback on waterproof breathable jacket such as the M10. Here’s why: The chest pocket needs to be downsized in order to make it small enough to compress the jacket into an appropriately tiny package when the pocket is reversed and used as a sack. When you only have one pocket it’s nice to have a big one to store things like a camera, GPS, or gloves. We would prefer if Patagonia ditched the stowable feature and made the M10's chest pocket larger, like the Arcteryx Alpha FL. Our testing shows that a stowable feature is rarely if ever useful on a hardshell because we usually also carry a backpack that can hold the jacket. Being able to clip the jacket to a harness can be useful on rare occasions, but our testers agree that the benefit of a larger pocket would be more useful than the stowable feature. We like to store shells by rolling them up into the hood to minimize abrasion and dirt.
Another very small drawback is the hood pull cord design. There is only one pull cord, which doesn't allow you to customize the hood's fit as well as jackets with three or four cords. Again, the Arcteryx Alpha FL takes the lead here with it's slightly more comfortable hood.
The chest pocket and hood adjustments are minor drawbacks when you consider all of the M10’s strongpoints. Overall, the jacket has an excellent feature set. We give it 9 out of 10 points in the category. For a more detailed discussion of the best hardshell features see our Hardshell Jacket Buying Advice.
A Medium size M10 weighs exactly 8.0 oz. on our scale. It is the third lightest three-layer hardshell we’ve tested. Only the Mountain Hardwear Blazar and Haglofs Gram Comp Pull are lighter.
Like most Patagonia apparel, the M10 is cut generously. Patagonia describes the fit as "Slim" but we feel it is closer to the company's Regular Fit; it's relatively boxy (see the photo below). Consequently, the M10 is likely the best lightweight hardshell for generously sized people. The added space also makes it more versatile because you can wear more layers underneath it.
We give the M10 9 out of 10 points for mobility because our testers prefer the cut of the Arcteryx Alpha FL, which feels slightly more ergonomic, like you’re body is working with the jacket. However, both shells are extremely comfortable and encroach into the space traditionally occupied by softshell jackets. Wearing the M10 is an absolute pleasure because it feels like you're wearing a lightweight wind jacket. Fantastic freedom of movement.
Our tests show that the M10 is the most durable ultralight hardshell (<10 oz.). More than 10 people have used the jacket on a host of backcountry ski tours, alpine climbs, and extended backpacking trips. We’ve 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 Blazar, 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 Arcteryx Alpha SV. We feel that for 99% of applications a jacket like the 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.
After testing the Arcteryx Alpha FL extensively for two years we are confident that jacket is considerably more durable than the M10. Arcteryx reinforces the Alpha FL’s shoulders, hood, and wrist area with a tougher face fabric whereas the M10 is made entirely with one lighter fabric. Our Alpha FL and M10 jackets are now in roughly the same condition even though the Alpha FL has been used for much longer. But this difference in durability is only likely to benefit people that are really tough on their gear, such as climbers, who rub against sharp granite and carry 70 lb. packs. The M10 is more than sufficiently durable for most applications. Overall, it is impressively tough!! For further proof of the M10's durability see what Patagonia Alpine Climbing Ambassador Colin Haley has used the jacket for .
Patagonia has one of the best fabric testing labs in the nation (the author toured it in in June 2012) and Patagonia has a proven history of thoroughly testing their products before releasing them. For example, in 2011 they identified a problem with an early version of the Gore-tex Active membrane that Gore Associates overlooked. Patagonia decided not to launch their Active shell jacket (the Light Flyer) that season while all the other major brands launched anyway (likely unaware of the problem Patagonia identified). The M10 is a good example of Patagonia's very fine craftsmanship.
Breathability is very good, way better than ultralight rain jackets. The ability to ventilate through the full-length zipper is what separates this shell from its ultralight competition. We’ve found that when you’re working hard it’s often possible to unzip the jacket all the way and then close it up when you reach the top of a pass, or slow down and aren’t generating as much heat. In such circumstances, jackets with half-length zippers can be too hot. Thus, the M10’s full zipper length is key to making the jacket versatile.
The 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.
Backpacking, alpine climbing, backcountry skiing.
The M10 is our testers’ favorite jacket for backpacking and our second highest rated jacket overall. We highly recommend it.
Check out our Hardshell Jacket Price Versus Value Chart.
Patagonia Alpine Climbing Ambassador Colin Haley raves about the M10 in the video below.
Hardshell jacket wash instructions
— Max Neale
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Most recent review: September 12, 2013
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