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Patagonia Super Pluma Review

   
Top Pick Award

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  • Currently 4.2/5
Overall avg rating 4.2 of 5 based on 2 reviews. Most recent review: July 18, 2013
Street Price:   Varies from $384 - $549 | Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Moderately lightweight, versatile, good value, great fit, front hood and hem adjustments are easy to use.
Cons:  Hand pockets are smaller than average, rear hood adjustment can be hard to fully loosen, main zipper is difficult to pull one handed, heavy for backpacking.
Best Uses:  climbing and skiing
User Rating:     
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 (5.0 of 5) based on 1 reviews
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ July 18, 2013  
Overview
Due to its above average durability and handwarmer pockets the Patagonia Super Pluma is arguably the most versatile hardshell we tested. Whether you're alpine climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, or kicking it around town the Super Pluma keeps you warm and dry and is built tough for extended use in high abrasion environments. This jacket scores well in our ratings and wins our Top Pick Award because it is versatile and has handwarmer pockets, which some people prefer.

Although the Super Pluma is good for lots of things, it's not perfect for any one specific activity. The Arc'teryx Alpha FL is a better choice for backpacking and general use and comes in a version with handwarmer pockets, too, (see the Arctertyx Beta FL.) Check out our Hardshell Jacket Review to compare all of the models tested.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Performance Comparison
Weight
The men's medium Super Pluma weighs a modest 14.1 oz. on our scale; it's durable enough to resist years of hard use without being too heavy.

Durability
The Super Pluma uses Gore-Tex Pro membrance and has a strong 3.2 oz/ sq. yard 40-denier face fabric. Pro membrane is best for extended trips in severe conditions and for people that work outside, such as mountain guides. It's less breathable than the company's Active Shell, Mountain Hardwear's Dry Q Elite, eVent, and Columbia's Omni-Dry. Gore's Pro membrane is backed by the company's unconditional lifetime warranty: if you aren't fully satisfied with its durability, water resistance, or breathability you can return it.

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Will Dean in the Patagonia Super Pluma. New York Gully, North Face of Snoqualmie, Cascade Mountains, Washington.
Credit: Todd Kilcup
Features
Patagonia's in-house alpine design team and Ambassadors partnered with FYI Design Department, a contract industrial design firm based in British Columbia, for the Super Pluma's design. This partnership created a simple yet fully featured jacket. The Super Pluma has two moderately sized handwarmer pockets that sit high up on the chest, away from a backpack's waistbelt or a climbing harness. Hidden bellows and a flat pleated front look good allow you to see look down and see your feet, and they expand to accommodate medium sized objects or to protect your hands from the elements. The Super Pluma also has one small internal zippered pocket for items like keys and an ID. And, finally, two large watertight pit zips dump heat and moisture vapor when you're working hard.

As for the details, the Super Pluma has excellent hidden cord adjustments at the hood (two on the front and at on the top rear) and bottom hem (one on each side). These are flat, so you can pinch them with gloves on, and are covered with a grey rubbery material that allows you can find them easily (if the jacket is orange or green). The Mountain Hardwear Drystein II uses the same adjusters, but lacks the grey rubber identifiers- we were surprised at how much of a difference they make when finding the adjustments quickly.

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The Super Pluma and Super Alpine's flat, hidden cord adjustments tighten with one hand and are marked with a grey rubbery material that's easy to find. These are easier to release that the adjustments found on most other hardshells.
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
Fit
The Super Pluma's cut strikes a happy medium between ultralight trim-fitting shells (Mountain Hardwear Quasar) and bulky expedition mountaineering jackets (Rab Latok). It's small enough to be worn comfortably over a single baselayer, yet is also adequately spacious for covering a midweight down or synthetic insulated jacket.

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The Patagonia Super Pluma's fits is comfortable when worn over a baselayer yet can also accommodate a midweight insulated jacket. Max is 6'1" and 150 lb.
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
The Super Pluma is backed by both Patagonia's Ironclad Guarantee and Gore's unconditional lifetime warranty.

Limitations
Although the Super Pluma is an excellent all-purpose hardshell, it's not without faults. Our testers have identified several features that, if tweaked, would make the jacket better. First, the hand pockets are smaller than most other shells we tested. A Nalgene can just squeeze inside and there's just enough space to hide your hands. But the pockets aren't big enough to comfortably insert your hands and walk around- not, at least, with average size male hands. Note, in the photo below, how the pockets only cover the author's fingers when his hands are outstretched. We believe that larger pockets would make the Super Pluma better. (Of the twenty-one hardshells tested we found the Rab Latok's handwarmer pockets to be most comfortable.)

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Expedition style hardshell pocket critique, L to R: Rab Latok (excellent), Mountain Hardwear Drystein II (a little low), Patagonia Super Pluma (a little small), Arcteryx Alpha SV (fantastic storage and easy access but don't accommodate hands).
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
Another area with room for improvement is the Super Pluma's primary zipper. This is slightly harder to open than the average shell we tested. More often than not we had to use two hands to open the fully closed zipper. This problem is due to the main zipper's size- it's only slightly larger than the hand pocket and pit zippers. A larger gauge zipper would be easier to use in general, and would let you access the interior zippered pocket with a single hand. The Arc'teryx Alpha SV has the best zippers of any hardshell we tested.

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The Arcteryx Alpha SV's zipper (blue) is much easier to pull than the zippers on the Patagonia Super Pluma and Super Alpine (orange). All are wind and waterproof.
Credit: Outdoor Gear Lab
On a similar note, the Super Pluma's top rear hood adjustment can be difficult to fully release. We found that we had to pinch the adjustment, pull back in just the right way while also pulling the drawcord under the hood's brim. Small adjustments can be done with one hand, but to create space for a helmet usually used two hands. Again, we found the same feature on the Arc'teryx Alpha SV to be easier to use.

Are these drawbacks significant?
No, not really. When put in perspective of the whole jacket and all of the twenty-one shells we tested, these amount to nothing more than a minor blemish on a juicy ripe fruit. The Super Pluma performs very well, but isn't perfect.

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Brad Miller, with the Patagonia Super Pluma hardshell jacket and HyperLite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack, atop Mt. McKinley (Denali), Alaska.
Credit: Clayton Kimmi
Best Application
The Super Pluma is one step up from our tester's preferred sweet spot between low weight and durability. The jacket is tougher than average (note that average hardshell durability is much greater than any rain jacket we've tested) so it's best for climbers in high abrasion environments and those that work outside as guides, instructors, etc.

Value
See our Hardshell Price Versus Value Chart.

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The Mountain Hardwear Quasar (front) and Patagonia Super Pluma (rear) head into the Cascades. CiloGear 30L Worksack and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack shown.
Credit: Todd Kilcup

Other Versions
There is no women's version of the Super Pluma. The closest offering from Patagonia is the Patagonia Super Alpine - Women's which is a little heavier and more durable than the Super Pluma.

Video

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 18, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Jul 4, 2012 - 04:55pm
Brad Milller · Climber · South Lake Tahoe, CA
I own the Super Pluma and have also used many other shells. I rate the Super Pluma at a solid 4.5 stars.

I feel like the information in the review is spot on. There are a few things I look for in a shell, the top features being cut/fit, breath-ability/venting, weight and durability. I also do my best to find "quiver of one" pieces and I think that the Super Pluma is the best all around shell on the market. It is durable, light (mid weight), fits well, has venting, good pockets, good hood and looks good too (bright without being crazy neon colors you would not want to wear around town).

One thing I hate is tight armpits and I find that certain brands have unacceptably high cut arm holes which makes otherwise excellent shells unwearable in that they are uncomfortable and unlayerable (e.g. Outdoor Research Mentor). I feel like the fit of the Arcteryx Alfa SV is a bit better in that it is a tad baggier and the arm hole is cut lower but the Super Pluma is still plenty comfy. The fit is great, not too baggy but still has room to layer. I took the Super Pluma to Denali where I wore it most days and layered a base (Patagonia cap 2), mid 1 (Patagonia r1 hoodie), mid 2 (Arcteryx Atom LT), softshell (Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody) underneath the Super Pluma. This system felt athletic but not too tight, the way an alpine kit should work.

Like the review states, the Super Pluma may be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, with a few more durable but heavier and many lighter but less durable (and sometimes not windproof). However, the Super Pluma is definitely up there in durability and is mid-weight so it is a fantastic balance. The hood on the Alfa SV is better but the Super Pluma hood is still really good and works just fine. The cut is better on the Super Pluma than the Super Alpine which has strangely long arms which may have a function but that I found annoying and the increase in durability adds stiffness. The Pluma is also $100 cheaper than the more durable models.

Pockets were a big feature for me; a big reason I chose the Super Pluma over the Alfa SV. The Alfa SV has the ice climbing chest pockets which may be good on routes but are annoying for the other 90% of the time you are wearing the jacket as you cannot put your hands in your pockets. The Super Pluma has nice, high hand pockets which sit above a harness and allow you to put your hands in them when you need to warm them while hiking or chilling around the campfire. I've never noticed them being too small but I probably ball my fist in my pockets naturally.

I agree with the zippers; they work but can be hard and other models are better. Sometimes the pit zips are tough to operate which gets frustrating. This con makes me take off half a star, especially because the problem is exacerbated by the heavy gloves you are likely to be often wearing with this shell. I would love to see a redesign with zippers like on the Alfa SV.

All in all, if you are looking for an excellent all around, quiver of one shell for any activity, the Super Pluma is a great choice.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Patagonia Super Pluma
Credit: Patagonia
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