Hands-on Gear Review
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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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ironclad Guarantee and Gore’s unconditional lifetime warranty.
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.)
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.
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.
See our Hardshell Price Versus Value Chart.
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.
— Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 18, 2013
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