Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, versatile,good value, great fit, front hood and hem adjustmenst are easy to use, pit zips easy to open one handed.
Cons: Rear hood adjustment can be hard to fully loosen, hand pockets are smaller than average, main zipper is difficult to pull one handed.
Best Uses: climbing, skiing, hiking; everything.
The Super Pluma offers an uncompromising, versatile, and lightweight hardshell for outdoor enthusiasts of all types. Whether youíre backpacking, alpine climbing, mountaineering, or backcountry skiing, the Super Pluma keeps you warm and dry in almost every condition. This is the only award winning hardshell with handwarmer pockets.
Although the Super Pluma is good for everything, itís not perfect for any one specific activity. (Thatís just the way gear works.) The Arcteryx Alpha FL is a better choice for fast and light climbing, ultralight hiking, and for use as an insurance piece. The Quasar weighs a mere 10.7 oz. and utilizes Gore Active Shell membrane, which expels moisture vapor faster than the Super Plumaís Gore Pro Shell; itís best for high output activities, but itís not as versatile, durable, or as warm as the Super Pluma.
The Arcteryx Alpha SV is our top rated hardshell for extended climbing, mountaineering, and anyone who is particularly hard on their gear. This newly redesigned shell offers a supremely simple jacket for people who spend extended periods of time in remote areas. The Alpha SV weighs 16.9 oz., that's 20% more than the Super Pluma. In exchange for this weight increase it provides numerous benefits: itís cut larger to accommodates more layers (without feeling too bulky or restrictive); it has an upper waist drawcord that seals out cold air and pulls the center of the jacket in (neither the Super Pluma, Super Alpine , or the Alpha FL have this feature); it has the largest and most comfortable hood of any shell tested; and it utilizes the latest and greatest N80p-X face fabric, which provides the best abrasion resistance to weight ratio of any Pro Shell face fabric tested. We prefer the Alpha SV to Super Pluma for extended trips in remote areas, but the Alpha SVís pocket design- two cross-over napoleon pockets- is climbing specific and doesnít accommodate your hands. (Those seeking the most durable mountaineering shell with hand pockets should consider the Arcteryx Theta SV or Rab Latok.)
For those on a budget we recommend the Rab Stretch Neo. Available for around $350 this jacket is nearly half the price of the Arcteryx Alpha SV, weighs nearly the same amount, and has nearly the same feature set. It's an excellent value.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Patagonia Super Pluma is the most versatile hardshell we tested. It provides hikers, climbers, and skiers with do-it-all waterproof breathable protection in a lightweight and well-featured package. The menís medium Super Pluma weighed a modest 14.1 oz. on our scale; itís light enough to join you on fast and light mountain missions, yet also durable enough to resist years of hard use. This is the jacket for everything.
The Super Pluma uses a three layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell with a lightweight yet strong 3.2 oz/ sq. yard 40-denier face fabric. Pro Shell is best for extended trips in severe conditions. Itís less breathable than the companyís Active Shell, Mountain Hardwearís Dry Q Elite, eVent, and Columbiaís Omni-Dry, but its non-porous membrane makes it warmer than the latter three, which in turn makes it better suited to trips that encounter high winds and longer periods of low exertion. Pro Shell is backed by Goreís unconditional lifetime warranty: if you arenít fully satisfied with its durability, water resistance, or breathability you can return it.
Patagoniaís in-house alpine design team and Ambassadors partnered with FYI Design Department, a contract industrial design firm based in British Columbia, for the Super Plumaís 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 backpackís 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 youíre 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 Plumaís cut strikes a happy medium between ultralight trim-fitting shells (Mountain Hardwear Quasar) and bulky expedition mountaineering jackets (Rab Latok). Itís 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 Goreís unconditional lifetime warranty.
Although the Super Pluma is an excellent all-purpose hardshell, itís 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 thereís just enough space to hide your hands. But the pockets arenít 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 authorís fingers when his hands are outstretched. We believe that hand pockets would make the Super Pluma better. (Of the twenty-one hardshells tested we found the Rab Latokís 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 best for alpine climbing, but works well for hiking, mountaineering, and alpine skiing. This is undoubtedly the most versatile hardshell we reviewed. Regardless of the type of trip or duration, our testers reached for the Super Pluma more than any other shell tested. We took it throughout the Cascades, Sierra, Canadian Rockies, and one tester climbed Denali with it.
The Super Pluma offers an impressive amount of performance for its price. We believe itís a better value than the companyís Super Alpine, which offers a slight increase in durability but costs $100 more. Itís also a much better value than ultralight shells such as the Mountain Hardweat Quasar, which are far less durable.
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: August 18, 2012
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