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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Bulky and heavy
The Patagonia DAS Parka, or "Dead Air Space" Parka, has been a cornerstone of climbing parkas for over 20 years, and this year it won our Top Pick for Warmth. It doesn't have any extra frills and features a boxy cut designed to fit over your other layers. It is by far the warmest model we tested and the best and most popular synthetic "belay jacket" for ice climbing and big mountain expeditions in damp, cold climates. In fact, it has several features that are optimized for climbing use, including big, internal mesh pockets for drying gloves and a main zipper that opens from the bottom up.
We think of our Top Pick winner as a relatively specialist piece, however, and think that most folks will be better served for everyday use by one of the lighter insulated models we tested. The Arc'teryx Atom AR Hoody is our favorite jacket with medium insulation; it is a great mid-layer for really cold weather and a good outer layer for near freezing conditions. The second warmest model we tested, the Mountain Hardwear Super Compressor, is a bit more stylish for around town wear, but doesn't have the added weather resistance and big internal drop-in pockets that make the DAS a great belay parka.
RELATED: Our complete review of insulated jackets - men's
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Patagonia DAS Parka is the perfect jacket for hunkering down on winter climbs, especially ones where you might get a bit wet. It's a great backcountry ski parka for wet, coastal zones as well. As you'd expect, it received high scores for warmth and weather resistance, but it is heavy, doesn't compress well, and has a big, boxy look.
Our Top Pick for Warmth is a specialist piece that we really only recommend for a relatively small percentage of consumers. It could be the right insulated jacket for you if:
The DAS Parka is the go-to standard in the world of super warm synthetic jackets. The newest generation uses two layers of PrimaLoft insulation: 120 g/m2 PrimaLoft Silver Hi-Loft throughout with an additional 60g/m2 of PrimaLoft Gold in the torso. This insulated jacket is primarily intended as a cold (or damp) weather belay parka and that is indeed its best place. The warmth of the DAS will be too much for most applications unless you're simply standing around all day in cold weather. The Mountain Hardwear Super Compressor is the second warmest model we tested, but isn't as well designed for technical use. You might consider it more stylish for casual wear though.
The DAS's big warm hood features a single elastic cord adjustment at the back of the head that snugs it up well around the face. Additionaly, the collar easily covers up to the bottom of your nose and a stiffened brim on the hood helps keep falling snow and dripping water from your face. Finally, the main zipper is backed by an insulated storm flap for added protection from cold penetration – the Super Compressor does not have this feature.
Weight & Compressibility
What can we say? While this parka earned the highest score for warmth, it also earn the lowest score for weight and compressibility. At 25.6 ounces, it's twice as heavy as the light insulated models we tested, but it's definitely at least twice as warm. Expect this jacket to take up a lot of space when you put it in your pack. The Patagonia DAS Parka comes with a stuff sack for stowing it away; however, it's like a wrestling match to get it in there. The PrimaLoft Silver Hi-Loft insulation that is the primary insulation prioritizes loft and warmth and thus compresses poorly compared to PrimaLoft GOLD and others. By comparison, the Super Compressor stuffs into its chest pocket and is much smaller when compressed.
We awarded the DAS a middle of the road score for comfort. Such a big parka, intended for wear over top of many other layers, doesn't incorporate soft, fleecy bits and it feels bulky and stiff. However, we did find the underarm construction to allow good overhead mobility without tugging up the hem.
The warm hood is large enough to fit over a helmet, but if you wear it without a helmet, it's not very snug. A stiffened brim provides protection from drips and snow and the single elastic adjustment works well with a cord lock on the back of the head. The zippered hand pockets have insulation on both sides; this is a nice feature for warming up cold hands, but we wish they were a little deeper. A roomy zippered pocket on the exterior left chest provides ample easy-access storage. Two large, mesh drop-in pockets live on the inside of the jacket next to your tummy. These are excellent spots to dry a pair of wet gloves or even store two water bottles to keep them from freezing. We'd like to see a little larger zipper pulls for use with heavy gloves, but the existing ones work well enough. The elastic wrist cuffs fit snugly which is appreciated for warmth and wind resistance. Finally, the hem cinches tight with a cord lock on either the left or right hip.
Weather resistance is the other metric (along with warmth) where the DAS earned a perfect score. This jacket's 20D nylon ripstop shell fabric has a PU coating and is exceptionally water resistant. This is essentially why you would want to opt for this jacket over a more compressible, lighter weight down parka – it resists water well, and will keep you warm even if you get wet. This parka is designed for warmth while being relatively inactive, such as belaying on ice routes or in the big mountains. In these scenarios, temps might be warm enough to have liquid water running down the ice or rock and wet snow falling from the sky. The synthetic insulation in the Patagonia DAS Parka can handle getting damp. This jacket is also very wind resistant. The PU coated outer fabric stops the wind and even if it didn't, the super thick insulation would stop it on its own.
Sadly, this jacket offers essentially no breahtability, and is definitely the least breathable of the products we tested. That's the reality of such a thick synthetic parka that also uses a PU-coated water resistant shell. For the most part, this is not a layer you will use when on the move with the potential to overheat. The exception some folks love this parka for the downs when backcountry skiing in maritime climates like Alaska. There's often snow falling, and that snow is often heavy and wet. Black is the perfect color for the lining of this jacket. On multi-day trips, turn it inside out and let the sun bake away any accumulated sweat when you have the chance.
This is not likely to be a jacket you or your friends find attractive for around-town wear. It is big, bulky, and box shaped. The hem of this parka is quite long, covering more of your butt for warmth. We suggest sizing it so that it will fit over all your other layers.
This jacket is the best thing going for ice climbing belays in conditions that might have liquid water around. It's also a great option for cold winter work where a tear in a down parka would have your goose down "flying away." The DAS also has a place on extended expeditions to places like Alaska or Patagonia where dampness through use and inclement mountain weather conditions are a big concern for down parkas.
At $300, the DAS Parka isn't cheap, but it's only a little more expensive than many of the light models we tested. A similarly warm down parka will set you back up to twice as much. For warmth-to-price ratio, it is hard to beat this parka. However, remember that a well-cared-for down coat will last longer than a synthetic one.
The Patagonia DAS Parka has been around for a long time, but has been regularly updated with advanced insulation and water resistant fabrics. It is the best synthetic "belay parka" out there and will keep you warm and dry in all but the most heinous conditions.
Patagonia DAS Parka - Women's
Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Hoody and Fitz Roy Down Hoody - Women's
— Brandon Lampley & Chris Simrell
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Most recent review: November 17, 2015
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