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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Expensive, afraid the potential lack of breathability could affect the down insulation
The Patagonia Primo Down is a warm, stylish, and high quality ski jacket that continually earns the award for Editors' Choice. This jacket has a lot of special features to keep you warm, looking good, and functioning well on the ski hill. One vast improvement in quality from the 14/15 version is it now has 800 fill down, which makes this jacket a little bit better value for the high price tag. We really appreciate the ethically harvested down insulation, special pockets for iPods, keys, and ski passes, as well as its removable snow skirt. It is also constructed from quality materials such as waterproof Gore-Tex. This jacket is lightweight, comfortable, and moves well with the wearer when shredding pow or cruising groomers. Because of its top-of-the line materials and quality construction, it is also one of the most expensive jackets in this review.
RELATED: Our complete review of ski jackets - women's
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
A down insulated jacket with a waterproof exterior and a softer, suppler feeling shell fabric, complete with useful features tailored towards skiing, the Primo Down is a high performance layer for cold days on the hill.
Credit: Jessica Haist
The Primo Down is one of few jackets in this review, along with the Arc'teryx Andessa, Arc'teryx Sentinel, and the Patagonia Untracked - Women's, to use Gore-Tex fabric for its outer shell. Gore-Tex is the most widely regarded waterproof/breathable membrane on the market. We found that water beaded well and rolled off well on this material in our own tests, though that is largely a product of the DWR coatings. Patagonia has changed the front zipper from the stiff, hard to use watertight coated zipper to a burly Vislon zipper. Our testers think this is a huge improvement and thought the old zipper was extremely difficult to use, although we're not sure if it looks as sleek as the old zipper. We did not notice any drafts coming through the front zipper when skiing downhill at speeds. The Primo Down is a fortress that will protect you from any weather that Mother Nature can throw at you.
The two layer recycled Gore-Tex material used on this jacket has a permeable membrane that is supposed to let moisture out when you sweat. Our testers have found that sometimes Gore-Tex is not as breathable as we would like, and becomes less so over time when the jacket gets dirty. This makes us a little nervous about how this jacket will perform over time, because down insulation becomes less effective when it gets wet - and dirty. The Primo Down does have mesh lined pit-zips for for extra ventilation and airflow when you're really earning your turns, and the mesh keeps the snow out in case you take a tumble. We think that non-mesh lined pit-zips like on the Sentinel jacket allow for slightly better ventilation.
The Patagonia Primo Down is super warm. It is insulated with lofty 800-fill-power goose down that is much lighter in weight than the synthetic insulation found in either the The North Face Cheakamus Triclimate or the Columbia Whirlibird - Women's jackets, but it feels just as warm and very wind resistant. On the coldest days at the hill we paired this jacket with a base layer and thin mid-layer and felt toasty. Even on the coldest storm days we were always warm enough. We really like that its hood is insulated with down as well, and fits over a ski helmet to keep any heat from escaping from the head or neck. It also has a clever neck baffle filled with down that prevents cold air from reaching the back and seals warm air in. We noticed that Patagonia changed the style of the sewn baffles this year from traditional horizontal baffles to diamond sewn baffles. This may prevent the down from moving around in its compartments, but there seems to be more stitching, which may make the jacket draftier. The jacket's hemline is long for less drafts and more coverage.
The Primo Down excels in the ski performance category. It has several clever features meant to keep you comfortable on the ski hill. We especially like the removable powder skirt and the media pocket that keeps your iPod tucked away and allows your headphones to poke through to the interior of your jacket. It has plenty of pockets, including a large interior for goggles, a small zippered interior pocket for your keys, and a ski pass pocket on the sleeve. We really love the cozy fleece lined hand warmer pockets as well. The Primo Down is equipped with RECCO avalanche technology that has become an industry standard feature in high end ski jackets.
The powder skirt has a light, stretchy material and a rubber gasket that is meant to grab and hold on to your clothes better to prevent it from riding up. It is much more low profile than many of the jackets we tested including the Columbia First Tracks 860 TurboDown - Women's. We still don't think powder skirts are very effective unless they attach to your pants to prevent them from pulling all your layers up. To read more about this, check out our Buying Advice Article.
Other jackets that had good ski features were the Flylow Billie Coat, the Mountain Hardwear Barnsie, and the Orage Nina.
This jacket has a simple design that is form flattering and looks good. It is not flashy like the Flylow Jane or the Bugaboo, but we still think our testers look great in it. The Primo Down has a complimentary colored lining that you can see on the outside in the hood, and it comes in a few pleasant colors, although we wish there were more colors to choose from. For a warm, down insulated jacket, the Primo Down looks streamlined and stylish. The most stylish jackets we tested were the Orage Nina and the Flylow Billie Coat.
Comfort and Fit
Every tester who puts this jacket on says something along the lines of "ooh this is nice!" Being so lightweight is an advantage for the Primo Down, which adds to its comfort. Compared to the heavy Whirlibird and First Tracks jackets, this jacket feels like you're wearing nothing at all. This year's version has a softer, suppler feeling shell fabric. It is less crinkly-feeling and is stretchy enough to move with you well when we're working hard on the slopes. This model has a long hemline so it covers more of your back-side and keeps you even warmer. The large hood and soft chin guard add comfort and coziness. Our medium sized testers found this jacket very comfortable and roomy enough to put an extra layer underneath – although we rarely felt like we needed one.
With all of its special features, this jacket was made for skiing and snowboarding at the resort. It will keep you warm on the coldest days and has extra ventilation for warmer spring skiing days. This jacket would be great for any low output cold weather activity like walking the dog or building snow forts. We love that the powder skirt is removable for the times you're not waist deep in fluffy stuff.
The Primo Down is one of the most expensive jackets in this review at $650, which may be a barrier to some. It has high quality materials and we believe it will last a long time with proper care. It is a better value than the very expensive Arc'teryx Andessa which features almost the same materials but is more expensive. Check out the Columbia First Tracks jacket if you are looking for one that is equally as warm and at a lower price. If you are looking for something that has many ski features and versatility but at a lower price point, we recommend the Orage Nina or the Mountain Hardwear Barnsie.
The waterproof exterior, well-insulated interior, and combination of excellent ski features makes this our favorite insulted ski jacket. This year's features such as the 800 fill down, long hemline, and softer shell material allow the latest version of the Primo Down to keep its spot as our Editors' Choice Award winner for the Fourth year running. We find it functional and flattering, and it falls into an acceptable price range. The Primo Down is the jacket we want to be wearing on a fun and deep powder day on our favorite hill.
Patagonia Primo Down Jacket
— Jessica Haist
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 13, 2016
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