Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Hybrid design combines hardshell and softshell materials, more breathable than a hardshell, more water resistant than a softshell, large velcro cuffs on sleeves, crossover chest pockets, helmet compatible hood, fits over insulating layers well.
Cons: Handwarmer pockets are covered by backpack hipbelt, not as functional as either a softshell or hardshell, is a hybrid useful?
Best Uses: Ice and alpine climbing.
The Mixed Guide Hoody combines hardshell and softshell materials in an effort to balance breathability and water resistance. Patagonia's proprietary three layer H2No waterproof breathable hardshell fabric covers the hood, shoulders, and chest area while Polartec Power Shield softshell fabric covers the back, underarms, and belly area. By using these two fabrics the Mixed Guide Hoody strives to provide the waterproof protection and the breathability climbers need in high output and occasionally wet alpine environments. Unfortunately, the Mixed Guide Hoody doesn't perform well as either a softshell or a hardshell; it's not sufficiently waterproof to serve as a substitute for a hardshell and the hardshell parts make it less comfortable and less breathable than a softshell. All of the green parts of the jacket in our images are made with Patagonia's H2No waterproof material. The blue is made with Polartec Power Stretch fabric that provides four way stretch and is highly breathable. We found this combination to provide great protection from the wind. If you have the cash for a super luxurious ice climbing softshell consider the Arc'teryx Venta MX Hoody.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Part Hardshell Part Softshell
The Mixed Guide Hoody has more stretch and is more breathable than a traditional hardshell jacket. On average it's also more durable and more water resistant than a traditional softshell jacket. The Polartec Power Shield softshell material is not windproof and, as a result, isn't as warm as a hardshell material or a windproof softshell material. (Because heat escapes with water vapor, no significantly water resistant fabric can be both highly breathable and warm.) At the same time, the Mixed Guide Hoody's hardshell parts make it warmer than a full softshell and allow it to be used in a slightly wider range of conditions.
The highly specialized design of hybrid jackets makes them well suited to a specific end use. In this case, the Mixed Guide Hoody's end use is multi-pitch ice climbing-- where you're working hard and encounter enough dripping water to (potentially) warrant hardshell materials on the shoulders and hood.
All of the green parts of the jacket in our images are waterproof. All blue fabric is a mid to heavy weight softshell that's more wind resistant than the average non-membrane softshell we've tested. This makes the jacket best for days with lots of wind.
The Mixed Guide Hoody performs well until you add the liquid form of water. Melting snow hits the shoulders, melts, and runs down off the hardshell parts and onto the softshell parts, which also wet out. Therefore, none of our testers found it to be a substitute for a hardshell jacket.
The combination of the hardshell and moderately heavy softshell fabric puts this jacket in the back of the pack in terms of breathability. It is more breathable than a hardshell, but the difference is not phenomenal.
The Mixed Guide Hoody has two moderately sized crossover chest pockets and two hidden handwarmer pockets. The handwarmer pockets get covered by a backpack's waistbelt or a harness, which renders them useless for many technical applications. Although the two crossover chest pockets are good for climbing and for storing things the Mixed Guide Hoody's pocket zippers would be better if they were larger. Specifically, the zippers should be one inch closer to the main zipper, which would make the pockets larger. Adding a bellowed side and bottom, like Arc'teryx does with their Alpha SV jacket, would provide even more storage. This may appear like a trivial feature, but when you're climbing and need to stash something quickly, such as your gloves, adequately sized pockets are necessary, and the jacket comes up short in this respect.
The hood is another feature that could be improved. It ranks on the smaller side of the dozens of other hardshell and softshell jackets we've tested, and is not truly comfortable when worn over a helmet with the zipper fully closed. One tester found it to be restricting when looking up and to the sides. Another tester found it to be fine while looking up but restrictive when looking to the sides. A larger hood would make the jacket better for climbing.
This jacket also has less attention to detail than many other top-tier pieces we've seen from Patagonia. For example, the chest pocket zipper garages do not actually cover the zippers' water can run into the pockets.
Multi-pitch ice climbing.
This jacket is deigned specifically for ice climbing. Our testers don't believe the jacket is suitable to many activities other than that.
But is it really useful or worthwhile even if you do a lot if ice climbing?
We believe that for 90% of climbing applications a pure softshell or hardshell will perform better than the Mixed Guide Hoody. Hardshells are by far the best value becuase they can be used for everything from around town to backpacking, to the most epic of alpine climbs. The Mixed Guide Hoody could be an interesting jacket to experiment with if you have the cash to do so. We feel it's a poor value.
For the ladies, the Patagonia Mixed Guide Hoody- Women's won our Top Pick award.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: March 13, 2014
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