In recent years we have tested the Patagonia Triolet as well as the Patagonia Refugitive, and find the Pluma to be the most versatile and fine-tuned of the three jackets. It uses the Gore-Tex Pro membrane combined with 40D nylon face fabric for a combination that is almost the same, in weight, durability, and feel, as our TopPick for Alpine Climbing, the Arc'teryx Alpha FL. However, it is a bit heavier than that jacket, as it has dual pit zips to aid with ventilation, and its hood is not quite as deep and cavernous, leading to some drip-age in a full downpour. We found that it had above average, but not elite, performance in nearly every category, leading to a middle-of-the-pack comparable rating, although it is a quality piece of gear that almost anyone would be happy to own and wear.
The Pluma is a very protective and versatile jacket that works great for either climbing or skiing the deep pow.
We reviewed a men's size medium Pluma and found that while it offered plenty of coverage, compared to the other medium's that we reviewed the sleeves and the hem were slightly short, leading to a bit of undergarment exposure when ice climbing with our hands above our head. The hood design we found to be better than in past versions of Patagonia jackets that we have reviewed that only used one pull-cord for adjustment; this one has a standard three. However, the brim of the hood is not wire-rimmed, like the one found on the Outdoor Research Interstellar, and is not quite wide enough to completely funnel water out of the face in a heavy downpour.
The wire-brimmed hood of the Pluma was large enough to fully cover us, even with a helmet on, but we wish the wire-brim extended a bit further to the sides, so water wouldn't run down where it has the chance to sneak into the collar. Regardless, this three-drawcord design was far more effective than recent single adjustment point hoods we have tested from Patagonia.
We experienced no issues without a helmet, but while wearing a climbing helmet, some water hit our face and filtered down the collar into our neck. Additionally, we noticed a decent amount of wetting out on the front of the jacket, suggesting that the DWR coating had worn off. Especially in cold and wintery conditions, this jacket offers excellent protection, but when the going gets rainy, we don't think its quite as good as some others.
Taking a break in a wind created feature on a ridge while touring on Roger's Pass. The wind was howling, visibility was poor, but Dakota remains comfortably ensconced inside his Pluma jacket, which gave him plenty of weather protection for this variable day.
Our size medium jacket weighed in at 14.2 ounces, impressively light considering that this jacket was not stripped of all features and included pit zips for ventilation, unlike the OR Interstellar or Arc'teryx Alpha FL. While not the absolute lightest, this jacket's weight doesn't give anyone an excuse for not bringing it along, no matter what the adventure.
Mobility and Fit
Our head tester is 6'0" tall and around 160 lbs. He has pretty broad shoulders but a skinny torso, and for this review, we purchased a size medium. We are happy we did, as Patagonia larges are often far too baggy and spacious for his frame, but noticed that this medium was a bit smaller than the Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker.
While it was trim and athletic in the torso, there was still room for some layering beneath. The sleeves and hem were long enough, but a hair shorter than we would have wished for, especially when raising our arms over our head while ice climbing. Additionally, we noticed slight constrictions in our upper chest and shoulders when moving about.
The size men's medium Pluma fit Dakota ideally (he usually wears mediums). It was plenty mobile and offered no constrictions as he followed the happy weather uphill into the happy alpine play land on Rogers Pass.
Venting and Breathability
The Gore-Tex Pro membrane with a microdot backer has become more breathable and lighter over the years as W.L. Gore has made adjustments, but it is still a solid membrane that does not readily allow air to permeate it.
The first snowfall of the season in the San Juans was just deep enough to allow for a bit of a nordic ski tour, so we decided to test the breathability of the Pluma while working hard.
While conducting our stationary bike breathability tests, it felt relatively hot and sweaty, up there with similarly constructed Alpha FL and Arc'teryx Beta AR. It was noticeably less comfortable while working up a sweat than jackets that use Gore-Tex Active membrane. It has dual pit zips that provide some ventilation relief but lacks mesh-lined pockets or a two-way front zipper that would have aided this process.
Wearing the Pluma on the stationary bike during our controlled breathability testing. The Gore-Tex Pro membrane breathed reasonably well, although we were super hot and sweaty inside the jacket for this test.
The feature set is the strongest aspect of the Patagonia Pluma, utilizing the best Cohaesive buckles available with pull-cords in ideal locations. All five pull-cord buckles are Cohaesive, which we find to be the easiest to manipulate for release, especially with gloves on. We also love how the two side-of-the-face pull cords live on the outside of the collar, easy to pull while completely bundled up, and the two hem pull cords live within the handwarmer pockets and don't leave loops of cord hanging where they can snag or be tripped on.
The best design and location for hood draw cords and buckles, shown here on the Pluma. The pull cord lives on the outside of the jacket where it is very easy to pull and adjust with the collar zipped up. The Cohaesive cord lock buckles, highlighted with the grey circle next to the cheek, are optimal due to their low profile and easy release.
We should also mention that this jacket has two high handwarmer pockets, a single cross-over chest pocket, and a small internal zippered pocket for a phone. We gave it 9 out of 10 points for its perfectly functioning features, although it was still second to the more innovative and unique design of the Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker.
The ideal setup for a hem draw cord shown here on the Pluma. Recessed cord lock buckles live inside the fabric and are super easy to release with gloves on. The pull tab lives inside the hand pocket, meaning that no loop or tab hangs down below the hem to catch on anything.
Due to the use of a Gore-Tex Pro membrane and a durable face fabric, we feel this jacket is more ideally suited to climates and activities where the weather is horrible and wet, rather than warmer and drier areas. It is truly versatile regarding its intended activities, and we feel it makes a great choice for alpine or ice climbing, mountaineering, as well as skiing or even backpacking.
Skiing steep trees on Roger's Pass in British Columbia on a storm day was the perfect use for the Pluma. It is a great all-around jacket, with fit and features to match and bad weather outdoor adventure.
This jacket retails for $549, landing it among the more expensive shells in this review. The quality, materials, and of course Patagonia's ironclad guarantee, all back up this price and suggest that it presents a good value. That said, we thought that some jackets performed better in our overall rankings, while also costing less.
Fulfilling pillow dropping fantasies implanted by watching too many ski movies, Dakota hucks himself into the deep powder snow, protected by the Pluma jacket.
The Patagonia Pluma has everything that you would expect in a hardshell jacket and feels like one of the more fine-tuned hardshells that we have tested from Patagonia in the last few years. It is versatile and does everything well, leaving virtually no room for complaint. However, it was roughly average in our overall comparative rankings, suggesting there may be better deals to be found for those who want the very best at the most affordable price.
Crossing the bridge over Connaught Creek on the way to another epic sized uphill on Roger's Pass, BC, while wearing the versatile Pluma jacket.