An earlier version of the Patagonia Primo won our Editors' Choice Award. Some changes in the product, as well as the additional experience of our testers with the new award winner, the Arc'teryx Macai, tilts the balance now in favor of this latter product. The Primo does not earn top scores in any one category, but it presents a solid package of effective and durable performance. The durability and neutral styling will deliver many years of service to even the most dedicated user. Patagonia's expensive choice to source established Gore-Tex shell technology and coat it with their proprietary DWR inspires confidence that will protect the down and the user from wind and moisture over the course of many years. Mountain people clearly design this ski jacket for use in the mountains. The fit is athletic, allowing for a great range of motion and solid protection from the elements. A few details show room for improvement, but overall, we are very pleased with this jacket. The overall award went to the Arc'teryx Macai because of its more refined fit that helps to provide greater warmth. Otherwise, the two products are well matched.
Patagonia Primo Down Review
Cons: Boxy cut, drafty construction unless well cinched down
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Mainly because of its excellent design, our testers have put in a great deal of time with the Primo Down by Patagonia. When we don't want to think about it, we grab this contender. It is versatile, well-designed, and comfortable. Whether the weather is foul or fair, the day is short or long, or we're headed to the ski area or out to dinner, the Primo makes the cut.
Patagonia uses only down insulation in their Primo Down jacket. All the other insulated jackets we tested include at least some synthetic puff. Down insulation has been proven to be warmer-per-weight than synthetic, keep its insulating value longer, but it suffers when wet. In recent years, as evidenced by the jackets available for us to test, economic pressures and the difficulty in protecting down insulation from moisture in a stormy ski resort setting, have led most manufacturers to use synthetic insulation in their ski and board outerwear. Patagonia bucks this trend by charging the consumer for the down and protecting it with a beefy Gore-Tex laminated shell fabric.
As a result, the Primo is one of the lightest insulated jackets in our test, yet ranks among the best in warmth. The Arc'teryx Macai and Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 are very similar in warmth to the Primo Down. The Best Buy Columbia Whirlibird III Interchange is significantly warmer, while all of the shell jackets are less insulating than the Primo Down. As compared to its sibling, the Patagonia 3-in-1 Snowshot, the Primo Down is more insulating and offers a greater range of motion.
Patagonia's jackets, including the synthetic-filled Snowshot and the Primo Down, have among the best hoods and collars in our test. Both offerings perform equally well at protecting the wearer from the elements. The Primo Down's zip-off powder skirt stops drafts and snow, while mid-diameter cuffs can be worked and secured over even the bulkiest gloves. The beefy Gore-Tex shell fabric comes equipped with a best-in-test durable water repellent coating. Finally, all zippers are proven waterproof designs with little garages to park the zipper pulls.
The other Gore-Tex jackets in our test (Arc'teryx Macai and Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell) all vie with the Primo Down for top marks in this category. With similar technology and features, the protection of the Primo Down is about the same as the Arc'teryx Macai; the Primo falls behind the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell. The Lofoten, with industry-leading hood and cuffs and a one-of-a-kind zip and snap interface with the Norrona pants, has weather protection that is unmatched by any product we've used.
Fit and Comfort
Patagonia, borrowing from its climbing heritage, makes excellent sleeves. The arms of Primo Down clad testers could be waved all around without disturbing the fit of torso or gloves. We appreciate the smooth and high collar and well-constructed hood. Whether worn with a helmet or without, the hood can be snugged down and will follow the wearer's head with every turn. We have two minor beefs, however, with the Primo Down's fit and comfort. First, the hood uses a complicated arrangement of cord locks and channels and shock-cord for cinching. This system is integrated to allow for operation with gloves while containing face-slapping cord-ends. However, it proved to be virtually impossible to operate while the testers' peripheral vision was obscured by goggles.You can take the time to make them work, but the design works against efficiency. One end of the loop is fixed in place while the other is continuous with the cord lining the hood. This keeps the excessive cord from flapping in the wearer's face. The intent is that the wearer can pull on the plastic pulls, allowing the cord to pull through and tighten the end going to the hood. Friction prevents that, and the user must feel and experiment to end up pulling on the correct end. Again, it is totally usable, but when a simpler solution would work just fine why complicate matters?
Second, the hand warmer pockets are outside of the insulation and lined with smooth lightweight nylon. They do little to warm the hands and seem to have been added as an afterthought. Patagonia would have done well to take a hint from the Helly Hansen Alpha and add softly textured lining to the front pockets. Even better is the fully insulated hand warmers of the Armada Carson. The loose fit of the Primo Down is most similar to the Spyder Leader.
This competitor comes equipped with smooth pulling main and under-arm zips. The pit-zips are long and equipped with two pulls each. The stiff shell fabric and the nature of under-arm jacket construction mean that the unzipped vents open wide at least a little whenever the arm is moved. A bellows effect, plus the wind associated with a moving skier, combine to leave the Primo Down ventilation with scores near the best in this category. The 3-in-1 style jackets offer a high degree of insulation adjustability due to their modular designs, though it can't exactly be referred to as ventilation.
Of the fully insulated pieces, the pit zips of the Arc'teryx Macai vent almost as well as the Primo Down, though they fall a little short due to the mesh backing that inhibits airflow. The shell jackets, notably the Outdoor Research Skyward II, offered a higher performing ventilation system and overall left more options for climate control than any of the insulated pieces we tested.
The style of the Primo is decidedly neutral, and that's a good thing. It comes in solid, bright-but-not-obnoxious colors, fits close and long, and stays clean in use. In this way, it is very similar yet somehow more confidence-inspiring than the FlyLow Gear Lab Coat. Some testers found this latest version of the Primo Down to be boxy and baggy, especially compared to the similarly loose but more carefully tailored Spyder Leader. The shell jackets, like the Lab Coat, and Outdoor Research Skyward II, are a decidedly different look.
The Primo has pockets in just the right places, a pass-clip in the forearm pocket, and clips to attach the powder skirt to Patagonia pants. If it had a goggle wipe in one of the pockets, it would earn perfect scores in this category.
Similarly, the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 and the Spyder Leader have excellent combinations of ski features. If the small features are important to you, but synthetic insulation is preferable, check out one of these other two jackets.
The Primo Down is a warm jacket that is ideal for skiers in cold and stormy climates. It works well on the lifts and can be brought along on backcountry missions, as it is lightweight and warm.
This contender is among the most expensive jackets in our fleet. Its suggested retail price is well more than three times that of budget benchmark Columbia Whirlibird III Interchange, our Best Buy winner. It is also three times the cost of the Armada Carson. However, the down insulation will hold close to new insulating performance for decades. All of the synthetic jackets in our test will lose much of their loft in a few years of routine use. Per year of useful service, provided the style stays relevant and the seams intact, the Primo Down will cost far less than most other jackets in the test.
Patagonia has made a very warm and weather resistant jacket in the Primo Down. This carefully crafted garment is well designed with typical Patagonia quality and attention to detail.
While we love the all-down insulation of the Primo Down, we wish the cut and fit would stay consistent from one year to the next. The latest version is baggy and loose fitting and loses ground to the Arc'teryx Macai as a result.
— Jediah Porter