Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Parka Review
Cons: Hood design not protective of face, shell not durable, expensive.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Parka is filled with top end 800-fill-power down which is ethically sourced, and uses a Pertex DWR coated nylon shell to keep the down dry and lofty. There are two hand pockets and one chest pocket, with one large mesh inside pocket for keeping gloves or water bottles from freezing. While we liked the other technical down belay parka in this review, the Rab Neutrino Endurance, more because of its more weather resistant shell, this jacket weighs 3 ounces less. Which, in the context of an ultra-light alpine climbing mission, is the same as two Snickers bars.
The Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Parka is a top of the line down jacket, and you would be hard pressed to find a puffy with more loft unless you start looking at Himalayan down suits. So for pure insulating properties, this jacket is a good bet. Whether you are standing around at the Ice Park waiting for a climb or standing at the bus stop in the cold, the thick loft from 6.4 ounces of down fill will trap your body heat from escaping. The baffled design helps to eliminate cold spots, and draft tubes, which act as a barrier behind the front zipper, keep the wearer warm.
High loft does not immediately translate into absolute warmth, though, and in strong, cold winds drafts penetrated through the Pertex Quantum shell. This is not a fault of the jacket, as it was simply not designed to be a standalone coat for any and all conditions. Use of an additional windproof layer such as a soft shell jacket underneath the Fitz Roy was a much more successful combination. Other warm high loft jackets such as the Canada Goose Expedition Parka have a more wind resistant outer layer, but this does come at a weight cost.
This is a technical belay-style jacket designed primarily for use in cold weather climates where warmth is critical and weather resistance is less important, as any precipitation will fall as snow. Because of the lower risk of moisture inundating the down at low temperatures, This jacket uses a DWR (durable water repellent) coated Pertex Quantum shell around the body of the jacket, and a higher sheen, Pertex Y fabric for the areas around the hood and shoulders which will see more exposure to moisture if you are out in bad weather.
Technical belay parkas are designed for use on top of active clothing to keep you warm when you are not moving. When you place a hardshell over such a parka with only a DWR coating, it is very likely that your perspiration will be trapped by the hardshell jacket causing the down to become wet. If you are looking for a jacket for use in typically above freezing temperatures, but still want down insulation, the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka has a much better weather resistant shell and allows perspiration to breath more effectively.
We really liked the three-way hood cinches which always got us a nice tight fit regardless of what kind of hat or helmet we wore underneath, and the elastic cuffs were tight enough that we didn't feel like we needed a Velcro strap to tighten them up if the wind was cold.
Wearing this parka is like wearing a sleeping bag. It is cozy, it fits true to size, and its high loft makes it very comfortable when you are out in the cold. The elastic wrist cuffs felt snug but not too tight and the option of pulling an insulated hood on was comforting.
For a garment designed for the rigors of hard winter climbing, less is often more. This jacket is stripped of any extra features that would add unwanted bulk or weight, only keeping the features essential in a belay parka. The features they deemed necessary and worth keeping were a three-way adjustable hood, two zippered hand pockets and one zippered chest pocket, and a mesh interior pocket that can hold a pair of frozen gloves or a small thermos. The hand warmer pockets are unlined, unlike the Rab Endurance Neutrino, which is the most similar parka to this one. This jacket also comes with a stuff sack for packing it away into your backpack.
Style is secondary to a purpose-driven down jacket like this one, but this model will still look good on 5th Avenue or at 5,000 meters. This is a classic baffled down jacket, and its loftiness gives it more of an outdoorsy look than other down filled jackets in this review, such as The North Face Gotham II Jacket, which keeps the baffling hidden on the inside.
When used for its intended purpose, the Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Parka will come into contact with ice axes, crampons, ice screws and other sharp objects that are attracted like magnets to down parkas. It is a law of nature, and the amount of duct tape covering many grizzled mountaineers' down parkas are a testament to this law. Durability is one of the many trade offs of using lighter weight equipment, though if ice climbing is not your intended use for this jacket, you'll find this jacket's outer shell to be only moderately durable due to its light Pertex fabric, which does not hold up as well as other fabrics to abrasion. The down is very high quality 800-fill-power goose down, so with proper care this parka could keep its original loft for years, and the elastic wrist cuffs also held up to a good amount of stretching out over large gloves.
The best application for this model is as a belay jacket or a warm jacket to bring along on a mid-winter ski tour. The lightweight fabrics and compressibility of the quality down point towards applications where warmth, weight and size are valued most. It can be used in an urban or casual setting with ease as well, though the compromise in style and lack of features may give reason to look at some of the more casually inspired down jackets in our review.
Patagonia has a reputation for outstanding craftsmanship and attention to detail, and they made a top of the line jacket they will stand by for the life of the jacket. At $449 though, this is not an inexpensive jacket, and the Rab Neutrino Endurance is a better value at almost $100 less. Consumers may decide to pay more for the Fitz Roy to support ethically sourced, traceable goose down, which you can find out more about here: Patagonia Goose Down.
This is a warm down jacket that is designed to insulate the wearer in harsh mountain conditions. While it accomplishes that pretty well, it does so at the expense of more enhanced weather resistance and the lack of many features. If you are looking for a quality made parka that will keep you toasty in below freezing temperatures, then this jacket is a good option.
— Ryan Huetter