Patagonia Isthmus Parka Review
Cons: Less insulating than others.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Patagonia Isthmus is a casual, mild-weather, winter jacket from this renowned technical clothing company. The styling and design suggest casual wear, while the details belie Patagonia's roots.
How warm do you need your jacket to keep you? The insulating value of a jacket depends on a number of variables, and there are individual differences and preferences for everyone. That said, in our unprecedented comparative testing we can make authoritative generalizations about the warmth of the products we review. So we can easily say that the Patagonia Isthmus is among the least warm jackets in our test. The design is inherently less insulating, with pile fabric providing the entirety of the insulation.
Other jackets in our test, like the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun or Canada Goose Expedition Parka, use goose down to provide a great deal of warmth. Lighter jackets like the Helly Hansen Dubliner or Top Pick Arc'teryx Fission SV use synthetic puffy insulation for less expense and better wet-weather performance at the expense of durability. The pile insulation of the Isthmus, also featured in the Fjallraven Greenland, is even less insulating than synthetic puff, but is far more durable. Additionally, many consumers prefer the "feel" of the fleecy pile insulation. In the end, note that the Isthmus is best suited to lower latitude winters or for the shoulder seasons closer to the poles.
Patagonia is known for making shell clothing for mountaineering and skiing. This shell pedigree comes to casual wear with the Isthmus. We had little to no problems with the wind and water resistance of the Isthmus. The fabric is sound and most users will only expose themselves to the elements for brief times. The handicap of the Isthmus is in the form of extensive external seams around the prodigious pockets. For much greater weather protection, seek the svelte design of the Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka or Arc'teryx Fission SV.
Comfort is a function of materials and cut. In both of these categories, Patagonia has opted for comfort. The lining and shell materials are both "quiet," soft, and gentle. The fit is close but nonbinding. In comparing to the Fjallraven Greenland, the lining pile of the Patagonia is a little softer and the shell fabric drapes more gently.
We look at pockets, hoods, and zippers as we evaluate features. We also consider the hem and cuff closures. In assessing the feature set of the Isthmus, we found pros and cons. The pockets are largely effective and plentiful. The Velcro cuffs close securely. The hood is fleece-lined, removable, and highly adjustable. We love the hood. Our bald-headed lead tester especially likes the soft pile against his brain. The front zipper opens both ways and is covered by an effective snapped weatherstrip. Other jackets have more features (notably the comprehensive Mountain Hardwear Therminator with many pockets and a powder skirt) and some have far fewer (Columbia Gold 650 TurboDown has basically no extra features. It is just an insulating layer). The Isthmus is favorably featured, while maintaining simplicity.
The Isthmus is your grandfather's "classic" winter jacket style, with modern materials and construction. No one won't like the look of this piece. The Marmot Fordham is similarly styled, while the Fjallraven Greenland takes a more rustic look.
The thick shell fabric and lofty pile insulation will last the user for years and years. Patagonia's warranty backs up their construction; they make products to last. The only jackets that might last as long as the Isthmus are the beefy Fjallraven, the down-insulated Camosun, and the hearty, heavy Marmot Fordham.
This is a suitable coat for winters on the mid-Atlantic coast or for "shoulder seasons" as a complement to something warmer like the Canada Goose Expedition Parka in the far north.
The price is right and the materials are durable. Only something down-insulated and warmer and similarly priced, like the Best Buy Marmot Fordham, could be considered a better value.
The Isthmus is solid, clean, and effective. We have no reservations recommending this jacket to those in relatively warm climates.
— Jediah Porter