Though the combination means this jacket is neither an outstandingly breathable softshell or a completely waterproof hardshell, we give this our Top Pick award for ice climbing because it serves a unique purpose and does its job well. We find a use for it in our quiver of outdoor clothing.
Patagonia Mixed Guide Hoody - Women's Review
Cons: Handwarmer pockets are covered by backpack hipbelt, not as functional as either a softshell or hardshell
Our Analysis and Test Results
A unique piece that combines both softshell and hardshell materials, the Mixed Guide Hoody provides extra protection from wetness during high output activities where breathability is still of the utmost importance.
Breathability & Weather Protection
A hybrid jacket combining waterproof H2No hardshell material with breathable Polartec Power Shield softshell material, the Mixed Guide Hoody has more stretch and is more breathable than a traditional hardshell jacket, which typically feels stiff, crinkly, and suffocating. (Though newer hardshells are becoming lighter, softer, and more flexible.) It's also more durable and more water resistant than a traditional softshell jacket, which usually is only water resistant for a short period of time before the jacket soaks through. The softshell material on this jacket is not windproof and, as a result, isn't as warm as a full hardshell jacket, which is windproof. At the same time, the Mixed Guide Hoody is warmer than a normal softshell due to its windproof and waterproof sections. Since it is not fully waterproof, it is not suitable for use as a rain jacket and does not take the place of a hardshell in one's wardrobe arsenal.
Ultimately, this jacket is neither the ideal softshell nor the perfect hardshell. Usually gear that tries to do too much ends up falling somewhere in between but doing neither job well. However, we feel that for specific applications the hybrid design of this jacket actually makes it more functional. The waterproof parts on this jacket allow it to be used in wider range of conditions, such as ice climbing with water dripping from overhead or ski touring in wet conditions. In both of these situations you are working hard, and need the breathability that this jacket provides. But the extra protection from the waterproof panels keeps you drier, warmer, and moving. Rather than needing to re-layer if the day turns stormy, you can keep pushing while staying at a safe and comfortable temperature. If you find more airflow is needed while wearing this shell, the mesh-lined hand pockets can be left unzipped and used as vents. This is a feature many shells have, and we find it useful.
There are two other hybrid softshells in this review, but neither of them accomplish what the Mixed Guide Hoody does. The Marmot ROM- Women's uses windproof Gore Windstopper in combination with a very light and thin Marmot M2 softshell to create an ultra breathable jacket for aerobic activities such as running and cross-country skiing; however it does not offer any increased water resistance like the Mixed Guide. The Outdoor Research Enchainment - Women's is an exceptionally water resistant shell with thin, breathable panels under the arms to compensate for the lack of breathability in the rest of the jacket. This piece aims for a similar goal as the Mixed Guide Hoody, but we think Patagonia's version pulls it off more eloquently.
This jacket was tested on multiple ice climbs in Colorado and California, including on Stairway to Heaven (a long, multi-pitch ice climb) in Silverton, Colorado. Throughout the day conditions ranged from bitterly cold with brittle ice to warm and sunny with fear-inducing dripping. Wearing this jacket turned out to be a lifesaver because after getting a drenching from above there were still several pitches to climb. A traditional softshell would have gotten so wet and cold that it would have been unwise to continue. Instead, this turned out to be the perfect layer, striking an excellent balance between protection, breathability, and mobility, to keep the tester climbing all day.
For a jacket that combines two very different main materials, its mobility is excellent, mostly due to the cut and fit. It doesn't raise up much when arms are lifted, the longer hem stays tucked under a harness all day, and it moves with the wearer while hiking or skinning. Although it is not as flexible or stretchy as the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody - Women's, it also isn't overly restrictive.
At 1.08 pounds, this shell weighs just a tiny bit more than the lightly insualted Gamma MX, even though it incorporates heavier hardshell panels. Though not ultra-light, this weight is adequate for spending long days in the alpine environment when counting ounces matters.
The Mixed Guide Hoody has been designed with climbers and skiers in mind, and its list of features is tailored toward those uses.but we find these features to work very well. It has two moderately sized cross-over chest pockets and two hand warmer pockets. The hand pockets are situated just above the pelvis, and end up covered by a waist belt, making them difficult to access when wearing a pack or harness. They are be nice around town, however and provide a good place to stash keys and a wallet when heading from the car to the store. The chest pockets are ideal for storage and quick access while climbing or skinning with a pack. Additionally, the hood fits well over a helmet, though would benefit from a little extra space for more comfortable head-turning while climbing. The Mixed Guide Hoody also has decently sized velcro cuffs for securing the wrists over glove cuffs to keep out snow.
Even though the overall look is more technical than stylish, the bold and bright color options of this jacket are attention-grabbing, making it a fun jacket to wear while surrounded by monochrome snow and ice. However, it does not make for an incognito jacket to wear around town on a daily basis. If you like bold duo-tone, this could work for you.
Admittedly, this jacket is not for everyone. Its tandem use of hardshell and softshell materials sets this jacket apart, and makes it very useful in specific applications, but the general softshell customer may not be interested in it since it is less breathable than other pieces on the market. This jacket is designed specifically for winter alpine climbing and backcountry skiing, and we find that it does excel in these applications. If you are just starting to build your technical clothing quiver, we would recommend first purchasing a hardshell and insulting layer, then contemplating a regular softshell before considering this piece.
This is an expensive article of clothing for such a specific use, and it one of the highest priced pieces in our review. If you like the combination of shell materials, or if ice climbing or backcountry skiing are your primary sports, then it is worth the investment. The Mixed Guide Hoody does not take the place of either a hardshell or a softshell, so it requires extra cash to try it out. If you only have money for one jacket and want something more versatile, then your money is best spent on a pure softshell like the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody or the Patagonia Adze Hoody - Women's.
If you see the value in having a hybrid-style jacket, then we think this piece performs well. If you really just want either a hardshell or a softshell, then go with one of those tried but true pieces. This jacket is excellent for certain application rather than all-around outdoor use.
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 27, 2015
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