Ultralight Insulated Jacket
Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody
$299, 9 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XXS-XL
The wind blew at a steady 30 mph or better and gusted over 40 mph—creating a wind chill around 40° F—on yet another Memorial Day weekend of “mixed” weather at Idaho’s City of Rocks. I zipped into my Micro Puffy Hoody, pulled the hood up under my helmet, and readied to belay for what would stretch into an hour as my partner led a long trad rock-climbing pitch. Fortunately, this featherweight insulated jacket kept me warm while standing idle for that long in those conditions. It did the same in similar temps and light rain later that weekend at the City, and in cool, strong wind while camping at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim and on the Esplanade during a four-day backpacking trip. One of the lightest insulated jackets on the market at a mere nine ounces, the Micro Puff is surprisingly warm. Here’s why.
The water-resistant, 65g PlumaFill synthetic insulation doesn’t loft quite like down feathers, but it delivers the warmth-to-weight ratio of high-quality, 850- to 900-fill-power down, by essentially mimicking the structure of down, but in a continuous synthetic material. That gives it the warmth and packability of down, with the warm-when-wet performance of synthetic insulation. The quilted construction, resembling a down jacket, employs minimal stitching—helping minimize weight—to prevent the insulation from migrating.
The hood delivers a noticeable warmth boost that’s surprising, given how light it looks, because of the insulation’s heat-trapping efficiency. Although not adjustable—again, every element of the design aims to minimize weight—the hood’s elasticized, under-the-helmet design clings snugly around your face, moving with you as you turn your head even with the front zipper partly open. The elasticized cuffs and hem similarly seal tightly enough to keep drafts out.
The fit isn’t “athletic” or “slim”—the front of the Micro Puff poofs out slightly, though not excessively, and that does allow space for a midweight layer underneath it. The length extends well below the waist, another warmth-boosting detail that’s nice to find in an insulated jacket this light.
The ultralight 10-denier nylon ripstop Pertex Quantum shell is water-resistant, windproof and treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. When I walked around camp for a couple of hours in on-and-off light rain, letting the shell get damp to see what would happen, the fabric appeared to either keep the insulation dry or prevent it from getting damp enough to affect it: I noticed no compromise in warmth. However, this fabric is as light as you’ll find in a jacket—it will tear more easily than a heavier fabric if you accidentally snag it on a sharp edge. The continuous insulation material may not leak out of a tear as quickly as individual down feathers tend to, but I always take extra care when using any ultralight apparel or gear.
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The two zippered hand pockets warm up cold digits, and the jacket stuffs easily into the left pocket, packing down to the size of a foam football. Two inside stuff pockets are big enough for warming or drying cold-weather gloves. While lightweight, the front zipper appears reasonably durable—again, though, a little extra care isn’t a bad idea.
We all want lighter gear—but only when it performs well. Beyond broad differences in amount and type of insulation, which dictates the temperatures and conditions they’re made for, many insulated jackets are similar. The models that break new ground do so in how much warmth they deliver relative to their weight and bulk. That’s what Patagonia has achieved with the Micro Puff Hoody.
Whether you’re a backpacker or climber trying to trim ounces in pack weight, or you simply want one of the lightest, most packable, water-resistant puffy jackets for late spring through early fall, the featherweight Micro Puff Hoody performs with the very best.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.