“Put it on, leave it on” is the bold slogan that Patagonia have been using when talking about their new Nano-Air range. Kev has taken on the challenge and now needs to have the Nano-Air Hoody surgically removed, but has he breathed easy or boiled in the bag? Read on…
Overall Rating: ****
When a parcel arrived out of the blue from Patagonia (the company not the country), a wonderful brown box containing a soft, stretchy hooded jacket and a press release which read: “put it on leave it on”, I got the feeling that the whole thing was potentially pretty special.
The Nano-Air Hoody from Patagonia has arrived!
Patagonia say a lot about the Nano-Air Hoody (and Nano-Air insulation in general) and many of these statements are not small claims. I’m a man who considers himself to be quite fussy when it comes to my clothing system for the mountains, particularly the rigorous, start-stop demands of alpine climbing. I find I get warm quickly when moving so generally wear the kind of “action suit” style clothing system advocated in Mark Twight’s Extreme Alpinism, when I’m actually climbing. For autumn to spring alpine routes or Scottish winter, this might comprise a light baselayer with a R1 hoody or similar over the top, and then a windproof and water resistant shell layer (softshell or hardshell depending on the weather) on the outside. When I stop I’d quickly throw on a synthetic jacket over the top such as a Nano Puff or DAS Parka, depending on the warmth required. My “action suit” generally means I haven’t sweated too much whilst moving so I don’t get those cold shivers when I stop and the body heat generated during activity is trapped by the insulation layer I put on when I stop. Although there is a degree of “put it on, take it off” to this system, I find it works very well in a variety of conditions.
So the big question is, has the Nano-Air Hoody changed all of this?
Taking the “put it on, leave it on” quite literally I have done just that. I have rock climbed in it, walked, ran, climbed alpine north faces, ridges, gone to the pub, bouldering, you name it the Nano-Air Hoody has done it. And there is no denying that it is a lovely jacket to wear. It is soft, stretchy and warm and works well as both a mid layer and outer layer depending on activity and conditions. I have worn it for activities in both the UK and European Alps and found it to be very versatile. But have I been able to leave it on all the time? Well, yes sometimes and no, at other times.
Let’s take a closer look at why Patagonia say that this jacket can be left on during activity. Basically it’s down to breathability. To quote Patagonia: “so breathable, you can wear it for the entirety of any highly aerobic start-stop mission in the mountains.” They also give this breathability a figure (“unprecedented air permeability of 40CFM”), however without stats to compare it to other similar insulation pieces, it’s difficult for this to show any clear meaning, however Patagonia do say that it is more breathable than any of their softshell jackets. For me it usually comes down to how warm I feel and how sweaty I feel. Obviously when we carry out any strenuous activity, the type of things we do in the mountains, we tend to get warm and perspire. This perspiration cools us down. For me, I don’t like to feel like I’m overheating during activity, this isn’t just because I get sweaty and cool down when I stop, but also because being overly warm is uncomfortable and overheating makes muscles less efficient.
The Nano-Air does breathe well for what is essentially a warm jacket, but the sticking point for me in the whole system is that I still get warm when wearing it in a lot of situations in the mountains. Particularly highly aerobic ones.
If the Nano-Air breathes better than other pieces such the standard Nano-Puff for example, then it might mean that the moisture my body produces when sweating is gotten rid of more quickly, so I stay warmer when I stop. I’m not sure I could tell any stark difference between the too though. I found that when wearing the Nano-Air during quick moving activities such as moderate alpine terrain, scrambling, low intensity runs, it was just too warm. For me, I needed to be wearing less and then when I stopped I would put the Nano-Air on to ensure I didn’t cool down too much.
There were definitely some situations where it was great to leave the Nano-Air on though. I had some very cold days rock climbing on multi pitch alpine routes over the late summer and autumn, and I was glad of the Nano-Air on these occasions. These were generally more technical routes so I’d be moving more slowly, and here the Nano-Air came into it’s own as it breathed well and also the super stretchy nature of it meant movement wasn’t hindered. So to put a figure on the “put it on, leave it on” I would say 50/50 so far. It really depended on the activity and the conditions as it would with any other clothing. Cool weather rock, yes. Alpine climbs with a mix of pitching and moving together, no, unless it was super cold. I’ve not tried it skiing yet but presume it’d be a yes. Ice and mixed routes where pitching is necessary all the way up, no…I just get too warm, but it’s great to stick on at the belays.
A little bit more about the insulation. The Nano-Air products use 60-g FullRange™ 100% polyester stretch insulation. This is a stretchy synthetic insulation which has a great warmth to weight ratio and works whether wet or dry.
Here is a video from Patagonia which goes into a bit more detail about the Nano-Air and the philosophy behind it:
So we’ve talked about the insulation, so what about the fabric? Patagonia use a 1.3-oz 20-denier 100% nylon ripstop with mechanical stretch and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish for the shell and a 2.0-oz 50-denier %100 nylon plain weave with mechanical stretch and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish on the inner. I love the stretchiness of the fabrics, as well as the ease with which they slide under or over other layers. The whole thing gives great freedom of movement and makes the jacket a joy to wear, particularly when climbing technical ground. I always think it’s a good sign if you notice you’re actually wearing it. The only downside of the fabric that I have found is that it lacks durability if I wear it as an outer layer and I have put a few nicks and holes in it already, but hey, it has had a lot of repeated use and we do like to test things properly at CGR!
Staying on the subject of the fabric, I definitely didn’t find it to be as windproof as a standard Nano-Hoody or similar. But then again it is supposed to be more air permeable. If the wind gets up, expect to need a proper shell underneath or on top.
One thing you might notice about the Nano-Air Hoody is the way that the insulation is stitched through. There is the iconic Nano-Puff patterning on the side panels, which helps to keep the insulation in place in the area around a harness or pack waist belt, the quilt pattern opens up on the lower body but the upper body, hood and lower arms are left unquilted to allow for maximum stretch in key movement areas.
On the subject of the hood, the Nano-Air Hoody features a non adjustable stretchy hood that actually works well with or without a helmet. It can be put up and down whilst the jacket is fully zipped up too. It is simple but seems to work well.
Other features include 2 zippered hand warmer pockets, a nice touch on a jacket like this. They don’t get in the way of a harness waistbelt either. There are also a pair of zippered chest pockets although I do find these a bit unnecessary. They interfere with the straps on a pack a little as well. The Nano-Air Hoody has a simple drawcord hem to seal out the elements, a sturdy main zipper with glove friendly tab and simple stretchy cuffs.
Weight wise it is only a few grams heavier than a standard Nano-Hoody.
So, cutting through the waffle, what is the verdict?
In some ways the jury is still out on the Nano-Air Hoody. Most of the testing has been in summer and autumn conditions and I really want to try the “put it on, leave it on” philosophy over the proper winter months too. So far it hasn’t revolutionised my mountain clothing system. But there have definitely been times when I have put it on and left it on. What is for sure is that it is a very, very good jacket. It is one of those comfort pieces that is a joy to wear. Whether I keep it on all day or have it in my pack as an extra layering piece it is likely to accompany me on many more mountain adventures this winter. I’d like to see a couple of minor alterations, particularly a ditching of the chest pockets. All in all a great jacket but not quite revolutionary for me.
- RRP: £200
- Find out more and buy one at the Patagonia website.
- Also available in a female specific model.