Here we are at last with our final entry in the Patagonia down series. We’ve taken a look at their new designs for both the down coat and vest, and have had some harsh words for them on the quality of their new products. Have we saved the best for last?
The Down sweater does some things better than the coat, and does offer some decent warmth when packed under a shell. But it also follows the coat down the wrong path when it comes to the type of down used, stitching, and materials. To no surprise, like the vest and coat the new sweater features a lackluster recycled ripstop nylon fabric and not a tougher material such as Pertex. This was a complaint with both the vest and coat, it’s less of one here as a sweater isn’t meant to be a primary outer layer, however a down sweater should still function well without a shell over it. The ripstop fabric Patagonia is currently using isn’t ripstop enough and didn’t in our tests hold a DWR finish very well. It’s also not as wind resistant as the other brands we tested against, and it’s no where even close to windproof as Patagonia claims.
“Duck down is not the new industry standard for a premium down alpine product. It has never, at least not in my lifetime, been the standard.”
The snaps on the sweater are light plastic, which is fine. They’re surprisingly tough considering how little and thin they are. They’re actually too small though, as it was difficult to get them snapped with gloves on, even thinner leather gloves for climbing. The sweater itself has a decent fit, with enough room for my larger frame to move around and bring a camera up to my eye, but not even close to enough room for climbing. Unless you have a small frame and narrow shoulder profile, you won’t be rock climbing in this with any decent range of motion in the arms. The pocket is rather small, it worked well for small items but is useless for anything of any real size, there’s no stuff pocket and the kangaroo pocket doesn’t close so you can’t keep anything in there. The roo pockets however did a good job at warming my hands up when they were freezing.
Again, Patagonia choose to use cheaper, less warm and less compressible duck down in this piece. There is not a single practical technical reason to use duck down in any series alpine, backpacking, climbing or… Well any piece really. Actually…. Now that I’m thinking about it, I can’t come up with any reason to use duck down. It’s heavier. It’s not as warm, it doesn’t hold up as well… It does however cost less therefore increases profit margins. And because it breaks down faster and doesn’t last as long as goose down, you’ll be replacing your sweater much sooner than you would if it were a goose fill. Whatever the reason, Patagonia stuck us with more duck down and that’s at best disappointing and at worst a sign of the things to come. If this is a sign of the new trend Patagonia is setting for themselves and the outdoor industry, that’s a real shame. Duck down is not the industry standard for a premium down alpine product. It has never to my knowledge, at least not in my lifetime, been the standard. So when I see a high end expensive down coat filled with a 75% duck down content, I know right away it’s high end in name only.
Patagonia is big on their reuse, recycle sales pitch these days and to be fair to them, protecting the environment and responsible production are both worthwhile and admirable goals we can all get behind. However a premium outdoors brand using duck down in high end products, cutting corners, using cheaper materials and failing to live up to even the most basic top tier industry standards is inexcusable regardless of the root cause. Personally given first hand knowledge of some of the pricing in other outdoor brands, and having been in the industry and watching it closely for 10+ years now, I believe these changing trends are for a healthier bottom line and not, at least not primarily for the ecological and “responsible” reasons that brands like Patagonia are trying to sell us, the public on.
Patagonia is a brand I’ve always recommended, for more than a decade in fact. But now it seems my recommendation can no longer be a blanket statement. The down coat had some serious issues when compared directly to other leading brands offerings. The vest, although much better had it’s own issues. And here in the down sweater, I’ve found a lot that frustrated me. It’s hard to recommend a product I have a fundamental issue with. Duck down in a product marketed as an ultra light alpine solution is not acceptable.
The Patagonia down sweater is lacking in features that make it stand out. But it’s not lacking in stand out mistakes like Lycra cuffs, no DWR finish, duck down insolation, missing features like a stuff pocket or side zip/snap, some of these could be overlooked in a sweater, but all of them combined? It is suitable for hiking, backpacking and just wearing around town. But isn’t made to last and it isn’t up to the standards set by the brand itself in generations past. Frankly, it’s a disappointment. 3/10 FP