Top Gear #20 - Patagonia Nano Air Light Hoody
Take the benefits of a stripped down harness compatible pullover, add stretchy fabrics that allow layering under a hard or soft shell, lightweight insulation that wicks moisture well enough for it to be worn all day and just the right amount of features to perform tasks effortlessly - surely if you could do all this you would have created the perfect mid layer?
I really think Patagonia just have! I've been a big fan of their Nano Air range for sometime and use both one of their vests and a hooded jacket regularly. The combination of super breathable insulation, stretchy water repellent fabrics and uncluttered design is fantastic for a broad range of uses. The incredible wicking qualities also mean it will keep you comfortable even when exercising at a level where other mid layers would need to be stripped off. Its only drawback is that sometimes it is still too warm.
Patagonia realised this and so set about creating a less insulating and even more breathable alternative. It has, by all accounts, taken stacks of research and development along with input from the companies climbing ambassadors, but finally the Nano Air Light Hoody Pullover has been born - and I absolutely love it.
Patagonia have used a snow shedding stretchy outer layer and 30% less insulating stretch polyester insulation to produce the ultimate extended-range mid layer. Extended range that is, because it is also a massive 75% more breathable. This, in simple terms, means you can wear it to do more for longer and for a broader range of activities.
Apart from that, the Light Hoody is as stripped back as Patagonia could get. The snug fitting hood fits under a helmet or can be worn alone, the deep front zipper allows venting and the cuffs are finished in close fitting stretchy cuffs designed to either sit snugly around the wrists (or can be pulled up around the forearms if you need arms free for climbing). Other design details include a cut that eliminates seams in high wear areas and a single chest pocket. It is as simple as possible (which is always a Patagonia design aim) and I love it for that.
So far I have used the pullover for some chilly weather mountain bike rides, cold weather Peak District climbing and I also took it along on both our recent Morocco expedition and to Peru. It has hardly been the most extensive testing but it has impressed on all counts. It breathed incredibly well on my rides (I wore it specifically to test breathability as I'd never normally ride in a jacket with this level of insulation except maybe on the coldest winters day) and in Morocco it was perfect over a lightweight base layer for pre dawn trekking starts and Toubkal summit day. In Peru we trekked the Huarancondo trail in very changeable conditions and it was brilliant at all times. Still, it needs more use before I can completely judge its performance in all conditions and it will take a beating in Scotland this winter.
The fit is purposefully trim and this won't be the best option if you have a wider girth (try before you buy), but that trimness means it layers neatly under a shell and, because of the stretchy fabric, you can afford for these to be a snug fit anyway. I have used it on with a harness and the uncluttered bottom section ensured it fitted like a dream. It is perfect in every way I can imagine.
Patagonia have always pushed the boundaries of design and this is another great example of this. It needs big companies who are willing to plough money into R&D like this and I applaud the company for it. You won't be disappointed in the investment and I hope Patagonia aren't either.
The Light Hoody is currently only available in limited quantities and, although the £170 price tag doesn't seem like a bargain, I do think it is a lot of product for the money. I'll update the review if needed once I've had chance to use it more, but I reckon this just might become my most used jacket.
Posted by Paul
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