Patagonia Fitzroy Down Jacket Review
If you are going to call a down duvet a Fitzroy then it better be built to live up to the hype - Fitzroy being, after all, a legendary weather beaten peak in Patagonia. Of course, Patagonia itself is a brand with a name linked to many years of cutting edge climbing on some of the worlds gnarliest peaks. So, the Patagonia Fitzroy is always sure to attract an amount of expectation. I have been testing one of these well featured winter warmers to see if they are worthy of the name…….
The Patagonia Fitzroy is a down filled duvet jacket with a shell constructed in super light Pertex Quantum 20 denier fabric with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. Patagonia use a full box wall construction and the Fitzroy is filled with 800 fill power fully traceable European goose down. The jacket fastens with a chunky and durable 2 way zip backed by double draft tubes to avoid heat being lost through the front fasteners.
There is a well insulated brimmed hood with volume adjuster and draw cord. At the back of the neck area is a high loft down filled chamber to ensure insulation is maximised. Pockets are well considered with two Vislon zipped hand warmer pockets and a Vislon zipped external left chest pocket. All the zips feature zip garages and an external draft seal to minimise heat loss. Inside the jacket Patagonia have added two giant mesh storage pockets that will easily house gloves, water bottles or other cold weather essentials. The bottom of the Fitzroy has a drop waist and a dual adjust drawcord hem. The sleeves feature elasticated cuffs which seal well around the wrists and yet the jacket sleeves can easily be pushed up the arms out of the way if needed. A stuff sack is provided.
This is a short term test although the jacket has already accompanied me on various cold weather excursions including, most recently, a trip to Norway. This was the perfect testing ground with long periods stood belaying and general frigid Scandanavia winter temperatures down to -22 Celcius. Beyond that, there's been plenty of time on general belay duty in a Peak District early winter.
I was really keen to review the Fitzroy - everyone loves a lofty insulating layer on a frigid winter’s day, but with this jacket there was more to it for me than that. Thirty years ago, on my first trip to Colorado, I bought my first item of Patagonia clothing and by coincidence the Fitzroy I received was in exactly the same blue colour. That original jacket had served me superbly for many years and started my long term admiration both for Patagonia’s clothing and the companies ethics. (I wrote about the company ethos some time ago in my article called ‘In Praise of Patagonia’ which you can find here. I have also written about length recently in relation
Upon opening the parcel, and having admired the jacket colour, I took stock of the jacket itself. The first priority of an insulated jacket is, of course, that it keeps you warm. Even before use the Fitzroy gives off the clues that it will be a very warm jacket. I would say it is a down jacket with attitude! There are several factors that dictate this.
Firstly, there is a lofty thickness to the body and the hood and sleeves are equally thick - it positively invites you to pull it on and make yourself cosy. This sense of a very well insulated jacket is undoubtedly because Patagonia have used a substantial amount of down but also because it is filled with high quality, and therefore high loft, 800 fill power goose down.
To maximise the warmth of the jacket and minimise down migration the Fitzroy also utilises box wall baffles. This is a stitching method where each channel is sewn in a box shape by adding a connecting piece of fabric inside each tube. It is a more complicated construction method than a sewn through design but it makes for a warmer jacket because there are no cold spots caused where the stitching squashes the layers of fabric together. The pockets also feature insulated entries to minimise drafts.
Beyond these key features, there are other features designed to offer maximum warmth. One is the addition of 2 down filled draft tubes behind the front zip to eliminate the chance of the zip becoming a cold spot. The cuffs also feature elasticated closures that sit snugly around the wrists and the jacket is cut to be quite long ensuring the wearers lower back is well covered to maximise warmth.
Lastly, a key consideration with a jacket of this type is all about the hood design. The Fitzroy has a very well filled baffled hood with what they describe as ‘an internal heat locking high loft chamber on the back of the neck’. This eliminates a gap behind the neck, and gaps generally mean cold spots.
So, a lot of thought has gone into making this jacket as warm as possible but does it work as it is designed to? Well, there is no question that this is the warmest jacket I have ever owned. You pull it in and it cradles you like a good sleeping bag. However, unlike a sleeping bag a lot of care has also been employed to make it easy to move around in too.
I tested a medium and the jacket sits comfortably low on my 5’8” height and 38” chest body. The sleeves feature an elasticated cuff system which I really like. You can pull them on easily even when wearing gloves and they seal comfortably around the wrists but, if you need to, you can pull them up the forearms which could be useful, for example, if you were cooking or climbing in the jacket. I wonder if they may ultimately be a little more vulnerable to wear, but I certainly haven't noticed any signs of a problem yet.
The chunky front zip closes up the jacket effortlessly and, despite the draft tubes that line the zip on either side, I haven't had any problems with the zip jamming and it really does feel well sealed when closed. If needed, the dual adjust drawcord hem will seal up the jacket bottom easily too.
If you zip the jacket up quite high then the collar can sit high around the neck and feels very protective. If the hood is up then the high zip closure seals the front and again really snugs up around the face.
The hood itself is luxurious. There is plenty of insulation and it sits very cosily around the head. I wasn't sure what the down filled chamber at the back of the neck would do but it really seems to make it snug around the upper back and neck areas. I wasn't aware of this system before, but actually really like it.
The hood sits far forward to offer plenty of protection from the side but the volume adjuster can pull that back out of the way if desired. The hood fits easily over a helmet and can be cinched down with an additional front drawcord if needed.
So, the fit and warmth of the Fitzroy is superb. What about the other features? At the front the jacket has 2 zipped handwarmer pockets which do a great job and I like the fact that they sit quite high which means you could, if needed, use them when wearing a harness or rucksack waistbelt. An additional zipped chest pocket can also be used for storage.
Inside the Fitzroy there are a couple of cavernous mesh pockets that sit near the jacket front and can be used to store things like water bottles or gloves. These were much appreciated on belay duty in Norway when I wanted to keep some gloves warm between climbs. I haven't had cause to use the pockets for a drink bottle but I am sure they would handle that job perfectly too.
Apart from all that, the other consideration is the shell fabric Patagonia have used. The jacket utilises ultralight Pertex Quantum. This seems remarkably flimsy but has so far lived through a few spats with an ice axe spike and seems to be holding up just fine. You aren’t going to want to scratch up any desperate rock routes in the Fitzroy, but it isn’t designed for that anyway. The Pertex Quantum also seems reassuringly down proof and I have had absolutely no problems with down poking through.
The Pertex is coated with a DWR finish which was well tested on my Norway trip. On a day of single pitch cruising the jacket was passed between belayers and sometimes ended up on the ground or with water droplets or ice crystals falling onto the fabric. It beaded well and there was no noticeable soaking through beyond the surface layer. Generally DWR coatings do begin to rub off eventually but I imagine this will stand up to plenty of wear before then - and they can be reproofed if needed.
A final mention needs to go to the traceability system Patagonia have put in place. As with many things, they are setting the highest industry standards in their environmental practices and now have a fully traceable down supply chain that can be charted all the way from parent farm to apparel factory to ensure the birds supplying their jacket down aren't force fed, live plucked or mistreated. This is very reassuring for the consumer.
I had big expectations of the Fitzroy and it has lived up to everything I had expected. It is extremely warm and has features perfectly suited to Alpine or winter use. It isn't the lightest of jackets (630 grams) and there are some others out there that pack up smaller, but it is still small and light enough to take along when you need something very warm. The Fitzroy also benefits from Patagonia’s superb build quality and the reassurance of a fully traceable down supply chain. I know it is expensive, but at £400 I think you are still getting a lot of jacket for your money.
Posted by Paul
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