Patagonia Alplight Down Pullover – Fantastic Lightweight Insulation
Long renowned for manufacturing popular down jackets like the go-anywhere Down Sweater and the spacious DAS belay parka, Patagonia has now made their entry into the somewhat crowded field of ultra-light down insulation with the new Patagonia Alplight Down pullover and jacket. How do these pieces perform?
The Alplight Down jacket and pullover – 9.5 oz and 7.9 oz in men’s medium, respectively – are among the lightest down jackets available in the world (they are the lightest commonly available in North America; only Montbell makes lighter jackets which are at times available… more below).
As such, they are fairly specialized insulation pieces. They don’t have many features (the pullover literally only has a zipper, pocket, and cinch cord around the waist). They will not last forever if worn roughly (although they are pretty durable for their weight). Lack of convenient pockets, chin-protecting ruffs, hoods, weather-resistant fabric, etc means these jackets are not your typical wear-at-the-crag then wear-around-town pieces.
They are also not super warm on their own (not a typical winter belay jacket). But for mountain athletes, backpackers, through-hikers, and lightweight travelers, a jacket this light can be the difference between having insulation along with you and not bringing it at all, and these really pack a punch in terms of warmth per weight.
Comfort range: lightweight static insulation
I tested the pullover version of the Alplight jacket so I’ll comment on my experience with it here. This is a fantastic piece of static insulation for less than 8 ounces. I feel as warm in this pullover as I do in many a puffy twice the weight… I don’t know how Patagonia pulled this off, but it may have to do with very high quality down (800 fill power Responsible Down Standard – really good stuff) and the baffle design.
I call this a static piece of insulation because it does not breathe. I can’t hike or skin in this – three minutes on the skin track and it has to come off, even if it’s 10 degrees out! But that’s fine with me. I’ve got a closet full of active insulation pieces (notably the Nano Air jackets which can somehow be worn all day). I got the Alplight down pullover so that on light and fast missions in the mountains I can get away with bringing as little clothing as possible, yet have the security that I won’t get super cold when I’m not moving.
That’s an instant layer of toastiness for the weight of a #3 Camalot and ‘biner, or a long steel ice screw. Not bad!
For me, this lightweight down jacket is suitable as a belay layer over a thick wool shirt in the 40s, my sole puffy layer over a wool top and fleece midlayer for lightweight missions down to the 30s, or a mid-weight belay and rest stop layer for winter skiing and climbing in the single digits to 20s, where I might carry a bigger belay parka for nights or security.
The TL;DR here is that the Alplight Down pieces are made of the materials that rival the best available in the world that are also manufactured with rigorously ethical supply chains.
These are the top-notch and responsibly sourced materials you’d expect from a high quality Patagonia insulation layer at a high price point. The shell and lining are made of a 100% post-consumer ripstop nylon they call Netplus – it’s made of used fishing nets, so it’s supply chain actually removes plastic pollution from the ocean. This weave is a 0.8-oz 10-denier ripstop with a light DWR (PFC-free of course).
I’d say this material is just right for a really light down piece – about as thin as anything you’ll find on the US market, but thick enough to keep feathers from poking out and to give a bit of durability. This fabric also has a hint of stretch – just enough to help it avoid catching and tearing. I wore mine in a backcountry ski hut above Leadville this winter while wrangling my kids and collided with the rough log walls many times – mostly chasing my toddler down – without tearing the fabric.
The down fill is 800 fill power Responsible Down Standard, which is an agreed-upon industry standard upheld by the Textile Exchange that certifies a humane level of treatment of the ducks and geese that provide down. This is high quality stuff. You’ll find down parkas in the upper price points advertising fill power ratios from 800 up to 900… I find that anything over 800 is basically the stuff of angel wings: it’s super warm and compressible.
Weight and Warmth comparison
So these are light down jackets – really light, perhaps cutting-edge light for the US insulation market. How light? How warm? I can understand this best by comparing them to other pieces I might wear or borrow from a climbing partner. The jacket with a full zip and hood is 9.5 oz and the pullover is just under 8 oz in men’s medium.
That is very light. Let’s look at the jacket: this roughly ⅔ to ½ the weight of common light down jackets on the US market, and typically a bit cheaper: Rab Microlight (16.5 oz), Rab Mythic Ultra (19 oz) , Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody (14.8 oz). The closest competitors in terms of warmth would be Rab Mythic Alpine Down Jacket (11 oz), Arc’Teryx Cerium SV Hoody if you can find one (14.6 oz), or North Face Summit Series Breithorn Hoody (16 oz), which are all a bit warmer and heavier.
There are not many hooded down jackets available below 10 oz. Arc’Teryx makes a hoodless version of the Cerium down jacket under 11 oz. Rab makes a Mythic Alpine Light down jacket which is essentially their Mythic Alpine with less material and synthetic sides – it’s 8.8 oz, but is not as warm as the Alplight jacket or pullover – it’s more of an active insulation piece. The Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer 2 is probably the closest competitor to the Alplight Jacket: 8.5 oz, but it will be a bit less warm because it has more material.
To get a lighter down jacket than the Alplight pieces for static insulation, you need to get your hands on a Montbell piece, which are sometimes available in the US. Their Superior Down Parka is only 8.6 oz and is definitely warmer than either Alplight piece, but it’s not as durable (very thin nylon).
Options get lighter from there: EX Light Down Anorak (7.6 oz), Superior Down Jacket (7.1 oz), and a pretty wild garment called the Plasma 1000 which is only 4.9 oz and is essentially a shirt filled with a whiff of 1000 fp down. These are super light pieces… and I definitely would not ski or climb in them – they will not stand up to abuse.
Ultra-light, no frills down insulation for static insulation on light and fast missions on mountains and trails
Full zip jacket: 9.5 oz, $299
Quarter-zip pullover: 7.9 oz, $250
DAS Light Hoody 11.3 oz, 0.8-oz 10-denier Pertex® Quantum Pro w/ DWR
Micro Puff Hoody 10.7 oz, Pertex® Quantum 0.8-oz 10-denier NetPlus®
Alplight Down Jacket 9.5 oz, 0.8-oz 10-denier NetPlus® w/ DWR
Alplight Down Pullover 7.9 oz
Jacket – 2 pockets sit above harness (just barely), $299
Pullover – 1 pocket on chest, fits phone, $250
800 fp responsibly sourced down
Rab Microlight Down Jacket 16.5 oz
Rab Infinity Microlight 15.9 oz
Rab Mythic Alpine Light Down Jacket 8.8 oz, hooded, synthetic in sides, shoulders, 900 fp hydrophobic, $315
Rab Mythic Alpine Down Jacket 11 oz, hooded, 900 fp hydrophobic, $375
Rab Mythic Ultra Down Jacket 19 oz, helmet hood, 900 fp hydrophobic, $475
TNF Summit Series Briethorn Hoody, 16 oz, 800 fp, $380
ArcTeryx Cerium Hoody, 11.8 oz, 850 fp, $400
ArcTeryx Cerium Jacket 10.6 oz, 850 fp, $375
ArcTeryx Cerium SV Hoody 10.7 oz, 1000 fp, $450
Ptg Down Sweater 13 oz, $279, 800 fp
Montbell Superior Down Parka 8.6 oz, hood, 800 fp 70 g, $250
Montbell Superior Down Jacket 7.1 oz, 800 fp 55 g, $219
Montbell EX Light Down Anorak 7.6 oz, $329, 900 fp 85g
Montbell Plasma 1000 4.9 oz, 1000 fp basically a down shirt
Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer 2 8.5 oz, 800 fp, $360
The Alplight Down jacket and pullover are rigorously purpose-built, lightweight static insulation pieces that are light and compressible enough to bring along in the mountains when you might otherwise forego that extra insulation piece. They are among the lightest jackets available on the US market that still feel noticeably warm on their own.
I went with the pullover, which is sometimes annoying to pull on (especially over a helmet) but is really trim under 8 oz, stuffs into its pocket with a carry loop, and has saved me from certain dire shivering on windy climbing belays and snowy ridgetops waiting for clouds to clear before dropping into a ski descent. It’s a no-brainer piece of insulation to throw in the overnight pack: if you can bring an extra #3 Camalot, or 2 chocolate bars, you can bring this.