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Choose Your Own Adventure #186: The Down Sweater or the Nano Puff of Patagonia

Choose Your Own Adventure #186: The Down Sweater or the Nano Puff of Patagonia

Choose Your Own Adventure #186: The Down Sweater or the Nano Puff of Patagonia

Guest blog written by Robert Busby.

Photo by @harrisontarabella. Photo of Micah Barker. 

About a year ago, after the weather first dipped beneath the fifty-degree mark, I was rummaging through the coat closet in the front room of our house for a suitably light jacket when I unearthed a flannel-lined Patagonia windbreaker. This thing, all baggy and predawn blue, looked like something straight out of 1995 (which is to say that it looked pretty awesome).


Later, that temporal stamp would make perfect sense once my wife identified the jacket as one that she received in seventh or eighth grade and had worn throughout high school. By the time we met in college, she had retired the jacket, which explained why I’d never seen her wearing it. Since there was nothing in our non-existent prenup that protected this particular asset, and because the jacket serendipitously fit me, I cited the oft-overlooked “finders-keepers” clause of marriage contracts and have been wearing the windbreaker ever since.


Anyway, forget summiting K2—that a jacket could survive any stretch of the trek across that tumultuous terrain of K-12 and emerge, relatively unscathed, in our coat closet years later is about as epitomizing of a testament to the longevity of Patagonia apparel as you’re likely to find.


And if you’re looking to find a Patagonia jacket for yourself but don’t want to relent to fate to decide what outerwear you’ll stumble on in your closet, you’ll first want to figure out what sort of escapades you’re looking to get yourself—and your jacket—into. Are you in the market for outerwear for your first alpine backpacking trip, or are you searching for something to take you seamlessly from a day hike straight to the nearest open-aired, socially distanced patio for lunch (if that hike is in Meeman-Shelby, might I suggest the “world famous burgers” at the Shelby Forest General Store?).


Selecting a Patagonia jacket then can be a lot like those Choose Your Own Adventure novels from Bantam Books (which, chances are, if you also wore a windbreaker while coming of age during the 80s and 90s, you probably had one such cover-creased novel bent into a pocket of your parachute-width jacket).


The first fork at which you might arrive in this decision process will be to choose the insulation you’ll wear moving forward. While the fleece lining of that retro Patagonia windbreaker has proven comfortable and cozy enough, more versatile insulation options with higher warmth-to-weight ratios exist: namely, down or synthetic, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.


For down, you might look at the Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket. For synthetic, the Nano Puff Jacket. If you feel the need to look at both, well, you’ve turned to the right page.


Both the Down Sweater and Nano Puff Jackets are constructed with a lightweight, 100% recycled polyester ripstop shell, which means that the polyester material is woven with a reinforcing technique to ensure the shell is both tear and rip resistant. The shell on either jacket has also been lightly shellacked with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish and comes with a few similar, if not identical, features.


For example, each jacket carries a center-front zipper, a wicking interior storm flap sewn beneath the zipper to further protect against wind and moisture, and a garage at the chin to park the zipper for additional comfort against your skin. Both jackets feature two zippered, handwarmer side pockets, each with its own zipper garage as well, and a zippered chest pocket that pulls double duty as a stuff sack into which to compress the jacket. The stuff sack on both jackets includes a carabiner clip-in loop for logistical convenience, meaning you can affix the packed-away jacket to your carry-on after you’ve boarded the plane or to your Osprey pack when you need to shed the layer once the sun burns away the early morning chill on that backpacking excursion. Both jackets are also capable of sealing in warmth with an adjustable hem.


Where the Down Sweater and Nano Puff primarily differ is how each insulates and fits its user.


For example, the Down Sweater packs 800-fill-power down between its seams. Fill power measures how well the down in a jacket can insulate based on the amount of air the down can trap, and the Down Sweater’s fill-power places it in the excellent range of insulating ability. As an ethically conscious bonus, Patagonia uses Advanced Global Traceable Down, which certifies that the down is harvested from birds that have been neither live-plucked nor force-fed.


While the Down Sweater does outweigh the Nano Puff by a little over an ounce (13.1 oz to 11.9 oz, respectively), the weight differential is negligible, especially given that down is generally lighter and warmer than synthetic insulation. What this means is that the warmth-to-weight ratio in the Down Sweater will still exceed the Nano Puff.


However, while the DWR finish on the Down Sweater shell offers some protection, the—wait for it—downside to down is that moisture is its Achilles’ heel (or kryptonite, etc., depending on the mythology you subscribe to). Get the Down Sweater (or most any non-polymer-treated down) wet enough, and it will lose all its 800-fill-power to keep you warm. Ergo, before you head out in your Down Sweater, either a) check your Apple Weather app or b) accept that Apple’s meteorological predictions are anything but dependable and always pack a reliable, tested rain jacket, such as the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket, especially when you’ll be a long way from your car or shelter.


In the other corner is the Nano Puff Jacket, which Patagonia fills with 60-g PrimaLoft Gold, a lightweight, synthetic microfiber made of 100% postconsumer recycled polyester. The 60-g rating is calculated by how much a one-square-meter section of the synthetic insulation weighs. The heavier the synthetic, the warmer it is, which lands the Nano Puff on the lighter end of common synthetic fills. Still, of all synthetic insulation, PrimaLoft carries one of the highest warmth-to-weight ratios, so the Nano Puff is plenty warm and, unlike down, will retain the ability to insulate, even when damp. That isn’t to say that the Nano Puff will remain cozy when sopping wet, but synthetic insulation also won’t take nearly as long to dry out as down under typical field conditions (which, in the Mid-South, mean ubiquitous, every-season humidity).


Excepting any other accoutrements, the Down Sweater jacket by itself will keep you warmer at a lower temperature than the Nano Puff will. As such, in cold, dry conditions, the Down Sweater is intended to be worn as an outer layer and is roomy enough as a result to allow thicker mid-layer options than the Nano Puff can. If you’re downhill skiing or hiking above the tree line or you just get cold easily while hanging out down the street during a Memphis winter, the Down Sweater will most likely be your best bet. It’ll also pair nicely with a mid-layer such as the Patagonia Better Sweater for an ideal camp jacket while sitting around the fire in colder conditions.


On the other hand, the Nano Puff’s trademark commodity is its versatility. This jacket makes for a comfortable, ideal outer later to throw on during transitional fall and spring weather. And when the temperatures hover around freezing, the Nano Puff—while a more modern, form-fitting jacket than the Down Sweater—is not so snug that it can’t be worn over a thin mid-layer without looking like a tick about to pop (or Ralphie’s younger brother plodding off to school during a Midwest winter in the holiday classic A Christmas Story). The Nano Puff also shines as a mid-layer when the temperatures plummet. Because of its form fit, the jacket will slide comfortably beneath an ideally waterproof, insulated outer layer—or even that fleece-lined Patagonia windbreaker circa mid-1990s—without restricting your range of motion.


Whether you decide to prioritize overall warmth and turn to page Down Sweater, or you opt for versatility and flip to page Nano Puff to continue on your adventure, what you probably shouldn’t do is wait around on the off-chance that either will be, at this very moment, literally hanging out in a closet of your home. Instead, elect a more traditional origin story and visit Grivet Outdoors, either online or—if you’re in or around the 901—at one of its brick-and-mortars in Olive Branch, Mississippi, or the Cooper-Young neighborhood in Midtown Memphis.

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