In the shoulder seasons, we often find ourselves in conditions when it's not quite cold enough for a full jacket, but just a bit too chilly to wear only a base layer. And that's where Patagonia's Micro Puff Vest fits in nicely.
During backpacking trips in late fall, our testers turned to the Micro Puff during the cold, early morning hours to stay warm and toasty. While they packed it away after warming up on the trail, our testers turned to the vest once again during rest stops to ward off chills. After reaching camp in the afternoon, they typically wore a long-sleeve baselayer with the vest until temperatures dropped in the evening. Then, they'd wear a midweight top beneath the vest and a shell over it to stay perfectly toasty until bedtime. For one tester, the vest turned into a favorite item for more than just trail wear. "It's funny, back at home I started to wear it for every little thing I did out in the yard or when I'd walk around the neighborhood. It got sort of addictive," he told us.
The silky smooth polyester lining is one aspect of the vest that got our testers hooked. But they also liked that the vest weighs just 10.3 ounces, so it not only kept them warm, but it never seemed weighty or bulky. Hikers shaving weight from their pack load may find that the Micro Puff is a good substitute for a full puffy jacket when traveling in cool but not frigid conditions. Made with polyester insulation, it also packs into its own chest pocket to form a very packable lump about 7 inches by 5 inches.
While vests are inherently pretty simple things in terms of design features, there were a few details on the Micro Puff that made a real performance difference when compared to other vest our team has worn. For example, there is a draw cord at the waist that you can cinch quickly and easily to trap a little more heat. Also, the insulation baffles are not sewn all the way through to the face fabric, so the outer shell remains nicely windproof and water -resistant (aided by a DWR finish). There are some finer details as well, like a zipper garage on the collar to prevent the zipper from rubbing your chin. Also, the zippers on two hand pockets are hidden to give the vest a clean look. And "clean" is the best way to describe this piece. There are no funky patterns or color combinations, so it won't go out of style and will suit a wide range of tastes.
Also, the Micro Puff has a regular fit (meaning, it's not super snug) so you can layer beneath it easily and you don't have an athlete's body for it to look good. But the slightly elastic seams at the arm openings prevent the vest from being baggy, while also helping retain heat.
As an added bonus, this is one of the most eco-friendly vests you can buy. The face fabric is 90 percent recycled polyester, while the lining is 50 percent recycled polyester. In addition, the Climashield Green insulation has 40 percent recycled material. Of course, we love the Micro Puff's nod to the environment. But the main reason to by the thing is that you'll simply find yourself wearing it more than you would have imagined—the true mark of a great piece of clothing.
SNEWS® Rating: 5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $125
For more information:www.patagonia.com