Monday, February 18, 2008

PAT COM REVIEW: The Patagonia Down Vest

The down vest is a staple for any self-respecting outdoor apparel company. One can picture this item in situations ranging from being featured in a 1970s ski magazine to an ultra-modern runway collection during New York's Fashion Week (though those vests are probably made of leather, sequined, and cost more than a mid-sized sedan. Patagonia's version of the down vest is a slightly streamlined throwback that does what it needs to do: keep the wearer warm. If you'd like to read the specifics about fabric and weight, you can find it on the Patagonia website or from any other internet retailer's website. The first impression I had of the Patagonia Down Vest was that it was simple. You won't find any crazy quilting or design anywhere on the vest.
The only parts of the vest that breaks with the horizontal stitching are the diagonally stitched side panels. Those panels are in a different fabric (if I'm not mistaken it's the same fabric that lines the inside of the vest) and have less space between stitch lines. The effect it has is to make the sides slimmer and not so puffy. It's a nice touch that doesn't take away from the vest's aesthetic nor it's function.

One of the things I like about the vest are the tricot-(fleece, more or less) lined collar and hand-warmer pockets. The pockets are toasty warm on a cold day and are heated from your body inside the vest.
Also, there's no skin-shock on the neck from chilly nylon. It's only soft and warm and that's definitely one thing you would want from something you're going to be putting on in freezing weather. Some other nice touches to the vest include a zipper-secured inside pocket on the left side of the chest as well as pull cords that allow you to cinch up the bottom hem of the vest.The pull cord is even textured to make it somewhat non-slip.
It also comes with a stuff sack that, according to Patagonia, is also treated with a Durable Water Repellant. Now in my experience, I've never had a need for the stuff sack. I suppose if someone was packing for a trip and had very little space the stuff sack would help compress the vest. For me though, it sits on a shelf in my closet, still folded the way it was when Patagonia sent it to me. It's a nice touch, I'm just not sure what to use it for.
The zippers are also terrific--smooth and completely snag-free. The grosgrain strip that lines the wind flap behind the zipper is a nice touch that gives me confidence to zip that thing up extra fast in cold weather.

One thing that bugs me about the vest is the shortness of the bottom hem. It could be a bit longer and at times when I'm sitting down, the back portion of the vest kind of slides up my back and makes it look really shrunken. Part of the reason for this is the slick inner fabric lining that makes it easy to put on. But I think it would help if Patagonia extended the length of the bottom of the vest just an inch or two.

For me, cost will always be one of the most important considerations. I appreciate high-quality but I'm also far from able to pay full price on Patagonia stuff. So I wait...and wait...and wait for stuff like this to go on sale...and then get marked down again. Patagonia currently has the vest on it's Winterfest Sale for half price, $72.50. This is much closer to my price range and I figure it's a vest that could last me a very long time, especially considering Patagonia's lifetime guarantee.

So overall, I consider this vest to be a really great piece that keeps me warm in cold weather. It's versatile enough to brave a variety of temperatures and easy and light enough to take off when it warms up. I've had no problems with down coming through or fabric snagging or pilling (though I'm sure with enough use the collar and pocket lining will pill) so I would chalk that up to solid Patagonia research and development. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about something I've addressed here or something on which you'd like me to comment.

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