The first iteration of Patagonia’s Micro Puff showed up around ten years ago as a groundbreaking, lightweight layering and belay piece. That first Hoody came in at over 500 grams and over the years used a variety of different insulations: Polarguard, Climashield, Primaloft One, Primaloft Sport; perhaps others I don’t recall.
Weighing a scant 250 grams (Men’s Medium), the new Micro Puff takes lightweight synthetic jackets to a whole new level. It is available exclusively through Patagonia’s website for Fall/Winter of 2017, and will be in retail stores for Spring 2018. I am fortunate to have received a pre-release sample, and have been trying it out for the past three weeks or so.
The new Micro Puff uses an all-new insulation called PlumaFill that replicates the structure and lofting of down in a synthetic, continuous fill material. This allows the use of offset quilting for maximum loft without adding extra bulk through multiple stitches. Patagonia claims it offers all the advantages of down — warmth and packability — with the warm-when-wet benefit of synthetics.
Upon first inspection, the Micro Puff is incredibly thin and doesn’t seem like it’ll be very warm at all. The PlumaFill insulation is 65g/m in weight but it feels much thinner and lighter than that. It feels as if there’s hardly any insulation at all, and the ultra lightweight 7d Pertex Quantum GL inner/outer fabrics also feel featherweight.
Put it on, however, and the jacket heats up almost immediately, just like premium high-loft down. I estimate that the amount of body heat trapped is easily higher than that of 700-fill down, and compares favourably to the best down jackets on the market. It also feels incredibly soft and compressible, without any discernible structure to the fibres inside.
Construction wise, the Micro Puff is a minimalist alpine piece: there are two large hand pockets, positioned up high to sit above a harness, and two roomy interior drop pockets. (The left-side hand pocket doubles as the stuff-sack with a two-sided zipper, and built-in hang loop.) I absolutely love that the zipper pulls are tiny bits of cord: simple, lightweight, easy to replace.
The cuff and hem are minimal at best, and there is no adjustment for either. It’s a good thing they have just the right amount of stretch; the cuffs easily fit over (not-too-bulky) glove gauntlets, while the hem is loose enough to sit over a harness but no so stretchy as to lift up when a breeze comes along.
Patagonia describes the hood as an under-the-helmet design and I am disappointed to report that it is indeed about halfway between an under- and over- helmet hood. I would have much preferred another few grams of fabric and some extra cost to make it a proper helmet-compatible hood: after all, I don’t generally take my helmet off to throw on a lightweight belay jacket. This is a confusing aspect of the design and I hope we’ll see a proper helmet-friendly hood in the future as the Micro Puff is a superb year-round belay jacket (heavy duty for summer rock, lightweight for winter ice).
Aside from the slightly tight over-helmet fit, the Micro Puff is very impressive. It is incredibly warm for it’s weight, and given its synthetic insulation, I am expecting it to perform very well once subjected to the cold and wet of ice climbing. It packs down into almost nothing, so there will always be room in your pack for one of these.
Based on my initial impressions, and given Patagonia’s track record, I’m confident in recommending the Micro Puff as a lightweight, all-around, belay jacket. The insulation is fantastic, and from previous experience I know the lightweight Pertex shell will hold up to a lot more abuse than it first appears.
Stay tuned for a full review once I’ve had a chance to stand around in it under some icicles!
Photos by Veronica.