Patagonia’s Levitation Hoody is about as simple as a jacket can get. This is not a bad thing. The Levitation is lightweight, stretchy and very breathable. It blocks wind fairly well, and I simply love the low-profile cuffs.
The fabric is very stretchy, and double-woven for increased abrasion resistance while maintaining breathability and stretch. Double-weaving is a technique that braids two types of yarn together into a single two-layer fabric. Basically, you get the best of both worlds: a durable, smooth outer face with a stretchy, breathable inner. What you don’t get is a lot of insulation: this is great for summer use but you definitely require a heavier mid-layer in winter conditions.
Every time I put this jacket on I am astounded by the amount of stretch. Movement in every direction is uninhibited. Fit is fantastic as well, with a trim cut through the torso and slim sleeves that layer well under a belay jacket or hardshell. The cuffs are of a different type of material, one that is even more stretchy and seemingly durable than the main fabric. The cuffs also seem to be hydrophobic, rarely freezing up on snowy or icy days.
There are two hand pockets, positioned high and out of the way of a harness or backpack hipbelt. A third chest pocket over the left breast is roomy enough for a camera or on-the-go snacks. The pockets are closed with smooth-sliding and remarkably snag-free zippers.
The two hand pockets are free-floating mesh affairs, and each effectively creates another inside pocket — almost. Almost, because the mesh is not stitched to the outer fabric along its full length creating a small gap at the very bottom. I would have loved to see these stitched all the way down so you could use these as actual pockets. As is, they’re ok for shoving in a pair of gloves or a toque but nothing too small, too heavy, or at all valuable or vital.
The Levitation only comes in a hooded version, but the hood disappoints. Even with a relatively low-profile helmet, upward movement is severely restricted. Side to side the hood is great, but as soon as you look up the material binds and holds the helmet in place: you’re effectively moving your head inside your helmet, and not the helmet inside the hood. A huge disappointment in what is otherwise an excellent jacket. (I should, perhaps, note that this might be different if you don’t wear a helmet as the hood appears significantly smaller than every other functional hood I’ve ever seen. But, this is a climbing oriented review so I assume you’re wearing a helmet at all times, except for driving and safer sections of the approach.)
I love this jacket, I really do. It’s a fantastic piece for summer rock and alpine climbs when you don’t need a lot of warmth but want weather protection. Add in a warmer midlayer and it works well in winter, too. I don’t like the hood, which I’ve contemplated cutting off multiple times but I needed photos of for this review (so, maybe I’ll chop it off after this is published?!) I know Patagonia can do a great hood — cue the Knifeblade — so not sure why this one’s so off. There’s a lot of stretch, the fabric beats off rain quite well, it blocks all but the strongest wind gusts and the pockets are useful even when wearing a harness. It’s even a bit of a bargain at just $209 CAD msrp! It’s great, just that hood…
Pros: fit, great fabric, good price
Cons: the hood isn’t good when looking up…
Overall: A versatile all-around softshell that would be better without the hood.
Photos by John Price Photography. Patagonia sent The Alpine Start a sample for review but as usual this doesn’t influence our opinion.