Patagonia introduced the Micro Puff a few years ago (after years of development), but the initial version wasn’t much of a climbers’ jacket. While the insulation — Patagonia’s own PlumaFill — is phenomenal, and one of the best synthetic insulations on the market, the design was, and continues to be, more city-friendly than alpine-focused. Fit through the body is trim (insofar as wearing a harness goes), the hood won’t fit over a helmet, and the overall length of the jacket just doesn’t, ahem, cut it, in the mountains. All that said, I have, love, and continually use a Micro Puff Hoody on pretty much every camping trip, around every campfire, and on those very cold days when working outside. It’s a superb jacket; I just can’t recall a time I have ever used it climbing.
A year or so after the Micro Puff came out, Patagonia released the Micro Puff Storm, a much roomier, more featured, longer-cut jacket encased in their proprietary H2No waterproof-breathable fabric. It’s an excellent kinda-lightweight belay jacket, but it veered in the opposite direction of the Micro Puff: heavier, bulkier, more expensive. (And, as of this writing, currently unavailable while Patagonia attempts to source environmentally-conscious recycled fabrics for its construction. Mine is a couple years old.)
Now, finally, three years or so after the initial Micro Puff launch, we have a version of the Micro Puff that’s actually built for climbers: the DAS Light Hoody. Like the other Micro Puffs, it uses 65g PlumaFill insulation but, compared to the original Micro Puff Hoody, it has a roomier cut, helmet-compatible hood, two-way zipper — and is barely any heavier! The outer fabric is lightweight and mostly weather-resistant Pertex Quantum Pro, but for some reason while the DAS Light retains the Micro Puff’s two hand pockets, it loses the two interior drop pockets — a strange omission in an otherwise great design.
Here’s a handy comparison table of the three jackets:
|Micro Puff Hoody||DAS Light||Micro Puff Storm|
|Insulation||65g PlumaFill||65g PlumaFill||65g PlumaFill|
|Outer Fabric||Pertex Quantum GL||Pertex Quantum Pro||H2No|
|Outer Denier||0.7oz 10d||0.8oz 10d||1.7oz 12d|
|Weight (stated)||264 g||320 g||615 g|
|Weight (actual)||252 g||326 g||622 g|
|Pockets OUT||two hand||two hand||two hand|
|Pockets IN||two drop||none||two drop|
|Pockets CHEST||none||one left||none|
Furthermore, here’s a visual comparison of the different cuts and fits. All the jackets are Men’s Mediums, and all are worn over just the base layer shown above. For reference, I’m around 180cm/5’11” and 74kg/163lbs. My shoulder circumference is around 115cm/45in, with a chest circumference of 104cm/41in, and a waist that hovers around 81cm/32in. Click and drag on the jacket images to rotate, click again to zoom in.
Micro Puff Hoody
Micro Puff Storm
After that the design and general fit characteristics should be clear, so here’s how it all plays out for me using the three back-to-back:
The Micro Puff is great insulation for those days when I’m not wearing a helmet. For me, that’s chilly summer days camping in the mountains, fall days around the campfire, or as a mid-layer when working outside in very cold winter weather. I love the quick-to-warm insulation, the fact that I can cram it into whatever crevice I can find and it still lofts up every time, that it’s synthetic so I’m not worried about getting it wet (or dirty, which then requires washing), and by virtue of the hood, that it has a relatively high collar for those really cold morning. I very rarely wear the hood: I prefer a good toque over the constrictions of even the best under-helmet hoods, and my usage of the Micro Puff hardly ever requires the hood. Honestly, I wish I’d gotten the hoodless Jacket version. Sometimes I think I could forgive the Micro Puff its small hood, but then I remember it doesn’t have a double-slider zipper. One fault I could look over, but two and I start looking at other jackets.
The Micro Puff Storm is a massive step up, both in terms of coverage and warmth. Probably due to the H2No shell, it is noticeably warmer than the Micro Puff in the same conditions and is, obviously, unbeatable when it comes to winter use. My favourite feature of the Storm is the ‘snow-skirt’ drawstring at the hem: it cinches down under my butt and keeps random updrafts from stealing away all my precious warm air. It’s hard to explain but it’s an exceptional feature that I want Patagonia to incorporate in all their insulated jackets (the new DAS Parka has this as well). Additionally, the Storm has a huge helmet-swallowing hood, two large inside drop pockets, two giant hand pockets (that also double as venting zips thanks to their mesh backing), and, of course, that wind- and water-proof outer shell keeping everything sealed against the elements. Oh, and did I mention it has a dual-slider zipper? The Storm is near perfect, I tell you: it feels like a lighter-insulated version of the absolutely superb Arc’teryx Dually.
And then there is the DAS Light. It’s barely 60-grams heavier than the Micro Puff and practically half the weight of the Storm but it feels much closer to the Storm in terms of performance. Compared to the Micro Puff, the fit is much roomier, with a longer cut, looser sleeves, helmet-friendly hood and a dual-slider zipper. Perfect! Well, almost: as mentioned above, for some bizarre reason (I have emailed them about this, I have received answers, I still don’t understand), Patagonia decided to ditch the two interior drop pockets on the DAS Light (now how am I supposed to keep my beer from freezing while on belay?!). However, the dual-slider zipper and large hood are so useful to me to keep me warm that I can forgive the lack of interior pockets. After three years of wondering just what Patagonia’s designers were doing with the PlumaFill insulation we finally have an answer and it’s a good one. Not perfect, mind you — it just needs two inside drop pockets and a snap at the hem, oh, and maybe a hem drawcord — but oh-so-damn-close that I can live with it.
Coming up next (ok, soon-ish): comparing the DAS Light to the Arc’teryx Nuclei FL. Also, adding inside pockets and a hem snap to the DAS Light (anyone have a sewing machine I can borrow?)
As always, huge thanks to Patagonia for sending me all these jackets over the years so I can test and review them, and bring you these random ramblings.