When Patagonia’s DAS Parka debuted in the mid-2000’s it practically revolutionized the synthetic belay jacket genre. It was very warm, courtesy of 170-g PrimaLoft One. It was relatively light, at around 700-grams. It had a lot of climber-friendly features, like a dual-slider main zip, dual mesh drop pockets, and a helmet-compatible hood. But, most importantly, it was fairly cheap: $300 USD in 2010.
There is a new version of the DAS and, it too, is very warm: 133-g PrimaLoft Gold throughout, with an extra layer of 40-g over the core for a total of 173-g over the torso. It is significantly lighter: 556-grams quoted weight, and 560-grams actual for my Men’s Medium sample. And like the original it has all sorts of climber-friendly features: dual-slider main zip, dual inside drop pockets, and a large, helmet-friendly hood. Downsides? Well, it now costs $449 USD, quite a substantial jump from just ten years ago. (For reference, $300 USD in 2010 money inflates to $360 USD in 2021.)
So is it still worth it?
First, let’s talk about the DAS itself. The warmth is certainly there: 170-something-grams of high-quality synthetic insulation is going to be warm no matter what, and the DAS certainly is. The new DAS feels like it heats up faster and retains heat better than the previous generations, though this is hard to quantify and is based solely on my observations. For me, it is more than warm enough for those -20C days, and overkill for anything warmer than -5C.
Fit-wise, the hem is long enough to cover my butt, and there’s enough space to zip the DAS up over a harness full of ice screws and other gear. The hem and lower torso of the DAS feel less tapered than I am used to from climbing apparel, which I’m sure helps contribute to the lack of screw-snagging tightness I often find with other jackets. The hood is large and roomy, and easily fits over a helmet covered up with other hoods. My favourite feature is the butt-hugging hem drawcord, which is slightly offset from the bottom of the parka and has an extra bit of fabric to seal in trapped air. Patagonia first used this on the Micro Puff Storm and it’s great to see this feature implemented here.
Unfortunately, this otherwise excellent hem design lacks a snap button at the bottom of the dual-slider zip. What’s the point of having such well-designed drawcord functionality, but not having a snap by the zipper so I can actually use this feature to maximum effect? This is a complaint I have with every single insulated jacket from Patagonia these days. It is an easy addition, and a modification I often make, but a near-$600 jacket should not be lacking features (retail is $560 Canadian!).
The pockets, too, I am somewhat confused by: the hand pockets are small and shallow, the chest pocket is rather tiny, and the inside drop pockets are deep but narrow, and located directly on either size of the main zipper. Again, I don’t know if this odd sizing is a production issue with my sample as I couldn’t find a direct comparison. As is, the hand pockets are too small for me to actually warm my hands in, and are not deep enough to stash things inside. The chest pocket is barely big enough to fit an iPhone 8.
And the inside drop pockets? They’re a good size, big enough to fit a pair of gloves each: deep so nothing falls out, but a bit narrow which makes ‘stuffing’ things into them challenging. More annoying though is the positioning right next to the main zipper, which means when I actually put things in there, the items start interfering with the front of my harness, making for an awkward belay.
Aside from the awkward pockets, the DAS’s major design short-coming are the short sleeves, which don’t even cover my wrists. I have not been able to correlate whether this is a deliberate design choice or a production flaw (I couldn’t find a size Medium DAS in local stores to compare to). As a design choice, it somewhat makes sense when using large, gauntleted, gloves, or when cooking on a stove in cramped conditions: however the sleeves do feel too short in all other situations. I would much rather have the option to roll up my sleeves than have too-short sleeves predetermined for me.
Thankfully, I have no complaints about the hood: it’s big, it’s warm, it’s windproof.
But the DAS’s biggest downside? Its legacy. A decade ago the DAS was often not just a great option, but it was usually the cheapest option. With a significantly higher price tag, the DAS now faces much stiffer competition: the RAB Photon Pro appears to offer the same warmth for a bit less cash, but seems impossible to find in stock anywhere. Arc’teryx’s Dually is still, in my opinion, the gold-standard for synthetic parkas, though it does come with a higher price tag (and is similarly hard to get a hold of).
So if you are in desperate need of a heavy-weight insulated belay parka, the DAS almost seems to be the only choice these days. It is unquestionably warm, and fits all the criteria I look for in a belay parka — except for the oddly short sleeves. I would recommend you try it on and ensure you can live with the sleeve length, but if it fits you this is a great choice, though I would also recommend you get it on sale so the price is closer to what the original DAS retailed for.
I like it, but I don’t love it.
Thanks to Patagonia for sending along a sample for testing and review!