Patagonia’s Nano Puff remains one of the most popular and recognizable insulated jackets on the market today. But with a fresh crop of new rivals, we felt it was time to take another look at this legendary synthetic piece. What we found is that the Nano Puff still holds its own: The jacket is competitively warm, reasonably light and packable, and among the best at crossing over from the outdoors to daily wear. Below we break down the Nano Puff’s performance. To see how it stacks up to the competition, see our article on the best synthetic jackets.
Table of Contents
- Weight and Packability
- Weather Protection
- Features: Hood and Pockets
- Fit and Sizing
- What We Like/What We Don't
- Comparison Table
- The Competition
The Patagonia Nano Puff was one of the first jackets to offer premium synthetic insulation in a lightweight package. And the formula holds true today: The current model uses PrimaLoft’s top-end 60g Gold Eco fill that can give a mid-range down jacket a run for its money in terms of warmth-to-weight ratio. Coupled with a light baselayer, we found the Nano Puff comfortable down into the low 40s Fahrenheit, which is on par with synthetics like the Arc’teryx Atom LT and The North Face ThermoBall. This shoulder-season-friendly level of warmth is what makes this jacket so popular in areas like the Pacific Northwest for all but the coldest winter days. For outdoor use, it’s not enough to trust in the high alpine—we still turn to a down piece for that—but it’s a great choice for most summer camping, backpacking, and climbing trips.
Similar to its warmth, the weight of the Nano Puff remains competitive in the synthetic field. Our men’s hoody in a size medium tips the scales at 13.5 ounces (Patagonia lists it as 12.8 oz.), which is around the same as Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody (13.2 oz). and undercuts The North Face’s ThermoBall Eco (15.9 oz.). You can save a few ounces and get a boost in warmth with a down jacket like the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody (10.8 oz.), but that comes with a big jump in price to $379. Among synthetics, Outdoor Research’s SuperStrand LT Hoodie is especially light at 10.9 ounces, but we found that jacket to be a little less warm and durable. Overall, unless you’re a dedicated minimalist, the Nano Puff isn’t a burden to haul around in a pack.
The combination of PrimaLoft’s compressible insulation, a simple feature set, and lightweight materials make for an impressively packable synthetic jacket. The Nano Puff fits easily into its internal chest pocket and can be compressed further when squeezed into a pack or suitcase for travel. As a nod to Patagonia’s climbing roots, the stuff pocket includes a reinforced loop for attaching the jacket to a harness. Only a small percentage of Nano Puff wearers will actually use this feature, but it doesn’t add extra weight and we find the loop functional for attaching a key inside the pocket. All in all, there certainly are more packable jacket options on the market—including a bevy of premium down models and the aforementioned synthetic SuperStrand LT—but the Nano Puff is a fine choice for most hikers, climbers, and travelers.
With its strong shell and fresh coating of DWR, we found the Nano Puff to be decently water-resistant. It shed light rain easily, although the sheer amount of stitching on the exterior does mean that water will start to make its way into the insulation during extended exposure. The good news, however, is that unlike natural goose or duck down, synthetic fill doesn’t get clumpy and continues to insulate when wet. Realistically, the jacket offers enough water protection for most uses—you’ll want to grab a rain shell in a true deluge—but this isn’t the most rain-ready layer we’ve tested.
Despite not being a top performer in the wet, the Patagonia Nano Puff does great in wind. The key here is that the exterior stitching does not continue to the interior; instead, the jacket has a separate, smooth liner that is nearly seamless. This minimizes vulnerabilities for wind to cut through and allows the windproof shell to do its job. The Nano Puff feels nearly as tough as a rain jacket in strong gusts, which furthers its backcountry (and city) appeal.
Unlike Patagonia’s performance-oriented Nano-Air, the Nano Puff is not a very good breather. The solid liner and face fabric that do such a great job blocking wind and shedding light rain also limit hot air from escaping while on the go. And the smooth interior quickly turns slippery and clammy as you work up a sweat. To be fair, the jacket does not have any high-output ambitions, and its breathability is very comparable to a standard down jacket. Stick to its strong points—daily wear, hanging out around camp, and light aerobic activity—and you’ll be in much better shape.
The Nano Puff is offered in a range of styles—including a standard non-hooded jacket and vest—but we tested the priciest full-zip hoody version here (more in our “Other Versions” section below). The non-hoody options commonly are worn as midlayers, but we like the versatility of the low-profile hood that allows the jacket to perform well as an outer layer without getting in the way under a shell. The hood itself isn’t adjustable, but it was a perfect fit for us and the stretchy construction even allows you to put it on and take it off with the main zipper all the way up. Additionally, the scuba-style design provides excellent coverage that shields the chin, sides of the head, and forehead from the elements, and is designed to fit easily under a helmet. We often prefer an adjustable hood to dial in fit, but we have to say that Patagonia’s hoods are among the best in terms of protection and comfort (we were similarly impressed with the Micro Puff).
Storage-wise, the Nano Puff offers a standard suite of options: two nicely sized handwarmer pockets and an interior zippered chest pocket. Everything is just where you want it for daily use (Patagonia avoided getting overly technical with high, harness-compatible pockets), and we find little to complain about here. True, the lining of the pockets isn’t all that soft and cozy, but it’s insulated and keeps your hands protected from cold and windy air.
Patagonia has opted for a 20-denier (D) recycled polyester shell fabric on the Nano Puff, which is about average in terms of durability for a lightweight insulated jacket. In practice, the ripstop construction has put up a good fight against snags and abrasion. We’ve found that we’re still mindful of the risk of getting a tear, but it’s nothing like the nearly paper-thin, 12D SuperStrand LT Hoodie or an ultralight down piece like the 10D x 10D Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2. Overall, for day-to-day and occasional backcountry use, the Nano Puff should hold up fine in most cases—just don’t wear it while rock climbing (not that you would for long with its limited breathability).
A healthy part of the Patagonia Nano Puff’s wide appeal relates to its classy looks and comfortable fit. Patagonia describes the cut as “regular” and we agree. It’s a bit on the boxy side for performance use, but layers easily and offers plenty of mobility for everyday wear and activities like downhill skiing. We had enough space for doubling up baselayers for extra warmth in sub-freezing conditions, and it isn’t overly bulky for sliding a shell over top.
One nitpick that we have with the fit is the single hem adjuster on the right side. While it’s easy to tighten and loosen, the jacket pulls noticeably to the right as you cinch the bottom. For a piece with this much casual appeal, we would prefer a second hem adjustment on the left side. Again, this is a small issue—and addressing it would add a little weight—but we would prefer a more uniform look when cinching the jacket.
Patagonia has become a leader in the push for sustainability in the outdoor industry, and the Nano Puff embodies that focus. First, the jacket uses a 100-percent-recycled shell, lining, and insulation, and the PrimaLoft is produced without the use of heat, which reduces carbon emissions during production (you’ll see references to PrimaLoft “P.U.R.E,” which stands for “Produced Using Reduced Emissions”). In addition, the fabrics are bluesign-approved, meaning extra steps were taken during manufacturing to reduce the impact on the environment and to consumers. The Nano Puff is also Fair Trade Certified, which denotes that Patagonia put extra money into production to ensure that factory workers have safe working conditions and are making livable wages. Finally, the Nano Puff now uses a DWR coating without perfluorocarbons (PFCs), which are known to be harmful to the environment. We’ve seen more and more outdoor companies getting on board with similar initiatives, and we applaud Patagonia for their ongoing efforts in this realm.
Other Versions of the Patagonia Nano Puff
We tested the men’s hoody version of this jacket, and Patagonia makes a women’s Nano Puff Hoody that costs the same ($249) and is listed at 10.8 ounces. Aside from small changes in baffling design under the arms for a more women’s-specific fit and different colorways, the jackets essentially are the same. As mentioned above, Patagonia also makes the Nano Puff in a non-hooded jacket and men’s vest, as well as a Baby Nano Puff for kids. The jacket comes in $50 cheaper and is listed at 11.9 ounces for the men’s model, but it otherwise sports the same features, construction, and 60-gram PrimaLoft Gold Eco insulation. Predictably, the Nano Puff Vest is much lighter and cheaper at 8 ounces and $149.
- A great crossover jacket: The Nano Puff is functional for outdoor use with plenty of style and features to wear around town.
- Pretty light and easy to store in a pack, on a harness, or in a suitcase.
- Ideal warmth for cool fall and spring conditions, or as a midlayer for downhill skiing.
What We Don’t
- Poor breathability for a synthetic jacket, especially compared to some of Patagonia’s newer offerings like the Nano-Air.
- Rain protection is good but not great due to the extensive exterior stitching.
- Single hem adjuster pulls the jacket to the side when tightening.
|Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody||$249||12.8 oz.||PrimaLoft Gold Eco (60g)||20D||Yes|
|Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody||$299||12.2 oz.||FullRange (60g)||33D||No|
|OR SuperStrand LT Hoodie||$219||10.9 oz.||VerticalX SuperStrand (60g)||12D||Yes|
|The North Face ThermoBall Eco||$230||15.9 oz.||ThermoBall Eco||20D||Yes|
|Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody||$259||13.2 oz.||Coreloft Compact (60g)||20D||No|
At the end of the day, no other brand can match the buzz around a Patagonia synthetic jacket, and their Nano-Air is one of the most popular designs on the market, synthetic or otherwise. Compared to the Nano Puff, the biggest difference is that the Nano-Air is categorized as an active insulation piece. The FullRange insulation is more breathable than PrimaLoft Gold Eco, plus the face fabric is stretchier and more air-permeable. In the end, we prefer the Nano-Air, which is both more comfortable for daily wear and breathes better during aerobic activity. On the flip side, it’s pricier at $299 for the hooded version, offers a step down in warmth, and doesn’t block the wind as well.
For minimalist backcountry adventures, it may be worth considering an even lighter-weight option like Outdoor Research’s 10.9-ounce SuperStrand LT Hoodie. Like Patagonia’s legendary Micro Puff (which is largely unavailable preceding an update later this year), the SuperStrand is a down-mimicking synthetic that does a nice impression of down’s loftiness and compressibility. The biggest compromises are in versatility and durability: The SuperStrand has a very basic feature set and less durable 12D shell fabric to keep weight low. At the end of the day, the Nano Puff and SuperStrand fall into different camps: The OR is the lightweight and packable performance piece, whereas the Nano is designed more for casual, everyday use and light hiking.
Another popular synthetic option is the ubiquitous The North Face ThermoBall. Updated last year with light changes to the baffle design and insulation, the jacket shares a similar template with the Nano Puff: lightweight warmth, decent weather protection, and crossover appeal between the outdoors and the city. With its unique down-like insulation, the ThermoBall looks and feels a little puffier than the low-profile Patagonia, but both offer comparable levels of warmth. The Nano Puff gets the edge in weight, wind protection, and looks (the ThermoBall’s shiny shell material is a little cheap by comparison), but The North Face costs $19 less in hoody form (the non-hooded jackets are the same price). The final decision likely will come down to fit and preferences on styling, and we give the nod to the lighter and sleeker Nano Puff.
A final legendary all-around synthetic jacket is Arc’teryx’s Atom LT Hoody. This piece has been a go-to of ours for years for deftly balancing comfort, weight, and warmth. The stretchy non-waterproof side panels on the Atom LT make the jacket more flexible than the Nano Puff and slightly better for staying cool while on the go, but the Patagonia is a little warmer overall. All in all, we prefer the comfort and versatility of the Atom LT, particularly at only a $10 price difference, but the Nano Puff isn’t too far behind. And its roomier fit may give it the edge for some people compared to the more athletic cut of the Atom LT.
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