The Patagonia Ultralight Hoody is a quintessential all-arounder down jacket: it works well as a midlayer and outer layer but also plays nice for daily wear. Despite falling into the ultralight category in price and weight, albeit on the high end, durability and comfort are not sacrificed in the quest to save an ounce or two. This makes it less ideal for the dedicated, weight-conscious alpinist, but it’s a great down jacket for the skier, backpacker and climber that will appreciate its solid looks, lightweight warmth and packability. Below we break down the Ultralight's warmth, durability, sizing and fit, and how it stacks up in a comparison table. And check out our article on the best down jackets for a complete look at the market.
Premium Down Warmth
Packing a decent amount of high quality down into a slim profile, the Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody offers impressive warmth for the weight. It’s about as warm as its sibling, the heavier Down Sweater, and provided sufficient insulation in our cold weather, low activity test (sitting outside on top of snow in subfreezing temps). While hiking and in use in snow sports, the jacket offers excellent warmth as a mid layer. Combined with a good baselayer and shell, we've been warm down into the low teens on the ski slope. As an outer layer, it continues to perform well, blocking the wind and offering good insulation in dry conditions, which makes it a popular choice for cold weather climbing.
In our warmth testing with other lightweight down jackets, it performed similarly to the Arc’teryx Cerium LT, and outperformed others like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (barely) and Outdoor Research Filament (quite easily). Wet weather will compromise this warmth, however. And this is where the Cerium LT has a leg up, using synthetic insulation in the areas most prone to getting wet (shoulders, under arms, cuffs, and the front of the collar). If you’re searching for the ultimate warmth-to-weight ratio, we’d recommend the 2.5 ounces lighter Ghost Whisperer, but the Ultralight still measures up well in this group.
Materials and Construction
What immediately stands out with the Ultralight is its super high-end quality. The stitching looks excellent and the jacket has a very soft and luxurious feel on both the inside and out. There’s a reason we see this jacket worn around town more than other super light options; it just feels plush without being heavy or restricting. Even the zippers perform well, which is a rarity in this grouping. They may weigh marginally more, but to us, it’s completely worth it.
The sewn-through construction houses alternating narrow and wider horizontal channels of down. It’s very clean, but also gives the jacket a distinctive look when lined up next to a traditional down sweater. A DWR coating on the jacket goes unnoticed until moisture lands, and it beads a light rain or snow well. Despite changing color options year-over-year, Patagonia seems to always offer both bright and more subdued color options, so you can choose to stand out or lay low.
Weighing the Ultralight
On our scale, the Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody weighed 10.05 ounces (285 grams) for a medium, including the 9-gram stuff sack. This weight is a bit over what Patagonia lists for the jacket and puts it on the heavy end of the ultralight category. Comparable hoody options that we’ve weighed are lighter: the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (7.68 oz.) and Montbell Ex Light (6.31 oz.) both win handily, but they are constructed with a thinner 7D fabric (more on denier below), rather than the 15D found on the Ultralight.
Instead, it fell more in line with the more substantial feeling and feature rich Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody (10.22 ounces). Only the most hardcore of ultralighters will be disappointed with the extra few ounces as this remains a feathery light jacket that is a no-brainer to stuff into a pack for just about any outdoor adventure.
100% Traceable Down Fill
The Ultralight Hoody uses 800-fill-power goose down throughout the jacket, which, although not the very highest-end available, is premium quality. The down is also 100% traceable, which means Patagonia can show all the down used in the jacket is from birds that were not force fed or live plucked. As for the actual amount of down in the jacket, the Ultralight Hoody has 3.52 ounces—the most in our ultralight category. The Ultralight’s extra fill and high quality down make for efficient and highly compressible insulation, while retaining a low profile.
Durability: Fabric Denier Rating
The weight of a thread is measured in denier (abbreviated with a “D” or “d”), and the lower the number the lighter the weight. Generally, a lower denier rating means the material is less durable and more prone to abrasion (there is some variation here as not all threads of the same denier are identical). The Patagonia Ultralight has a Pertex Quantum 15D shell, and it is noticeably more substantial than the see-through 7D shells on the Montbell Ex Light and Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. It has a feel more in line with the Cerium LT from Arc’teryx.
This added durability contributes to its higher overall weight, but also to fewer concerns about tearing the fabric (other than the normal concerns of ruining a $350 jacket) when cutting through brush and between rocks. In addition, the down feathers are less prone to escaping through microscopic holes in the shell. It’s a bit surprising that the 15D shell is Patagonia’s lightest weight shell fabric given some of their recent ultralight products like the Alpine Houdini rain shell (check out our review of the Alpine Houdini), but we appreciate the added confidence in the construction.
An Ultralight Down Jacket With Pockets!
A seemingly simple feature like a pocket is not a given in the ultralight category. Gram counting designers looking to shave anything extra often erase a chest pocket or zippered pockets altogether. The Ultralight bucks that trend with a Napoleon chest pocket and two hand warmer pockets. The Napoleon pocket is on the small side, sized about the same as a large cell phone. The hand warmer pockets make up for any storage insufficiencies, however. They’re quite large and are plenty warm. In windy conditions, they were a nice retreat for cold fingers.
Go with the Hoody Option
The hoody option on the Ultralight is our preferred setup, making it work well as an outer layer for dry and cold weather or warm midlayer, although Patagonia does make a standard Ultralight Down Jacket. This option is best as a dedicated midlayer.
The hood is very warm and large, but not helmet compatible large, and has a drawcord on the back for easy adjustments. The cinch is a bit unique in the category (the Ghost Whisperer does without), and makes it more reliable for various head shapes and sizes in windy conditions. Pulling the drawcord cinches around the middle of the head and pulls the fabric far back enough to keep it from coming down over the eyes. While it’s not as nice of a system as the Storm Hood from Arc’teryx, which more uniformly pulls the hood around your head, it’s still very functional and doesn’t make for any undue bunching.
Stuffing it Down
A separate stuff sack is included that cinches at the top with a drawcord. The Ultralight easily fits into the cylindrical stuff sack and measures: 7.25 x 5.0 x 5.25 inches (LxWxH). This makes it plenty small to barely notice in a pack. What we do take issue with is using the separate stuff sack.
While the extra layer of fabric the stuff sack provides is nice for some protection, in our eyes, it’s just not worth the concerns that come along with it. You’re constantly checking your pocket to make sure the stuff sack hasn’t fallen out. We much prefer the chest pocket method of the OR Filament or hand warmer pocket the Ghost Whisperer uses. Even the Arc’teryx Cerium LT is better because you can at least tie the stuff sack to a small loop inside of the hand warmer pocket. One alternative is to keep the bag stored with rest your outdoor gear and grab it when you need it. Good luck with that!
Editor's Note: Patagonia has addressed this complaint with a recent update and the jacket now stuffs into both its chest pocket and the left handwarmer pocket.
Sizing and Fit
Sizing for the jacket was about as expected, if a bit smaller than other Patagonia items we own. We had a medium and the fit was comfortable on two testers (5’10” and 6’1”) with slim builds. Within the more slim fitting performance category, the cut of the jacket felt a bit on the boxy side. And as a result, it was easy to fit an additional layer underneath (we typically added a thin fleece) for extra insulation. A simple drawcord at the hem on the right side cinches well and doesn’t pull the fabric to the side. And while you do notice a little extra puffiness, it’s not baggy in the arms and has good range of motion for use as a belay jacket in cool and dry conditions.
The Ultralight has sufficient length, falling just below the waist, with a back length that we measured at 26 inches. Sleeve length is very average and provides sufficient coverage and insulation all the way up and over the wrists. The cuffs are very simple and stretchy, and fit well over a glove or just a plain wrist. You don’t see the loose, tunnel-like opening found in some of the competition. This may seem like a small detail, but as we found in our Ghost Whisperer review, ill-fitting cuffs can become quite annoying.
What We Like
- Very lightweight but doesn’t compromise much in warmth.
- Good feature set for its weight with easy adjustments for the hem and hood.
- Another quality Patagonia build: the materials have a premium feel and have held up well considering their thin construction.
What We Don’t
- There are lighter weight options available including the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer.
- We found the fit a little boxy for a performance piece—the Arc’teryx Cerium LT has a superior athletic cut.
|Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody||$349||10.05 oz.||800-fill down||3.52 oz.||15D|
|Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody||$379||10.22 oz.||850-fill down & Coreloft||3.35 oz. & 80 g/m2||20Dx10D|
|Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer||$350||7.68 oz.||800-fill down||2.79 oz.||7Dx10D|
|Feathered Friends Eos||$289||10.6 oz.||900-fill down||3.7 oz.||12Dx20D|
|Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody||$279||15.1 oz.||800-fill down||3.52 oz.||20Dx30D|
Aside from small complaints, the Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody checks off all the boxes. Well-built, comfortable, warm, and super packable, it’s a jacket that we recommend for the core outdoors activities: hiking, backpacking, climbing and snow sports. We do think it could afford to be even lighter, and by today’s standards, the Ultralight name may be a bit of a misnomer. However, the Patagonia Ultralight and Arc’teryx Cerium LT were the two jackets found ourselves reaching for on a daily basis—backcountry bound or not. And in our complete test of the best down jackets, it ended up close behind the Cerium LT.
At $349 retail, this jacket is unquestionably expensive. It falls in the dream jacket category for many, but as with most outdoor gear, at the right time deals can still be had (especially on last year’s colors). Its primary competition also sits at over $300 and most of them are focused pieces, giving up a feature or two at the expense of long-term durability. For the ultralight seekers, we’d recommend picking up the Ghost Whisperer instead. If you’re looking to save some bucks, choose the hoody version of the Down Sweater (see our in-depth review) for similar warmth, at the sacrifice of some weight and bulk. For our money, the Ultralight sits between those two at that happy medium, and the fact that you can buy with confidence knowing it was responsibly made is the cherry on top.
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