Macro Puff Review: Patagonia’s Famous Puffy Gets Puffier
Patagonia: ‘This is the lightest, most packable high-insulation piece we’ve ever made.’
Bumping through the African highlands in the back of a dusty Land Rover, summiting a rain-soaked Appalachian peak, sipping coffee with friends in a hipster downtown shop — these are just a few of the memories that play through my mind when I slide my weathered Nano Puff out of the closet.
As one of the first puffies I ever wore and the first semi-expensive gift I bought my dad for Christmas when I left the house for college, the Nano Puff holds a strong nostalgia factor for me. It’s pretty cool that an inanimate piece of fabric can store up so much intrinsic value, which I guess is where the Nano Puff truly shines.
While it’s not the highest performer in every category, it has a heritage as one of the first jackets to offer premium synthetic insulation with a lightweight but durable design, and has been a favorite with outdoor enthusiasts for just about forever.
This mega classic jacket excels in several categories: It’s super comfortable, layers well, has a simple but functional design, and delivers surprising warmth for how thin it feels. It’s built a reputation for being a stylish jacket for use around town while consistently performing well in the mountains, and it’s considered one of the most solid crossover pieces on the market.
Though it’s not the most breathable (or the warmest) jacket out there, it stands out as more of a general workhorse.
In short: If you are looking for premium breathability, weather resistance, or a higher warmth factor, there are better options (even by Patagonia) that are dedicated to those activities. However, as a do-it-all, reliable addition to your layering system, the Nano Puff ($229) remains a top pick for mountain athletes or casual weekend warriors that need a solid jacket for a broad range of activities and climates.
Stylish design looks good in the mountains and around town
Highly compressible given how warm it is
Slippery fabric makes layering easy
Extensive stitching adds some breathability, allows rain to soak insulation faster
A little heavier than similar lightweight layers
Loose-fitting cuffs often let some heat escape
The Nano Puff has been around for a long time, but as fresh competition enters the market, I wanted to see if the newest edition of this crowd favorite still lived up to the hype. I wore this model in a variety of different settings, from long backpacking trips and multipitch climbs, to casual strolls around town in colder weather. I tested its breathability, warmth, weather resistance, durability, and compressibility. It’s still definitely a worthy jacket.
It boasts a competitive warmth-to-weight ratio, stuffs down small, and was one of my top picks for all-day wear from a coffee shop downtown to sending hard at the crag.
I would say the Nano Puff delivers average breathability compared to other models in its weight category. This isn’t the area it shines the most, but it’s notably more ventilated than other jackets that are dedicated to retaining as much warmth as possible.
The top-of-the-line 60g PrimaLoft Gold Eco insulation does a great job of holding in body heat given how thin it is, but unfortunately it doesn’t let much air in or out, meaning sweat builds up pretty fast once active. The smooth lining of the jacket is a nice addition for next-to-skin comfort but becomes quite clammy when sweat begins to build up. I wouldn’t recommend this for intense active use.
This also contributes to its lack of breathability, as the solid sheet lining means the exterior stitching does not continue to the interior, creating another barrier to ventilation. While this limits airflow, it does make the jacket more wind-resistant, a definite plus in colder temps.
The insulation is held in place with quilted squares, and the stitching between these squares does let more air through than other models (like the Patagonia Micro Puff), but not enough to be considered an active insulation jacket. I also found that the stitching seemed to unravel quicker than expected in some spots, and there are quite a few dangling strands after a few months of use.
Because there are so many squares, thorns and branches catch on the jacket easily during off-trail use, without traveling smoothly over the ripstop fabric.
Again, this isn’t the warmest jacket on the market, but it still holds its own compared to other models of similar weight. It’s a solid option for shoulder season adventures, or as a part of your layering system for colder winter missions.
The current model uses PrimaLoft Gold Eco insulation, a top-shelf synthetic material that delivers impressive warmth for its weight, retains its insulating properties well when wet and is produced with a mind to reduce carbon emissions. Its high compressibility makes the warmth it does deliver much more impressive. I was consistently surprised at how comfortable I stayed in colder weather.
The drawcord-adjustable hem does a pretty good job of sealing in warmth and keeping out drafts. Although I did find the elastic around the cuffs to fit me a bit loosely, letting some cold in along my arms.
That said, I would still consider this a three-season jacket, as it can serve as a dedicated outer layer or be paired with other pieces when temps approach freezing. The slick internal and external fabric makes it super easy to layer the Nano Puff with an outer shell, or an extra midlayer underneath.
The DWR finish on the Nano Puff’s shell causes light precipitation to bead up well and roll off before soaking into the fabric, but the jacket quickly absorbs water once it really starts to rain. There is also a significant amount of stitching, which allows moisture to seep into the insulation faster than other jackets with larger quilt patterns.
While the insulation will keep you warm even after the jacket soaks through, you definitely want to pair this with a dedicated rain shell if heavier storms are in your future.
The 20-denier recycled polyester ripstop shell fabric used on the Nano Puff offers middle-of-the-road durability for off-trail travel. While it held up fine to most of what I put it through, I was still gentle with it while scrambling around boulders or pushing through blowdowns.
For everyday casual use around town or occasional backcountry forays, the Nano Puff works great. If you tend to frequently wander off trail, however, it might be good to pick a jacket with beefier fabric.
The Nano Puff is one of the more compressible synthetic jackets I’ve tested, and it easily shoves into its zippered internal chest pocket. The PrimaLoft Gold Eco insulation packs down smaller than other types of synthetic fill (such as Polartec Alpha), which makes it a solid piece for multipitch climbs, as it easily clips onto a harness without adding much bulk.
The jacket’s slim design and lack of features contribute to its stellar packability, as well as its sleek, stylish look. Despite its small size, it isn’t the lightest jacket on the market, and there are definitely models with a better warmth-to-weight ratio out there. Its minimal profile makes this point hard to gripe about though, and I found it light enough for pretty much everything I needed it for.
The Nano Puff has one of the more streamlined, unembellished designs of the synthetic jackets I’ve tried out, and the simplicity was honestly kind of refreshing. The lack of bells and whistles on this jacket has made it a mega-popular crossover piece for a stylish look on trail, or while walking the dog around the neighborhood.
The two hand-warmer pockets are lined with comfortable fabric, and the internal chest pocket gives the front of the jacket a clean, sleek look. The front zipper features a wicking interior storm flap and a generous zipper garage at the top for next-to-skin comfort.
One small complaint is that the inside of the collar seems to stain quite easily after wearing it a few times. This may be because it runs quite close to the neck, or maybe it is just the material used in this part of the jacket. I only say this because I haven’t noticed it to be a problem on similar puffies.
An iconic, durable, and versatile layer, the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket holds a place in the synthetic insulation hall of fame. The newest edition carries on its tradition as a reliable workhorse for casual wear, or on rugged adventures in the backcountry. Its minimal weight and high compressibility promise not to slow you down or add too much bulk to your pack.
If you need maximum warmth for high-alpine pursuits, or lightweight breathability for fast pushes on the trail, there are better jackets designed specifically for those activities. As a do-it-all layer for a diversity of terrains and climates, however, the Nano Puff is still one of the best options out there.
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