I’ll admit. I’ve been a sucker for cotton for years. It’s an easy fabric to deal with. It’s cheap, it doesn’t need special handling and it’s durable. Which is why the majority of my clothing – including outdoor apparel – is cotton. But here’s the thing about cotton: it really sucks when you’re highly active. Forget about staying warm in the winter. Sweat clings to the fabric and lets cold wind rip right to your skin. If it gets dragged in snow, it will eventually freeze into a pliable, non-insulating cloth. It’s just not a very smart fabric.
So what does this have to do with the Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt? Nothing, actually. Because the Ultralight isn’t made of cotton. And that’s smart.
The Ultralight is packed with Patagonia’s classic look and feel. Technical, but not geeked out. Cozy, but not sluggish. Ready for the trails, but not so rugged that you can’t take it to the brewpub after. And that’s a good first impression. I like to buy clothing if it can serve more than one purpose, and because my lifestyle isn’t very static, I put a lot of hard mileage on my clothes.
The Patagonia Ultralight is built from a featherweight nylon shell. It shaves off quite a bit of weight than from, say, a fleece mid layer, and is even water repellent – also unlike a fleece mid layer. Insulated with European goose down, the Ultralight provides much more efficient thermal heat and is highly breathable so you’re not sweating in your own climate. The goose down fill makes the shirt super compressable and convenient for packing (included is a micro compression sack), which is why I’m so hyped on it. It is ridiculously light and beats out all my other mid layers for warmth, hands down.
Yet even wearing the Ultralight Down Shirt in mild weather, I have yet to overheat. Whether I wear it under a shell or as a stand-alone layer, my internal temperature has been near perfect every time. (Insert second mention of how smart this shirt is.) When I wear it as an outer layer, though, I’m constantly reaching for a phantom hand pocket to stash a key, ID or chapstick, and that’s the one feature I hope Patagonia considers adding in the future.
After a few adventures, the Ultralight shirt was ripe for a wash, so I stuck it in the top loader with a regular pile of clothes. After the wash cycle had finished, I saw small feathers lying around the laundry machine. Turns out, the agitator in top-loading washers can rip through the fabric if you’re not careful separating your delicates. This isn’t as big of a deal in front-loading washers, but a gentle cycle is always recommended. It’s inconvenient for someone who doesn’t separate clothes on laundry day, but I guess that’s what happens when you build a performance jacket for ultralight adventures: durable fabrics are swapped for delicate synthetics to save on weight.
Did that stop me from wearing this shirt over and over? No. A stripe of duct tape over the rip on the inside was a solid repair solution. And as I head out of town next week, you can be sure the Ultralight is making its next trip with me.