In addition to general technology topics, I also wanted to review various items on the blog – there are no affiliate links here, these are just real reviews based on extensive experience with the various items.
I’ll start with the Patagonia Super Alpine jacket that I’ve had for a little over a year now and used extensively in the UK, Canada, and the US. It’s Patagonia’s top-of-the-line Gore-tex hard shell and the price (retail is $599) reflects that. I didn’t pay close to that, and I’ll tell you later in the review how that was.
Overall this is a really well-designed jacket and it hit all the major points I look for in a technical jacket:
- Good length – not too long, not too short. My previous jacket was a Mountain Equipment climbing jacket that was barely hip length, designed for climbing in a harness in British downpours. It’s a great jacket, but the short length directed water to your upper legs when not wearing waterproof pants which is very annoying.
- Beefy fabric – my first gore-tex jacket (that I still have in a box somewhere) was a Berghaus Cordura gore-tex and was super beefy and strong. Some time in the 1990’s they stopped producing cordura gore-tex laminates (not sure why) which is a loss as far as I am concerned. This jacket is 3.2 oz and 3.7 oz three-layer which is what you want unless you are really obsessed with light weight (and are willing to deal with the tradeoffs).
- Hood – must be able to zip the zip all the way up without feeling choked when the hood is down – pass. Hood must be adjustable to actually work in high winds and blowing rain/snow – pretty good, not the best I’ve used, but the best I could find in the current market.
Extra credit: has a waterproof, sealed interior pocket – big bonus.
Killer feature – and the one that sold me on the jacket above all the others – is the neoprene cuffs. When it’s pouring and you have been out for hours and are working, raising your arms usually means water runs up the sleeves and soaks the cuffs of whatever you are wearing underneath. These flexible cuffs (which I believe are adapted from offshore-sailing wear designs) prevent that and are fantastic!
How to get it cheaper – I got my jacket from the Patagonia outlet in Reno. Just call them up, and if you are nice they will check stock and mail it to you. I’ve got phenomenal deals this way in the past (60-75% discount), but respect that this is not their usual way of doing business so be nice to the people who answer the phones (who have been 100% helpful and pleasant in my experience). Downside (for some) is that I got my jacket in the old mango/lime colourway. I actually like it, but many of my friends give me grief over it. I will say, though, that when skiing in a near-whiteout in Symphony Bowl at Whistler last February other skiers thanked me for being visible.
Beware of people selling stuff on eBay. I’ve noticed a lot of people buying stuff from Patagonia during the sale (or at the outlets) and then reselling on eBay at close to retail. Not cool, IMHO.