As I planned my September 2013 climb of the world’s 8th highest mountain, Manaslu (26, 759 feet 8156 meters), I looked at my gear carefully. It had worked well on Everest and the 7 Summits plus countless other climbs but I wanted to reduce weight and frankly some of it was worn out with rips and thin spots. So I focused on upgrading my upper body layers.
With that in mind, I went to the Patagonia website for some ideas and ended up replacing my warmth and wind layers. I am extremely pleased with the results. I have always been a big fan of Patagonia and have a lot of their kit which I usually on . With these new s, I am a devote’ for life.
Ultralight Down Jacket with Hood
I had used the Patagonia Micropuff Hooded jacket for years. It was my go-to warmth layer and was almost always in my pack from Vinson to Everest. It was the only top layer I wore on many of the 7 Summits. But I had ripped it and it did not pack very small but still met my needs. However, it was time to replace it. I liked the primaloft fill since it didn’t degrade when wet but I loved the idea of a new generation of lightweight down jackets as demonstrated by Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Whisperer and Patagonia’s Ultralight Down Jacket with Hood.
I bought the Ghost Whisperer but returned it after mistakenly ordering the hyperblue color – it was shinny and a bit too “blue” for me. Plus I was nervous about how fragile it appeared in spite of talking to people who had used it with success for a year. Given all this, I then ordered the Patagonia Ultralight. I have not looked backed.
The jacket is unbelievably light coming in at 9 ounces. It packs to the size of an overgrown grapefruit and is warm, warm, warm. At times, I forgot I was wearing it on Manaslu. The fabric is tough and rejected my clumsy moves against sharp rock, ice and pro. And I love the hood. Regular readers will note my affection for hoods and all my jackets have one. This one adds at least 10 degrees to the warmth value for me. I took my heavy and bulky but trusted Feather Friends Volant 800 fill down jacket and never took it out of the stuff sack.
Bottom line: a great jacket that is so light you might not notice.
The second jacket I needed was a replacement for all my wind/rain/snow shells. I have quite a collection now ranging from heavy Gortex versions to light wind layers. But I wanted something that would repel a heavy rain or wet snow plus give me protection in a gale. This selection was more difficult than the down jacket.
Gear manufacturers have gone nuts in this category in my view offering so many choices that I just gave up many times as I shopped. I wanted something light, it had to be wind and waterproof plus breathed (as much as anything waterproof breathes). It had to have a hood and I didn’t want to spend $500.
The Patagonia Troposphere shell came into focus. It met my needs and was affordable. When I opened the packaging at home, I was a bit disappointed with the feel as it felt a bit plastic, more like a raincoat. But I gave it a go. And in my opinion, another winner. The material did “soften” a bit over time but more importantly it met my needs of rain and wind protection. In fact it also is pretty warm given the proper base layers underneath.
The pockets are well placed and generous and the hood is the right size – not too big or small. I wore it often on Manaslu and on some training climbs here in Colorado. It shed water like a duck and kept out the wind like a wall.
Bottom line: Keeps you warm and dry. What else do you need?
Finally, I needed a new wind shirt. My Marmot Ion Wind Shirt had served me well for literally years but was developing holes and was not water resistant at all. Once again, this category is blessed with choices. But since I was on the Patagonia site, I looked at their Houdini wind shirt. It was priced right and offered what I wanted – small, lightweight, compressible and water repellent.
I found myself wearing this on the trek and climb almost as a base layer. If the wind picked up, it was the first layer I put on. If it drizzled, the Houdini came out. The hood was perfect, once again adding warmth to the equation.
Bottom line: Don’t leave home without it
As always, my base layer was merino wool. I had a top and bottom from Icebreaker and am very pleased with them but most base layers made from this incredible sheep will work. I found myself climbing through 7000 meters often with the baselayer then one of the afore mentioned layers feeling warm, or cool, in spite of hot sun, harsh winds, snow squalls or anything else this 8000m mountain threw at me.
You can read more of my reviews on the mainsite.
Memories are Everything