With the ubiquity of pieces like the Synchilla fleece and Baggies shorts, it's easy to forget that Patagonia's roots lie in the most technical category of outdoor gear: climbing hardware. The company stopped making chocks decades ago and it certainly has embraced lifestyle apparel with enthusiasm, but recently, Patagonia has demonstrated an appetite for ultralight, first with a minimalist cook set and sleeping bag, and now, with a new collection of insulation for men & women called Alpine Downlab.
Patagonia's proposition for Downlab is pretty straightforward: make the lightest down-insulated garments possible. But the approach is unconventional in that the pieces are so light, they're almost more mid-layer than outer layer. And Patagonia hopes they'll be treated as such, working their novel way into the layering "systems" embraced by ultralight backpackers, climbers, and skiers. Long the bread and butter of cottage industry owner-operator brands, these niche garments appeal mainly to outdoorists willing to sacrifice a certain level of comfort for lighter packs and faster setups. Every ounce counts, as they say.
As such, along with the ultralight construction, the Downlab puffies come in minimalist designs. There's a full-zip jacket ($299), a quarter-zip pullover ($249), and a crew neck pullover ($199) for men and women. As well as a hooded vest for women ($199). All use traceable 800-fill down insulation stuffed inside a 100% recycled seven-denier nylon ripstop shell that's treated with a PFC-free DWR finish for precipitation protection.
And just how light are we talking? The UltraAlpine Down Hooded Vest, which is the lightest of the lot, weighs in at 5.3 ounces. That's about the weight of two Clif Bars. Not bad.