Gear for good. That’s the promise behind all of Cotopaxi‘s outdoor gear, including the Pacaya Insulated Hoodless Jacket that I’ve been testing this Spring. From the supply chain to the materials themselves (who ever heard of a llama-insulated jacket??), Cotopaxi likes to shake things up. But, we still have to ask — is the gear good?

Cotopaxi Pacaya Insulated Jacket Features:

  • 20D nylon shell with DWR finish
  • 20D nylon liner
  • Polartec® Alpha® insulation
  • Polartec® Power Stretch® underarm panels
  • 2 zippered hand pockets
  • Interior zippered chest pocket
  • Weight: 13.5oz (383g)
  • MSRP: $199.95
Cotopaxi Pacaya Jacket Review

The Pacaya insulated hoodless jacket in Racing Red/Cream.

High fashion, higher tech:

The Pacaya is an interesting jacket. It’s definitely stylish, and it would be easy to say that it was constructed around aesthetics. But, at the same time, it’s so comfortable and high-performance that you’d think it was a technical piece. This is the tightrope Cotopaxi walks with the Pacaya — a very stylish piece that happens to have really great technical chops.

The technical features start at the fabric choice and encompass the entire construction of the jacket. The insulation is Polartec’s well-known Alpha insulation. It’s well-known because, well, it’s pretty much the best active insulation out there. In the Pacaya, it’s sandwiched in between ultralight, 20D nylon that helps the Polartec breathe effectively. The light fabric in the colorways, such as the cream-colored shoulders on my jacket, are slightly translucent and you can see the gridded pattern of the Polartec beneath. Rounding it all off are Polartec Power Stretch underarm panels which dump heat and help the jacket to move with your body.

Some very fancy fabrics in this beast. Power Stretch panel is on the right.

When you look at the result of these features, it’s hard to call the Pacaya a ‘lifestyle’ jacket. It’s totally capable of backcountry ski expeditions or other aerobic activities. It just looks so good that it throws you off its scent. The trio of ultralight 20D fabrics lgihtweight Alpha insulation (the total jacket weight is 13.5oz) and uninsulated, stretchy Power Stretch underarm panels really help the Pacaya to handle perspiration effectively. The Alpha is built to wick moisture away from your body and evaporate it effectively into the atmosphere, helping you stay drier and warmer when you stop. At the same time, the underarm panels dump heat like crazy. They actually become quite chilly on cold days.

To the Pacaya’s credit, it moves quite well with the user. This is aided in part by the Power Stretch underarm panels, but the relatively long hem cut and the drawcord adjustments at the hem help to manage the jacket too. Those drawcord adjustments don’t have a conventional sprung device to hold the tension, but instead are run through two little slots that narrow on one end and can hold the cord in place by friction. Overall, I found that it was hard to engage the cord into the narrow end. I prefer the conventional spring-loaded devices, though Cotopaxi’s solution is part of what keeps the cost of the jacket down slightly and saves weight overall.

Cotopaxi Pacaya Jacket Review

Cotopaxi’s hem adjustment keepers.

The jacket also features two zippered hand pockets. Both are placed low, so don’t expect them to work with a harness here. I also had a hard time with the zipper tracks jamming frequently. That said, the main zipper pulls up and down flawlessly and there’s a small zipper garage to protect your delicate chin. Perhaps my favorite feature, though, are the incredibly soft cuffs that Cotopaxi designed. They’re buttery soft and stretchy, creating a perfect seal that never irritates your skin or lets gusts through.

Beyond the features of this individual garment, Cotopaxi’s gear is targeted at a great overall mission. They’re essentially a company driven by and driving a message of social responsibility. They run an ethical supply chain, source creative materials like llama fur, give targeted grants to non-profits, and have an awesome return/repair policy to keep their gear going. In that regard, Cotopaxi’s gear really is something you can feel good about purchasing.

Cotopaxi Pacaya Jacket Review

The snag-prone zipper track on the pockets.

I mostly traveled in the Pacaya. While it has the technical skills to go out into the mountains, I decided I’d rather put it to the test in the streets of rainy Spokane (where the DWR came in clutch) and the crowded seats of an airliner (where the heat management features saved my bacon). The header image of this review comes from Tijuana, which was my stomping ground for the Pacaya. It’s a great jacket for travel, with the zippered pockets and the highly versatile temperature regulation.

Cotopaxi Pacaya Jacket Review

Note the subtle translucence of the light fabrics. Also, the zipper garage.

The Good:

  • Awesome fabrics and insulation
  • Great construction and color selection
  • Backed by a company with great ethics
  • Soft, comfortable overall and it moves well with your body
  • Cuffs are probably the best I’ve seen

The Bad:

  • Hem locks don’t work as well as conventional system
  • Pocket zips tend to snag

The Bottom Line: Cotopaxi Pacaya

The Pacaya will likely be a hit with outdoorsy people who also have an eye for exceptionally sharp apparel. The Pacaya does double duty flawlessly, just as comfortable sweating up a skin track as it is heading downtown. That’s rare for a jacket, and it’s even rarer to get a piece with an awesome socially-responsible component. So the Pacaya is a big winner in my book.

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About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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