Washington has had what felt like unending cold weather from autumn straight through midsummer. November through July had its fair share of low temps, rain (lots of rain), snow, and sleet for good measure. What this meant, however, is that I had ample opportunity to thoroughly test out part of Patagonia’s Alpine Downlab gear in varying cold weather conditions across a variety of outdoor endeavors—most recently a very chilly alpine backpacking trip in July. Patagonia’s Alpine Downlab collection focuses on creating packable, versatile, and warm garments, perfect for whatever inclement weather you venture into on your adventures. I tested out the UltraAlpine Hooded Vest, but other available options include the Alplight Down Jacket and Alplight Down Pullover, as well as the UltraAlpine Down Crew.
Patagonia’s Alpine Downlab Collection Features:
- Ultralight garments with strategically mapped quilted insulation.
- Versatile application within your laying system. Can be used as a mid- or outer-layer.
- UltraAlpine items feature packable 100% recycled 7-denier Green Threads nylon; features a PFC-free DWR finish.
- Alplight items feature 100% Netplus face fabric from recycled post-consumer fishing nets.
- 800-fill-power Advanced Global Traceable Down.
- Fair Trade Certified Sewn.
- Shop the collection here.
Patagonia Women’s UltraAlpine Down Hooded Vest Features:
- Super light construction. Mine (size Small) logged in at 5.1 oz.
- Kangaroo hand warmer pocket with external zippered pocket.
- Zippered chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack.
Patagonia’s Alpine Downlab has serious potential
This particular vest is light as a whisper but packs in serious coziness. With mapped out insulation that maximizes warmth without tipping the scales — such as extra insulation around the core and back of head, and lighter insulation in the shoulders and sides of the head—the Downlab collection is made for easy movement and thoughtful heat retention.
In an effort to retain optimum lightness, the features on the Alpine Downlab items are few. There’s no velcro or many adjustments to speak of. Just 800-fill power down and a couple zippers, maybe some elastic. Personally I would have preferred a bit of adjustability if it meant a better overall fit, but more on that later. Overall I appreciated Patagonia’s simplified approach to clothing in a market that can feel a bit “more is better” when it comes to features.
This has been the insulation I’ve reached for during wet and snowy runs, summer backpacking trips to cold mountain lakes, and cool nights around town. It excelled in all contexts, and I wouldn’t hesitate to bring it with me on a number of other outdoor pursuits if I know there’s a possibility of cool weather. It breathes surprisingly well, and the half zip front allowed me to dump heat quickly if needed.
While backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in July, I was met with a surprisingly cold alpine lake campsite. Cold enough to have more ice in the lake the next morning than when I went to sleep the night before. Despite hiking in shorts all day, I was quick to grab all my warm layers the moment I took my pack off at camp. Luckily Patagonia’s Ultralight Alpine Downlab Vest was in my bag. As soon as I put it on, I felt tangible and immediate warmth, heating my core without making my pack any heavier than it needed to be.
Patagonia is a progressive company committed to learning and growing, and it’s my hope that they would branch out into more inclusive clothing shapes and sizes in the future. Similar to the Regenerative Organic Pilot Cotton Stand Up Pants (still my favorite pants ever), the limitations of who can wear these items is apparent.
Patagonia’s Alpine Downlab collection is minimal, that’s the beauty of it. But in its pared down approach the design leaves little wiggle room, literally. The hem of this vest is fairly snug, and was tight not only pulling over my shoulders but also sitting on my hips. Other items in the Downlab collection do include hem elastic, but many user reviews expressed issues with fit despite the adjustability.
With the vest in particular, I would have missed out on being able to comfortably wear this garment if I were any curvier. Why have warmth that stops at your bellybutton when you can have more—and more range of motion—by changing the fit and cut? While I understand the need for less features in order to maintain a lightweight garment, I think there’s untapped potential for new innovation that includes folks of varying body types in ultralight pursuits. I hope that in the future Downlab releases from Patagonia we will see just a touch more adjustability, opening up the collection to be accessed by a much broader audience.
- Very, very warm while remaining incredibly light.
- Double kangaroo pocket warms hands and keeps valuable items (like your favorite trail snacks) secure.
- Mapped insulation is effective and efficient, providing warmth without limiting mobility.
- Fair Trade Certified, traceable down, and recycled face fabrics are all major pluses integrated into each Downlab garment.
- Delicate face fabric doesn’t stand up well to zippers or branches.
- Strange cut and fit left me wanting more out of the Downlab line.
The Bottom Line: Patagonia Alpine Downlab & Hooded Vest
I think that Patagonia is really onto something with the packable and incredibly warm Downlab series. It breathes, it moves, it does everything it should. I hope that Patagonia’s future iterations of the Downlab line refines the fit, cut, and adjustability of these products while retaining the excellent insulating and ultralight technology they’ve harnessed already. The vest is no longer available (but could return). You’ll now find a jacket and pullover instead.
Buy Now: Visit Patagonia.com