Gear Review- Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Parka

I’ve had three full winter seasons testing the lofty Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Parka and it has been a consistent performer in the category of down belay jackets. Let’s take an in-depth look at the good and the bad and determine if this is the right choice for you!

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
The author on the summit of Mt. Rainier- Photo by @cfphotography

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Insulation/Warmth

It is important when comparing down jackets that you consider both the fill power of the down (generally 700+ is used in higher end pieces), and the actual amount of down used (generally varies from 2-8 ounces). The Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka is stuffed with 6.4 ounces of ethically sourced 800 fill goose down. This is a very generous amount of the heat-retaining-super-lightweight-and-compressible natural insulator! Similar priced models from other manufacturers often have 4-5 ounces of down (if you can even find out from them).

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
Lounging out at 9,000 feet on Mt. Rainier- photo by Alexandra Roberts

What this means is this “puffy” really is “puffy”. It feels like a big down sleeping bag that fits over all of my other layers (including soft-shell or hard-shell jackets). Baffled construction on the core and quilted construction on the arms keep this quality down where it is needed and eliminates “cold spots”.


But is it warm?

I’ve worn this now in ambient air temps down to -16°F (-26°C) with wind-chills between -30°F to -40°F below zero (-34°C to -40°C)! When worn over my typical winter mountaineering layers I’ve stayed toasty teaching avalanche courses, camping at 11,000 feet in the Cascades, and belaying partners on long pitches of technical ice climbing. It is without a doubt a toasty pound and a half part of my clothing system!

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
The author spends a lot of time standing in the snow teaching avalanche courses! Photo by Matt Baldelli

Weight/Compress-ability

At only one pound six ounces (about 620 grams) this is the lightest full winter belay jacket I’ve tested! It also packs down into a very small stuff sack to maximize the available space in your smaller ice & alpine climbing packs. I lost the original stuff sack that came with the jacket but upgraded (and downsized from the original) to this amazing Hyperlight Mountain Gear waterproof stuff sack!

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
Hyperlight Mountain Gear MEDIUM DCF8 STUFF SACK – 9” X 12”

Shell Fabric/Performance

Patagonia uses a really silky and thin Pertex Quantum® fabric with DWR (durable water repellent) finish to fend off moisture. This is a positive for making this puffy extremely light-weight, pack-able, and breath-able. However it also makes this piece most suitable for extreme cold conditions when liquid precipitation is pretty much out of the question. If the forecast calls for “mixed” or freezing rain I’d suggest reaching for a heavier less pack-able synthetic belay jacket (like the recently reviewed Outdoor Research Perch).

Basically don’t expect this shell material to resist much liquid water. I managed to soak mine in a dripping ice cave while ice climbing on an unseasonably warm day and it was clear this piece is better designed for arctic cold dry days and not warm/damp days. It did however regain full loft when dried that evening!

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
Another cold day on Mount Washington with the Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka keeping me happy & warm!

Fit/Comfort/Features

I went with a size large for my 180 pounds, 5′ 9″, 42 inch chest, 34 inch waist build and it fits great over my typical winter ice climbing/mountaineering/back-country ski clothing kits. The hood is the perfect size for fitting over my climbing/mountaineering helmet and a drawcord on the back pulls the sides back so you don’t feel like you are wearing horse blinders.

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
Making breakfast high on Rainier as the sun rises- photo by Alexandra Roberts

The elastic wrists have the right amount of tension, hand-warming pockets are properly sized and positioned a little higher to be harness friendly. A bottom hem draw-cord helps keep heat from escaping out below and the front zipper runs high enough into the collar/hood area that I can go into “full turtle mode” when it is really too cold to be outside.

Rounding out the features a small chest pocket keeps my phone & lip balm handy and a large stretchy internal pocket on the right side will keep your gloves or mittens warm and dry (and prevent them from blowing away) while you attend to what ever fine dexterity task crops up.


Summary

This is one of the best down belay jackets out there at a fair price, especially when considering the amount and quality of the down Patagonia used. While there are some durability concerns with a piece made with such silky then fabrics (especially considering all the sharp stuff ice climbers carry) my parka only has two pea sized holes in it after 2 seasons which were easily patched with my favorite field repair stuff, Tenacious Tape. If you are in the market for a lofty warm down belay jacket this one should be on your radar!


Shopping

You can also save some money buying one of these now as most retailers have them on sale as we quickly approach Spring however inventory is really low! Check out the lowest prices at the links below! I will re-post this next Fall when the new colors & inventory hits the market!

New colors and inventory have arrived!

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Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review

The author reaching the summit of Rainier (14,410 elevation)- photo by Cait Bougault

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

 

Patagonia Cragsmith Pack 35L Review

The Patagonia Cragsmith Pack 35L is a thoughtfully designed gear hauler well suited for “cragging”. Cragging simply means rock climbing on smaller cliffs, usually single pitch in nature. Compared to multi-pitch climbing cragging implies less commitment, frequent returns back to the ground, social environments, and well… fun. To that end it can be nice to use a more voluminous backpack than one that you might wish to take up a long multi-pitch route.

IMG_0274

Let’s start with the features that are the most noticeable.

Capacity

The “35L” in the model name stands for 35 liters (volume). Patagonia also lists this as 2,130 cubic inches on their product page. There is no industry standard for determining pack volume, so it can sometimes be difficult to compare volume across brands. To me this pack feels to have a significantly greater amount of volume than listed. It absolutely swallows a 60 meter rope, full traditional rack, clothing, water, first aid, harness, helmet, shoes, and lunch with plenty of room to spare!

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
Monster capacity for 35 liters!

You can see how much more space is unused by looking at the top of the pack in the above photo. I would easily say this pack is closer to what other companies might list as 40L or even 45L.

Convenience

Compared to lightweight alpine climbing packs this style of pack is not “streamlined” to wear while climbing like the Ortovox Trad 25. It’s designed to be super convenient moving about from route to route, whether it be clipping bolts at Rumney Rocks or working on your crack skills at the North End of Cathedral Ledge this pack will make life easy.

First, there’s the two loading options, top-loading, and back-panel. Both have merits. The top-loading access is what I use to pack the bag before heading out to the cliff. I love how I can open it up like a giant trash can and just drop a rope & all associated climbing gear inside without having to micro manage my available space. Then, when I get to the base of our objective, I open up the full size back panel and can easily grab the gear I need in the order I need it.

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
Ready to rack

Harness on, rack up, flake the rope, shoes on… it’s definitely better than dumping everything in the dirt and sorting it there. Finally, when the climbing is over, it’s back to top-load mode so I can rip off my harness (probably with a less than perfectly organized rack hanging off it) and just shove it in back in the back. Forget minute organization when everyone is thinking of post climb beers. This pack certainly helps with being first ready to start the hike back to the car!

Features

There’s quite a bit to mention here. I like the side zippered compartment that easily holds a full size guidebook.

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
Dedicated guidebook pocket

Roomy top pocket easily fits my lunch, snacks, headlamp, and car keys.

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
Roomy top pocket with key clip

There’s a rope attachment system on the top of the pack:

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
External rope attachment

While this is a nice thought I’m unlikely to use it. First, there is plenty of room to store a rope inside this pack with a full double rack. Second, without side compression straps you’ll need to carry some extra bungies or something to really secure the rope. Better to carry the rope inside this pack, there’s plenty of room! If you are carrying a heavier load and need to carry the rope externally you’re going to want to consider the only real criticism I have for the pack:

Comfort

There’s no easy way around this so I’ll just come out and say it. This pack is not super comfortable. While personal comfort is quite subjective, and the hard climbers of the day can schlep 70lb loads in Black Diamond Haul Bags with virtually no “comfort” features this pack fell short in my book in the comfort category, and here’s why;

Support. There really isn’t any. The back panel access design that worked so well in the Patagonia Snow Drifter lacks any significant support for carrying heavier loads. The real difference here is the Snow Drifter is optimized for back-country ski loads (15-20lbs maybe). A more rigid internal frame is not needed because the carrying loads are so light. This pack however is designed to swallow a lot of heavy climbing gear. A rope and double rack can quickly approach and exceed 30 pounds. The back panel is just too flimsy to be able to transfer any of this weight to the wide padded waist belt. The “load lifters” are attached directly at the end of the shoulder straps, eliminating any chance of actually “lifting” the load when properly used.

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L
Load lifters that can’t lift

And finally, the “Airflow Mesh” used in the back panel and shoulder straps, which I found excellent for winter use with the SnowDrifter pack, felt too insulating and warm for hot sweaty climbing days. I prefer closed cell foam back panels that don’t seem to absorb a gallon of sweat when I am working hard.

That being said this pack was very well designed for cragging! Not multi-pitch rock climbing, not alpine climbing, not hiking or backpacking. When judged on that specific use alone this pack really shows some promise. A quick summary of my pros/cons:

Pros:

Space galore!

Amazing accessibility!

Features designed for convenience!

Durable!

Cons:

Doesn’t carry heavy loads well

A bit “warm” on the back

What I would like to see:

If there is another incarnation of this pack I think it would be a good idea to add some support to that back panel. A removable aluminum stay or two that could direct some of the load to the padded waist-belt would be nice. A light-weight compression strap system would greatly increase the versatility of this pack. While acknowledging this is designed for cragging it would carry better if we could cinch it down a bit when it isn’t fully loaded.

Summary:

When looked at objectively for the intended use “cragging” this is a fantastic pack despite a couple short comings. If you find yourself schlepping gear from parking lot to cliff in less than a mile on a regular basis this is a contender to make your life easier. Check it out at your local Patagonia store or online here.

Did you like this review? Have you tried this pack? What’s your favorite climbing pack? Let me know in the comments below and you’ll be entered to win a “Tat Cutter Neck Knife” from Colonial Knives. Drawing 8/28/16 Winner notified via email 8/29/16 and announced here.

Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review
Patagonia Cragsmith 35L Review

Disclosure: Patagonia provided the author with a sample of this pack for review. This post contains affiliate links which help to fund this website. 

Patagonia Men’s Sunshade Technical Hoodie Review

On a particularly hot & humid day last summer I came across a fellow guide sporting a long sleeve hoodie while guiding a couple of clients up the scorching Whitehorse Slabs. I thought he must be cooking in a long-sleeve hoodie (hood up) but he assured me he was quite comfortable. The garment in question?  The Patagonia Men’s Sunshade Technical Hoodie.

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Buy on Patagonia.com

PATAGONIA MEN'S SUNSHADE TECHNICAL HOODY
PATAGONIA MEN’S SUNSHADE TECHNICAL HOODY

Interestingly this piece is marketed towards “flats fishing”. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t sure what that was so I googled it. One of the first images was from http://www.flyfishingpatagonia.com:

cuba-flats-fishing
Image from http://www.flyfishingpatagonia.com/

So think tropic, hot, no shade, UV reflection from above & below. Got it?

Here’s Patagonia’s official description:

“On tropical Pacific atolls, the only thing more ferocious than a feeding GT is the sun. Fortunately, our Sunshade Technical Hoody, with its ultralight 3.54-oz polyester double-knit fabric and 25-UPF sun protection, offers full upper-body coverage and a cool, airy feel. Thumb holes pull the sleeves down to cover hands, built-in sun mask and hood fit easily over a baseball cap, reinforced stretch-woven inner forearms and side panels protect against abrasion and a convenient zippered pocket holds a few essentials. The Sunshade proudly flies a heat-transfer Fitz Roy Tarpon logo on the back. When the flats heat up, don’t wilt. Just throw on a Sunshade and keep fishing.”

So what is this piece doing on climbing guides in the White Mountains of New Hampshire at the 44th parallel north? It is the perfect hot weather piece with the added un-advertised benefit of being BLACK FLY PROOF!

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Buy on Patagonia.com

Today was my last test run before I wanted to post up about it. We hiked 2 miles to an outback cliff as the mercury rose to 80 degrees. Humidity was mild given early season but we still worked up a sweat reaching the cliff. As soon as we dropped packs at the base of the climb we were swarmed by the black flies Mt. Chocurua is known for. It reminded me of a particularly trying day on nearby White Ledge last June. Here’s a pic to show the ferocity of these beasts on this mountain:

PATAGONIA MEN'S SUNSHADE TECHNICAL HOODY
Black flies attempt to carry Tom away

Despite still being warm from the hike in just my EMS Techwick T-shirt I threw the Patagonia Sunshade Hoodie on while we flaked out the rope and racked up. Instant relief from the onslaught of insects was had as the super thin hood fits easily under my climbing helmet keeping these blood suckers out of my ears. I also felt like I was cooling down faster than if I had just stayed in my t-shirt on this south facing cliff.

PATAGONIA MEN'S SUNSHADE TECHNICAL HOODY
Top of the second pitch of “Living The Dream”, Carter Ledge, Mt. Chocurua White Mountains NH- photo by Matty B.

I wore it while leading all 4 pitches of this moderate south facing slab route and for the whole hike out. At just under 7 ounces this hoodie will be a staple in my summer guiding kit from now to cooler Fall temps.

Patagonia has made a few small changes to this seasons model, namely;

  1. The chest pocket now has a vertical zipper instead of horizontal.
  2. The hood is a little more relaxed with a button that allows some adjust-ability. This is a great change as the older model that I tested is quite snug at the neck which can make you feel a bit “closed in” when working really hard. The new design looks like a definite improvement.
  3. They dropped the MRSP $10! This piece retails for $79 which I think is a great value for a piece backed by Patagonia’s excellent Ironclad Guarantee.

If you are fair skinned, or just like to “stay cool” on hot sweltering days you should take a look at this piece! You can buy one directly from Patagonia here or from Backcountry.com below! Also available in womens (without the chest pocket)!

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Buy on Patagonia.com

PATAGONIA MEN'S SUNSHADE TECHNICAL HOODY
PATAGONIA MEN’S SUNSHADE TECHNICAL HOODY- photo by Matty B.

Disclaimer: I bought this item with my own money from Moosejaw since the new one wasn’t out yet and EVERYONE was sold out of the old one. So… I guess I don’t need a disclaimer. I liked it so much I couldn’t wait to review it! Affiliate links help support this blog.


Patagonia Baby Capilene Silkweight Sun Hooded Long-Sleeve Shirt – Infant Boys’

Patagonia Baby Capilene Silkweight Sun Hooded Long-Sleeve Shirt – Infant Girls’

Patagonia Baby Capilene Silkweight Sun Hooded Long-Sleeve Shirt – Toddler Girls’

Patagonia Baby Capilene Silkweight Sun Hooded Shirt – Toddler Boys’

Patagonia Graphic Technical Fish Tee – Men’s

Patagonia R0 Hooded Sun Shirt – Long-Sleeve – Men’s

Patagonia Sunshade Crew – Men’s

Patagonia Sunshade Hooded Shirt – Women’s

Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hooded Shirt – Men’s

Patagonia Tropic Comfort II Hooded Shirt – Men’s

Patagonia SnowDrifter Pack

Back in November I received a promotional email from Patagonia featuring their new line of SnowDrifter back-country ski packs. Already a fan of their clothing I had to get my hands on one of these packs and reached out to their marketing team. A couple weeks later both the pack and a very nice new shell, the Patagonia Men’s Reconnaissance Jacket, arrived at my door.

026
The Patagonia SnowDrifter 30L and Patagonia Reconnaissance Jacket

My excitement to test both of these was kept in check by Mother Nature’s refusal to acknowledge winter had arrived and it wasn’t until our first avalanche course on January 2nd that I finally got to test both. For this review we will focus on the pack. I’ll start with a short clip showing some of the features and then move into a more detailed review:

 

Size:

Available in 20L (1,220cu. in.) , 30L (1,830cu. in), and 40L (2,440cui. in) models I’m reviewing the 30L.

Patagonia refers to this size pack as “Built for a full back country day that might even stretch into an overnight”. While I agree it is the right size for day touring I’d be cautious about thinking I could pull off an overnight with a pack of this size. Similar in size to the discontinued EMS Wintergreen Pack I reviewed a few years ago with careful packing you should be able to get an ultralight bivy set up inside along with your day gear. My personal emergency bivy kit is an Eastern Mountain Sports Velocity 35 degree sleeping bag and AMK SOL Emergency Bivy (combined weight is 2lbs 5.2 ounces).

Dedicated Snow Safety Pocket:

This feature is the one that makes a backpack a “ski pack” in my opinion. Quick easy access to organized rescue tools is essential.

What I love: Easily fit my Black Diamond Deploy 3 Shovel, Ortovox 240 HD PFA probe, and Black Diamond Flicklock Snow Saw. The internal zippered pocket is the perfect size for my AIARE Field Book, thermometer, snow card & magnification loupe.

What could be improved:  A bit to tight for my workhorse Ortovox Kodiak Shovel. More importantly however, is the lack of drain-holes. 1 or 2 drain holes on the bottom of this pocket would be a nice improvement.

Construction:

This pack is very well put together. Built with 420-denier 100% nylon Cordura® plain weave with a polyurethane coating and a rugged bottom built with 940-denier 100% nylon Cordura Ballistic with polyurethane coating.

The whole pack is treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish which can help keep contents a bit dry during wet snow conditions, which seems to be the norm for our season so far.

Access/Convenience:

While this is a traditional top loader there is super convenient full back panel zippered access. No digging through everything to find that little first aid kit for some moleskin or to get at your water bottle. A zippered fleece lined google pocket on top is another nice touch of practicality. Personally I could do without the hydration sleeve as I do not rely on hydration bladders in our arctic cold temps, but the hydration port is perfect for running the cord of my Backcountry Access BC Link Radios through to my shoulder strap (review coming).

Comfort:

With “Air Flow” mesh on the shoulder straps, back panel and waist belt, this winter pack breathes very well. Skinning up to HoJo’s I stayed very dry. Patagonia boosts that this mesh has “snow sluffing” capabilities. I’ll need to wait for the North East to get a proper dose of powder to verify this claim but the fineness of the mesh certainly looks like it won’t collect snow like large weave meshes can.

Fit:

This pack comes in a S/M and L/XL, but unfortunately torso size isn’t listed on their size chart:

Snow Drifter – 30L 1831 cu in L/XL:27″ x 13″ x 10.5″ 39oz
S/M: 25.5″ x 13″ x 10″ 39oz

A Patagonia live chat representative was able to quickly confirm for me that the S/M is for torsos 16″-19″ and the L/XL is for 19″- 22″. The L/XL I have fits my 5’9″ 19 inch torso perfectly. For detailed instructions on measuring yourself for this pack checkout this PDF from Patagonia:

Patagonia Size Guide

Improvements:

There are only a couple things I would like to see Patagonia adjust on this pack. First, a sternum strap buckle that doubles as a whistle. This is on almost every skiing and climbing pack I own and is used often to easily signal people in the back-country.

Drain holes on the snow safety gear pocket.

Waist belt pocket (or two). I really like being able to store some energy gel, compass, lip balm, etc. in my back-country ski pack’s waist belt pockets, of which this pack has none.

Summary:

There is a lot to love in this pack and very little to complain about. I’m really glad a company that is known for its environmental and social responsibility has entered the market of back-country ski packs. I’ll finish by linking the manufacturer produced video which recaps most of these features:

Coming Soon: Patagonia Reconnaissance Jacket! EDIT: Review now live here! Patagonia has a whole line of touring clothing! The Reconnaissance seems perfect for high output days. Stay tuned for an in-depth review of this jacket in the next week or two and in the meantime wet your appetite with this quick overview of their line in the below marketing video!

 

Patagonia SnowDrifter 30L Pack
Patagonia SnowDrifter Pack

You can find this pack on Amazon here.

See you in the mountains,

-NEAlpineStart

Disclaimer: While this item was provided by Patagonia for the review the opinions I’ve formed over the last two months are indeed my own. This post contains affiliate links.