Anyone who’s more than a cursory fan of Patagonia is probably familiar with the brand’s iconic Nano Puff Jacket. As the name describes, it’s a slimmed-down synthetic puffy that provides ample warmth and movement — one favored by climbers, hikers, travelers and athletes the world over. For some, it’s the minimal silhouette of the jacket that makes it appealing. For others, it’s the sustainability built into the garment by way of fair trade certifications, recycled materials and responsibly-sourced components. (Currently, the jacket is made from 100-percent recycled materials).
But...have you heard of the Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket? The arguably cozier, aesthetically-similar cousin to the famous Nano Puff? The Down Sweater Jacket is popular in its own right — but how does it compare to the Nano Puff?
I tried and tested both jackets to find out the answer to the question: which Patagonia jacket should you buy, the Nano Puff or the Down Sweater?
(Nano) Puff Puff, Pass
We’ll start with the Nano Puff specs: it’s 11.9, ounces and features a synthetic 60-g PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco 100-percent post-consumer recycled polyester fill, as well as a 100-percent recycled polyester ripstop shell with DWR treatment. (Translation: it's windproof, waterproof, and very packable.)
At a cool $199, it’s not the most expensive jacket available _ but it's an investment piece to be sure, and will be a regular in your fall/winter/spring rotation for years to come. I wore the Nano Puff hiking local trails, running errands on brisk mornings and afternoons, and to keep me warm during my 5am morning coffee. In all cases, I found the jacket to be comfortable, lightweight and cozy.
The Nano Puff's Best Attributes
The Nano Puff is versatile — it's inconspicuous enough that you can wear it out for dinner, but technical enough to warrant use in more extreme environments. I appreciated the upgraded functionality of standard features: the drawcord hem allowed me to seal in warmth on cooler days, and the handwarmer pockets include zippered closures when not in use. The entire jacket packs down into its own internal zippered chest pocket, which doubles as a stuff sack and includes a reinforced carabiner clip-in loop for easy carry.
Features I Can Live Without
I didn't love the collar on the Nano Puff: it felt a little restrictive, especially during activities with a lot of movement. The jacket is meant to be thin, but there were times it felt more minimal than protective.
Let's Get Down (Jacket) to Business
Comparing specs across the two jackets, things look pretty similar on the surface, with a few key differences: the Down Sweater Jacket weighs 13.1 ounces, and features 800-fill-power Advanced Global Traceable Down fill as well as a center-front Vislon zipper, complete with wicking interior storm flap and zipper garage. At $229, it's pricier than the Nano Puff, but not by much.
I wore the Down Jacket for the same actives as listed above: a blend of athletic and outdoor pursuits, as well as everyday errands and activities. I found the Down Jacket to be a more plush, cozy experience. It's downright warm, and although it's less than two ounces heavier than the Nano Puff, it feels significantly more cushiony.
The Down Sweater Jacket's Best Attributes
The Down Sweater Jacket is responsibly made: the goose down is certified by NSF International, to help ensure the birds that supply the down are treated humanely and don't come to harm. The shell is made with 100% recycled polyester ripstop, with a DWR finish. The elastic cuffs on the sleeves aren't too tight, which can be an issue with similar jackets, and the adjustable hem is uniquely crafted; by pulling the cord in hand warmer pockets, you draw the hem in without having to fumble in the cold.
Features I Can Live Without
Patagonia's Down Jacket features a DWR treatment, which is industry standard, but I would have liked to see PFC-free waterproofing instead. The innovative adjustable system ended up being a pro in my book, but did take some getting used to; there was the smallest learning curve associated with the mechanism.
The Bottom Line: Which Should You Buy?
Both of Patagonia's jackets are popular for good reason: they're warm, affordable, long-lasting and have classic style. But if I had to pick between the two, I'd go for the Down Sweater Jacket.
Although the Nano Puff's synthetic insulation stands up to moisture and frequent packing better, there's not much that can replace the warmth and performance that comes from classic down. If you can only buy one Patagonia jacket this year, buy the Down Sweater Jacket.