If you’re looking for a water-repellent, breathable, high-performance belay jacket the Patagonia AlpLight Down Jacket is certainly a strong contender to keep you comfortable on your next mountain adventure, and it packs down small. It’s got the Patagonia eco-credentials and feels true to size but those who want a slightly roomier jacket should opt to size up.
- Very lightweight
- Packs into own pocket
- Handy harness loop
- Not super warm
- Style won’t suit everyone
- Not water resistant
Patagonia Women’s AlpLight: first impressions
The Patagonia Women’s AlpLight is a new lightweight down jacket for women, ideal for both belaying at the crag, hauling along on multi-pitch climbs and moving fast through the mountains, where it can be worn as an extra mid layer for those changeable conditions. But how does it match up to the best women’s down jackets and puffers?
• List price: $299 (US) / £280 (UK) / €280 (EU)
• Fill: 800-Fill-Power Advanced Global Traceable Down
• Shell: Recycled Nylon with PFC-Free DWR
• Lining: Recycled nylon ripstop made from recycled fishing net
• Sizes: XS–XL
• Weight (UK 10): 217g / 7.7oz
• Colors: Dark Ruby / Float Blue / Smoulder Blue
A versatile layer for climbing, this highly packable jacket can be easily clipped onto the back of a harness and then unzipped during multi-pitch adventures for use during cold and draughty belays.
As usual, Patagonia’s sustainability credentials are superb (they’ve always been one of the best eco-friendly outdoor brands) – all their items being produced using Fair Trade-certified materials in factories that pay a fair wage, and, over 87% of the brand’s line using recycled materials.
Patagonia Women’s AlpLight: at the crag
Imagine a down jacket on a diet – that’s what the AlpLight is like. But don’t worry, it will still keep you warm. It’s a high-performing down jacket that’s a core alpine piece of kit, worthy of a place on every alpinist’s wish list.
Incredibly lightweight and packable, this is essentially a down version of Patagonia’s popular Micro Puff hoodie, yet less of a midweight layer than the brand’s Nano-Air hoodie.
It’s a jacket that can be relied upon as a spare layer for when the temperature starts to drop, yet it doesn’t take up a huge amount of space in the bag. It also works as a lightweight belaying jacket that copes with the changeable conditions of the UK on summer days, when it’s never quite warm enough to climb in just T-shirt and shorts.
Considering it’s lighter than two slices of bread, the AlpLight jacket has some very impressive features, including a full zip with internal storm flap, making it easier to put on than the pullover version.
The AlpLight has several climbing-specific design features, such as narrow baffles to reduce bulk and enable enhanced mobility in high active areas, and additional insulation considerations in areas more vulnerable to temperature changes, such as nylon bound cuffs and insulated collars.
Anyone passionate about pockets can rejoice – there’s an array of them, including low-profile zipped hand pockets, and an internal chest pocket for useful things such as phones and cards. The ability to stow the entire jacket into one of its own hand pockets is super useful, and shows Patagonia have carefully thought about how the AlpLight will be deployed.
I also found the nylon-bound cuffs were easily adjustable and good at keeping the chill off. It was just as simple to roll my sleeves up when I started to warm up. I liked Patagonia’s attention to detail, from the tiny webbing pulls on the zips which didn’t have any additional fiddly toggles, to the small logo branding on the top LH chest and adjustable hemline.
The only things I found slightly lacking were a built-in finger / thumb loop near the sleeves, and an ultralight hood, which would have added to the jacket’s overall functionality, even if it was of a lower insulation to the rest of the jacket to keep weight down.
The price does cause some pause for though. If this jacket isn’t likely to be your automatic “go-to” warm jacket (because you own a heavier, cheaper, more functional down jacket already) could you justify the £280 price tag for an additional down jacket? Perhaps not – but as an ultralight, easy-to-wear layer that’s as nice to wear in more relaxing situations as it is nestled up high on a belay, Patagonia’s AlpLight ultralight down jacket is a desirable belay jacket.
Size and fit
The Patagonia Women’s AlpLight Down Jacket has a slim fit, so it hangs off the shoulders well and allows just enough room to wear a thin base layer and a low-bulk fleece underneath. However, it’s worth noting that if you intend to wear it as a belay jacket – potentially going over the top of other layers – you might need to size up.
On test I found I wanted a larger size to comfortably fit over my mid layer, and a slightly wider hemline so it could fit over my under jackets and keep my hips warm without me having to worry about the jacket riding up.
The AlpLight jacket doesn’t come with a hood – which I think hinders the usability of the garment in many conditions. Climbing in the UK I had to think about juggling other layers – such as beanies and buffs – to keep my head warm.
In all honesty, a belay jacket was one of the last pieces of technical equipment I purchased. Yet the Patagonia Women’s AlpLight Down Jacket now feels less like a luxury and more like an essential bit of ultralight kit.
Everything is well-considered – especially the ultralight, yet seemingly durable 10-denier Net Plus nylon ripstop, which feels light and soft to touch rather than crispy and raspy like so many outer fabrics.
The jacket’s main body is structured in horizontal baffles, insulated with 800-fill power, Advanced Global Traceable Down, while the top features diamond-shaped baffles. The design ensures every gram of insulation is maximized, trapping heat in and keeping you comfortable, but the jacket remains ultra-compressible because using goose feathers have been used.
Eco and ethical credentials
Made from recycled fishing nets, the 10-denier Net Plus nylon ripstop outer material is a good sign that, despite the obvious additional costs and research required to produce performance fabrics from recycled sources, outdoor companies such as Patagonia are committed to practices that reduce overall global ocean plastic pollution, as well as striving to reduce emissions in the manufacturing process compared to “virgin” polyester production. (The AlpLight also uses nylon fiber in its construction, however, which is extra strong but much less green as it’s derived from petroleum.)
It’s also worth noting that every Patagonia item bears the Fair Trade Certified sewn label, which means workers have been paid a fair wage. Patagonia and the factory owners take responsibility for directly trying to improve work conditions, explicitly looking at their own environmental considerations in the manufacturing and distribution process, and establishing a healthy dialog between workers and management, such as democratically elected committees and letting workers make decisions on how money is spent. As a founding member of 1% for the Planet (opens in new tab), Patagonia gives 1% of every sale to environmental grassroots organizations. Over $145m has been donated since 1985.
What’s more, the goose down used in the AlpLight is certified by NSF International (opens in new tab), and can be traced from parent farm to the factory where the jackets are produced, to help ensure that the birds are not force-fed or live plucked.
It’s good to note that the jacket’s outer material has a PFC-free Durable Water Repellent finish. I tested the AlpLight on a visit to Scotland so I packed the jacket with dry, cool conditions in mind – where an extra layer on a sunny day at the summit was required – rather than for classic Scottish downpours. It was also my go-to jacket deployed on the multiple, rather chilly ferry crossings from Coruisk to Elgol and from Mallaig to Inverie, when having a small, low-bulk down jacket was great as slight splashes of water didn’t matter too much in affecting the jacket’s overall performance.
One of the slightly negative features I noted was that the Patagonia Women’s AlpLight Down jacket lacks a YKK zip. Instead it has a right-sided zip, made from recycled plastics, and consequently the zip felt strange and much lighter than I’m used to. Over time, I was careful not to force this zip, as it feels like an area of weakness, potentially prone to breakage.
That said, on test and in transport the jacket’s material seemed resistant to tears and visible signs of abrasion. And while it’s important to be aware of the zip’s apparent fragility, Patagonia has a good warranty in place in the form of the Iron Clad Guarantee – essentially, this means you’ll get a free repair done on any Patagonia product that fails, irrespective of how the damage occurred or where or when you bought it.
A former brand ambassador for Merrell and current Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion, Jessie Leong’s lifelong outdoor odyssey began with Duke of Edinburgh’s Award walks in the Peak District. This segued into long hill hikes in the Yorkshire Dales, multi-day treks in the Lake District, scrambles in North Wales and adventures scaling alpine pinnacles. When not walking, she can be found rock climbing, wild swimming, cycling, photographing, filmmaking, writing and modelling. Jessie’s most recent claim to fame is playing a Miss World contestant in the 2020 feature film Misbehaviour.
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