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Patagonia Pluma Review
Cons: Expensive, not super breathable, hood not as protective with a helmet on
Bottom line: A versatile hardshell that can handle any mountain environment or activity.
Measured Weight (Size): 14.2 oz. (M)
Material: 40D 3L 100% recycled nylon plain-weave GORE-TEX® PRO shell, with a 15D GORE Micro Grid Backer Technology & a DWR finish
The Patagonia Pluma is a versatile, do-everything kind of hardshell that offers solid weather protection and a finely tuned set of features. It pairs a Gore-Tex Pro membrane with a recycled nylon 40D face fabric. In almost all regards we found this jacket to be better than some, and not quite as awesome as our top award winners. Overall, it is better at protecting one from nasty weather than it is at keeping one cool from the inside while sweating heavily, so we think it's a good choice for wet climates and prolonged outdoor journeys, but not our top choice for warmer uphill activities like skinning.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
In recent years we have tested the Patagonia Triolet as well as the Patagonia Refugitive, and find the Pluma to be the most versatile and fine-tuned of the three jackets. It uses the Gore-Tex Pro membrane combined with 40D nylon face fabric for a combination that is almost the same, in weight, durability, and feel, as our Editors' Choice award-winning Arc'teryx Alpha FL. However, it is a bit heavier than that jacket, as it has dual pit zips to aid with ventilation, and its hood is not quite as deep and cavernous, leading to some drip-age in a full downpour. We found that it had above average, but not elite, performance in nearly every category, leading to a middle-of-the-pack comparable rating, although it is a quality piece of gear that almost anyone would be happy to own and wear.
We reviewed a men's size medium Pluma and found that while it offered plenty of coverage, compared to the other medium's that we reviewed the sleeves and the hem were slightly short, leading to a bit of undergarment exposure when ice climbing with our hands above our head. The hood design we found to be better than in past versions of Patagonia jackets that we have reviewed that only used one pull-cord for adjustment; this one has a standard three. However, the brim of the hood is not wire-rimmed, like the one found on the Outdoor Research Realm, and is not quite wide enough to completely funnel water out of the face in a heavy downpour.
We experienced no issues without a helmet, but while wearing a climbing helmet, some water hit our face and filtered down the collar into our neck. Additionally, we noticed a decent amount of wetting out on the front of the jacket, suggesting that the DWR coating had worn off. Especially in cold and wintery conditions, this jacket offers excellent protection, but when the going gets rainy, we don't think its quite as good as some others. We gave it a lower score than The North Face Summit L5 FuseForm GTX, the best of this class when it came to weather protection. 7 out of 10.
Our size medium jacket weighed in at 14.2 ounces, impressively light considering that this jacket was not stripped of all features and included pit zips for ventilation, unlike the OR Realm or Arc'teryx Alpha FL. While not the absolute lightest, this jacket's weight doesn't give anyone an excuse for not bringing it along, no matter what the adventure.
Mobility and Fit
Our head tester is 6'0" tall and around 160 lbs. He has pretty broad shoulders but a skinny torso, and for this review, we purchased a size medium. We are happy we did, as Patagonia larges are often far too baggy and spacious for our frame, but noticed that this medium was a bit smaller than the Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker. On the other hand, it was not nearly so small as the medium Marmot Speed Light that we tested.
While it was trim and athletic in the torso, there was still room for some layering beneath. The sleeves and hem were long enough, but a hair shorter than we would have wished for, especially when raising our arms over our head while ice climbing. Additionally, we noticed slight constrictions in our upper chest and shoulders when moving about. It is worth emphasizing that these complaints are minor and very likely body size based, but still caused us to give it 7 out of 10 points instead of a higher score.
Venting and Breathability
The Gore-Tex Pro membrane with a microdot backer has become more breathable and lighter over the years as W.L.Gore has made adjustments, but it is still a solid membrane that does not readily allow air to permeate it.
While conducting our stationary bike breathability tests, it felt relatively hot and sweaty, up there with similarly constructed Alpha FL and Arc'teryx Beta AR. It was noticeably less comfortable while working up a sweat than the air permeable shells we tested, like the Outdoor Research Axiom that uses a Gore-Tex Active membrane. It has dual pit zips that provide some ventilation relief but lacks mesh-lined pockets or a two-way front zipper that would have aided this process. We gave it 6 out of 10 points.
The feature set is the strongest aspect of the Patagonia Pluma, utilizing the best Cohaesive buckles available with pull-cords in ideal locations. All five pull-cord buckles are Cohaesive, which we find to be the easiest to manipulate for release, especially with gloves on. We also love how the two side-of-the-face pull cords live on the outside of the collar, easy to pull while completely bundled up, and the two hem pull cords live within the handwarmer pockets and don't leave loops of cord hanging where they can snag or be tripped on.
While this design was very similar to The North Face Summit L5 FuseForm GTX, the details and pull-cord location was better on the Pluma. We should also mention that this jacket has two high handwarmer pockets, a single cross-over chest pocket, and a small internal zippered pocket for a phone. We gave it 9 out of 10 points for its perfectly functioning features, although it was still second to the more innovative and unique design of the Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker.
Due to the use of a Gore-Tex Pro membrane and a durable face fabric, we feel this jacket is more ideally suited to climates and activities where the weather is horrible and wet, rather than warmer and drier areas. It is truly versatile regarding its intended activities, and we feel it makes a great choice for alpine or ice climbing, mountaineering, as well as skiing or even backpacking.
This jacket retails for $549, landing it among the top three most expensive shells in this review. The quality, materials, and of course Patagonia's ironclad guarantee, all back up this price and suggest that it presents a good value. That said, we thought that some jackets performed better in our overall rankings, while also costing less.
The Patagonia Pluma has everything that you would expect in a hardshell jacket and feels like one of the more fine-tuned hardshells that we have tested from Patagonia in the last few years. It is versatile and does everything well, leaving virtually no room for complaint. However, it was roughly average in our overall comparative rankings, suggesting there may be better deals to be found for those who want the very best at the most affordable price.
— Andy Wellman
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