One of the challenges of staying warm during winter fishing is doing so without adding bulk. Big, bulky clothing can certainly keep you warm but it can get in the way of casting and, more importantly, can be a real drag trying to cram into properly fitted waders. The alternative for many is to wear winter outer layers on top of waders, which defeats the purpose of anything more than waist-high waders. The answer is highly compressible winter outer layers that provide the warmth, water resistance and wind protection that spending a winter day on the water demands. In an effort to find potential candidates, we reviewed a series of winter outer layers designed to be low-bulk and provide serious protection from the elements. One of the standouts was Patagonia's Nano Puff jacket.
The Patagonia Nano Puff is the synthetic counterpart to Patagonia's Down Jacket, both highly compressible winter jackets designed to be used as the middle or outermost component of a layered clothing system. Though both jackets still work very well without a sophisticated set of under-layers, it's important to realize that the key to successful temperature management during winter activities is layering. Wicking base layers (leave your cotton garments at home), combined with the proper mid and/or outer layers allow today's technical clothing to manage moisture and temperature the way they were designed to.
Over the last two months, I've put this jacket through its paces. It has seen duty mountain biking, road biking, skiing and -- of course -- fishing. In that time, it has unquestionably become one of my favorite pieces of gear. Patagonia got almost everything right with this jacket, at least as far as we can tell. Following are some of the traits to look for in winter outer layers for fishing, and how the Nano Puff stacks up.
The Nano Puff is stupid warm. It isn't as warm as its aforementioned down counterpart but, in my opinion, unless your activity is standing at a bus stop in sub-freezing temperatures, the Down Jacket is too warm for most pursuits. Although we've had a relatively mild winter out east, the Nano Puff has been my normal wear jacket for most of the season, and I've gotten by comfortably most days with just a t-shirt underneath. Even on the coldest days, the Nano Puff provides adequate warmth even when idle, when paired with anything even resembling proper winter clothing.
Chances are you'll be shocked at how much warmth the Nano Puff provides given it's compressibility and featherlight weight. Add in any amount of activity, and the Nano Jacket traps heat when you need it to and, somehow, seems to shed it when you don't. The exception to this is high levels of cardiovascular activity, such as road biking, where the Nano Puff can quickly become more than you need.
While the Nano Puff will serve better as a mid-layer in truly harsh winter conditions, during the conditions that most of us are willing to brave to fish, you might be surprised to find the Nano Puff will handle outer layer duty with ease.
Though the Nano Puff didn't outdo all of the other jackets we tested in terms of wind breaking, it came close. However, given that only jackets with considerably more heft offered better wind protection, I'd still reach for the Nano Puff on all but the most blustery days. To put it in perspective, when charging down Whistler's Dave Murray Downhill (the former Men's Olympic skiing run) on a breezy 30 degree day, the Nano Puff offered adequate wind protection with only a single base layer underneath.
Water Resistance / Performance When Wet
For a light, extremely supple fabric as the 100% recycled polyester that the Nano Puff is comprised of, water resistance is impressive. It does a great job of shedding water in even a decent rainfall. To be clear, this is water resistant, not waterproof. In a heavy rain or dunking, the Nano Puff is going to get wet. More importantly, however, once wet the Nano Puff is quick to dry. While other jackets remain wet until their safe at home and drying in front of the fire, the Nano Puff dries surprisingly fast, making it much less likely to send you in early.
Another very important feature of the Nano Puff which should not be overlooked, especially by breeds like fisherman and hikers, is that when and if the Nano Puff gets wet, it doesn't stop insulating. When a stumble that leads to a dunking or wintertime precipitation can be right around the corner, it's nice to know that if your jacket gets wet, it won't quit keeping you warm. The fact that the Nano Puff still performs when wet is thanks to its PrimaLoft® One synthetic fill, which unlike down, still works when soggy.
Compressibility / Packability
As alluded to in the introduction to this review, Patagonia's Nano Puff packs down ridiculously small. In fact, the entire jacket packs into
its own pocket. This comes in handy on days that start out cold and warm up fast, allowing you to shed your jacket without having to lug along a bulky garment all day long. The Nano Puff will easily pack down small enough to stow in a roomy hip pack or the back of your fishing vest.
The Nano Puff's compressibility also means a lot when it comes time to layer up under waders. The Nano Puff wears under waders the same as a shirt. If you're not one of those people that care about wader fit and comfort, who spends their days fishing tromping around in poorly fitted waders with baggy knees, a sagging crotch and a hoop skirt for a chest, you likely don't care about this. If you've realized that properly fitting waders make a world of difference, especially when spending long days on the water, then this means a lot to you.
The sentiments expressed above aren't unusual. Everyone who wears the Patagonia Nano Puff for any period of time seems to fall in love with it, and with good reason. Patagonia has made a jacket with few, if any flaws. Versatile in all kinds of weather, as an outer layer or a mid, with featherlight weight and incredible packability, this jacket is going to continue to win fans for as long as Patagonia keeps making it.