Patagonia’s Nano Air Hoody is my Goldilocks mid-layer: not too warm, not too cold. Just right.
One of the first lessons to hit home as I started learning to ski was the importance of staying warm on the lift ride up the hill. Several times this winter, we’ve been lucky enough to have near-storm conditions at the resorts here in Japan, Japow dumping all over the piste. Each time, though, the snow rode in on strong, cold winds felt especially clearly suspended in the chair, making warmth a priority. But on the way down, the muscles are working and the blood is flowing again; the trick is finding a way to avoid the chill on the way up while also not arriving at the bottom of the run swimming in sweat. The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody strikes this balance and has proven itself one of my most versatile mid-layers.
The Nano Air is a departure from the “insulated windshirt” model used in so many insulated mid-layers. Warm and light, these mini-puffy jackets featuring windproof face fabric work well when winds kick up. They’re also great when you’re about town and don’t want to mess with multiple jackets. But the windproof fabric also keeps in heat and perspiration. If the weather is cold enough, and if I can keep my level of activity steady enough, nothing beats it. However, when I exert myself or when there are swings in my activity level, the more breathable a layer is, the better.
To ensure a high degree of breathability, Patagonia uses very lightweight nylons in the Nano Air. The ripstop face fabric has a supple hand and allows a higher degree of air transfer than a fully windproof layer would. An effective durable water resistant (DWR) coating makes easy work of drizzles or snow, though a downpour is going to go in one side and out the other (which is better than having it hang around the inside!)
The jacket’s comfort level is noteworthy. From the woven nylon liner fabric, which has the softness of a cotton t-shirt, to the overall stretchiness of the garment, Patagonia has made a jacket that’s a pleasure to wear. Depending on the manufacturer, I usually wear between a large and and extra large, and sometimes I’m right in between. The Nano Air is elastic enough and cut generously enough that a large fits well in this case, though not with a huge amount of space for extra layers beneath (when skiing in cold weather, a combination of thin base layer, light fleece and the Nano Air layers well and keeps me plenty warm beneath a shell). Shock cord at the waist allows the wearer to snug the jacket tight when desired.
I would put the Nano Air on the same level of warmth as Patagonia’s Nano Puff, which has been one of my most-used pieces. Elasticized trim around cuffs and hood protect those openings from wind and serve to keep heat from leaking out too quickly.
But dropping heat is not a bad thing when you’re moving; Patagonia’s proprietary FullRange insulation adds to the elasticity of the jacket while doing an excellent job of keeping the wearer warm enough, but not too hot. The combination of breathable face and liner fabric with this insulation makes the Nano Air wearable over a wider spectrum of activity levels than other mid-weight insulating layer I’ve tried. Patagonia says you can “Put it on, leave it on” throughout a day of both high- and low-intensity activities and stay comfortable. In my experience, this has been pretty much the case.
In light or moderate breezes, the Nano Air blocks enough wind that a shell is not necessary. Stronger winds, though, cut right through this jacket—one of the trade-offs of its superb breathability. With even a simple wind shirt on top, I’ve found the Nano Air comfortable down to around freezing, as long as I stay active and moving. If I’m sitting still for a long time, I find myself wanting more insulation when things are that cold.
The Nano Air’s styling is attractive, with subtle technical features that don’t preclude the jacket’s casual use around town. Though Patagonia mid-layers tend to a more blocky cut than those of some other manufacturers, the Nano Air’s stretchiness keeps the jacket snug with the body. Quilting in select areas breaks up the pattern in an appealing way. Color-wise, the Nano Air is a winner; I love my purple and red model, and my wife is pleased with her rich blue one. But in spite of its good looks, this jacket yearns for the alpine. Sleeves are cut long for climbing. The hood is small enough to fit under, and just stretchy enough to fit over, a climbing helmet. Two small chest pockets stay out of the way of a climbing harness.
It’s hard to find anything very negative to say about the Nano Air Hoody. Whether or not the jacket needs two chest pockets could be up for debate, I suppose, though packing and pocket use vary from person to person, and the current design doesn’t detract from the jacket. If I were to make a single suggesstion, it would be to construct the Nano Air so as to be storable in its own pocket, a useful feature of other Patagonia jackets. I suspect the stretchy nature of the shell and liner fabric make such a design problematic, though it would be nice to see Patagonia find a way.
All in all, the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody is a dedicated mid-layer also usable as an outer or single layer in less-elemental environments. Warmer for its weight than fleece but with the latter’s well-known breathability, once you put it on, this is a jacket you’ll be able to leave on for longer than possibly any other insulated mid-layer.
Patagonia Nano Air Hoody
|Measured weight (large)||14.65 oz.|
|Insulation||60 g. FullRange synthetic fill|
|Materials||Shell: 20 denier nylon ripstop;
Lining: 50 denier nylon weave
|Pockets||4; two handwarmer and two Napoleon chest|