Insulation Insight

This Is the Budget Synthetic Jacket We’ve Been Waiting For


So you’ve developed a lust for Patagonia’s Nano Puff jacket; I don’t blame you. I recently penned my love letter to the puffy coat — how it accompanied me everywhere from the Tetons to the Andes and now lives dutifully by my side in Manhattan, far from any mountains. I recommitted to my vows by buying the anorak pullover version, too.

One thing I failed to mention is that I became acquainted with the Nano Puff while working as a rental grunt at a ski shop, a position which compensated me with two-hour ski breaks and major gear discounts in lieu of health insurance and a 401k. What I’m getting at is, I bought my Nano Puff on the cheap — it cost me less than 100 dollars. Had I not had access to those discounts would I have paid full price for the coat? Probably. But hindsight is 20/20.

Fortunately, if you haven’t committed to the Nano Puff (or the newer Micro Puff) and price is the primary factor holding you back, there’s another option: L.L.Bean’s Packaway Hooded Jacket, which costs just $179. I know what you’re thinking — it’s not Patagonia — and I get that. The Patagonia brand has a particular magnetism to it. But, like Patagonia, L.L.Bean is also a heritage outdoor brand that is, objectively, iconic.

I propose to remove any weight added by any chest-mounted logo and let the jackets speak for themselves. Aesthetically, they’re near interchangeable. Instead of long, tubular baffles, both jackets use quilted stitching to create polygonal pockets that hold insulation. The Nano Puff’s are laid out horizontally and vertically like bricks, the Packaway’s angling inward toward the central zipper. It’s apples to or-, slightly different apples.

But a synthetic insulating jacket is designed for packability and warmth; it’s only as good as its stuffing. Patagonia fills the Nano Puff with 60-g PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco. In the Packaway, L.L.Bean uses 60-g PrimaLoft Gold Insulation with Cross Core technology. What’s the difference? Almost nothing. Both versions of PrimaLoft Gold feature a high content of recycled material, both provide the same amount of packability and warmth. In fact, Cross Core is a brand new technology PrimaLoft developed with NASA that uses aerogel to provide more warmth without increasing the insulation’s weight. And right now, L.L.Bean is one of the few outdoor company that’s using it.

Both the Nano Puff and the Packaway possess a 100% recycled polyester, water-repellent shell cut with two hand pockets and another interior chest pocket. The Packaway has an additional exterior chest pocket as well. Both have drawcord-equipped hems. The jackets are nearly identical. And while love and loyalty keep me true to the Nano Puff, I will admit that the addition of Cross Core does give the Packaway one-up over Patagonia’s jacket.

But the Packaway has one more advantage to it: it’s only $179, which is a full $70 cheaper than the Nano Puff, which costs $249. If you aren’t drawn to one brand over the other, or a specific color, the choice is an easy one to make. I’ll admit it; even my faith is shaken; had I not had my ski shop discount, maybe I would’ve taken another path.

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PrimaLoft’s Gold Cross-Core insulation was developed for NASA and provides more warmth without increasing overall weight. Read the Story