Patagonia Down Sweater vs. Nano Puff: Which Is Better For Outdoor Adventures?

climber wearing patagonia down sweater jacket

Feeling the sometimes bitter cold of the wilderness is enough to make any person head to the nearest warm cabin they can find.  But what if you are a backpacker or camper who does not have that luxury? 

Truth be told, if you enjoy backpacking, especially if you do regular treks during the colder fall and winter months, you already know how crucial it is to remain warm during those hikes. 

This is why adventure seekers like you ALWAYS remember to bring along/wear an insulated jacket of some kind that can protect you against the frigid temperatures, as well as from the rain, wind and snow you might encounter along the way. 

When it comes to jackets for backpackers, the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket are awesome options.   Below we have profiled each of these jackets in great detail and compiled a comparison between the two based on a number of important rubrics.

Patagonia Down Sweater JacketPatagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Patagonia Down Sweater JacketPatagonia Nano Puff Jacket
☆ BETTER SIDE POCKETS★ MORE LIGHTWEIGHT ★
Also available in hoodie versionAlso available in hoodie version
Buy at Patagonia
Also at REI, Also at Backcountry
Buy at Patagonia
Also at REI, Also at Backcountry

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The Patagonia Down Sweater

Prior to getting into all the design specifics regarding the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Patagonia Nano Puff, we thought we’d take a minute to briefly describe each one, beginning with the Down Sweater.

Patagonia Down Sweater - Men's

Although it is called the “Patagonia Down Sweater,” this item more closely resembles a coat or a jacket, as evidenced by the “zip-up” front and outward appearance.  The outer shell of the “sweater” is made from recycled polyester ripstop, but it is nicely insulated with 800-fill down that is designed to keep backpackers nice and warm on any outdoor adventure. 

The cuff material on the arms of the Patagonia Down Sweater is a super-durable elastic that is bound by nylon.  It has two outer pockets and one pocket in the interior of the jacket for a total of three, and its total weight is just 13.1 ounces. 

The coat is available in eight vibrant colors, is available in sizes ranging from extra-small (XS) to double-extra-large (XXL), and is recommended for a whole host of outdoor activities, including hiking, backpacking and camping; snowboarding and skiing; mountain climbing; and merely traveling in colder climates.

The Patagonia Nano Puff

Now that you have a brief idea of what you can expect with the Patagonia Down Sweater, let’s take a closer look at the Patagonia Nano Puff, which shares some similarities and some key differences with the former jacket.

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket - Women's

Like that of the Down Sweater, the Nano Puff’s outer shell is also made from recycled polyester ripstop, but its eco-friendly insulated material is actually a synthetic material known as 60G PrimaLoft Gold Insulation, which, as you will see later, is quite different than the natural down in the sweater yet every bit as warm. 

Like its counterpart, the Patagonia Nano Puff also has three zippers, and the cuffs are made from heavy-duty elastic that resists fraying and remains strong even after years of use.  The Nano Puff weighs in at 11.9 ounces—1.2 ounces less than the Down Sweater—it is available in sizes ranging from Adult Extra Small (XS) to Double Extra Large (XXL), and it’s available in a whopping 12 colors from which to choose. 

Finally, the manufacturer recommends this jacket for a number of uses, including hiking and backpacking; traveling; backcountry skiing, and alpine climbing.

Patagonia Down Sweater vs. Patagonia Nano Puff

You have read the basic particulars and essentials associated with both the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Patagonia Nano Puff, but in many cases those specifics do not tell you the entire story. 

To really make an informed decision it is sometimes necessary to explore some of the explicit factors and details that are important to backpackers in order to see how each of these jackets stand up.

Patagonia Down Sweater JacketPatagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Patagonia Down Sweater JacketPatagonia Nano Puff Jacket
☆ BETTER SIDE POCKETS★ MORE LIGHTWEIGHT ★
Also available in hoodie versionAlso available in hoodie version
Buy at Patagonia
Also at REI, Also at Backcountry
Buy at Patagonia
Also at REI, Also at Backcountry

Hopefully, the following will help answer some of your questions.

What Are the Jackets Made Of?

To really explore what materials comprise both the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Patagonia Nano Puff we need to look at three key areas:  the outer shell of the jackets; the insulation (what is stuffed within the outer shell) and the cuffs.

  • Outer Shell. As you may remember from the two earlier sections, both the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Nano Puff jacket have an outer shell that is made from recycled polyester ripstop, a durable synthetic material that is used in a lot of outdoor apparel and gear.  The only real difference between the two outer shells is the shininess of this material.  According to the manufacturer, the coloring on the Nano Puff jacket has a bit of a patina to it, while that glossiness is absent from the Down Sweater.
  • Insulation. The material used to insulate both the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Nano Puff jacket is vastly different.  True to its name, the Patagonia Down Sweater is insulated with genuine goose down—down that was ethically sourced.  The Nano Puff Jacket, however, is insulated with something called 60G PrimaLoft Gold Insulation.  So what exactly is 60G PrimaLoft Gold Insulation?  According to Patagonia, the material is a type of synthetic down that offers the same level of warmth one would receive from the real McCoy.  Additionally, 60G PrimaLoft Gold Insulation seems to perform even better than real goose down when the jacket becomes wet.  While genuine down can lose some its warming properties when it comes into contact with water, 60G PrimaLoft Gold Insulation is able to keep wearers warm despite the climatic conditions.
  • Arm cuffs. Also similar with both the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Nano Puff jacket is the fact that both use elastic around the arm cuffs.  Elastic is used to ensure that no warmth provided by the insulation escapes from the arm holes.  However, the Patagonia Down Sweater also boasts a layer of nylon that covers the elastic.  Some reviewers have remarked that this nylon covering actually improves the aesthetics of that particular coat.

Patagonia Down Sweater - Men's

How Are the Jacket Designs Different?

Now we come to the question of how the two jackets are made—the design specifics of both the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Nano Puff jacket. 

While both of these pieces of outerwear look very similar to the casual observer, there are some key similarities and differences.  Let’s take a look:

  • As we pointed out earlier, both the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Nano Puff jacket are equipped with three pockets—two on the outside on either side of the coat and one interior chest pocket.  In addition to the pockets, both jackets have a draw string at the bottom of the coat—an addition that also helps keep from escaping the warmth provided by the insulation.
  • There are a couple differences between the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Nano Puff jacket when it comes to the positioning of the outer pockets.  One of the coats, the Nano Puff, boasts outer pockets that are exactly horizontal, while the Patagonia Down Sweater has outer pockets that are noticeably angled.  This is done purposely as a design specific, one that makes it easier and more natural for a backpacker to put his or her hands in those pockets on a very chilly day.  The other key difference is the length of the jackets.  While the Patagonia Down Sweater ends almost directly at the hipline, the Nano Puff jacket is a bit longer, especially in the back.  This longer design does not impede backpackers when they are trail hiking, but it does add a little more warmth and protection to the backside.

About the Front Zippers

Both the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Nano Puff jacket have a zippered front (as opposed to buttons, snaps or some other closure mechanism).  Moreover, the zippers for both of these coats are made of plastic, albeit different brands of plastic. 

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket - Women's

There is, however, a key difference in how these zippers are made and added to the coats—a difference that may affect their durability and performance over the life of the coat.

With the Nano Puff jacket, which uses plastic “coil-style” zippers, those zippers are sewn to a piece of narrow cloth that extends from one side of the jacket. 

The Patagonia Down Sweater, on the other hand, utilizes a brand known as “Vislon-type” zippers—a type of zipper that is actually heat-molded to the coat, thus requiring no extra stitching.  This latter type of zipper is not only known to be more durable over time, it also resists snagging due to the manner in which it is placed on the jacket. 

The only downside to the Vislon-style of zipper is its lack of flexibility, which may result in less freedom of movement for the wearer.

Weight and Storage

As a general rule, backpackers like to travel light—or at least as light as possible.  After all, the lighter the gear, the more distance one can usually cover in a single day. 

Because of this, outdoor enthusiasts, such as hikers and backpackers, are very particular about the items they bring along with them on a trek, counting every pound and ounce to ensure their pack will be manageable over the course of a given hike.

As we spoke about briefly in our introduction, the Nano Puff jacket made by Patagonia is 1.2 ounces lighter than the company’s Down Sweater. 

This 1.2-ounce difference is certainly not a big deal on its face, but it’s important to remember that, when all other things are equal, a backpacker may very well choose the lighter piece of equipment.  Thus, the question you must ask yourself after reading the entirety of this article is this: “are all the other things equal?”

Storage is also a big concern when buying a coat or jacket.  Backpackers, like most outdoor adventurers, like to dress in layers as a way to prepare for all types of different weather. 

Sure, on the very cold, wet and frigid days, the coat you select will be worn on your body, but when the warmth of sunlight begins to make you feel uncomfortable in your jacket you will no doubt want to store it away until the weather once again becomes cold. 

Fortunately, this is easily done with either the Patagonia Down Sweater or the Nano Puff jacket.

The design and ultra-soft insulation of both of these coats make them easily-foldable and compressible.  In fact, when compressed correctly, both of these coats can be folded up nicely into the size of a standard letter and easily stored away. 

Moreover, the inner pocket that is present in both of these jackets is designed for just this purpose.  Both of these inner pockets are able to neatly hold your compressed coat, which makes it handy to retrieve and don the very moment you begin to feel a chill in the air.

Final Word

There is plenty to like about both the Patagonia Down Sweater and the Nano Puff jacket.  Both are stylish and durable; lightweight and easy to store; and both share a lot of common design specifics, like their zippered front, three pockets and drawstring hem. 

Patagonia Down Sweater JacketPatagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Patagonia Down Sweater JacketPatagonia Nano Puff Jacket
☆ BETTER SIDE POCKETS★ MORE LIGHTWEIGHT ★
Also available in hoodie versionAlso available in hoodie version
Buy at Patagonia
Also at REI, Also at Backcountry
Buy at Patagonia
Also at REI, Also at Backcountry

The warm, yet synthetic insulation on the Nano Puff jacket will continue to provide protection even in rainy conditions, and its zipper style makes it a bit more flexible than its Down Sweater counterpart. 

On the flip side, the Patagonia Down Sweater has all-natural down insulation, has an outer shell that is built to cut through windy conditions, and possesses a durable, pre-molded zipper that resists snags.  The choice is yours to make!

top image: Patrick Hendry, Unsplash, CC 2.0

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