Patagonia improves its most advanced puffy ever to stand up to even wetter conditions. Meet the Micro Puff Storm.
With Patagonia’s release of the Micro Puff Hoody in September 2017, it launched its patented PlumaFill insulation into the limelight. The company touted the synthetic down alternative as the key to making the Micro Puff Hoody its lightest, most compressible jacket ever.
As winter advanced, early reports of the Micro Puff Hoody’s performance proved enthusiastically positive. Fast forward to 2018, and Patagonia has delivered a one-two punch, launching the Micro Puff Storm this August. This time around, the brand gave the belay parka a waterproof-breathable exterior.
We’ve been testing a sample for two weeks to provide this first look. We’ll update this article as testing continues.
In short: The Micro Puff Storm (women’s and men’s) is more substantial, warmer, and waterproof, just like a belay jacket should be. It’s well thought-out, designed with climbers in mind, and adds all-weather durability to the already stout Micro Puff family. But as with all things Patagonia, it both outperforms and out-prices the competition, running a stitch under $500.
Micro Puff Storm: Proper Belay Parka Features
The Micro Puff Storm’s outer fabric uses Patagonia’s two-layer H2No Performance Standard Shell. This fabric has, in past tests, proven reliably waterproof. The shell is also DWR-treated and seam sealed.
Meanwhile, the Pertex Quantum inner liner and discontinuous, patent-pending stitching mimic the original Micro Puff Hoody. The jacket has double zipper pulls, facilitating access to the belay device, and a pair of sizeable internal mesh dump pockets that are perfect for drying gloves and carrying spares.
Huge, mesh-lined handwarmer pockets close via waterproof zippers and run high enough to clear a harness. The sleeves have hook-and-loop adjustment tabs and a truncated storm skirt with adjustable elastic cord protects the wearer from encroaching elements. On top, a helmet-compatible hood has a stretchy internal helmet skirt with single drawcord adjustment.
The Micro Puff Storm provides a generous, full cut in all dimensions. With a size medium Storm, I can wear the original Micro Puff Hoody (medium) with a base layer under that and still move freely (I am 6 feet tall and weigh 167 pounds). Even in those extra layers, with both wrists covered and arms overhead, I didn’t feel overly billowy. The Micro Puff Storm’s length kept my hips covered when leaning against cold surfaces, but only partially so while sitting.
Patagonia Micro Puff Storm vs. Outdoor Research Floodlight
Our medium sample had a verified weight of 1 pound 6 ounces. That places it squarely in the pack with other waterproof down belay parkas. Prior to testing, my go-to waterproof down belay jacket was the Outdoor Research Floodlight. And that carried the same verified weight as the Patagonia Micro Puff Storm.
While the Floodlight offers similar features, it lacks the mini storm skirt and mesh-lined handwarmer pockets. But it does have an exterior chest pocket whereas the Storm does not. The Floodlight also provides a more trim fit than the Storm and has a more robust feel in the hands.
Seat-of-the-pants testing gives the Floodlight’s 800-fill-power down a small advantage in overall warmth and wind protection. But that could also be a product of its narrower cut on my slim torso.
Both jackets compressed into a cantaloupe-size package, with the Storm’s PlumaFill returning loft quicker than the Floodlight’s down.
Patagonia’s marketing efforts on PlumaFill portray it as a synthetic version of down: similar structure, feel, and performance — all the result of a decade of development. PlumaFill’s advantage over down lies in its ability to retain loft when wet. Plus, Patagonia claims the Micro Puff Hoody achieves the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any garment in its lineup, down or synthetic. The Storm version uses this same insulation.
And the brand says 93 percent of its testers initially thought it was down. I admit that while blindly wearing the Micro Puff Storm, I would also think it was down based on its airy loft and feel on the body. Only by pinching the garment between my fingers could I discern a difference from down.
Field Test: Patagonia Micro Puff Storm
A cold snap brought lows in the mid-20s and ushered in desirable temperatures for testing the Micro Puff Storm belay jacket. With just a base layer underneath the Storm, I stayed sufficiently warm in temps near freezing, with little wind. In fact, I stayed so warm during relative inactivity that any level of activity required venting. Thankfully, unzipping the 10-inch handwarmer pockets accomplished just that.
When the mercury bottomed out, adding a thin fleece midlayer provided ample warmth between the base layer and jacket. Patagonia’s H2No shell performed well when the wind picked up; the only perceptible air entered through openings in the main zipper or a slack lower hem.
While not indestructible, the H2No fabric provides its fair share of durability. It’s the same shell used in Patagonia’s M10 Anorak, which I tested ice climbing in Alaska in February. In that test, I managed to put a small cut on a sleeve, likely by dragging it across sharp ice or while removing or racking an ice screw.
Patagonia deserves to be proud of its innovation and persistence in delivering PlumaFill, the Micro Puff Hoody, and the Micro Puff Storm. Given the equal weight to my go-to Outdoor Research Floodlight belay parka, I would wear the Micro Puff Storm in wet weather to be on the safe side.
Still, only time will tell if PlumaFill proves as durable as down. But the sticky point to any consumer will be the price. The Micro Puff Storm commands a hefty $499 price tag, more than $100 beyond the waterproof, 800-fill-power Outdoor Research Floodlight at $395.
All in all, spending more for a synthetic garment may be a leap for some. But with its ability to retain loft when wet, the Micro Puff Storm could be a worthwhile investment — particularly when wet adventures lie ahead.