It’s been a couple of years since I’ve purchased any new clothing for winter hiking. By the end of 2013, I had everything I needed in terms of base layers, insulation, and shells to hike safely in the mountains year round. I looked forward to spending money on experiences as opposed to preparing for them.
I told myself I wouldn’t buy more clothing until something I owned broke down, disappeared, or something came along that seemed different or useful enough to think on it for a year and then check it out. Enter the Nano Air Hoody.
The link at the top of this review contains specs and a great video showcasing the Nano Air Hoody. I try to ignore opinions and promises in these types of videos and use them to show me around the reality of the product – pockets, zippers, hoods, etc. I suggest you do the same.
Today was my first day with the Nano Air. I took it on a 12.4 mile hike up Mt. Garfield in New Hampshire and paid special attention to finding out how it performs. I had a nice variety of conditions – a sunny 30° at the bottom and somewhere around 10° with wind and snow at the top. I was wearing a Patagonia mid-weight Capilene crew base layer for this entire hike and had a 25 lb. pack.
Patagonia calls this a “leave it on all day” piece, so that’s what I did.
My interest in the Nano Air started with its claim of revolutionary breathability with great warmth. I run hot, so I sweat a ton. I love being in cold places. It’s not a good thing to become soaked in sweat in the cold, so I’m always working to balance that whole situation.
To test the breathability, I stayed at or above a 3 mph pace on a mellow uphill grade with some short steep sections. I hiked for an hour before taking a break. As expected, I had a nice sweat going about 10 minutes in. I undid the zipper and kept going.
The material in the Nano Air handled this well. Any wind, regardless of it’s speed, seemed to move through the hoody just enough to remove the heat I didn’t want. Great! But these were close to perfect conditions.
At my first break, instead of throwing on my parka, I zipped the hoody back up and sat on my pack – snacking, drinking and talking with Rich (who was also using a Nano Air, sans-hood). No sweat had soaked through the back of the jacket, but I was wet. I waited for the chill that comes when you get sweaty and then stop, but it didn’t come. I usually break for 10 minutes, but I extended this to 20 to see what would happen.
When it was time to go, I had dried out quite a bit without getting chilled. Excellent.
I repeated this hike-for-an-hour-break-for-20-minutes procedure again on the way to the summit. The stronger wind on this higher section of trail never stole too much of my precious heat. A couple times I did unzip the jacket again and also pushed up the sleeves (easy to push up but also stay in place up there – good) when I got hot. I didn’t sweat through on this stretch either, but I’d say I was wet. The material did a great job keeping me warm when it and myself were wet. It made good progress on drying out on the break, as it did before.
At the summit, I stood around in the Nano Air Hoody for 15 minutes before I threw on a thin wind shirt. As warm as this thing is, it’s no hard shell. The wind here was strong and it did cut through the jacket, but not as badly as I had expected it would considering how light and generally “airy” it feels. With the wind shirt on, I was happy for another 15 minutes. I could have stayed longer, but had to get going.
The water repellent finish did a great job with the snow that landed and melted on me, as well as the frost and rime ice that formed on me. We’ll see how it holds up, but I’ve had good experiences with the longevity of Patagonia’s DWR finish on their Fitz Roy down parka, Torrentshell jacket, and Bivy down jacket, as well as their 120 liter Black Hole duffel.
The hood came in handy here and on my breaks. It has a nice fit, covering much of the face. It’s similar to the hood on a Patagonia R1, but better. A tiny bit looser, but not so much that you’re losing too much heat. Very comfortable. The hood is one of the stretchiest parts of the jacket. You don’t need to unzip at all to put it on or take it off.
Speaking of the R1… In my case, the Nano Air Hoody may force it into retirement. I never expected to say that.
I was determined to sweat through the Nano Air before the hike was over. On the way down, Rich and I decided to run through any flat or otherwise safe sections of trail. In some instances we’d run for a few minutes at a time.
An hour into the descent we stopped to see if I had done it. Just barely – lower back. Lots of hanging around again… no chill.
I also used this break to see if I had torn the sleeve when I snagged it hard on a broken tree branch. I couldn’t find any evidence of the encounter.
The Nano Air Hoody has a zippered chest pocket on each side. I think 1 would be better (like the hoodless Nano Air has), but the whole package is so light I’m not worried about the weight of an extra zipper. Same for the possibility of heat loss. If the wind is strong enough to be ripping heat out of your pockets, you need a shell over this baby anyway. I probably won’t use both chest pockets, but I don’t hate that there are 2. The waist straps on my pack covered the 2 zippered side pockets completely, so some people might appreciate having 2 pockets accessible while the pack is strapped on.
There is a drawstring on each side of the waistline to let you tighten things up and keep in more heat – or keep out snow or wind. This is good, and expected, as most jackets in the outdoor market have them. I always forget to use them.
The main zipper has a really nice strip of soft material at the top to protect your face (or for me, my beard) from the zipper’s teeth. This is nothing new, but it’s worth noting this is the nicest one I’ve seen. Longer, softer, and not overdone.
The pattern of the stitching changes for different areas of the jacket, to accommodate stretching where it’s needed most. I’d say they judged this correctly. This thing can S T R E T C H. Climbers must love this thing (I checked – they do). I never felt constricted or pulled on in any way, and I tried to find a way. This is part of why I say the material feels “airy”. Find one in a store and check it out. You’ll understand.
There isn’t much else to mention here. No internal pockets, no drawstring for the hood or the wrists. Simple. Good.
For the way the Nano Air Hoody looks and feels, it provides far better protection against wind than I thought it would, but it is absolutely not a substitute for a shell. It’s not advertised as one – but I feel like I should say it anyway. It doesn’t need much help stepping up it’s game… I threw my EMS Windblast over it and I’d say it stayed warmer than my traditional Nano and any of my soft shells – and it was wet.
I worked hard (and rested long) to see how it performs, but I need to do it again in colder weather. I got a good feel for it – I’m expecting good things.
My plan is to use the Nano Air Hoody to replace my beloved R1 Hoody and a thin traditional fleece I carry in my winter pack. I’m feeling like I can do that.
I’m glad I gave this a try, and I highly recommend it if you’re in the market for an insulating layer that will often also be your outer layer.