As a resident of Hawaii, warm clothing doesn’t enter the picture unless you’re headed to the top of Haleakula on Maui. In my case, I was off to a retreat in the San Juan Mountains of northern New Mexico, far off the grid, at 9000 feet. At this altitude, even in late spring, the temperature may drop to freezing and individuals with thin Hawaii blood need to have the right gear.
Enter the Nano Puff Bivy Pullover from Patagonia. Puff does not make for a real macho moniker but the name to remember is Patagonia, which has long been a renowned as a manufacturer of sturdy, practical outdoor wear.
I took this garment out to the wilderness and put it through its paces in a variety of settings and climatic conditions. At the end of my mountain sojourn, I was very impressed with this product.
The first thing I noticed when I removed the pullover from its packaging, way before its baptism by fire on the Continental Divide, was how incredibly light it was. This was both surprising and at first disconcerting. At under 10 oz it hardly seemed substantial enough to insulate someone from a cool/cold/freezing day or night.
Happily, I was proven wrong.
I acquired the Bivy Pullover to replace a thicker, rather frayed, hand-me-down, down jacket borrowed from my brother. I was hoping the new acquisition would work as a top layer to protect me from whatever wet and cold weather the high Rockies might offer. The Bivy Pullover ended up exceeding my expectations.
Let’s begin with the design.
It should be noted that for my purposes, mostly hiking and fishing, a pullover was a vast improvement over a jacket. Although a jacket is a “time tested” concept, in this instance it wasn’t the most practical way to go. As a pragmatic solution, the three quarter chest zipper was a better solution to regulate body heat. When hiking, while generating warmth you simply open the deep zipper to quickly dissipate body heat.
Of course you can do this with a full jacket but you have to contend with a more unruly piece of clothing that can flop around, which is not what you want when weaving your way through brambles and thick brush which happens a lot when you’re bushwhacking along the banks of a stream.
Of course, when the sun comes out and things really warm up the Nano Puff can be slipped off, rolled up and easily stuffed into your day pack. This is especially the case with the Bivy Puff which was probably one third the volume of my old down jacket which I usually tied around my waist or strapped onto the pack.
First off, the the fit (a medium) was perfect. I have a slim physique and it seemed tailored for me. It was still big enough to slide over a couple thin layers, which of course is what it’s designed to do. (That said, a larger person – even with a “medium” build may find it a bit too snug).
There were a couple of other features that I found very handy:
- The single, hand-warmer type pocket was useful on cold nights and eliminates the need for two separate pockets on either side. The result is a sleek design.
- I really liked the zippered, horizontal pouch-pocket (located right above the hand warmer pocket) where I could secure my chapstick and a small flash light. It was a really convenient place to stash small items that you don’t want to forget. (Note that the Bivy model differs from other Patagonia pullovers which feature a horizontal pouch).
- Fortunately, it didn’t rain too often but when it did the Puff Bivy was water resistant and I was no worse for the wear.
- There’s also a hood, which I didn’t have to use too much but appreciated the fact that it was there when needed.
- Another great benefit of this pullover is that’s windproof which made all the difference in warmth on a cold breezy morning.
Since the name of this website is All Outdoors Tech, it behooves me to mention the technology in this (Vietnam-manufactured) item. Patagonia utilizes an insulation called PrimaLoft for its warmth, “compressibility”, and soft comfort. PrimaLoft has ultra-fine fibers which were developed to be water resistant and to trap body heat which of course, keeps the cold out. The company’s website states that its PrimaLoft insulation also maintains insulating properties even when wet. That was my experience.
Finally let’s talk aesthetics. I’m not an aesthete but I do appreciate the finer things. This pullover is elegant and comes in three colors—kelp forest (which I have), drifter grey and navy blue. Call me conservative but I don’t like flashy colors for the wilderness. The colors offered are nuanced and subtle. In a word, classy. My kelp forest green could even be construed as “camo-like” which will appeal to a certain demographic.
My final thoughts are that the Bivy Pullover is not only great for the wilderness, it would be perfect for a traveler to Europe or South America (say Patagonia) who like a boy scout wants to be prepared for colder weather and doesn’t want to carry coat. It’s incredibly pack-able, warm for its weight and a great layer. Suggested retail is $213 but Patagonia had them on sale for $153 when I last looked.
Photos by Rob Kay
Rob Kay is the author of How to Buy an AK-47 which is available on Amazon.
Questions? Comments? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org