Patagonia Nano Storm Jacket
Patagonia Women’s Stretch Nano Storm Jacket Review
They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Maybe that’s why I’m always looking for the next perfect piece of gear: I love to be outside, but can be a little wimpy about bad weather.
And hiking in the mountains of England’s Lake District — the wettest part of a very wet country — there’s no shortage of inclemency. A single hike can see plenty of rain, a bit of hail, dense fog, and winds with gusts of 30-50 miles an hour. Oh, and of course, the sun might come out after all. You have to be ready for anything.
Can Something Stretchy Keep You Dry?
That’s why I was drawn to the Patagonia Women’s Stretch Nano Storm Jacket. As stretch waterproof products have come on the market, I’ve been intrigued, if a bit skeptical: Can something that’s stretchy really keep you dry?
Plus, I didn’t really need another jacket; I regularly hike with my Patagonia Nano Puff jacket for warmth and my Marmot Spire shell for wind and rain, and that system works great for me. I also will often carry a Patagonia Nano Puff or fleece vest in case I need to be extra warm.
But confronted with a steeply discounted Stretch Nano Storm at the Patagonia outlet in Freeport, Maine, I concocted a justification: surely, I told myself, carrying one jacket that was theoretically both insulting and waterproof was more efficient than carrying multiple jackets. I bought it.
Stretch Nano Storm
After testing the Patagonia Nano Storm Jacket out over several blustery hikes, I’m a huge fan. I didn’t get the “opportunity” to try it out in a serious downpour, but I did hike through gentle-to-steady rain and fierce wind, and the Stretch Nano Storm performed better than I expected. I had thought it might replace my need to carry an insulating layer and an outer shell, which it did — I stayed warm and dry — but thanks to an ingenious hood and cozy pockets, it also essentially replaced my need to wear an extra hat and bulky mittens.
Ventilating Armpit Zippers
But before we get to that, we need to talk about the pit zips. When I was in the store, waffling about whether or not to buy it, discovering the pit zips is what pushed me from a “maaaybe” to an “OMG I need this.” While pit zips are a frequent feature in many waterproof jackets, you don’t often see them in the insulating kind. But the generous pit zips on the Stretch Nano Storm — they easily extend from almost to my elbow to halfway down my ribcage — mean that you don’t overheat even as you scramble up and down undulating mountain ridges. The pit zips on the Patagonia Nano Storm Jacket are also easy to adjust with gloves on; there’s a zipper on each end, so you can zip or unzip in either direction, and each zipper has a pull attached to it so you can easily grab it.
Another feature I came to really love is the hood. It’s generously sized and can accomodate a helmet, a big ol’ head of hair, or a hat. I suggest you spend some time learning to cinch and uncinch it while you’re still inside: it functions differently (but better!) than other hooded jackets I’ve owned, and was a little tricky to figure out on a mountain top in gale-force winds. Patagonia calls it their “Cohaesive® embedded cord-lock system.” Basically, you can adjust it in two directions: horizontally around your head like Rambo’s headband, and vertically around your head like Alice in Wonderland’s headband. Once you get the hang of it, these cords are also easily adjusted with gloves or mittens on (one set of cords comes out by your collarbone, which is unexpected placement, but much easier to grab mid-stride). The hood also has a good stiff brim that will direct water away from your face, and shield you (somewhat) from the glare of the sun. I hiked for a week in this jacket and the hood became my primary hat; I only had to whip out my super-dorky chin-strap ear-flap hat on the very windiest day, when the gusts were up to 50 mph.
Another key feature: the pockets. I’ve said before that I’m picky about pocket placement, and Stretch Nano Storm gets this right, too: you have two high front pockets in which you can keep quick-access stuff (chapstick, a half-eaten Cliff bar) and two lower hand-warmer pockets. I found that the waist strap on my backpack cut perfectly between both sets of pockets, so I could use them even when wearing my pack. There’s also two internal pockets for storing stuff you want to keep warmer and drier, like your phone. The hand-warmer pockets live up to their name: I found that when my hands got cold, I just stuck them in the pockets instead of reaching for my big, puffy mittens.
Worth The Price?
As far as I can tell, there are only two downsides to this jacket. One is the price, which is undeniably steep at $449. If you’re not able to find it on super-sale, like I did, you really have to swallow hard.
The other is that it doesn’t pack down very small. This is not one of those jackets that magically balls up into something the size of a grapefruit. When I wasn’t wearing it, I found it easier to strap it to the outside of my pack than to try to cram it inside.
Given that hiking in wet, windy, or cold conditions carries an extra risk, I probably will still carry some extra layers when I’m out in the mountains — my bulky mittens, my insulating vest, my super-dorky chin-strap ear-flap hat — but what’s been great about the Stretch Nano Storm jacket is that it makes it easy to adjust my body temperature to the elements without having to stop and root around in my backpack. If it gets really cold, sure, I’ll stop and pull out all my layers. But the Stretch Nano Storm means I can spend more time on the move, enjoying the view, and less time digging around in my bag.