Gear review: ‘Sweater’ or not, vest is warm and practical |

Gear review: ‘Sweater’ or not, vest is warm and practical

Bob Ward
Aspen Times Weekly

Patagonia calls this garment a “down sweater vest,” but to me the word “sweater” evokes all the wrong things.

True sweaters may look good, and they may be warm, but they’re often bulky, heavy and uncomfortable. Sweaters seem to gather, rather than repel, moisture. And the sleeves of whatever I wear underneath a sweater tend to get snagged on the fibers; who hasn’t struggled to force their arms through the sleeves of their favorite wool sweater?

In many ways, the Patagonia Men’s Down Sweater Vest is the opposite of a sweater. It’s literally as light as a feather, slides on and off my upper body like air, and compresses to the size of a … well, somewhere between a pomegranate and a cantaloupe, with the weight of a pretzel. It even stuffs into its own interior pocket.

The only thing this garment has in common with a sweater is warmth. And it is very warm – amazingly so, for something that’s so light you forget it’s on you.

When I first laid eyes on this “sweater vest,” I already owned its cousin, a Patagonia down sweater, which has sleeves and makes a versatile, ultralight winter coat. But the vest has become a four-season garment for me.

During ski season, the vest makes a warm mid-layer beneath my shell. On cool days in the spring and fall, it’s perfect outerwear on a day hike (and it’s water-resistant and windproof). In the summer, it’s great around the campfire or on a cool evening walk.

Recently, the vest brought me back to life after a cold surf session in the Pacific Ocean on a foggy October day. The pockets really, truly warm your hands.

It’s not surprising that this vest can be seen everywhere in the mountains, in a handful of colors. At $150, the garment isn’t cheap, but it’s practical year-round and, at least in ski towns, people think it looks good.

OK, so maybe it’s not so different than a sweater.

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