It’s simple: The more varied the conditions and temperatures I can wear a jacket in, the more often I’m going to pack it, and the more the miles are going to pile up. And if a jacket can accompany me on year-round adventures without falling apart, it’s a keeper. The only one I own that fits this description is my Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody.
Unlike my other jackets that come and go based on weather or activity, the Nano-Air offers plenty of warmth when needed but is breathable enough for blood-pumping pursuits or fairer weather. Its synthetic insulation is enough for winter outings in the single digits, but doesn’t make me too hot or clammy when I hike hard on spring days (I can wear the Nano-Air up to about 50°F during aerobic activity).
With all that use, it’d be understandable if the jacket was in tatters by now. But over five years of near-constant service, my Nano-Air is still going strong. Its 33- by 30-denier polyester face fabric has withstood ice climbing in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, mountaineering in Alaska, backpacking in Colorado, and canyoneering in Utah with no significant damage. In fact, the only sign of wear is a small patch on one arm from a snag that happened while I walked around a busy convention center. (There’s also very light pilling on the shoulders from pack straps.)
That same resilient fabric is both soft when worn over just a T-shirt, airy enough to let moisture escape, and durable enough that I’m never worried about what it’s going to come into contact with on the rare occasion I take the Nano-Air off and jam it into my pack.
I’ve done plenty of hunting for my “next” active midlayer, but experimenting with other jackets is really the only reason I won’t pack the Nano-Air for a trip. Inevitably, I come back from a day “seeing other people” and almost embarrassedly hang up whatever other jacket didn’t make the cut, apologize to my Nano-Air, and reassert the vow that it’s still the only one for me.
Gear editor’s note: I also own this puffy, and it rules.