First up is the Patagonia Dimensions jacket. We attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, UT twice each year and I’ve been hearing some clothing manufacturers mention that “soft shell is dead”, the new stuff is all 2.5-3 layer membrane shells. We will agree the new 3 layer shells (Patagonia Leashless Jacket & Pants) that have been coming out are awesome. But, there is still a need for good soft shell clothing. Sometimes you just need something really breathable and flexible and durable. Taking a hard shell jacket up a squeeze chimney or rough mixed route just makes me cringe. As durable as they are you’re still going to start shredding the elbows and shoulders.
We’ve been testing the Patagonia Dimensions soft shell jacket this winter and it is obvious that soft shell technology is still advancing. This is not the heavy soft shell jacket that you’re used to. The Windstopper soft shell that Patagonia sourced for the Dimensions jacket fairly thin, light, breathable and flexible. The fact that Patagonia sponsors a host of incredible alpine and rock climbers gives them access to insight and new design ideas. Those ideas come through loud and clear in this jacket. I check two things for my base of whether a company gets climbing jackets. Sleeve joint construction – for free arm movement without lifting the rest of the body of the jacket or constricting shoulders. Which can be really annoying when you continue to pull the hem of your jacket out of your harness every time you need to reach high over head. Next, high waist pockets – nothing is more irritating than putting on a “climbing” jacket only to find they put the pockets right where a harness would cover them. Patagonia, of course, passes both of these base level tests with flying colors. Not only are the sleeves designed well, but Patagonia added breathable, stretchy panels under the arms and down the side of the jacket, where most of the head and movement occurs. High mesh pockets keep them out of the way of a harness and give you a way to vent some extra heat if you aren’t in a place where removing your jacket is a good idea. The pockets have good working zippers, glove friendly pulls, with well designed garages to keep moisture from sneaking in.
The rest of the Dimensions jacket is just as well thought out. The main zipper has the same features as the pocket zippers along with a comfy fleece lining where the zipped up color would rub on your chin. The hood is helmet compatible and is three-way adjustable to make sure you don’t have it flapping in your face when you’re climbing that windy ridge. The brim of the hood has just the right amount of stiffness added. It stays up and our of your eyes, without being too stiff and bulky when packing it away in your pack. The cuffs are among our favorite designs we’ve seen. No stiff or bulky closures, just a simple fabric hook-and-loop connection that works and fits easily under glove gauntlets. The inside of the jacket is a soft synthetic material that is very comfortable against bare skin and doesn’t grab at base layers the way that some jackets do. The Dimensions jacket is light weight and packs down well when the going gets hot, only 23 oz.
The Patagonia Mixed Guide pants somehow flew under our radar. We had to test them once we saw their basic design. After a lot of ice, mixed and alpine routes we’re glad we did. Patagonia designed the Mixed Guide pants with exactly what anyone that has climbed on ice and snow has thought. The need to combine the flexibility and breathability of soft shell with the waterproof protection of hard shell material. The Mixed Guide pants do this well. Soft shell fabric is used at the waist and front of the pants down through the crotch to just above the knees, as well as down the back of the legs giving full range of motion. Hard shell material was used from the knees to ankles and on the butt (I’ve always hated getting my butt wet from sitting in snow then climbing with a soggy bottom). The ski boot compatible cuffs are covered on the inside ankle with scuff resistant material to guard against the inevitable crampon scrape. The waist belt is often overlooked, but having dealt with bulky belts and other systems I was really pleased with the internal elastic belt that Patagonia put into the Mixed Guide pants. The have a small simple metal belt buckle that finishes it up and doesn’t add to the bulk under your harness. One last feature that totally wowed me, and I didn’t discover until I had worn these a dozen times. The fly zipper is a two-way zipper. I’ve never seen this and I wish all my climbing pants had it. Essentially you have a second zipper pull that you can zip up from the bottom. Doesn’t sound like a big deal until you have to try to dig a top zipper out from under a harness to take care of business.
We tested the Patagonia Dimensions jacket and Mixed Guide pants both together and with other pieces among our various testers. They worked awesome together as well as paired with other clothing options, as weather dictates. I said this earlier, but it’s true, that it’s clear that Patagonia has climbers on staff. These designs just work. We can wholeheartedly recommend both the Dimensions jacket and Mixed Guide pants for alpine, ice, and rock climbing.