I’m a pretty cold person, so I’ve had a down jacket almost as long as I’ve been a climber (got my purple TNF down jacket almost 6 years ago). It’s been pretty useful – lightweight and warm as you would expect from any down jacket. But lately, climbing in cold desert winters (I know I’m a total weather wuss, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve to be warm) has made me long for something a little bit better.
My TNF Nuptse down jacket
These are the problems with my standard run of the mill down jacket:
- no hood = I lose a lot of head from my head and I have way too much hair and a weird shaped head so beanies don’t work out so well for me
- not perfect for belaying – since it’s a “jacket” it only goes down to waist level, so I can’t easily wear it over OR under my harness, which leads to waist-level coldness while belaying
- the “stash pocket” is not a very good way of storing the jacket for attaching to my pack, so it has a tendency to get really dirty
So, for my improved insulated belay jacket, I was looking for something with a nice roomy hood that could fit over my climbing helmet, a longer length to help keep me warmer, and a belay zipper to facilitate harness compatibility. The Patagonia DAS Parka was on the top of my list from the start because I love Patagonia clothing and the DAS has synthetic insulation so I would still be warm even if I got a little wet (not that that happens often in SoCal, but it’s good to be prepared).
Testing out the DAS Parka in the snow
I was lucky enough to get a great deal on my DAS Parka – 50% off. I had tried on the XS (the Parka only comes in Men’s for now – do they think women don’t need belay jackets too?) in my local Patagonia store and was pretty happy with how it fit. Sure, it looks a bit big on me, but that means it covers my butt and there’s plenty of room to wear other layers underneath (even my down jacket, but that might be a little ridiculous…).
I got my Parka just in time to get snowed on in December at my parents house in Poulsbo, WA and our bouldering/snowboarding trip to Bishop over New Year’s. In addition to some weekend outings in January and February, the DAS Parka was invaluable on our recent trip to Indian Creek, which featured sunny but windy and chilly weather.
It’s nice and warm in the snow in Utah, too.
The thing I love about the Parka is that it has just the right features and nothing extra. In addition to the zippered chest pocket that’s perfect for some Shot Bloks or a topo, there are two zippered external handwarmer pockets that are very effective at keeping my hands warm. The jacket has two internal mesh pockets that are perfect for keeping your climbing shoes warm before you climb or storing a waterbottle if its genuinely cold out. There is also elastic to help adjust the hood or tighten the jacket at the hem. The cuffs are elasticized, which I prefer over velcro because it can’t come undone by accident. Finally, the jacket has a water repellant finish and has reinforced patches on the shoulders and elbows. And to top everything off, the Parka comes with a perfectly sized little stuff bag that has been very helpful for stuffing the jacket into when I’m attaching it to my backpack on approaches and descents.
A cold morning at the Cat Wall
In terms of fit, the hood is warm and fits perfectly over my helmet. There is plenty of room to wear layers underneath, and the 2-way zipper makes it easy to belay while wearing the jacket. As I said, I have the Parka in XS (I’m 5’5″ and around 110 lbs.). I’ve found the insulation to be simply awesome. If the jacket wasn’t streamlined and lacking in little down feathers escaping at the seams, I wouldn’t know that it wasn’t down. It’s lightweight and, like down, keeps me warm when it’s really cold without immediately overheating me when the sun comes out. Plus it’s quite good at keeping out the wind, another invaluable trait in Indian Creek.
Patagonia’s quality is usually great and I have no doubt that I will continue to wear and love my DAS Parka for many years to come.
Taking a break at Battle of the Bulge
I do have a minor gripe, though. The stuff sack for the Parka is great – very lightweight, but the toggle that came on it was very flimsy. The plastic snapped and became unusable within less than 5 uses of the stuff sack. It was, however, easily replaced.
With spring just around the corner, I know most people won’t be needing the DAS Parka very soon, but it’s not cheap, so if you’re interested, I’d recommend looking around for Parkas on sale for the off-season because you’re unlikely to find them on sale when it starts getting cold next November.
Happy Warm Belaying!