Herein we review Patagonia’s newest wind shirt, to be released in Spring 2004, the 3 oz, hoodless, Dragonfly Pullover. Patagonia will also manufacture a 4 oz, hooded, Dragonfly Full Zip Jacket.
Many feel that a wind shirt is the most versatile piece of clothing you can carry in your pack. Worn over a base layer, a wind shirt provides protection from wind chill and light precipitation, and serves to retain body heat lost through evaporative cooling in colder conditions. On its own (depending on the next-to-skin comfort of the fabric), it can serve as comfortable warm-weather insect and sun protection.
A classic wind shirt is a single-layer woven (nylon or polyester) cut to the pattern of a shirt, pullover, or jacket. The key characteristics of a wind shirt are extremely light weight, high breathability, and water resistance (usually provided by a durable water repellent finish, or DWR). Pertex Microlight, Pertex Quantum, and other 15-30 denier uncoated nylons are examples of the types of fabrics that provide these characteristics.
Patagonia calls the Dragonfly “The absolute lightest shell we’ve ever made for high-intensity minimalist adventures.” The new Dragonfly offers a new balance point between light weight and durability. Patagonia’s 1.1 oz triple ripstop fabric has a substantial feel and a relaxing, but not clingy, drape. This fabric is softer, more breathable, and less transparent than the Dragonfly fabrics used on 2003 and earlier models.
Some manufacturers have switched to 0.9 oz fabrics to reduce the weight of their wind shirts. Patagonia has taken a slightly different approach. They retained a tougher 1.1 oz shell fabric and compromised weight in other areas. Although the new Dragonfly offers a deep chest zipper, it uses a very light and thin elastic draw cord and miniature one-handed cord lock at the hem.
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The Dragonfly Pullover has a half-length (14 in), fully backed #3 chest zipper for good ventilation and temperature regulation. A 3 in high collar provides neck protection. Cuff closures are simple sewn-in elastic, and were neither too light nor too loose for anyone on our testing crew. The pullover has a single handwarmer/storage pocket on the lower right side seam (zippered closure). As mentioned earlier, the Pullover’s hem has an exceptionally light drawcord and miniature cord lock that can be operated with a single hand.
The Dragonfly Pullover in a Size Men’s Medium had a trim-to-slightly-loose fit on one of our testers (an average build 5’8” 150 lb male). The Pullover fits appropriately over a baselayer and 200 weight fleece garment. The mid-length hem comes down to crotch level providing some butt but not much thigh coverage. The collar easily fits over a 200 wt fleece balaclava on a 16 in neck.
We had no problems with the Dragonfly Pullover restricting any of our movements. Raising our arms did not raise the hem of the pullover and there was no binding in the shoulders when wrapping our arms around our chest (although some restriction might occur in shoulders when layering the garment over some bulkier insulating shirts/jackets). There was enough length in the sleeves that we could withdraw our hands while hanging them down at our sides.
Wind and Precipitation Resistance
In the field the pullover was able to shed light precipitation (both rain and snow) when used over a wool baselayer and a mid-weight synthetic fleece vest in temperatures between 25 and 40 degrees. The pullover wetted out over time but did a credible job of keeping seepage to reasonable levels. The Dragonfly/baselayer combo makes a surprisingly effective (and very light) soft shell arrangement.
The 2004 Dragonfly fabric is more breathable and is an improvement over 2003 and preceding models. Still, the deep chest zipper is a welcome feature for ventilation moisture during periods of high exertion, and lack of a deep zipper on other ultralight wind shirts remains our number one complaint with manufacturers. With the garment zippered up, however, it was apparent from our field tests that the 1.1 oz triple ripstop nylon is still not quite as breathable as some of the newer 0.9 oz fabrics used in other manufacturer’s windshirts (e.g., compared to the Marmot Chinook, Montane Aero, and Rab Quantum Wind Top).
Recommendations for Improvement
The best features of the Dragonfly are its overall fit and design, the deep chest zipper, and the durability (especially, abrasion resistance) of the triple ripstop fabric. However, the durability comes at a cost – hindered breathability. While pre-2003 Dragonfly garments offered a fabric has enough water resistance to fit the bill as a shower shell, and other fabrics (e.g., Pertex Quantum) offer exceptional levels of breathability, the 2004 Dragonfly fabric appears to fall in the middle. Some will think that this balance provides the best of both worlds. Others will say that it’s the worst of both worlds because it can perform neither function (breathe or resist showers) optimally. Although we recognize that such distinctions in breathability and water resistance may be akin to hair-splitting, we’d prefer that manufacturers bring two wind shirts into their product lines – one with exceptional breathability in a non-hooded, pullover style for use during high exertion activity, and one with exceptional water resistance in a hooded jacket style for use as a shower shell. This would give consumers a better selection to allow them to use the one they need for a particular situation. We’ve even included both types of wind shirts on many of our own trips, recognizing that six ounces is a small weight penalty for such versatility.
In addition, the side seam pocket on the Dragonfly, while giving an impression of apparent simplicity, is awkward to use, too small, and obscured by a hip belt or climbing harness. A larger, zippered napoleon-style chest pocket would provide more utility and ease of use.
In fairness to Patagonia, we could not help but recognize that the new Dragonfly offers excellent durability at this weight, so if your outdoor pursuits involve occasional bushwacking or rock scrambling, the Dragonfly might find a home on your gear list.
And, if the 3.2 ounce weight bothers you because “there are wind shirts that weigh less than 3 ounces out there,” then get your scissors out and cut out the hem cord and cordlock. The result with be a true “shirt” that is easier to tuck in with its flat hem while still retaining good functionality!