Patagonia promises simplicity and ultralight durability with their new generation of rainwear for lightweight aficianados, and they appear to deliver with the Patagonia Specter Pullover. Patagonia has stripped away all essentials – the Specter Pullover has only one small inside mesh pocket, non-adjustable cuffs, and a single drawcord hem. A volume–adjustable hood and a durable, 2.5 oz (71 g/m2) 2.5-layer waterproof-breathable fabric are the pullover’s only luxuries. The result: a supremely stuffable eight-ounce marvel of simplicity.
- Garment Style – hooded pullover.
- Fabric Class – Waterproof-breathable (polyurethane-coated nylon)
- Fabric Description – 2.5 oz/yd2 (71 g/m2) 2.5-layer 30d ripstop nylon with a polyurethane waterproof/breathable barrier (Patagonia’s “H2NO HB” branded technology).
- Waterproofness Specification – n/a.
- Breathability Specification – n/a.
- Weight – 8.0 oz. (227 g) in men’s size medium, as verified on a BackpackingLight.com scale. 9.0 oz. (255 g) manufacturer’s spec.
- MSRP – $165.00.
Graded subjectively on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).
The Patagonia Specter is not built for the backpacker who lives in her rainwear. It has a brutally simple mission: keep you dry in a deluge and stuff away unnoticed when it’s not needed. To this end, the only meaningful ventilation options are a very roomy hood and the half front zipper. A roomy cut helps a lot, and we found this to be one of the best-ventilated (if not a little blousy) pullovers we’ve tried. Elastic cuffs are not adjustable, but they aren’t so tight to be noticeable when worn over gloves.
How hard is it to “use” a pullover? The Patagonia Specter is light on features, so it’s sort of hard to evaluate “usability!” It may have the fewest features of any jacket we’ve reviewed. Some may see this as its greatest strength. The waterproof front zipper comes with a fancy decorative slider that’s not so easy to use with gloves or mittens, and there’s no hole in the end of the slider for adding your own zipper pull. The inside stash pocket is made with mesh, and it doesn’t close save for a single dot Velcro tab – don’t stow your car keys in it if you’re climbing the Grand Teton. The drawcord on the hem is “not exactly” one-handed, but the hood and its three-point volume adjustment works superbly, and allows you to dial in hood fit to give you comfortable ventilation or excellent articulation when closed. Cuffs are not adjustable, and are simple elastic.
The Patagonia Specter pullover is sized appropriately for its intended design purpose, and is roomy enough to layer over everything when a storm beckons. We’d love to see a trimmer fit, to save weight and make it an even better ’emergency’ piece for alpine climbing.
Fit in the arms and torso is roomy enough to accommodate a high loft insulating layer (we tried the Specter over Patagonia’s new Micro Puff pullover) without compressing loft or restricting mobility. The hem is long enough to keep most of your butt dry – but we would have loved another inch of length – so we could leave our rain pants home!
Graded subjectively on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).
Storm Resistance (4.0 )
The only way water can get into the Patagonia Specter is via the hood opening and front waterproof zipper, no easy feat. Worn in a sustained downpour, the zipper did not leak. The hood secures well around the face with a perimeter drawcord, but we did wish for a slightly larger brim to shield our eyes better. Some sort of brim stiffener would be a help to eyeglasses wearers.
The Patagonia Specter uses a polyurethane technology to achieve waterproof breathability. With the pullover zipped and the hood secured over a Capilene base layer, we took the Specter into the mountains to test breathability. We experienced temperatures varying from 24 °F to 44 °F in wind conditions ranging from 0 to 30 mph (0 to 32 kph). Breathability was tested while wearing a 15 lb pack and hiking uphill (rate of 500 feet of elevation gain per hour) terrain at 1.5 to 2.0 mph. Ambient humidity was between 60% and 80%. During these tests, we didn’t find the polyurethane technology employed in the Patagonia Specter to be exceptional, and moisture accumulation during exercise was certainly more significant than Frogg Toggs, eVENT, and Gore-Tex PackLite and XCR garments tested under similar conditions.
Ventilation (3.0 )
Ventilation was tested in the same conditions and the Patagonia Specter is a solid performer considering its pullover design. This is owed in large part to its roomy fit and wide waist hem, which promotes a chimney-like ventilation effect while moving, effectively venting moisture out the half zipper. Replacing the zipper flap with a waterproof zipper means that you can’t keep the neck area protected from rain without severely compromising ventilation (one nice feature of zipper flaps with Velcro closures). Rab Carrington of the UK puts two-way zips on their pullovers to alleviate this problem. Why don’t we see this neat little usability features on Yankee garments? A Velcro dot near the top of the zipper is a simple solution. Of course, wearing a hip belt completely compromises the effective ventilation of the pullover, so it’s wise to un-tuck the front of the hem from the hip belt if wearing the jacket while hiking.
Patagonia opts for a fabric that is one step up in weight and durability from the lightest polyurethane coated nylons – now sub-2-oz/yd2 (57 g/m2). The face fabric is entirely suitable for bushwacking and occasional abrasion against rock while climbing. The interior polyurethane coating is durable, but it won’t withstand years of use under pack straps. We did notice some wear areas in the membrane (but no apparent loss of water proofness) in the areas where the hip belt was cinched over it. This is certainly not a unique feature to Patagonia’s fabric, and is common with most polyurethane 2- and 2.5-layer technologies. Overall, for a "lightweight" garment, we found the durability:weight ratio of the garment to be outstanding.
The Patagonia Specter pullover offers durability, great storm protection, and a roomy cut for eight ounces. At $165.00, it’s no bargain, but the price may be justified for some: it buys you design simplicity that most manufacturers simply ignore. If you want light minimalist rain protection with good durability this may be your jacket.
Recommendations for Improvement
Little weight would be added by improving the interior pocket so you could actually store something valuable in it. The pocket is too small for most wallets and it’s a risky storage spot for a set of car keys. Or, simply eliminate the pocket – that would be the icing on the cake of design simplicity. A one-handed drawcord pull that actually worked with one hand would be nice, and the fancy zipper tab has got to go – we need zipper pulls! And, have a look at the new generation of sub-2-ounce/yd2 (57 g/m2) polyurethane-coated nylons – a waterproof-breathable pullover that weighed less than 6 oz (170 g) would be something to get really excited about. Finally, a wider brim with a stiffener would have provided better face protection.