In the landscape of outdoor gear designers, Patagonia are a bit of a special brand. Their premium prices and different approach to making and selling gear sets them apart. They keep redefining the concept of ‘environmentally friendly’ company and have over the years introduced a lot of changes in their manufacturing processes to ensure the highest standards were met inside and outside of the company.
So what about the gear then? Well, they would tell you not to buy it (see what I did here?), because chances are you don’t really need it. In the case of the Mixed Guide hoody and pants we would tend to agree, not because the quality isn’t there, but because this is not your everyday hiking gear. This is very specialized stuff.
Orange is cool
I’ve talked about hybrid gear before and how it is not for everyone. I think the Mixed Guide outfit falls into the ‘only for the right conditions’ type of apparel. It has a very interesting combo of hardshell and softshell materials but it will neither replace your rain jacket nor your wicking softshell. It is marketed for skiing, snowshoeing, ice and alpine climbing, where athletes will make use of both its qualities while not suffering too much from its downsides.
When I pulled the jacket out for the first time all I could think was how bright it was. Dark orange with lighter orange panels for the jacket, dark orange for the pants. It could almost fit in Haglof’s new Monochrome collection. After a few jokes from the guys we all agreed that it looked like a great piece of kit. Well made, functional, tough. The original price of £260/$300 for each piece was definitely steep but you can now find them for around £180/$190 which is a lot more attractive.
Breathability, water resistance and overall durability
We will start by looking at the two fabric that make this jacket the hybrid Patagonia wanted it to be. On one hand we have their own H2No Performance Standard fabric, a waterproof/breathable 3-layer fabric with a classic construction: a water-repellent nylon ripstop shell layer, a waterproof/breathable membrane and a softer inner fabric to protect it from the inside and carry perspiration. On the other hand we have the soft shell fabric, the stretchy Polartec Power Shield paired with their Hardface technology to enhance its resistance.
Both the soft shell and hard shell have been applied a Deluge water-repellent treatment. DWR treatments are an obvious choice to apply on a soft shell fabric, to make it as water resistant as possible without taking away its softness and stretchiness. It is of course also primordial on a hard shell’s outer layer, because keeping it dry is mandatory for optimal breathability. As soon as the face fabric wets out, meaning the fabric starts to retain water in its fibers, breathability of the waterproof/breathable membrane under it will plunge.
The Mixed Guide hoody and pants were used in various conditions, mostly skiing and snowshoeing, and it was clear from the beginning that the combo was made to endure. Falls at high-speed in the snow, sudden encounters with rocks and walks in dense forests did not so much as scratch the fabrics. It can boast some marks of course but nothing that would write it off. I found the jacket surprisingly warm. When the weather was good, with no wind, it proved too warm when going uphill. At least the Polartec Power Shield panels were great at getting the moisture out.
The pants have a lot more area covered by H2No than Power Shield and just didn’t cut it in active situations. The pit zip on either sides can help at the beginning but will quickly prove insufficient for prolonged activity. On bad days, and with a good layering system, both hoody and pants did work wonders and I could not have been a happier skier. You will want to be careful with rain as it will eventually get in. Snow did not seem to be a problem even after a few hours.
The bottom line is, the jacket is versatile enough for all kind of weather, the pants are overkill if you don’t expect snow/rain and wind.
Features, fit, comfort
The Mixed Guide Hoody comes with a pair of hand warmer pockets, lined with soft micro-fleece netting and doubling up as ventilation. They are not huge, just deep enough to put hands and a small item/snack in each. Those pockets are a bit higher than usual and will not get in the way if you are wearing a harness. It also has two small waterproof napoleon pockets with a very stiff waterproof zip. They will fit a smartphone but not much else.
The helmet compatible hood can be adjusted with draw cords situated on the chest area, just above the pockets plus one at the back of the hood. This gives you good control over the shape of the hood which generally stays well in place, even without a helmet on.
The handcuffs are regular Velcro adjustable type and are easy to use. The width of the cuffs allow them to be pulled high on the arm, well past the elbow.
On the inside, the Polartec fabric is luxuriously soft. The H2No parts have a grey nylon-ripstop type fabric, very similar to what you find inside GoreTex Active garments. I would have liked an additional inner pocket to keep batteries or other small items warm but no luck here.
The pants have two side pockets kept closed by two dots of velcro. They are quite roomy and a bliss to operate, necessitating minimal effort. Right next to them are two-way zips for ventilation, easy to open and close as the zips are not the waterproof type. The cuffs are reinforced with heavy-duty fabric meant to protect them from crampons and other sharp objects, plus they are zipped for easier fitting over boots. Last detail, the integrated belt. A great idea and very useful to get the perfect fit. Haven’t had any problem with mine but I read some comments about it breaking easily so use with care. The overall fit is perfect with enough room to move without being too baggy.
If you wanted a new jacket for escaping to the hills, your money is better spent elsewhere. Patagonia’s Mixed Guide outfit is not for everyone and in the few sports that can make good use of them it is not even for every conditions. If you enjoy what the mountain has to offer in winter, when the weather is good, the jacket is awesome. If you go any day, snowstorm and all then get the pants as well, they’re tough and should last you a while.