Colin Haley on the Midi. photo courtesy of Mikey Schaefer
I've had more questions about the new Nano-Air from Patagonia than any other specific piece of gear this Fall. Obviously the Patagonia Marketing & PR department is doing its job!
Every email asked the same question..."how do the two compare? "How about a Nano-Air in a straight up comparison to a Atom LT?"
Both Arcteryx and Patagonia make a real effort to mix their respective and cutting edge alpine climbing ambassadors thoughts with those of their technical clothing design teams. The results can be pretty impressive from either.
I actually had to rewrite that sentence several times to give each company their due. I own and use equal amounts from both companies. Most of it clothing I bought with my own dime on sale via retail outlets or through a pro deal.
My reason for pointing that out is so the reader knows I really have no dog in this fight...and trust me...between the two they do fight over market share.
I judge all clothing by fit first. You should be doing the same IMO. And I get the best fit from Arcteryx generally. But by far the most used pieces of clothing in my gear room are from Patagonia and Westcomb. Part of that might well be the prices I pay for Arcteryx. Not actual fact, just speculation from memory sitting here at the key board.
Either way I have always been a big fan of the Atom LT. Still am. But it is not perfect for my own needs.
Dave, in his Atom Lt, enjoying life on a cold winter's day.
Having vents on the sides of the Atom LT make is exceptionally usable when you are working hard. But the vents also make it less friendly when you aren't working so hard. Arcteyx has come up with several other models now (all of which I have tried) to eliminate the down side. But IMO they have yet come up with a better replacement for the Atom LT....much as I'd rather not admit that.
More on the Atom LT from pervious writings.
A quick goggle search will get you a host of other reviews/opinions on the Atom LT.
These are some of the other jackets I have done side by side field comparisons to the LT:
Nuclei (very good)
SAG Nangpala (exceptional BTW)
and a bunch of other down sweaters/jackets as well
Suffice it to say I have used a bunch of these mid weight 60g sweaters. Atom LT is still one of the very best for my own use while alpine climbing in cold conditions. Makes a heck of a good around town jacket as well. Which is most of the customer base for all this stuff truth be told!
Enter the newest contender looking for a KO from Patagonia..the Nano-Air.
Big push this fall from Patagonia to market the jacket. Some amazing pictures from Mikey as always. And there is no doubt the all the guys actually use the gear on real climbs.
Patagonia sez..."Warm, stretchy, and incredibly breathable". And it is all of that. May be even a better answer in those same ways than a Atom LT at least on the surface.
More here from Patagonia:
I am all about having cool new chit. And everything I give word to here. really is cool new/old chit. But ya gotta ask..what is the down side?
Admittedly I am a picky. Atom LT pocket zippers snag and the main zip doesn't have a lock on it. But then it doesn't have a lot of pockets either. Annoying at worst I guess. The internal liner is slick and easy to layer under at the cost of breathability. Which the vents make up for I think.
Nano-Air is pretty neat. It is new and to be honest I have yet to climb in mine. But I have worn it enough to comment I think. It is indeed stretchy and it breaths remarketably well. Better than the Atom LT, subjective IMO. But it is not much better. Hard to beat the vents of the Atom LT for breathing. But...and there is always a BUTT.
The liner of the Nano-Air is a sticky little prick. I really dislike the fabric they used as a liner with most layers. It is "sticky". Annoyingly so for me on a garment I will always layer with.
Round 1 to the Atom LT.
Front zipper. Patagonia put a lock on theirs. Not so Arcteryx. Round 2 to Patagonia. Even if I have to replace the zipper at some point which is what Arcteryx claims as reasoning behind their version.
Pockets? Atom Lt, two zippered on the side seam outside. One internal chest, zippered.
Nano? Two outside on the chest. Two outside in front of the side seam.
Round 3 to the Nano.
Hoods? With My Petzl or Camp it is a toss up with the Atom LT having a slight edge there.
Longer neck, bigger person will like the Atom. Other wise the Nano will work just as well I suspect. Nothing past size to comment on here. Basic hoods you can use with a helmet under them.
Round 4 is a draw by my card. If you are a large like I am edge goes to the Atom LT hood.
Knowing many of the athletes on both design teams I'd bet the Arcteryx guys would out weigh the Patagonia guys as a group. But just barely. I like BIG hoods...neither of these jackets have BIG hoods.
"I judge all clothing by fit first. You should be doing the same IMO."
No question for me the Patagonia fit is always a little funky. The Nano is better than most of Patagonia for me I think. I am 207# this morning and 6'1". Up 10 # or so from where I should be.
But size issues haven't changed. Fit on the hoods, forearms and a good bit of stretch is still required.
I am a size large in both the Nano and the Atom LT. XL in either make is too big. The Atom LT has a more relaxed fit in the forearms for me. Enough so that the Nano is annoying there. Nano is still useful, but annoying. Another example is most of the RAB offering are too tight for me to use because of the skinny forearm patterns. And I use the Patagonia Nano Puff jackets all winter like a second skin. Love them. So funky may be but generally Patagonia patterns work well "enough" for me.
Nano-Air has longer sleeves (too long?) but not as well designed cuffs at the Atom LT. Both have draw cords in the bottom hem.
I have been using both jackets layered with a Patagonia Piton Hoody. My favorite base layer used with a bit of wool under it. The Nano or the Atom LT go over the Piton. Those three layers (wool/Piton/60g insulation) are the basis right now for my upper alpine kit. I can add a shell or a puffy to that as required for the mission/weather and temps. Or simply pull the insulated mid layer off and just climb in the Piton hoody as my outer garment. Many times that is my preferred choice just for the added breathability.
So who wins this one? By a TKO.... the winner is?
Much as I like the Nano...it is very stretchy, may be even more breathable over all, (still not sure that is a good thing yet) and better pockets, the fit just "kills" the Nano-Air for me. Hood is a tiny bit too small, forearms are annoying and the cuffs/long arms could have been done better...for me. Which might not be the case for you.
Much as I don't like the annoying things on the Atom LT... "bad" front zipper, annoying pocket locations, and the wind whipping through when I slow down or at a belay. It is not too breathable. The fit is good. I never notice the Atom layered in use. Pockets sure...may be the front zipper, but it's doubtful and the hood fits me with my helmet without binding. I can put up with things I don't generally notice. In this case, for me, the Atom LT is the least annoying of two, really good garments. Likely, because the Atom just fits me better.
"Warm, stretchy, and incredibly breathable".
There are now two of them....
After all it IS all about the base :)
Try them on before you buy is my best suggestion. My guess is one will sing to you. The other will just be singing.
Retail for the Nano-Air is $299.
Retail for the Atom LT is $229.
You can decide by performance, color or price and likely not be disappointed either way. But then what will $60 buy these days....ouch!