Alice Ormrod takes a look at Patagonia's DAS Light Hoody in female fit, and gives her thoughts after a summer spent running around the mountains, climbing everything from blocs to mountains. Tested in typical UK weather!

I would describe myself as a climber but in truth a jack-of-all mountain trades is potentially more appropriate. I live in Llanberis, Snowdonia. I flit between trad, alpine and bouldering as well as long mountain runs and an addiction to jumping in any body of cold water that looks remotely swimmable. My jackets need to be able to cope with being stuffed in a rucksack full of bivvy gear, provide warmth in the wind/hail/rain that the UK blesses us with and be light enough that I’m not tempted to leave it at home when an emergency layer is a good idea.
Finding a belay jacket that will accompany me on any adventure is difficult and sometimes feels impossible. I have an old synthetic which is perfect post cold swim and on a long Scottish winter belay but often too weighty and bulky to justify taking on evening escapades and fast/light ascents. On the other hand, my down jacket; whilst being warm, lightweight, and perfect for alpine weather is unreliable in the ‘wetter than an otters’ pocket’ UK climate so often gets left at home. I jumped at the chance to try the Patagonia DAS light; which promises to combine the warmth to weight ratio of a down jacket with the versatility of a synthetic, based on the well-loved original DAS parka, just a lighter and more streamlined version!  
This is a super light, super warm belay jacket that is perfect for the UK and summer alpine conditions. It is warm enough for chilly spring/autumn trad belays as well as fast and light winter days. The only conditions it would not work for would be slow paced winter Scotland belays, where maybe an original Patagonia DAS parka is a better choice!
Although I’ve only had the jacket for a few months, it has been tested on everything: from being used as an emergency layer on mountain runs, cold belays in very Scottish weather in the Cuillins and as my preferred jacket after a cold swim. Notable is not only where it has been used, but also where it has remained stashed at the bottom of my bag. It’s light enough to be present but pass completely unnoticed until it’s needed. I find myself bringing it where previously I may have hoped to ‘get away’ without or spent an age scrutinising weather conditions trying to decide what to bring.


Aesthetics and fit: Judge for yourself, but having slunk into many a bar vaguely embarrassed at my attire I can confidently say the DAS lite has banished this feeling- now all I have to worry about is the Alpine-esque smell! (French shower, anyone?). It comes in three colours- a berry red, navy blue and purple so there should be something to suit most.
I’m UK size 8-10 with a classic ‘climber bod’ – meaning I have above average forearm width and am broader across back and shoulders than the standard city-goer! This jacket is made for me. It’s roomy enough to fit over a midweight fleece and thin softshell without feeling like you’re wearing an overstretched bin bag. It allows unrestricted climbing movement. I have a size small, roughly attributable to a UK 10. The sleeves are slightly tapered and some Patagonia wizardry means the jacket doesn’t ride up when going for long reaches. Arm length is adequate for me but may be a touch too short for the lankier climbers out there!
It sits well under a harness; although I find with the lack of a bottom elastic drawcord it can ride up, especially in high winds where I have been known to billow!
Pricing: At the time of writing, it retails at £320 on the Patagonia website. Not cheap, but with Patagonia you do gain sustainability points and an almost clear conscience. The insulation is recycled polyester. The product is fair trade sewn, which is Patagonia-speak for paying workers fairly. The brand also gives 1% of every sale to environmental groups. Other reasons to feel better for spending your hard earned cash include knowing Patagonia have a good reputation for repairing clothing if you do manage to trash it and very good customer service in my experience.
Material: The ultralight ripstop nylon cover is impressively water resistant. It sheds light rain, hail and snow well. Bear in mind it has un-taped seams and will soak through in a heavy downpour, however when it is wet it feels comfortable even if next to skin. I generally ditch my goretex now unless in full winter conditions because of this. The material feels very thin, but I have run through gorse and scraped it against rocks with no visible damage yet. Plumafill recycled polyester insulation packs down small- only slightly larger than a big can of beer (but considerably lighter!). This means it fits comfortably in my 7L light running pack along with my other essentials for a big fell run, and at 275g is similar to a fleece but much more protective against the elements.
Hood: The hood easily fits over a helmet but an elastic toggle at the rear reduces volume and an elasticated rim fixes the hood around your face. This means the hood is close fitting with decent visibility whatever your headgear. This is impressive seen as the jacket is so minimalist, I have a goretex jacket which has 3 different toggles to confuse things and I still get a baggy fit. Bear in mind this is tested whilst wearing a Mammut Wallrider helmet, more traditional or bulkier hard helmets may have a more snug fit.
Pockets and features: There are minimal features to help with weight saving, but what is there is undeniably useful. There are three external pockets: one smaller chest pocket and two larger handwarmer pockets. The pockets are well positioned and easily accessible with a harness on - a must have for my mid-climb snacks. Big enough to comfortably fit essentials (phone, flapjacks, gloves), however slightly too small for a standard OS map which was a handy feature of the original DAS.
Judging by the double zip on one pocket this is supposed to pack into its own pocket- but try as I might, it doesn’t quite fit. This is probably the most irritating thing about the jacket as I would love to be able to clip it to the back of my harness. A small drybag gets around this problem.
The central zip is two way, so you can chuck the DAS lite over a harness and zip it up but still belay. It has decent size toggles so you can grab it with big winter gloves on.

Summary / TL:DR

A new essential belay jacket for me which remains in my rucksack to be used in all but the harshest UK winter conditions. Its perfect for chilly belaying, cold swims and sub zero fell runs, and even transfers well into the pub after! It has great harness and helmet compatability as well as roomy pockets. A bit pricey for some, but definitely worth it for me considering the wear I’ve already got out of it. Minor bugbears include not quite packing into its own pocket and lack of bottom drawcord to prevent it riding up.

Patagonia's Women's DAS Light Hoody is available here