Terrific range of motion // Durable but lightweight // Less expensive than comparable high-end hard shells // PFC-free waterproofing reduces environmental impact // Both pieces include a RECCO reflector
Chest pocket’s “storm-flap” zippers are prone to snagging
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You can be forgiven for thinking that modern hardshell jackets and pants are all pretty much the same. Or, at least, that outdoor brands have achieved a certain fluency in their textile-making, and that shopping for such outer layers requires only that you cross-reference jacket color against that of your hot-forged ice-tool shafts. Now, Patagonia has further simplified this purchasing process with their new Dual Aspect series: burly, waterproof, and more eco-friendly than your typical hardshell.
Like any hardshell worth its salt, the Dual Aspect Jacket (456 grams) and Bibs (312 grams) are fully weatherproof. I felt like an over-prepared fisherman while shuffling up a steep ice pitch last winter, my hood cinched securely around my helmet as I battled up a semi-frozen flow that gushed with water. I was dry then and I remained dry a few weeks later, on the Canadian Rockies ice classic Polar Circus, while breaking chest-deep trail for the better part of two hours. A less-worthy hardshell would have surely wetted out as I swam, huffed, and cursed through the faceted snow, but I remained dry and largely sweat-free, keeping me in good spirits as I reached the steep upper pitches.
Waterproof jackets that are indeed waterproof are not news—so why am I spraying to you? Well, most waterproof jackets utilize perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in their waterproofing process, a problematic compound that never degrades. This resiliency has a number of personal and planetary ramifications—the Environmental Protection Agency has said PFCs have “toxicity properties to an extraordinary degree.” So why are we still using hardshells with PFCs? Because until now it was near impossible to achieve a meaningful level of waterproofness without PFCs.
While Patagonia’s PFC-free recipe isn’t publicly available, it relies on “hydrocarbons or silicone-based DWRs depending on the materials.” Either way, both materials are inherently more environmentally friendly because they require a less-intensive manufacturing process, and they will break down over time. The Dual Aspect suit receives Patagonia’s notorious and punctilious stamp of waterproofness approval, the H₂No Performance Standard, a standard that I tried my hardest to best via a miserably wet June in a coastal rainforest, slushy spring ice, backcountry ski approaches, and long winter routes in the Rockies. This suit hung tough.
Beyond its waterproofness, the Dual Aspect suit was (thank goodness) breathable, owing in equal parts to its three-layer design and generous pit zips and thigh vents. Standout features for the jacket include elevated hand-warmer pockets for easy access while wearing a harness; an underarm gusset to enable a full range of motion (keeping the hem tucked neatly underneath said harness); and a large, brimmed hood that you can cinch down in all manner of ways. The bibs receive a similarly thoughtful treatment. Most notable is the high-step gusset that provides truly unrestricted hip mobility—a rarity in the hardshell-pant genre. The stretchy, “bike-inspired” suspenders are low profile and lay beneath a harness or hip belt with supreme comfort, and a zip fly and drop seat enable you to relieve yourself at all but the most hanging of belay stances. This element alone would have sold the pants for me, and accompanied with the feature-laden jacket, with its environmentally conscious weather treatment, Patagonia has developed a winning combination with the new Dual Aspect series.
Anthony Walsh is a digital editor at Climbing.