My Patagonia Levitation Hoody arrived toward the end of last winter season. When I initially got my hands on it I thought it may be a little lightweight for Scottish winter especially having used (and loved) my Patagonia Knifeblade for the last few years – it was going to be a hard garment to beat.
The Knifeblade was made using Polortec Pro Shield where as the Levitation was constructed with Patagonia’s own lightweight, double-weave soft-shell fabric made up primarily of 5.2-oz 100% polyester shell with a DWR finish. As well as a noticeably different feel the price tag was almost halved making for a competitively priced softshell jacket. The overall weight of the two jackets is very similar; my scales put the Levitation 25g lighter. Having endured gale force winds in both jackets the Knifeblade is certainly more windproof but whilst guiding I actually preferred the added breathability of the Levitation as I was moving more frequently as hence producing more heat.
The Knifeblade has two chest pockets where the new Levitation has just one but in addition sports two hip pockets. I personally prefer the two chest pockets but made twice the size to fit gloves in if necessary. The chest pocket remaining on the Levitation is large enough to fit a map/smartphone or camera inside but I would have liked to see a smoother zip here such as the one used on the main jacket opening which is excellent. The two hip pockets are nice and large but only just sit above my harness; I expect some will find them to be well clear possibly because I like to synch my harness nice and high whilst climbing.
One huge improvement on the Levitation was the hood. Where I found the Knifeblade to be a little short at the front, the Levitation hood is much better and swallowed my Black Diamond Vapor helmet with ease; the front zip comes high enough to protect the face from driving winds, one elastic tab on the rear controls the cord that runs around the hood tightening and loosening simply with one hand.
A great innovative idea are the cuffs. Where almost every other outdoor jacket the cuffs tighten via a Velcro strap the Levitation cuffs are instead constructed with a nylon and spandex fabric making them stretchy enough to simply slide over the wrist and over the glove. There is no fastening or velcro adjustment so initially they are a little fiddly to get used too, especially with big winter gloves on. Once practised though I have found them to be a quick and comfortable system, if not better alternative to a velcro adjustment.
I have used the Levitation Hoody for many days in Scotland during the winter, both for personal climbing and instructing in the mountains. In this harsh environment it has proven to be a comfortable and well fitted garment that benefits from a brilliant hood and elastic cuff system. It has also seen a couple of days out on rock and looks to be very durable showing no signs of wear just yet. Being more breathable than the Knifeblade I expect its true home will be in an Alpine environment where speed = heat and breathable garments become even more important. I can’t wait to put mine to the test in the big mountains!