Let me tell you about one of my favorite pieces of outdoor clothing: The DAS parka made by Patagonia. There is no better jacket made for cold winter days! It keeps you warm, whether you’re hanging at the belay on a climb or tagging a summit on a big ski day. I got my first version of this garment when I started guiding on Denali some ten years ago. Before that, I had for years insisted on flimsy down jackets to see me through the Colorado winters, although usually with quite a few shivers and cold hands and feet to go with it. That barely worked, and it wasn’t always comfortable.
When Alaska called, however, I needed something warm for North America’s highest mountain. Still, in the days of overstuffed 8,000’ down parkas, which fit the Michelin Man and his wallet a lot better than me, I was looking for more reasonable options that could withstand the rigors of the arctic environment. Enter the DAS Parka. It was the required piece of equipment on the summit ridge of Denali at 20,000’ and kept me warm on 25 days of expedition life, but the super alpine is not it’s the only playground. Since my DAS parka was red, it matched my ski patrol uniform, and on extra cold mornings I’d cozy up in it, riding the ski lift to work. Often, the clear mornings after a snowstorm would reach record low temperatures, and we would be standing on a ridge high above treeline, throwing bombs to make avalanches before the runs would open. It was so cold that your skis wouldn’t even slide on the snow. I’d have my DAS parka on and my hood synched tight around my goggles – my only chance to stay warm.
Nowadays, I have a new version, it’s blue (my favorite color), and I don’t leave home without it, come November. Call me soft in my old age, but I like being warm! It stays in the car during the day when only the early mornings and late evenings are cold in early winter, but it’s there when I need it. It travels with me when I cross over Togwotee Pass on the way to climbing ice in Cody – it hasn’t happened to me yet, but what if my car stalled out at the bottom of Togwotee Pass where cool air sinks into the valley and commonly creates Temperatures of -25F.
Insulation technology is so great these days: this jacket features 120g/m2 Primaloft insulation (think more warmth, less bulk). For long multi-pitch ice routes, I can easily fit the DAS in my climbing pack to pull out during cold belays, or when descending in icy wind at the end of the day.
The cut is generous, fitting over a harness full of gear or extra layers. The pockets are big, allowing for insulated storage of crucial items such as your spare gloves for the next pitch. I have even stuck my thermos into the inside jacket pocket to keep a hot drink handy. The hood fits over my helmet and keeps the wind and spindrift off my neck.
The DAS also works great for skiing, fitting over my lighter jackets that I wear on the ascent. It’s lightweight, water-resistant and windproof nylon shell keeps the elements out. I have used the DAS on the ski area as well as in the backcountry. I pull it out of my pack when taking a break and revel in its coziness. It has me covered getting off the Jackson Hole tram in blizzard conditions. Don’t think that it’s only appropriate for epic days, though – it works great for walking to the post office, too. And all the mail fits in its pockets.