Golite Pinyon Synthetic Puffy – Review

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 20, 2011      

Editor’s note from Lou: I got back from Europe last night. Landed in Salt Lake City so I’m strategically positioned for the Outdoor Retailer trade show, otherwise known as the Temple of Gear (all hail). To that end, I thought we’d fire up a few gear reviews we’ve got waiting in the wings. That way I get a few hours breather from blogging while I check out what’s new. But don’t despair, I’ve got more trip reports from Europe, plus more Scarpa and Dynafit stuff from the old country. For now, here is something from Jason, one of the now grown mountain boys who’s been around WildSnow HQ since he was a tot.

Golite Pinyon jacket for backcountry skiing.

Golite Pinyon jacket for backcountry skiing.

I’ve been testing the GoLite Pinyon Ridge synthetic jacket as a replacement for carrying around a heavyweight fleece layer. Mostly for backcountry skiing, but it’ll probably end up being used during elk chasing and other mountain activities. I’m happy with the changeover.

The Pinyon packs smaller in the backpack and weighs less than a fleece per unit warmth. Although it slightly heavier than a down alternative, it insulates even if it gets wet. (Yes, Virginia, there is a reason famed alpinist Steve House uses a synthetic puffy instead of down.) The jacket has “zonal” insulation, simply a fancy word for placing thicker insulation in the torso and less in the sleeves. Building this way can reduce weight and bulk a bit , so good, but I don’t think it’s that big a deal.

Whoever designed this jacket did a good job for tall low-fat guys like me, e.g., the length in the sleeves and the torso is a little longer than most other synthetic shells I’ve tried, and the torso cut is slim. A fit like that looks nice (have I progressed past the XXL look?) and also provides better warming than a jacket that is too big in the chest.

Pinyon comes armed with YKK zippers (nothing better), and three good, zippered, pocket placements (two slash pockets and a chest pocket) for your trinkets.

The hood is detachable! If you don’t like it, take it off. As most of you backcountry skiing Wildersnowers seem to always want to know, yes, the hood fits a helmet, it’s thus a bit large when used on a helmet-less head, but still works.

Only downside, you have to be careful because the exterior of the jacket is lightweight polyester and will tear easily if snagged on a tree branch or ski pole. That said, this is synthetic so a tear is only an aesthetic issue — you’re not going to spray feathers like you do when you tear a down puffy. Also, I feel a jacket like this is a layering piece, so in my scheme, it’ll be under a more beefy shell much of the time.

I tested the Pinyon on a couple tours so far involving some good skinning, skiing and snowmobiling and don’t have any complaints. It insulates. I’m a happy guy. This one is staying in the quiver or on the bod.

Shop for it.


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10 Responses to “Golite Pinyon Synthetic Puffy – Review”

  1. kevin January 20th, 2011 11:20 am

    As you’re recommending this to replace a fleece layer, can you shed any insight on the Pinyon’s wicking capabilities Vs fleece – or, how did you use it in conjunction with / without other layers in different temps and weather conditions to keep from wearing a puddle?

  2. Robert Tangen January 20th, 2011 1:50 pm

    I’m no expert, but here is a little scientific experiment, an A / B comparison of fleece vs. puffy by a mountaineer: “I went to fleece exclusively after topping out on Shoestring in minus 10 F (before wind-chill) with 30 to 40 mph gusts. We were working hard and sweating while moving, and my Capilene 3 and R2 Fleece let the sweat out. My partner was wearing a Micro-Puff under his shell, and it was a frozen mess, stuck to his shell and not warm at all anymore. It breathes, but not nearly as well as fleece.” Your choice of a puffy could lead to your demise, if I may be super-over-dramatice to make a point.

  3. Chris January 20th, 2011 2:22 pm

    Robert – I wonder if that example has more to due with the shell each person was wearing over their insulation? I would say my primaloft sweater breathes pretty well, a lot better than a windstopper fleece. Nothing beats regular fleece in breathability, but then it’s kind of worthless as an outer layer. The puffy packs down way smaller, and is much easier to layer since it’s slippery.

  4. Christian January 20th, 2011 2:33 pm

    I guess the real question is why you would wear an insulating layer if you are sweating. It is often quite windy when I am touring – to put the insulating layer on top of the shell/softshell is much preferable to taking the jacket off etc. In -20c (real not effective) I wear just a wool net under my jacket and pants. When I stop I put on the insulating layer…simple an effective. (When downhillskiing, I tend to wear the insulating layer under the shell – fleece first, and a puffy in addition if it is really cold).

  5. Robert Tangen January 20th, 2011 3:28 pm

    I don’t know what shells the two climbers were wearing, but perhaps it was similar to what expert snow and ice climber Dane wears, see his huge amount of information and advice at Coldthistle.blogspot.com:
    – “I am using an R1 Hoody inner layer.
    – Layer TWO: That depends on the outside temps and the level of aerobic action I expect. My warm weather choice is: Eddie Bauer Front Point jacket…
    – a combo hard shell and soft shell. Very water resistant (my top was dry in a soaking waterfall that went straight through my pants and filled my boots to the brim) and very breathable. I am highly impressed with the details of this garment and the combo of materials used. A surprising and almost immediate favorite for cold technical climbing.”
    He uses a belay parka ala Mark Twight’s theory of “action suit plus belay.”
    He says he always tries to avoid sweating by wearing the coolest action suit possible, but all climbers run into extremely severe pitches that cause the climber to sweat, even if naked. When he stops moving he dons a DAS parka or down parka if very cold.

  6. Christian January 20th, 2011 4:09 pm

    This is the wool net I mentioned above: http://www.aclima.no/index.php?view=prod&cat=1&subcat=2&lang=en
    Got a few laughs when we used it in Austria – until they tried it. It is the prefered underwear for polar expeditions (among Norwegians)…I like it for touring. For short super high intensity I usually end up using the syntetic version.

  7. Mark January 20th, 2011 8:03 pm

    I consider a piece like this and an old fashioned hooded windshirt to be among the essential components of the lightweight kit. I personally eschew heavier softshell tops although for the pants I dig it.

  8. Lou January 21st, 2011 8:34 am

    My take is that yes, perhaps the synthetic puffy doesn’t have as much comfort range during high temps during work, but that’s it’s warmer per unit weight than a fleece. That’s why we like them, using the philosophy of working in light layers, but keeping the puffy handy for stops and for dowhill if the temps are cold. In my opinion, many backcountry skiers don’t carry enough insulation for an unplanned lengthy stop such as when helping an injured person. Using a puffy as part of the kit can really help with that discrepancy. Not always necessary, but something to consider, especially if temperatures are cold.

  9. Robert Tangen January 21st, 2011 10:29 am

    I’m certainly no expert, but maybe I can sum up some of the writings out there about clothing: the most famous proponent of the “action suit plus belay parka” was Mark F. Twight in his book, Extreme Alpinism, Climbing Light, Fast, and High: “Suppose that for your climb you wear clothing components that create a light, flexible ‘action suit.’ Depending on conditions, this could include … light shells worn directly over long underwear.” (P. 83.) Some of the comments so far follow this, such as wool nets, synthetic nets, extremely thin merino or synthetic undershirts under windshirts such as the Houdini. As conditions worsen, many climbers and back country skiers start out with more fleece, such as the famous R1 Hoody, and / or an R2 fleece vest, but never a puffy because the puffy has two slabs of nylon enclosing the insulation, and moisture cannot pass easily enough through two slabs of nylon. Beefier shells include the single layer Frontpoint, 17 oz, or one of the stretch-woven soft shells, but never Gore-Tex or eVent UNLESS it is actually raining. Movement is the main source of warmth in this system, which means the climber or skier must have a large parka at the top of his pack for instant donning as soon as movement stops. Twight says if you use a synthetic parka, don’t bother to take off the light shell of the action suit, just put the parka on over it, and even if it is wet, the parka will absorb it and eventually expel it, sometimes not until the middle of the night as the climber sleeps inside his parka and inside his synthetic sleeping bag.

  10. kevin January 21st, 2011 11:07 am

    Discussion confirms my suspisions, and approach to my clothing choices which is lightest possible, highly breathable, base layer(s) w/ (soft/hard) shell to manage anticipated temps / precip / wind for my planned activity. As noted in the thread above, my goal is also to minimize or eliminate sweating during activity. In my pack are insualting over-garments for periods of (planned or unplanned) lower activity. If I am able to accomplish my “no sweat’ goal, then layering on more insulation over the “activity level” layers works well, a higher failure rate on the “no sweat’ goal then initiates a whole different set of thoughts / actions based on the situation (as I am sure y’all know).

    To date my low-activity insulation has been down. I did recently pick up some Pata-gucci prima loft pants, at a killer price, but have yet to try them out. I’ll definitely consider synthetics in the future,… and those wool net shirts!

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