best of brand

The Strategist Guide to Shopping at Patagonia

Photo: Retailer

Jump to section

Anyone who has shopped at a retailer with few physical storefronts knows it can be hard to figure out where to begin. There are lots of options that all seem as worthy as the next, but the reality is that products from any given brand are not all created equal. When you shop as regularly as we do, you learn that many brands just do some things better than they do other things. With an expansive inventory of hard-wearing, adventure-minded gear, Patagonia is one of those brands. Founded by Yvon Chouinard, who recently donated the company and all future profits to fight climate change, the company’s sustainable efforts extend to its apparel and accessories. To help you find the best jackets, fleece pullovers, windbreakers, base layers, travel bags, and more, we’ve compiled all the products that our writers and editors — plus designers, CEOs, chefs, and, of course, Chris Black — have recommended.


Strategist writers and editors praise the Black Hole line for its sturdiness, impressive capacity, and lifetime guarantee. This burly 40-liter duffel is no different, which is why it’s our pick for the best weekender bag. With a water-repellent and abrasion-resistant coating, it’s made for off-grid adventures, and at under three pounds, it’s unassumingly lightweight while letting you pack heavy. If you plan to hike with your duffel, you can replace the cushioned sling strap with padded backpack straps, which is associate editor Louis Cheslaw’s favorite way to carry his Black Hole. And as seen in our dad edition of the Strategist Haul, editor Maxine Builder’s longtime “Patagonia fanboy” father can’t live without his. “He can run through an airport wearing it like a backpack, easily throw it into the overhead compartment of a plane as a carry-on, and still bring a week’s worth of clothes,” Builder says.

Cheslaw named the Black Hole 26-liter size his best purchase of 2021, even referring to it as his “secret second suitcase” because while it qualifies as an airline personal item, it relieves a ton of space in his rolling luggage. “I still feel like I’m cheating the system whenever I get it into the cabin,” Cheslaw says. “Just like a suitcase, the bag lies flat on the floor when you pack it with a deep and structured interior.”

Although this isn’t technically a Dopp kit, Patagonia’s packing cubes are a great solution for storing your larger toiletries. Matt Kays, a senior vice-president at PR Consulting, actually has two: He uses one as a Dopp kit and the other as a “wet bag” post-beach. Meanwhile, Peter Hunsinger, co-founder of sock brand Kane 11, appreciates that this packing cube is roomy enough to hold a pair of shoes on one side and other essentials, such as grooming products and a travel blow-dryer, can be stored opposite. A top handle and daisy chain mean you can secure it inside a large bag or hang it from a hook.

For something more compact to house your toiletries, Builder uses the three-liter packing cube for her makeup and the six-liter for bulkier travel items like shower essentials, face wipes, and her toothbrush. She says the six-liter packing-cube design is ideal because, like the ten-liter option above, it can be unzipped to lay flat and completely open.

When researching the best fanny packs, we dubbed this sturdy, rugged Patagonia waist bag the perfect option for traveling. Recommended to us by Charlotte Stone, who runs an eponymous shoe label, this five-liter pack has all the crowd-pleasing features as the rest of the Black Hole line. It’s “ridiculously functional,” says Stone, who keeps training treats in it on daily walks with her two dogs and even tethers their leashes to the bag’s webbing straps to go fully hands-free.

When we asked Sam Sanders about his favorite things, he mentioned this Patagonia cross-body, which is just big enough for his wallet, phone charger, some gum, ChapStick, and sunglasses. “Everything goes in there,” Sanders says. “It fits ergonomically on my body, and it’s cute. I get compliments on this thing — I never got compliments on my cell phone and thick-ass wallet poking in my back pocket.”

Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens is a fan of Patagonia’s Black Hole bags, but instead of a duffel, she opts for the brand’s 25-liter day pack. Kitchens says the backpack has several perfectly sized compartments for things like “chargers and night guards and passports and AirPods.” The top-zipper closure makes for easy access, and the exterior of the bag still looks sleek without looking “all that tricked out,” Kitchens says.


A well-known Strategist favorite, Patagonia Baggies are adored by current and former writers and editors alike. When we asked stylish men about the best men’s shorts, the Baggies were the leading nylon option. With a quick-drying mesh liner and pockets that are made to “drain and dry,” the brand says they’re “designed for use in and out of the water.” They’re also the best overall pick in our roundup of swim trunks, in part because of their fashion clout. They “have become something of a summer staple,” says image consultant Patrick Kenger. “They’re the perfect length, come in multiple color options, and it’s an attractive price point.” Strategist contributor Chris Black is another fan and considers his pair one of the best summer basics, especially for their deep pockets that easily hold essentials. Baggies come in several colors and patterns, as well as five- and seven-inch inseams.

Baggies are also available in a women’s cut, which Builder and Strategist senior editor Winnie Yang both mention for being all-around shorts that can be worn for lounging, walking the beach, and running errands. Builder prefers the shorter Baggies and sizes up “so they aren’t too short,” while Yang says she prefers the five-inch inseam for a more modest fit.


“I will die for (or in) my Patagonia Nano Air Jacket,” Strategist writer Jeremy Rellosa says. “It’s the most versatile outdoor jacket I own. I can wear it for easy hikes in cool weather, or use it as my main insulator or heavy layer on winter days around town. And it’s just downright cozy.” An experienced backpacker and hiker, Rellosa has tested it against similar jackets from other brands, including the Arc’teryx Atom LT, the Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata, and the North Face Ventrix, but the Nano Air remains his favorite — so much so that he owns two: one for everyday and the other for very special climbs.

Builder owns a very similar packable men’s puffer to this Down Sweater. “I sort of look like the Michelin Man when I put it on, maybe because it’s the men’s version. (If you want a slim fit, there’s a women’s version, too.) But man, it’s warm,” Builder says. “It’s also super-lightweight because it’s down, so I never really overheat while wearing it.” Although it’s not waterproof, Builder says it’s comfortable and lightweight enough to layer under her navy Snowbelle or black Torrentshell.

Camilla Cho, SVP of e-commerce at Vox Media, owns two of these Houdini Jackets, which have been with her through many runs and races and are still in great shape. “The thing is so light you forget you have it on,” Cho says. “It’s perfect for exercising outdoors when it’s a bit breezy and great for traveling, since you can stuff the whole thing into the side pocket so it becomes a little pouch that you can throw into a bag.” David Bruno, a cyclist and owner of Départ Wine in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, even keeps this shell with him at all times in case the weather changes unexpectedly.

To find the best jackets for cycling to work, we spoke to men who’ve been doing it for years. Mike Radenbaugh, co-founder and CEO of electric-bike company Rad Power Bikes, recommends Patagonia’s Micro Puff Hoody as a base layer because it’s warm and windproof, and the cuffs have elastic that keep water and wind out. This insulation is made of 100 percent recycled polyester, and according to the brand, it’s the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any jacket.

When we talked to cool people — like professional skiers, shop owners, and ski patrollers — about the best ski-jacket options, the Patagonia Triolet Shell earned the top overall spot. Jackie Kearney, a ski patroller at Lake Tahoe’s Kirkwood Resort, says many of her colleagues wear it because “it’s sturdy and waterproof” and because of technical features like “more pockets and pit zips, which are nice to get some more ventilation.” And when celebrity stylist Mac Huelster temporarily moved to the West Coast, he replaced his snow jacket with the lighter Triolet, which he says is ideal for layering.

When we asked Pressed Juicery CEO Hayden Slater about the things he can’t live without, he said this Bivy Down Vest is one of his favorite purchases of all time. “Not only is it down and crazy warm, but it’s also light and easy to travel with. Sometimes, I’ll even bring it places to use as a pillow,” Slater says of the insulated down-and-fleece lining.

Strategist writer Arielle Avila thrifted this Nano Puff Parka before moving to New York City last year, and says its insulation was effective during her first winter. “It’s incredibly warm, so I’d wear it by itself, but it’s super-lightweight, so I was able to layer it underneath my less substantial jackets,” she says. And if she gets too warm, Avila says she can easily pack it into a tote for storage. “I can’t stress how nice it is to have a puffer that doesn’t take up lots of closet space,” she says.


Builder also has this fleece in beige with a Kelly-green pocket and trim that she got in 2009 at the Patagonia outlet in Freeport, Maine. “It’s the perfect autumn coat for when you’re hot in the sun, but it’s still a brisk 50 degrees outside,” she says. Plus, even after years of wear, “the actual stitching has stayed intact, and the zippers work great,” Builder says.

In our guide to what to buy to look like a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, we spoke to Jeremy Banon, associate at the venture-capital fund Javelin Venture Partners, to find out more about the status items cherished by the technology tribe. On his list is this mid-weight Patagonia fleece he says is so ubiquitous that he compares it to “the North Face of San Francisco.” “And it’s usually in that asparagus-green color,” he says. “There are a lot of neutral tones here.”

Strategist junior writer (and resident Minnesotan) Brenley Goertzen was gifted this Snap-T pullover fleece, and it’s served as a soft and toasty layer under her winter parka for the past few years. Made from recycled polyester microfleece, the pullover’s four-snap front closure and collar keep her neck extra-warm on below-zero nights.

Base layers

In our roundup of the best long underwear for women, the Capilene thermals were named our best synthetic option, and are suitable for a range of outdoor winter activities. The flatlock seams offer chafe-free comfort, and there’s enough stretch to the fabric for high-intensity movements. When she’s not wearing the merino leggings she designs for Ply-Knits, Carolyn Yim swears by the Capilene base-layer bottoms. She also appreciates the brand’s commitment to responsible sourcing and points out that these thermals are made from 92 percent recycled PET bottles — plus, they can be donated to Patagonia’s Common Threads program, which will recycle them into a new garment. Primary Essentials owner Lauren Snyder also approves: “I like Patagonia thermals because they really do work, and they last. I still have pairs that I’ve had for years.”

Builder says these Capilene tees are her go-tos for most outdoor activities. “The long-sleeve is great for sailing and kayaking, because it’s not too heavy and also protects from the sun,” she says. “And then [the short-sleeve] is just a great sweat-wicking shirt for hikes.” Capilene is known for its anti-odor technology, which keeps you feeling cooler and fresher for longer.


Yang is a fan of Patagonia’s Hemp Canvas workwear line. She owns a pair of the Bib Overalls, which have buttons on each side of the hip for easy on-and-off, as well as buttons on each shoulder strap for adjusting the length of the torso. Yang also has the insulated and heavy-duty Barn Coat, which she’s owned since 2018. According to the brand, this topper is more durable than conventional cotton duck canvas and is built for cold weather.

For kids

To bundle up your little ones, Patagonia offers a wide range of options for small humans. Yang has tried a number of other brands — including North Face, Columbia, Spyder, Polarn O. Pyret, Hanna Andersson, and Target’s in-house label Cat & Jack — but says Patagonia’s kids’ outerwear is noticeably well-made and long-lasting. “We’ve been the recipient of plenty of hand-me-downs, and the Patagonia stuff always looks like it’s brand-new, while some other stuff might fade or look more worn over time,” Yang says. She uses the Hi-Loft Down line on colder days (freezing and below) and when it’s snowing. “It’s not waterproof, but our son played in the snow in the bunting, and it kept him dry and toasty,” Yang says. The Tribbles Hoodie is reversible, but Yang prefers to keep the fleece-lined side on the inside for added warmth. If you’re concerned about the price, Yang says Patagonia also has good resale value, and she likes that you can send or take in any used Patagonia for credit toward new items.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Strategist Guide to Shopping at Patagonia