When you’re in the wilderness and the weather turns foul, a hard-shell jacket can be worth many times it’s weight in gold. But, as many will know, not all jackets of this variety are created equal. Some are bulky & cumbersome, unfortunately reminiscent of an old British Army great-coat. Whilst others are uncomfortably akin to wrapping yourself in a clammy plastic shopping bag. The Patagonia Leashess is certainly neither.  I’d hazard to claim it’s probably more comparable to a finely tuned Ferrari race-car. Capable of getting you safely to the completion of your fast & light outdoor adventure in optimal comfort & safety. Mine’s also bright red.

Specs & Features

The Patagonia Leashless is a technical 3-layer Gore-Tex Active hard-shell jacket. That means it uses a 3-layer fabric construction consisting of: a 30-denier nylon face fabric, next the Gore-Tex Active membrane, then on the inside a Tricot lining (taking care of next-skin comfort, membrane protection & wicking). The Gore-Tex Active fabric integrates the backing material directly into the waterproof membrane to deliver a highly breathable and streamlined garment. It is also the most breathable of the Gore-Tex family of fabrics. Basically this is a jacket suited for high-output activities where a extremely breathable, lightweight & very weather resistant jacket is a must. This could be anything from mountaineering, alpine climbing & multi-pitch rock climbing to lightweight through-walking. The nature of Gore-Tex Active, means that this jacket will actually breath better the more you move & exert yourself.

As per usual the jacket has been treated with a durable water repellant (DWR) finish on the outside. Like any fresh DWR treated garment this performed brilliantly for the first few months, but now that the jacket has been thrashed on many trips, it’s definitely time for to treat it to a wash & possibly a re-application of the DWR.

The Jacket weighs in at a very reasonable 370g (or thereabouts), which basically means it’s still light enough to take up that alpine climbing route when the weather is unpredictable, but tough enough to stand up to plenty of repeated abuse. Packed down into it’s hood the jacket is barley bigger than a 1L water-bottle.

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The fit of this jacket is similar to many alpine orientated shells, with enough room for a cold-weather layering system underneath. I’m a very lean 6’3″ (190cm) and went for the large to get the length needed for my lanky 190cm arm-span. The result it that on me the jacket fits is a bit loose with less/thinner layers underneath, but not annoyingly so. The underarm articulation is quite good, but not the best I’ve tested. The pocket layout is simple but effective. There are two larger mesh-backed hand-warmer pockets on the front & two smaller chest pockets (one with external access, the other internal). My only minor gripe here is that the hand-warmer pockets could be a tad higher as they can interfere a bit with your harness or pack’s waist-belt.

The elastic waist & hood cinches are simple and easy to operate, even with fairly bulky gloves (& frozen hands). The helmet-compatible hood is a winner, it locks down tight for foul weather & the lightly stiffened laminated brim really helped to keep the rain, hail, sleet, snow, ice & wind from attacking my face when the elements decided to show their fury. The zippers are all quality YKK & mostly of the watertight variety, with the primary zipper containing an internal storm flap for extra security. Under the arms there are are two well positioned pit-zips taking care of additional venting duties.

This is a minimalist, albeit fully-featured jacket. With little touches, such as the micro-fleece lining at the chin area of the zipper-flap & behind the neck, showing that it’s not completely without some creature comforts. To keep the sleeve ends in line there are simple hook-&-loop (think Velcro) adjustment tabs. Internally all panels are seam-sealed with some beautiful attention to detail evident in the seam-taping & finishing. All in all a well rounded list of features, without the excess weight & bulk of many similarly featured jackets.

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Our adventures together

It’s been over six months now that I’ve been using this jacket and in that time it’s been my go-to shell for all kinds of outdoor exploits. I’m not going to bore you with a day-by-day chronicle of all of those trips, but will focus of some of the occasions where I really tested & pushed this jacket.

My first trip using the Leashless began when it arrived (by special delivery) a matter of minutes before I embarked from the Alpine Guides office on a 10-day Technical Mountaineering Course (TMC) in the Aorkai/Mt. Cook National Park in New Zealand. I was forced to make a difficult decision, do I place all of my trust in this new unproved garment, or play it safe & take my other (proven, albeit significantly heavier) jacket along as a backup? In the end that decision was made for me, when Dave my guide for the course, stripped everyone’s clothing & equipment to the bare essentials. Fast forward to the end of the course & my initial mistrust only seemed trivial. This jacket was perfect for everything I encountered in the mountains & more. So in summary, I had learned already that the Leashless indeed lives up to it’s high claims of being exceptionally breathable. There were several occasions that I was able to leave it on whilst others in the group were stripping down to less layers, the pit-zips really helped in that department. The jacket also fits well over my other layers & didn’t inhibit movement at all whilst in the thick of climbing, practicing rope-work in various scenarios & placing protection. We had great weather for the whole trip, so I was still yet to experience it’s true capabilities in keeping precipitation at bay, but that would come…

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On the summit of of Mt. Alymer, where optimal summer weather provided low winds & air temps on only just below freezing. Aoraki/Mount cook National Park, NZ

After the TMC, I met-up with my mate Jules back in Mt. Cook Village & we went for a quick 2 night walk-in trip up to the Annette Plateau. This time the weather gods were not so kind & I did experience some icy rain & moisture whilst sleeping at an open bivvy. The Leashless was unfazed & kept me dry as expected. After that we spent a couple days rock climbing at the nearby Sebastapool Bluffs. With some rain-showers & moderate winds blowing around, the Leashless was deployed once again whilst high-up on some great multi-pitch climbs. It was here that the light weight & small pack size of the Leashless was really appreciated, as we only had one small pack between us (which also contained water & my brute of a camera).

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L: Watching the weather roll in at the Annette Plateau. R: Heading up a windy multi-pitch at the Sebastopol Bluffs. (Both – Aoraki/Mount cook National Park, NZ)

Back in my home of South-East Queensland, the Leashless got it’s first taste of a tropical late-summer downpour. My partner Louise & I were spending a couple days up at Springbrook National Park & had hiked down a trail to the base of Purlingbrook Falls. The spray from the 109m waterfall was powerful enough to soak us through so I was wearing the shell already. Suddenly there seemed to be a whole lot more water in the air, falling & not just swirling around in a cloud of delightful mist. A proper rainstorm had sneakily approached whilst we were obliviously wandering around in the rainforest filled valley! Just what I was hoping for. The rain persisted for the rest of that hike and during the ascent back to the top of the cliffs, the membrane was working overtime to expel my increasing heat & sweat. The pit zips were wide open & the Leashless was in fact keeping me much drier than I’d expected from this alpine shell. Wet, hot & humid conditions – combined with high-output activities are a tough place for any waterproof jacket. So much so that it’s often better to just embrace the weather & ‘get wet’. The leashless did great & began to show it’s true colours as a very versatile garment.

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Come at me rain! Soaking in the rain & spray at the base of Purlingbrook Falls, Springbrook National Park, QLD.

So after these exploits & several others the Leashless had well & truly won my heart & cemented it’s rightful place in the gear-closet. When a chance came to once again venture into an alpine setting I knew which shell was going to join me. It was the end of July I found myself en-route to the Victorian Alps with my mate Deano. We were driving through some of the heaviest rain I’d ever seen, always a good way to start an adventure… On our approach to the objective, a winter ascent of Victoria’s highest peak Mt. Bogong, the view was completely obscured by some serious looking clouds. The rain stayed with us right from leaving the car and didn’t abate as we hiked up Staircase Spur. As to be expected From months of hard-use (and zero washes… whoops!) the DWR treatment on the outside of my jacket had started to lose it’s effectiveness. Thus, the relentless rain began to soak into the nylon outer-layer of the jacket, in turn reducing it’s ability to breath. This was fine, but reminded me of the importance of caring for my rain jacket. Upon reaching our hut for the night, I was a bit wetter from my own sweat than would be ideal, but unperturbed. (less under-layers next time would help too). We cranked up the pot-belly stove & had everything dry in no time.

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Heading up Staircase Spur, the drizzle left behind & some light snow beginning to fall. Mount Bogong, Victoria.

The next day it was still raining, but the intensity had eased off a bit. We set off early & soon rose up the spur, moving through a bit of sleet & up into the snow. This time, with less rain to deal with & colder temps, the jacket was venting like a champ, pushing out my perspiration on overdrive. As the altitude rose & the temperature dropped, I added an extra mid-layer & we soon has strapped on our snow-shoes. Once we left the security of the tree-line & were out in the open – the strong winds, sideways snow & dismal visibility meant we had to keep moving fast to avoid getting cold. The Leashless gallantly took care of all wind-stopping duties, whilst the hood kept my face well-protected & my head from turning into an icicle. The long traverse following the pole-line across the exposed high ridge of Mt. Bogong was a great experience & we stumbled into the warm security of Cleve Cole Memorial hut a few hours later. I was pleased to discover that my layers were dry beneath my hoarfrost encrusted jacket. That night we were snow-camped close to the hut & fell asleep listening the weather taking a turn for the crazy through the thin walls of the tent. We awoke to a lot of fresh snow & the promise of blizzard like conditions for the return journey. The winds had picked up to about 80kmph, with apparent temps dropping to somewhere between -15 & -20 degrees Celsius. We braced ourselves and made it across without any serious incident, with only a few dicey moments coming down Eskdale Spur. Again the Leashless took all of this in in it’s stride, keeping the weather outside whilst I was warm & dry inside.

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L: Our first crossing of Bogong’s high ridge, in a lull of the sideways snow & wind. R: After completing the return journey & arriving back within the safety of the treeline.

In Summary

If you’ve made it this far you’ll have a pretty good idea that I’m a big fan of this Jacket. For me it sits in that great place between lightweight minimalism & durability. The design & workmanship are top notch, with Patagonia’s customary attention to detail. It excels in it’s intended environment of rugged alpine terrain, where moving fast & keeping equipment light is important. On top of that this is a jacket that will be at home outside of the alpine too, allowing for year-round use in many-climates. Where shall we venture next together next?

REVIEW: Patagonia Leashless GTX
WATERPROOFNESS95%
BREATHABILITY90%
FIT85%
WEIGHT90%
FEATURES90%
VALUE85%
PROs
  • Lightweight & packable without compromising durability
  • Well thoughtout & useful features
  • GTX Active - It breathes very well!
CONs
  • A bit bulky for my frame without winter layers underneath.
  • Hand pockets could be a touch higher
  • Arm articulation could be improved slightly.
89%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (9 Votes)
62%

About The Author

Lachlan Gardiner

Lachlan works as a freelance photographer, writer and videographer. His practice lies somewhere between storytelling and being a total gear nerd. Often found hiking, mountaineering, climbing, cycling, packrafting, or just hunting down the next story - Lachlan will take basically any excuse to get into the outdoors. In between all of the above, he also works in our Paddy Pallin store in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.

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