We’re just going to come right out and say it: the recent proliferation of synthetic Puff options in baselayers is a welcome change from that heavy, sweaty old fleece we used to lug around in our drybags. And while there will always be a place for the legendary, highly fashionable Simms Guide Fleece Bib – a.k.a. Raz Suit – we’re quickly working the Puff program into our baselayer strategy and it’s something you might want consider.
- Puff is really warm, without the bulk. Within seconds after putting it on, you can honestly feel the heat radiating and where we tend to fish in Alaska and BC, instant heat is good. Bonus: Less bulk isn’t just less constricting under your waders and wading jacket, it’s significantly lighter in your gear bag, something to consider when trying to trim weight for those airline flights. In fact, most Puff options are highly compressible and can be stuffed, then zipped into their own pockets, making it a lot easier to organize gear in the bottom of a drybag or throw into your fishing kit.
- Puff dries quickly. Rain. Riverwater. Sweat. It’s all gonna find you somehow and back in the days of heavy Polartec—or worse yet, those cotton waffle longjohns—it took a full day or more in cool, damp air conditions to fully dry your gear. Not so with the Puff. Even after taking on a bit of water, it dries quickly from the heat of your body, making these some increasingly important few pieces of gear for any angler interested in supreme comfort and warmth while on and off the water.
- Even wet, synthetic Puff stays warm. We’ve been loving the Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover for that reason alone. Consider this typical scenario when landing any big salmon, steelhead or bonefish: no matter how cold the wind and water, one hand instinctively goes in for the tail and the other for the gentle pec fin cradle. Sure, you get the fish, but you also get wet to the elbows – every time. But with the Nano Puff’s synthetic insulation, you don’t get that cold, clammy feeling creeping up your arms for the rest of the day. The Puff sheds water, and what stays a little damp stays quite warm, too.
- Puff fits close, without constructing. This one is key. Whereas a close-fitting fleece can bind up against your arms shoulders while casting, the puff compresses like it’s not even there. It just feels better and natural. What’s more, Puff’s nylon construction slides against your wading jacket instead of grabbing it and messing up your cast. Casting for 10 hours a day is hard enough as it is!
- Puff is actually too hot sometimes, especially in the case of the Micro Puff Pants. But don’t let that turn you off at all. It’s easy enough to regulate your core temp by shedding a top layer and being a little on the warm side is welcome when submersed from your waist down in a cold river for the next 10 hours. Combined with a light polypro baselayer against your skin, the Micro Puff pants easily keep you warmer than any other option we’ve tried. Now, that said, these pants aren’t for the hiking angler. They’re just too warm, and they’re best suited for anglers using a boat to get from spot to spot.