I am another fan of having several different options depending on the trip type , conditions, etc.
For most day trips in moderate Tahoe conditions, I carry the Patagonia Nanopuff. It has a pretty amazing amount of warmth for its compactness and weight----but I have certainly pushed it beyond it limits at times. It is an awesome midlayer when moderately active in cold conditions, using it as a warming layer during transitions, or hanging out in moderate conditions. Extended stops in cold to very cold conditions can leave me shivering. I have used the Patagonia Down sweater in similar conditions---it is a great layering piece that is warmer then the Nanopuff. However, the Nanopuff gives me the right amount of warmth most of the the time---and it has become my "go to" piece. The Arcteryx Atom LT looks like it has the same functionality as the Nanopuff but I jumped on the blaze orange Nanopuff when I was able to find it at a deep discount.
For hut trips, snow camping, or colder conditions, I carry an Arcteryx Atom SV (synthetic 100 gram coreloft, hooded). It is just the right jacket when things get a bit more frigid and I am not being active. It can be used as a layering piece but I found it to be too warm for that function in the moderate temps we get in Tahoe. It is quite warm, pretty light, and compacts reasonably well----but it doesn't compact nearly as well as the Nanopuff or other ultralight pieces.
I have gravitated towards synthetic pieces over the years---even though I have never had any problems with my down pieces. Maybe it is the idea that they are easier to care for. That said, when it is really cold, the giant Cloudveil down puffy comes out of hibernation.
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 7:31 pm Posts: 167 Location: 802
My go to puffy is the Patagonia Micro Puff Vest. Plenty of warmth in a small, lightweight package. I like the versatility of synthetic for the highly variable weather of Northern Vermont.
I'm a bit more minimalist when it comes to layers, but that's also because I don't do really long tours and don't stop moving. Even on days when it's below 0 I'll wear just a midweight long underwear top underneath my shell (Burton AK Jussi Anorak), maybe I'll wear my R1 hoody if it's getting into the negative teens.
I don't usually skimp, especially on stuff that could save a life, but the equivalent of $50 got me a decent down jacket from Decathlon (a European sports superstore chain). Their kit has woked well for me in the past. Temperatures in the North Western Alps tend to be pretty moderate so no need to go the full North Face, Patagonia or other bigger money routes - though their offerings tend to be a lot prettier.