As the winter stretched through November and December here in the Pacific Northwest, backcountry locales and resorts alike struggled to have enough snow to offer any fresh turns to skiers. It was, as they say, a slow year. However, with an epic storm cycle stretching from late December through mid-January, we’ve finally gotten the snow that we need to recharge our aquifers and get some stellar lines. With that in mind, I’ve been having an incredibly good time riding lifts and ripping skins in the Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs.
Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs Features:
- Suspenders detach in the front for quick and easy entry
- Drop-seat configuration with two-way slider side zips for venting and convenient relief
- Boot gaiters seal out snow
- Scuff guards protect inside of legs and bottom hem
- Two thigh zippered cargo pockets and one large zippered chest pocket with inside loop to secure valuables
- Concealed RECCO® reflector
- Fair Trade Certified™ sewn
- 584 g (20.6 oz)
- MSRP: $349
A full-protection backcountry or frontcountry bib
In just a few paragraphs, we’re going to break this review down into coverage of the SnowDrifter Bibs specifically. That said, there are a couple of comments that I want to make on both the bibs and jacket that will apply to both products and the vision that I think Patagonia had in designing them.
I’ll start by saying that I was able to test these products in both the backcountry and at resorts. They’re designed specifically with backcountry in mind, and so you get a lot of lightweight, comfortable benefits from that overall design philosophy. That said, they still offer really robust protection and felt totally comfortable inbounds as well.
The foundation of these pieces is Patagonia’s H2No® Performance Standard shell, which is a 3-layer, 5-oz 75-denier 100% polyester (70% recycled) solid stretch ripstop. I haven’t reviewed any H2No in a dog’s age, but back when I did it was a chunky 2-layer version on this jacket. Anyway, Patagonia has come an incredibly long way for their proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric. I was very, very impressed with the 3-layer fabric that I tested, mostly in terms of how they were able to balance protection and comfort. It’s easy to make a waterproof fabric, and it’s easy to make a soft fabric, but Patagonia pulled off some magic with a very soft, comfortable waterproof fabric.
The 3-layer Performance Standard is Patagonia’s best waterproof/breathable offering. Since it’s a three-layer version, there’s a soft knit layer on the inside of the fabric to protect the waterproof/breathable membrane. This also adds next-to-skin comfort in addition to extending the life of the garment. If I were to make direct comparisons, it reminds me quite a bit of Polartec Neoshell in how soft and pliant it is. Compared to most Gore-Tex 3-layer fabrics, H2No is considerably quieter and more supple. It feels more like fabric and less like plastic.
Interestingly, Patagonia initially trialed these pieces in the field with a more eco-friendly DWR. They’ve been talking for years about the damaging effects of traditional DWR’s on the environments, such as in this piece. in the end, though, Patagonia’s eco-friendly DWR is still a couple of years out; although they’re still testing PFC-free options, the SnowDrifters that shipped to consumers have a conventional DWR on them. The good part of that is just that you get the same tried-and-true performance of a DWR that you come to expect. The bad news is that, yes, you are still part of the problem.
Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs:
Patagonia’s SnowDrifter bibs are built very much with the backcountry traveler in mind. They feature two zippered thigh pockets and a zippered chest pocket for easy access to compasses, GPS’s, phones, bars, or whatever. I really like the easy-access chest pocket in particular, I used it all the time for things like my compass, which I pull out regularly to check slope angles when touring.
The bibs are clearly bisected into a top and bottom, with the top being a very stretchy, DWR-treated weather resistant layer that places a heavy emphasis on breathability. It pairs well with breathable top layers. It’s held up by two stretchy suspenders which adjust in the front and are also removable, which just adds a bit of nice versatility getting in and out of the bibs. The bottom half is Patagonia’s H2No polyester fabric, which again is optimized for uphill travel. It’s stretchy, but still durable and waterproof. In typical Patagonia style, this fabric is made of 70% recycled content.
Two of the subtler features that you really appreciate in moments of need are the detachable front suspenders and the drop-seat configuration of the butt of the bibs. I’m someone who does not particularly enjoy snowy poops in the backcountry, but they can be made considerably more pleasant when your gear helps you out. The drop seat of the bibs came in useful at around 6,000 feet on a ridge on a cold day with a foot of fresh powder, when nature came calling. It was so easy to take care of business without having to do anything more than unbutton the snaps on the back and squat. The full-coverage bibs are so tall, too, that the detachable front suspenders are nice if you have to adjust layers.
The fit of the bibs was right-on for me. I’m 5’11”, about 200 pounds and tested the size Large. They felt like they had plenty of room without being tight or constricting in any one part. If anything, perhaps they could be faulted for being a little bit baggy in the butt. That said, the key thing here is that the bibs are very comfortable to hike in, thanks both to the soft fabric and the thoughtful tailoring of Patagonia’s designers. My biggest single backcountry day in them was an 11-mile, 6,000 vertical foot day in the Idaho Panhandle that had many parts of my body feeling some very strong things – but, thanks to the soft fabric and careful tailoring, none of those problems were the result of my bibs. Huge kudos to Patagonia for that.
A few of the features are a little more standard, such as the tough scuff guards that protect the inside of the legs from things like your ski edges or whatever. There’s also an inner gator with a clip for attaching to your boots. An embedded RECCO is also a nice touch for a little front-country peace of mind. I do wish that they had a full-length zipper to make it possible to get in and out of them with boots on; this would have been really nice during my hut trip when I wanted to keep my boot liners on. That said, the upper vents offer plenty of airflow thanks to the two-way zippers.
These bibs really impressed me with their practicality in the backcountry. in a way, there’s nothing fancy or flashy about them – simple pocket designs, simple profile, etc. But the base fabric and tailoring perform very well together, so you basically don’t have to think bout them when you’re using them. Then, when you’re in a moment of need, small features like the drop-seat or the big front pocket come in super handy. This simplicity and good design could make the Snowdrifter bibs a classic.
- Really great waterproof, stretchy H2No fabric
- Very comfortable while touring, fabric moves with you well
- Top half’s breathable fabric keeps things cooler on the uphill
- Zippers pull easily all around, and the suspenders are easy to adjust
- I wish there were full-length zippers to make it easier to take these on and off with boots on
The Bottom Line: Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs
It’s easy to recommend the SnowDrifter Bibs to my backcountry friends. They just perform so well thanks to the great, comfortable foundation and thoughtful tailoring. Patagonia’s design expertise is on really clear display here, and I had many trouble-free days going up and down in the SnowDrifters. Inbounds users can also find lots to love about the Snowdrifters, especially the easy adjustments, durable fabrics and heavy duty coverage.
Buy now: Available at Patagonia.com