Welcome to Part 2 of our coverage of the Patagonia Snowdrifter backcountry touring kit! We recently published our review of the Patagonia Snowdrifter Bibs, and today it’s time to cover the jacket. My testing has taken place in the wonderful Pacific Northwest, with all of the challenges that that entails. We’ve had plenty of warm wet days, as well as cold dry ones in Canada, and the Snowdrifters have been with me on both ends of the spectrum. They’ve also been a pretty faithful resort companion, too, so today we’ll dive into how well the Snowdrifter Jacket held up.
Patagonia Snowdrifter Jacket Features:
- Light and stretchy 3-layer shell fabric
- Helmet-compatible, two-way-adjustable fixed hood
- Embedded cord-lock system in hood and hem provides quick and easy adjustment
- Adjustable powder skirt
- Webbing loop at center back connects to any Patagonia® Snow pants
- Concealed RECCO® reflector
- Fair Trade Certified™ sewn
- 587 g (20.7 oz)
- MSRP: $399
A full-protection backcountry or frontcountry setup
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 trialing 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.
A look at the Snowdrifter Jacket
Moving past all of the technical comments about the fabric and Patagonia’s sustainable DWR efforts, it’s time to focus on the particulars of this jacket, its design and how well it did in the field. As mentioned at the start of this review, my use has been a mix of backcountry days and resort days, so my comments will reflect that mix of use.
As a ski coat, the Snowdrifter has a pretty generous cut – you could even call it free ride. The hem drops down over your butt and the sleeves are built to comfortably accommodate bulky ski gloves. Similarly, in the torso, there’s room for layering so that you can throw a puffy under the shell for the descent. For my tastes and layering preferences, the size Large fit my 5’11”, 200 pound frame very well. The jacket drapes really well on your body, and isn’t so large as to make you look like a teenage snowboarder but it’s not as constrictive as dedicated alpine stuff can be sometimes.
One of the nicest parts about the jacket is that the proprietary H2No fabric has great 3-way stretch. I was very pleased with that, and it makes the jacket comfortable to use. It also happens to be a very quiet jacket, and it’s substantially better than most Gore products in terms of feeling like supple fabric, rather than flexible plastic. The soft fabric feels like it breathes well, too, and that’s certainly aided by the large pit zips to sustain a comfortable microclimate during uphill efforts.
I was also a fan of the pocket layout on the jacket. There are two generous zippered hand pockets and a medium-sized chest pocket with another zippered security pocket inside. If you have ever accidentally lost your keys on a trip, you’ll be grateful for the additional zippered pocket. Otherwise, though, the chest pocket was large enough to accommodate my bulky Brunton compass/inclinometer and phone, keeping it always handy for me. There’s also an upper arm pocket that I never used.
The internal pockets are notable mostly for how exquisitely they’re bonded to the main fabric. I was really impressed by the careful seam tape work that Patagonia worked into the jacket – everything looks laser-sharp. In fact, much of it is laser cut.
The helmet and collar are a very important part of how the jacket interfaces with the user, too. The hood is gigantic and is cut just right to accommodate bulky ski helmets. It’s a two-way adjustable hood which is standard, and it works just fine in terms of keeping the hood secure so that it doesn’t obscure your field of vision. Some reviewers have complained that the collar is too big and floppy, but when I was layered up I found that it sealed nicely around my puffy or mid layer. It works especially well with my neck gaiter.
All the other adjustments work well, too. The hem adjustments are tucked away in the pockets, which makes them easy to find in general but a little tricker with big bulky gloves on. That said, when you use it with the powder skirt, I generally don’t find as much need for the hem adjustment in general. the cuffs are nice and big and accommodate gloves nicely, but the velcro straps also do a great job sealing up the cuffs.
Last thing to say – whether you wear this in bounds or out of bounds, this jacket does have a RECCO reflector which is an important safety consideration.
- Really great, soft fabric that is perfect for the uphill
- Excellent tailoring and fit overall
- I like the pocket layout for its function and simplicity
- Pairs well with the Snowdrifter bibs, and with the snow skirt you’re bombproof
- Collar design might not work as well on days when you’re not layered up
- Fabric will suffer somewhat in extremely wet and windy conditions compared to Gore
The Bottom Line: Patagonia Snowdrifter Jacket
This jacket is really easy to recommend for anyone looking at dedicated ski touring equipment. The fabric really is top-notch thanks to its stretch and breathability, so uphill athletes will benefit from that. The fit is a nice balance of being generous without being bulky, so multiple layering options can work. It also benefits from Patagonia’s excellent environmental efforts and I hope consumers consider that with each product they purchase, too.
Buy now: Available from Patagonia.com