One of the central ironies about outdoor outerwear is that waterproof technology has been hard on the environment. Outdoor gear usually needs to be one of two things: warm, or waterproof. We’ve made strides in warmth with things like the Responsible Down movement and increasing amounts of recycled material in synthetic insulation. It’s been harder to do that in waterproof gear. Waterproof laminates and coatings have contained forever chemicals like PFC. With their new Storm Shift Jacket and Pant combo, Patagonia is looking to change that.
Patagonia Storm Shift Jacket Features:
- 2-layer 100% recycled Gore-Tex fabric is PFC-free
- Body-mapped tricot-knit lining in a zigzag pattern
- Helmet compatible hood with laminated visor
- Easy-access hem adjustment
- Adjustable powder gasket
- Concealed RECCO reflector
- MSRP: $479
Patagonia Storm Shift Pants Features:
- 2-layer 100% recycled Gore-Tex fabric is PFC-free
- Adjustable waist with a brushed tricot lining
- Adjustable elastic waist tabs, two-snap closure and a zip fly
- Compatible with all Patagonia snow jacket snow skirts
- Two zippered hand warmer pockets and two zippered thigh pockets
- Articulated knees with mesh-lined thigh vents
- Gaiters and wrap-around scuff guards
- Concealed RECCO reflector
- MSRP: $379
Big expectations, big performance:
Traditionally, shell technology has been one of the most environmentally harmful parts of the outdoor clothing industry. A report from Patagonia published in 2015 detailed the chemistry of the environmental dimensions of shell jacket impact. The gold standard of durable water repellant (DWR) coating was an 8-carbon fluorocarbon (PFC) molecule that was highly effective at beading water on the surface of the jacket, but had undesirable environmental impacts because it does not break down.
This ability of a treatment to bead water on a jacket’s surface is critical; even if the fabric is inherently impregnable to water (small pore size), saturated fabric does not permit breathability (you’ll get wet from your own sweat) and the jacket becomes heavy and clammy. So the trick is to find a treatment that will raise the surface tension of the jacket such that water beads up, is durable, and does not hurt the environment.
The fabric has half the material mass for garments, and one-third the material mass for gloves, as their traditional membranes. This means that, garment for garment, each piece manufactured with ePE fabric has a smaller carbon and material footprint, and a lighter impact on the world.
Patagonia has used the ePE membrane to create a two-layer, resort-focused piece with a unique tricot-knit lining to wick away moisture from the wearer into the Gore fabric. Another point that many users might not notice is that they’ve used a PFC-free durable water repellant coating on the outside shell of the jacket. I’ve had some experience with an experimental PFC-free DWR in a pre-production Patagonia Snowdrifter shell three seasons ago.
So that’s all the fabric backstory: let’s talk about the pieces themselves.
Storm Shift Jacket:
For all the fabric hype, the Storm Shift jacket is a pretty conventional resort piece. I mean that in a good way: it has a generous fit with good range of motion, lots of pockets, and a warm liner. Let’s break it down.
In terms of fit, this is a really classic, kind of baggy resort shell that doesn’t care very much about weight. I’m 5’11” and around 200lbs, wearing a size Large. It felt a bit big on me, but on cold days I was grateful for the room to layer beneath. The range of motion is really nice, partly thanks to that looser fit. The fabric doesn’t really have any inherent stretch, but I really noticed good range of motion in the shoulders and with twisting at the waist.
All the pockets and features that you want are there, too. From the bottom, we’ve got a quality snow skirt that integrates with any Patagonia pants as well as a drawcord hem, whose ends are actually in the hand warmer pocket for easy adjustment. There are two large hand pockets and a Napoleon pocket all with sealed zippers, and a pass pocket on the left forearm. Inside, treat yourself to a big fat dump pocket for your gloves, phone, water bottle, keys, first child, etc. It’s really roomy and the fabric is stretchy. I love it. There’s also an inner zippered security pocket.
Big zippered pit zips let you dump heat, and while I’m still waiting for the jacket whose pit zips pull effortlessly, this is still not it. They work, they just make you feel like a gorilla scratching at your pits. The hood is a two-way adjustable, articulated, helmet-compatible hood which I was very pleased with. With the twin drawcord adjustments it’s easy to secure it to your helmet and it turns pretty easily. Cinching the back cord improves peripheral vision. A wire brim might have been nice, but that’s more of an alpine feature.
I’ll touch on the fabric liner, too. What Patagonia calls a ‘unique liner that’s warm and wicks moisture’ is really a Z-pattern weave with fuzzy fabric whose fibers are more-or-less aligned (reminiscent of the exposed Polartec Alpha jackets), and the idea is that those fibers trap warm insulating air but provide wicking channels for your perspiration.
In practice, this is not a particularly warm resort jacket. There are so many variables like temperature, humidity and how active of a skier you are, but my guess is that for most people this jacket could work with a base layer in the 30’s. In the 20’s, I’d need to add a fleece and might get cold waiting in a lift line. It should fend off wind chill well, but that little woven liner isn’t a ton of insulation. It’s just a step up from a shell.
Storm Shift Pants:
The fabric and lining comments up above apply to the Storm Shift Pants too, so I won’t go over those again. Instead, let’s focus on fit and the function of the handful of features in these pants.
Starting at the top, a two-snap closure and velcro elastic cinch straps keep the pants on you. I generally prefer bibs over pants, partly because ski pants always seem so heavy that they start to sag. This was the case for me with the Storm Shift pants as well. Even with the cinch straps adjusted, it felt like they inevitably descended throughout the day. I’m a skier, not a snowboarder, so it’s important for me to look cool and not keep pulling up my pants all day. That said, we’ve got belt loops and the powder skirt attachment, and there are definitely options to increase support.
Anywho, we’ve also got two hand pockets and two thigh pockets for whatever you need to dump in there. For the same reasons as above, I tend to not keep much in my pants pockets because of the added weight. However, when I did toss my phone or a couple of bars in the thigh pockets, I was pleased that Patagonia’s tailoring which kept the pocket from bouncing off my knee with every stride. The other zippers you see are nice, quarter-length mesh-lined vents. The mesh keeps snow out for when you face plant, but the downside is that they don’t ventilate quite as well. That’s usually not an issue for resort users.
The gaiter and scuff guards are probably the most important feature of the pants behind the waist band. Patagonia knows how to build these things well, and the Storm Shift features a 360º wrap-around heavy duty scuff guard for your ski edges. The gaiter itself is simple and elasticated, but I could stretch it to accommodate my touring boots in walk mode. These aren’t touring pants though, so there are no zippers or snaps to widen the opening.
- Fantastic to see a top-notch application of Gore-Tex’s newest fabric
- Excellent design, construction and warranty backing up these high-value pieces
- Jacket and Pants both have a roomy, resort-focused cut with good range of motion
- Patagonia’s knit zig zag liner adds just a kiss of warmth without making you sweat in deep pow
- Very pleased with the implementation of all the features, particularly the zippered vents, helmet and hem adjustments, and the massive drop pocket in the jacket
- Concealed RECCO reflector means your wife/husband/partner should buy you this for Christmas to keep you safe
- Elastic cinches on the waist band didn’t quite cut it; I needed to add a belt or suspenders
- Patagonia’s knit zig zag liner won’t be as warm as some resort users might hope. Add a layer!
- This one is individual, but I prefer non mesh-lined leg vents to move more air. The upside is you can just cut out the mesh.
The Bottom Line: Patagonia Storm Shift Jacket & Pants
You’ll notice that I didn’t really comment much on the new Gore-Tex ePE fabric in the body of the review. That’s because, honestly, it doesn’t seem that much different from other GORE-TEX fabrics. That’s a good thing: no one wants to hear about the environmentally friendly fabric that is kinda good but wets out, or that rips. No, this felt like bomber 2-layer Gore-Tex coupled with killer design and manufacturing standards from Patagonia. If it doesn’t hold up over time, we’ll update this review.
With that said, the Storm Shift kit is a classic gold-standard resort setup from Patagonia, one of the leading names in snow sport apparel. It has all of the features that resort users will need, plus just a kiss of insulation to regulate you in between charging moguls and waiting in the lift line at Alta. If it’s time to invest in a use-for-a-decade kit, the Storm Shift is a great choice.