I was on mile 4 and the song “Push It to the Limit” had been stuck in my head since mile 2. Somewhere around there, the temperature really started to drop. It hadn’t ever been “warm” on this tour but about halfway up, the overcast sky had gotten a little darker, and the air had gotten cooler with it.
It was at that point, I’d resolved to take no more breaks. To stop was to lose the momentum of my own body heat. My sweat would freeze and the chills would set in. So, at that point, there was no stopping — not until I found Lost Lake.
I’d worn my Patagonia SnowDrifter Jacket ($488), knowing I’d be working up a sweat, knowing I’d want maximum mobility, and hoping that it wouldn’t get too cold. I hadn’t yet tested the shell in anything below 35 degrees. It was dropping into the 20s now, and I’d been sweating good and plenty despite the cold.
I was warm enough, though — at least while I was moving uphill. But the real test of this shell would be on the downhill. It would be a long ride out, and if the jacket was sweat-logged, I would be in for a chilly descent.
In short: The Patagonia SnowDrifter Jacket is a “soft-ish” shell born for the backcountry, and the kit includes the new Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs ($399). I love touring in this jacket — especially on longer days when I know I’ll be working hard or on clear, sunny days. The three-layer H2No-labeled material is waterproof, windproof, and light. It’s as breathable as it is stretchy, and wicks sweat better than a lot of touring jackets I’ve tried.
Patagonia Men’s SnowDrifter Jacket
- Weight 21.87 oz. (Men's medium)
- Size options XS-3XL
- Fit Regular
- Material H2No 3-layer standard shell
- Shell 4.3-oz. 50-denier 100% recycled polyester stretch plain weave, recycled polyester knit backer, PFC-free DWR finish, Fair Trade Certified
- Type of zippers YKK
- Lightweight, packable, stretchy
- Very breathable
- Perfect for backcountry touring
- No chin guard on zipper
- Not intended for very cold or insulation-required stormy days
Patagonia SnowDrifter Jacket Review
The Patagonia SnowDrifter Jacket isn’t new, but a lot of its updates are. The fabric, which meets the in-house H2No certification, was overhauled to be made from 100% recycled polyester, up from 70% in last year’s model. The DWR treatment is PFC-free and more stretchy. And, according to the brand, it “refined and elevated designs.”
I’ve never worn previous iterations of this jacket, so I can only speak to the winter 23/24 version, which, I’ll tell you, is a slick-looking piece of outerwear. I really enjoy the simplicity of the style, and the muted, desert-khaki color. Some people might knock that as boring aesthetics — I would respectfully disagree. I think it’s classy-looking.
But, how does it perform? On the uphill, for the backcountry, this is a great jacket. But it does have some limitations.
SnowDrifter Fit & Layout
I’m a 5’11” male wearing a size large, and my SnowDrifter Jacket was slightly baggy on me. It fit, but with the stretch element, I definitely could have sized down and confidently been able to layer under the jacket.
The SnowDrifter also kind of has a boxier fit. Technically, it’s called a “regular fit.” Either way, don’t expect it to taper or form fit your body.
There are two pit zips, and both offer enough length to control your temperature well if you’re getting hot. Open them all the way to dump heat, or halfway to let it leak out. And I found the number, placement, and size of pockets to be more than adequate. There are two on the hips, one on the chest, and a pass pocket on the left bicep.
The hood is also perfectly compatible with a helmet. A lot of ski jackets that claim to have a helmet-compatible hood fall short. The hood will either slide off when you’re skiing or can only be put on or taken off with the jacket unzipped. Or the hood is too restrictive to turn your head sideways on the lift, let alone ski in harsh weather with it up.
This hood had enough stretch so I could pull it up over my helmet (or off) without unzipping the front very much. It cinches down snugly with a drawcord on the back and has yet to come off when I don’t want it to.
H2No is Patagonia’s proprietary standard for testing apparel’s waterproofness and breathability. Products that meet the testing benchmarks compete with GORE-TEX, and are supposed to be a tad more reasonably priced while offering similar protection from the elements.
In the case of the SnowDrifter, the H2No-approved three-layer fabric utilizes a 4.3-ounce 50-denier 100% recycled polyester stretch plain weave textile. That’s coupled with a soft recycled polyester knit backer and a PFC-free DWR finish.
It’s stretchy. It’s breathable. And, according to Patagonia, it has a 20,000mm rating for waterproofness and can maintain a 10,000mm rating after extensive use. Which is to say, it’s also very waterproof — almost as waterproof as a garment can be with today’s technology.
I do not wear this jacket when I know it’s going to be a wet day on the slopes mostly because I prefer insulation when the precipitation flies and I’m taking rounds on the lift plus the windchill factor. However, for a clear day in the backcountry, it is an ideal piece of outerwear. Your movement is uninhibited thanks to the elasticity of the fabric.
The breathability also impressed me. I have shells that turn into sweat bags if I take them touring in the backcountry. Even other backcountry-specific touring shells don’t seem to breathe and wick moisture quite as well as the SnowDrifter does. And at the same time, the seams and zippers are windproof and don’t let water creep in.
All that, plus the jacket’s light weight have made this my go-to touring jacket this season. For most of the days I ski in the backcountry, this jacket provides a perfect balance of protection versus breathability. And even on cooler days, an extra layer underneath goes a long way.
I found Lost Lake eventually and quickly transitioned, ripping skins and clipping in. I didn’t take too much time to enjoy the view, as I could feel my body temperature dropping.
But, with the hood up over my helmet (and, this hood design fits perfectly over a helmet without restriction — not something most hoods can brag about) and the zipper pulled up to my chin, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the SnowDrifter was holding my body heat in. I could feel gusts of wind. But they weren’t fully penetrating the shell.
On other occasions, as I climbed skin tracks in blizzards, the SnowDrifter held precipitation at bay. Water would bead on the DWR-treated material and roll off. If I was really working hard and generating heat, they’d absorb onto the fabric’s surface but wouldn’t soak through. When that happened (mainly on my chest, and biceps) I felt cooler — but never wet.
Such is the nature of waterproof softer shells, though.
Where this jacket really shined was on days between 30 and 50 degrees, when it was clear out and I was climbing. That’s when the breathability-to-protection balance felt perfect.
The stretchy nature of the fabric used in the SnowDrifter Jacket also really stuck out as a notable feature. I could twist, turn, reach, and warm up without feeling constricted or limited in my movement. Unfortunately, like most stretchy outerwear, this jacket can snag fairly easily on sharp branches. But I didn’t have much issue with that touring or skiing through trees.
Where the SnowDrifter Falls Short
Patagonia is known for making extremely high-quality outerwear. This jacket is no different. There honestly isn’t much about the SnowDrifter that disappoints.
However, there were two small design elements that didn’t sit well with me. The first is the lack of a chin guard. Without a nice microfleece barrier between skin and zipper, the zipper sometimes feels abrasive on your chin. That’s especially noticeable on colder days.
Then, there’s the material of the shell itself. Yes, this textile has thus far proven sufficiently water-repellant and wind-resistant and I haven’t ripped it — yet.
But it feels less impenetrable and less substantial than GORE-TEX shell outerwear. You might really like that kind of lightweight, thin fabric for backcountry touring. It certainly lends itself to packability. But the jacket just doesn’t seem like the most durable piece of equipment. And for someone like myself, who’s especially hard on gear, that gives me some anxiety. Some might not be on board with the fact that the jacket is not very warm on its own.
Patagonia SnowDrifter Jacket: Who’s It For?
For skiers and boarders who tour often, and spend a lot of time on skin tracks working up a sweat, the SnowDrifter Jacket from Patagonia could become your best companion. I loved wearing it on backcountry tour days, especially those when it was warm and clear out. It breathes wonderfully, the stretch allows for greater mobility, it’s water- and windproof, and it’s just straight-up steazy-looking.
Despite being non-insulated, it will cut wind and block moisture. And if you layer adequately under, this jacket will serve you well in most conditions.
If you are in the market for a backcountry jacket — a companion for your touring adventures — I can’t recommend this jacket enough. I look forward to wearing it when I pull up to a trailhead. It isn’t ideal for much colder or blizzard days. And for clicking into all-mountain skis at the resort, I’d probably opt for something heavier.
But overall, I really enjoyed the fresh SnowDrifter Jacket from Patagonia. For a touring-specific shell, I’d say they hit the nail on the head.
The updated Patagonia Men’s SnowDrifter Jacket will be available October 1, 2023. Don’t miss our full review of the new men’s Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs on GearJunkie.