Back in November I received a promotional email from Patagonia featuring their new line of SnowDrifter back-country ski packs. Already a fan of their clothing I had to get my hands on one of these packs and reached out to their marketing team. A couple weeks later both the pack and a very nice new shell, the Patagonia Men’s Reconnaissance Jacket, arrived at my door.
My excitement to test both of these was kept in check by Mother Nature’s refusal to acknowledge winter had arrived and it wasn’t until our first avalanche course on January 2nd that I finally got to test both. For this review we will focus on the pack. I’ll start with a short clip showing some of the features and then move into a more detailed review:
Available in 20L (1,220cu. in.) , 30L (1,830cu. in), and 40L (2,440cui. in) models I’m reviewing the 30L.
Patagonia refers to this size pack as “Built for a full back country day that might even stretch into an overnight”. While I agree it is the right size for day touring I’d be cautious about thinking I could pull off an overnight with a pack of this size. Similar in size to the discontinued EMS Wintergreen Pack I reviewed a few years ago with careful packing you should be able to get an ultralight bivy set up inside along with your day gear. My personal emergency bivy kit is an Eastern Mountain Sports Velocity 35 degree sleeping bag and AMK SOL Emergency Bivy (combined weight is 2lbs 5.2 ounces).
Dedicated Snow Safety Pocket:
This feature is the one that makes a backpack a “ski pack” in my opinion. Quick easy access to organized rescue tools is essential.
What I love: Easily fit my Black Diamond Deploy 3 Shovel, Ortovox 240 HD PFA probe, and Black Diamond Flicklock Snow Saw. The internal zippered pocket is the perfect size for my AIARE Field Book, thermometer, snow card & magnification loupe.
What could be improved: A bit to tight for my workhorse Ortovox Kodiak Shovel. More importantly however, is the lack of drain-holes. 1 or 2 drain holes on the bottom of this pocket would be a nice improvement.
This pack is very well put together. Built with 420-denier 100% nylon Cordura® plain weave with a polyurethane coating and a rugged bottom built with 940-denier 100% nylon Cordura Ballistic with polyurethane coating.
The whole pack is treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish which can help keep contents a bit dry during wet snow conditions, which seems to be the norm for our season so far.
While this is a traditional top loader there is super convenient full back panel zippered access. No digging through everything to find that little first aid kit for some moleskin or to get at your water bottle. A zippered fleece lined google pocket on top is another nice touch of practicality. Personally I could do without the hydration sleeve as I do not rely on hydration bladders in our arctic cold temps, but the hydration port is perfect for running the cord of my Backcountry Access BC Link Radios through to my shoulder strap (review coming).
With “Air Flow” mesh on the shoulder straps, back panel and waist belt, this winter pack breathes very well. Skinning up to HoJo’s I stayed very dry. Patagonia boosts that this mesh has “snow sluffing” capabilities. I’ll need to wait for the North East to get a proper dose of powder to verify this claim but the fineness of the mesh certainly looks like it won’t collect snow like large weave meshes can.
This pack comes in a S/M and L/XL, but unfortunately torso size isn’t listed on their size chart:
|Snow Drifter – 30L||1831 cu in||L/XL:27″ x 13″ x 10.5″||39oz|
|S/M: 25.5″ x 13″ x 10″||39oz|
A Patagonia live chat representative was able to quickly confirm for me that the S/M is for torsos 16″-19″ and the L/XL is for 19″- 22″. The L/XL I have fits my 5’9″ 19 inch torso perfectly. For detailed instructions on measuring yourself for this pack checkout this PDF from Patagonia:
There are only a couple things I would like to see Patagonia adjust on this pack. First, a sternum strap buckle that doubles as a whistle. This is on almost every skiing and climbing pack I own and is used often to easily signal people in the back-country.
Drain holes on the snow safety gear pocket.
Waist belt pocket (or two). I really like being able to store some energy gel, compass, lip balm, etc. in my back-country ski pack’s waist belt pockets, of which this pack has none.
There is a lot to love in this pack and very little to complain about. I’m really glad a company that is known for its environmental and social responsibility has entered the market of back-country ski packs. I’ll finish by linking the manufacturer produced video which recaps most of these features:
Coming Soon: Patagonia Reconnaissance Jacket! EDIT: Review now live here! Patagonia has a whole line of touring clothing! The Reconnaissance seems perfect for high output days. Stay tuned for an in-depth review of this jacket in the next week or two and in the meantime wet your appetite with this quick overview of their line in the below marketing video!
You can find this pack on Backcountry.com here.
See you in the mountains,
-Northeast Alpine Start
Disclaimer: While this item was provided by Patagonia for the review the opinions I’ve formed over the last two months are indeed my own. This post contains affiliate links.