Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs
Reviewer: 5’10”, 145 Ibs
Size Tested: Medium
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 607.7 grams
Fabric: 3-layer H2No Standard Performance Shell w/ 5-oz, 75-denier 100% polyester (70% recycled) stretch ripstop face fabric with a DWR finish and soft knit backer
- Light and stretchy 3L fabric and minimalist design
- Suspenders detach in front for quick and easy entry
- Full coverage bibs have a drop seat configuration with two-way slider side zips for venting and convenient relief
- Boot gaiters seal out snow; tough scuff guards protect inside of legs and bottom hem
- Concealed RECCO reflector
- 1 exterior kangaroo pocket on bib (zippered)
- 2 exterior thigh pockets (zippered)
Test Locations: Crested Butte, Summit County, Front Range, & Telluride; CO
Days Tested: ~10
The Patagonia Descensionist Jacket and Pants were a favorite here at Blister, earning a “Best Of” award from both our male and female reviewers. So to say that the new SnowDrifter Jacket & Bibs — which replace the Descensionist series for 19/20 — have big shoes to fill might be a bit of an understatement.
I’ve now used the SnowDrifter Bibs in a variety of conditions, both in the resort and on the skin track, and I think the new bibs are a solid offering. And, for some people at least, they might even work better than the Descensionist Pants that they effectively replace.
Similar to the Descensionist Pants, the SnowDrifter Bibs have a baggier, “freeride” cut. The size Medium has plenty of room in the waist and seat for my 5’10”, 140 lbs frame. Granted, my 29” waist doesn’t do much to test the girth of most Medium pants, but the SnowDrifter has a lot of room in the seat. The bibs also fit with plenty of room to spare over all of my alpine and AT ski boots. The fit of the SnowDrifter is a hair slimmer than the Flylow Baker Bib, but certainly baggier than most of the ski pants I’ve used.
In contrast to its baggy lower fit, the bib section of the SnowDrifter Bibs fits rather snug. I appreciate this because it makes for easier layering as there’s less fabric to bunch up under my upper layers. Plus, the softshell fabric used on the upper bib section is very comfortable and stretchy so I don’t have any comfort issues with the fit of the bib.
The fit of the SnowDrifter Bibs certainly falls on the more generous end of the spectrum. If I was using the SnowDrifter exclusively as an inbounds pant, I would have no qualms with the fit. For touring, I would prefer to have a slightly slimmer fit in the leg (mostly to decrease the amount of fabric that could snag on stuff while skinning and bootpacking).
I think the SnowDrifter Bibs’ fit makes a lot of sense for its intended use. As I’ll dive into below, I think the SnowDrifter Bibs make the most sense as a resort or 50/50 bib that you’d use for some touring. And as always, fit comes down to personal preference. So I’m sure that there are people out there who will get along well with the SnowDrifter Bib’s roomier cut, even for touring.
The SnowDrifter Bibs are fairly barebones on features, which is something I personally appreciate. The bibs have two thigh pockets, one kangaroo pocket on the bib, a drop seat (the ~40.5cm zippers double as leg vents), a simple suspender system, and fixed snow gaiters at the cuffs.
The feature set on the SnowDrifter feels more like that of a minimal touring pant than that of a resort pant. However, the minimal feature set (fewer pockets, zippers, vents, etc) is one of the big contributing factors in the exceptional comfort of this bib. The clean silhouette (combined with the extremely supple fabric, which I’ll talk about later) keep this pant very comfortable and make it one of the few hardshell pants I’ve used that I’m happy to wear without long underwear bottoms underneath.
Due to its heavier face fabric and the addition of the upper bib, the SnowDrifter Bibs come in over 100 grams heavier than the Descensionist Pants. At about 600 grams, the SnowDrifter is still reasonably light for touring, but it is on the heavier end of the spectrum.
For reference, here are a number of our measured weights for some notable 3L ski pants in this category. Note the size differences to keep things apples-to-apples.
441 g Norrona Lyngen Windstopper Hybrid Pants, size Large
485 g Strafe Cham Pants, size Large
494 g Patagonia Descensionist Pants, size Medium
539 g Arc’teryx Rush LT Pant, size Medium
555 g Open Wear Open One 3L Shell Pants, size Medium
603 g Patagonia PowSlayer Bibs, size Large
608 g Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs, size Medium
618 g Rab Sharp Edge Pants, size Medium
620 g Arc’teryx Sabre Pants, size Large
896 g Flylow Baker Bib, size Small
There are two main materials on the SnowDrifter Bibs — a new proprietary 3L waterproof / breathable laminate that makes up most of the pant and a stretchy soft shell that makes up the bib.
Patagonia’s new 3L H2No fabric used in the SnowDrifter is incredibly comfortable. It’s the main reason we all got extremely excited about the SnowDrifter at Outdoor Retailer this year — the hand feel on the fabric is incredible.
In the mountains, the fabric is equally impressive as it was at the trade show. The SnowDrifter’s fabric has a fully protective 3L laminate, but it feels softer than even some of the softshells I’ve used. The SnowDrifter’s fabric is pretty stretchy and the liner material is very soft on the skin. With the exception of the freakishly soft Rab Kinetic Plus (which Rab markets as a softshell, but that has a 10K-rated membrane), the SnowDrifter has the softest and most comfortable fabric of any waterproof shell I’ve used.
The Snowdrifter’s fabric has also proven to be quite hard wearing, especially given how soft it feels. After about 10 days in the bibs, there are certainly scuffs and scratches on the main fabric from ski edges, but in general, I’m very happy with how the pants are holding up. And the reinforced fabric around the cuffs, which is much burlier than the bibs’ main fabric, also looks almost new.
The stretchy softshell upper on the SnowDrifter Bibs is quite comfortable and breathable — which is nice because it does fit somewhat snuggly around my chest (depending on how I have the suspenders adjusted). The use of a membrane-less material on the upper bib also helps the SnowDrifter Bibs feel more breathable in the torso compared to other bibs with fully waterproof fabrics used throughout.
Though Patagonia doesn’t publish waterproof / breathability ratings (which can be misleading and / or unreliable), we’ve been told that the SnowDrifter’s fabric is spec’d somewhere around 20K/20K — which would place it firmly in the “hardshell” category of protection (as opposed to less protective softshells).
In my experience with the SnowDrifter Bibs, I would say that they offer true hardshell performance when it comes to weather resistance. After using the bibs in several wet spring storms, I haven’t experienced any moisture soaking through the membrane.
As seems to be the case with most shells that use soft face fabrics, I have experienced a bit more wetting out of the face fabric than I would expect on stiffer hardshell fabrics with tighter weaves. But I still haven’t had any water get all the way through the fabric of the SnowDrifter. It’s also important to note that the pre-production pair of the SnowDrifter Bibs that I’ve been using featured an experimental DWR. The production version of the SnowDrifter kit will use Patagonia’s standard DWR treatment which has performed excellently on other pieces we’ve used from them. Apart from the DWR, everything else on the SnowDrifter kit we’ve been testing is the same as the production version that will be available this fall.
One of the most notable differences between the Descensionist and the SnowDrifter is the difference in breathability between the two fabrics. The SnowDrifter is significantly more protective than the Descensionist and, probably consequentially, significantly less breathable.
The Descensionist used one of the most breathable 3L fabrics we’ve ever tested. It was so breathable that it felt distinctly colder than more traditional hardshells, particularly in the wind. The SnowDrifter feels much more like most other hardshells when it comes to breathability and I’ve found it to be generally more comfortable in terms of temperature regulation — especially in the resort where my output is lower and I sweat much less.
On the skin track, I’ve been happy touring in the SnowDrifter. It’s baggier cut and large leg vents (16” / 40.5 cm) mean that the pant can keep up with my output on all but the warmest or fastest days in the mountains. All that said, if the thing you loved most about the Descensionist was how breathable its fabric was, take note that the SnowDrifter is not as breathable.
Compared to a few other hardhshell pants I’ve worn this season, the SnowDrifter is probably a touch more breathable than the Flylow Baker Bib and Rab Sharp Edge Pant, and not quite as breathable as the Gore-Tex C-Knit fabric on the old Mammut Alvier HS pants.
All in all, the breathability of the SnowDrifter kit is good compared to other high-end, 3L waterproof / breathable shells. It doesn’t stand out as much as the Descensionist did in this regard, but for people who thought the Descensionist was too cold or not protective enough, the SnowDrifter is worth a good look.
The SnowDrifter is a 3L hardshell with no added insulation. It is not a very warm pant. In the category of hardshell pants though, the SnowDrifter is one of the warmer ones I’ve worn. I’m happy wearing the SnowDrifter Bibs without long-underwear bottoms for many days inbounds and for most days of touring. Granted, I do tend to run a bit warm in my legs, so if you tend to run cold and / or need to layer under your other shell pants, expect to need to do so in the SnowDrifter Bibs.
As I noted above, the SnowDrifter is significantly warmer than the Descensionist that it replaces.
I’m pretty happy with how the SnowDrifter Bibs are holding up. For a pant this soft and comfortable, it’s impressive that I haven’t noticed any durability issues after around 10 days of hard use. I highly doubt that the SnowDrifter will be as durable as something like the Flylow Baker Bib, which uses much heavier and stiffer fabrics. But for the super supple fabric that the Snowdrifter uses, I’ve been pleased with its durability. Of course, I’ll update this review if anything changes on that front.
Many modern, high-end 3L shells are very expensive. While the SnowDrifter Bibs are far from the cheapest pants out there at $349, they are significantly cheaper than many of the pieces in this category that match their performance. And we think that’s worth highlighting.
Who’s It For?
The SnowDrifter Bibs are an excellent option for people who want a high-performance pant for inbounds or 50/50 use and who prioritize comfort over maximum durability, breathability, or protection. Given that the SnowDrifter Bibs are still quite good when it comes to durability, breathability, and weather protection, I think a lot of skiers and snowboarders could get along well with them.
If you want a dedicated touring pant, I’d probably recommend going with something lighter, more breathable, and a bit slimmer fitting. Though, if you like touring pants with baggier cuts, the SnowDrifter is still a very viable option. Conversely, if you want a super burly inbounds pant, there are heavier, more durable options (e.g., Flylow Baker Bib). But for most skiers and snowboarders, the SnowDrifter Bib is an exceptionally comfortable, fully protective hardshell pant that feels at home in most scenarios.
The Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs replace a well-loved piece, but the new bibs are arguably even more versatile for a wider range of users. The SnowDrifter Bibs are more comfortable and more protective than the Descensionist and have a clean and versatile silhouette and feature set. Thanks to the SnowDrifter Bibs’ excellent all-round performance in a wide variety of conditions and their more moderate price point, we think a lot of skiers and snowboarders will get along well with the SnowDrifter Bibs.