New Patagonia Backcountry Touring Clothing Line


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 13, 2015      
The big crew reunites from the cabin and the yurt on the morning of departure.

The big crew reunites from the cabin and the yurt on the morning of departure.

Patagonia is a brand with a widespread presence in the outdoor world — always with deep roots in the mountain sports from alpine climbing to trail running. The line separating alpine climbing and backcountry skiing/riding is becoming increasingly blurry. Patagonia’s response to this trend is to come out with a new line of outwear that blends the sports, to create technical outwear for backcountry touring along a spectrum.

The spectrum ranges from “lift-accessed backcountry missions” to “pure alpine inspired missions.” Much of their current outerwear has been specifically designed for either/or, but obviously many of us have been using it for the range of activities anyways. The Backcountry Touring Line has many features of Patagonia’s alpine climbing line mixed with the features that pure snow-sliding enthusiasts want as well. During our Cooke City trip I had the opportunity to test every outwear kit combination (except the Super Alpine). Although it was a single day test on each kit, I can speak to fit, fabric functionality, and my overall opinion on the layers.

There are a lot of pieces of outwear to look at here, and my goal is to end this with my recommendation on the one kit in the quiver that will work across the board.

Weather during testing: Over four days of testing, we had single digit temperatures and windy conditions up high on the first day. The following daytime temperatures increased to the mid-teens to upper 20’s. No precipitation and mostly clear weather with consistent ridge-top winds.

Josh Nielsen heads out for another day in the Refugative Jacket and Kniferidge pants. He's wearing XL.

Josh Nielsen heads out for another day in the Refugative jacket and Kniferidge pants. He’s wearing XL.

Reconnaissance jacket/pants, Kniferidge jacket/pants, Reconnaissance jacket/pants and Beau is wearing the Kniferidge jacket with a Powslayer jacket overtop.

Reconnaissance jacket/pants, Kniferidge jacket/pants, Reconnaissance jacket/pants and Beau is wearing the Kniferidge jacket with a Powslayer jacket overtop.

Reconnaissance jacket and pants –- all-day wearable softshell

Max Hammer, on the left, wearing the Reconnaissance pants and jacket.

Max Hammer, on the left, wearing the Reconnaissance pants and jacket.

The Reconnaissance jacket and pants are made of a double-weave softshell with a bit of stretch. The jacket has the 3-layer waterproof fabric H2NO on the hood, shoulders, and forearms. Similarly, the pants have the same softshell fabric in the crotch and they are paired with the H2NO fabric in the lower cuff, and outer/upper thighs.

Features I like:

  • Rear vents in the pants along the hamstrings (great for steep snow climbing and dumping heat).
  • Fabric is super breathable, and I am finding myself comfortable wearing it all day long, on the ups and downs.
  • Jacket and pants have good waterproofness – obviously only a limited testament to that so far.
  • Good fit for touring and free riding, especially over boots (even for the skiers, this was common feedback).
  • .

    Cons:

  • I like bibs, and I wish that the Reconnaissance pants had a low softshell bib for added protection.
  • .

    Kniferidge jacket and pants – alpine fit softshell outwear

    Jacket and bib combo. You can see the fit difference.

    Jacket and bib combo. You can see the fit difference.

    Here you can see the low bib/suspender feature of the Kniferidge pants (suspenders are removable).

    Here you can see the low bib/suspender feature of the Kniferidge pants (suspenders are removable).

    This is meant to be a skiing/snowboarding version of Patagonia’s current Knifeblade series meant for alpine climbing. Kniferidge jacket and pants are made of a 3-layer stretchy Polartec Power Shield. Translation Wilco? More weather protection than the Reconnaissance kit, and in my opinion less breathable. The big difference with the kniferidge is the overall fit. The material is quiet and incredibly comfortable, providing a lot of protection for the right environment.

    Features I like:

  • Quiet, comfortable fabric – great for the sneaky approach/descent
  • The pants have a low bib, and a drop seat venting system – functional and well-designed.
  • Minimalist on the pockets – overall lightweight design.
  • Jacket has a great fit
  • Great weather protection
  • .

    Cons:

  • Cuff fit around boots – I was okay around my snowboard boots, but many of the skiers in the crowd voiced that the cuff did no accommodate open buckles for touring. Also, lack of internal gaiter could potentially be a problem during boot packs, that being said, there is a draw cord attachment that solved the problem. Overall, just too tight on the boot cuff.
  • Fabric is a bit warmer on the uphill and I found myself having to remove it due to overheating.
  • .

    Refugative Jacket – lightweight 3-layer Gore-Tex protection

    Refugative jacket with the Powslayer bibs.

    Refugative jacket with the Powslayer bibs.

    The Refugative Jacket is made of a 3-layer Gore-Tex fabric with a new Circular-Knit backing. The combo of the 3-layer and the C-knit backer makes it lighter and more breathable than Gore-Tex Pro-shell. Think of it as the middle ground between Gore-Active and Gore-Tex Pro (significantly more durable than Gore-Tex Active though). This jacket has a quiet feel and is very lightweight and packable.

    Features I like:

  • Overall fit – not too baggy, and not too alpine – just right?
  • Incredibly lightweight (standby on the exact weight info) and packable. A great “just in-case” shell for spring ski tours, or sunny weather winter tours.
  • High pockets to accommodate harness use
  • Comfortable!
  • .
    Cons:

  • Cannot fully attest to overall durability against tree-bashing and your buddy stepping on your shoulder with his crampons.
  • .

    Pow-Slayer jacket and bibs –- storm skiing in the Pacific Northwest

    Pow-Slayer bib (medium) with the Pow-Slayer jacket (small). Definitely worth noting the size difference. The large thigh pockets are a winning feature for sure.

    Pow-Slayer bib (medium) with the Pow-Slayer jacket (small). Definitely worth noting the size difference. The large thigh pockets are a winning feature for sure.

    The Pow-Slayer kit is your classic 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell fabric. Super durable, burly, and waterproof. The fit is definitely oriented towards free-riding, and less on the climbing side of things.

    Features I like:

  • If sized right, has a good fit – comfortable through movement.
  • Venting on the pants is slightly set towards the rear and offers excellent venting when needed. Combats the all too awful “chimney-affect” after a night of too many IPA’s
  • Has a drop-seat feature – all bibs should have this.
  • Large thigh pockets and smaller upper bib pockets.
  • .
    Cons:

  • Fit is rather large. For example, all of my sizes were medium until the Pow-Slayer kit. I am 5’ 11’’ around 160 lbs and the medium jacket had me swimming. That being said, I am okay with the medium pants – just not for an outing that involves climbing in crampons.
  • Gore-Tex Pro is loud and crunchy feeling – was an adjustment from the comfort of the softshell fabrics.
  • .

    Snowdrifter packs – 20L 30L and 40L

    Glen utilizing a trimmed down version of the Snowdrifter 40L - removed lid, and frame sheet. Definitely a recommended pack!

    Glen utilizing a trimmed down version of the Snowdrifter 40L – removed lid, and frame sheet. Definitely a recommended pack!

    Patagonia’s Snowdrifter Packs are functional and effective as day-tour, overnight or ski mountaineering packs. I had the opportunity to use the 40L and there are several features I like about it. All of the packs feature a dedicated rescue tool pocket, large zipper pulls, and a relatively minimal design. Additionally, all packs have an ice axe carrying sleeve, and vertical, A-frame, diagonal ski carry options. The 30L is the only pack with a back-panel access.

    40L features I like:

  • Side-panel access for ease of gear retrieval
  • Dedicated rescue tool pocket
  • Multiple and well-designed ski carry options
  • Removable frame and lid
  • .

    Cons:

  • Would be better designed with 2 side panel access zippers
  • Frame would be better if it was moldable
  • Overall – I think this will be my goto pack for short spring ski mountaineering trips. It carries well and has all the features I would be look for.

    Overall
    Feeling overwhelmed with so many options to choose from? Yeah I was too. Here are the questions you have to ask yourself: what climate do I spend most of my time in the winter? Am I strictly backountry touring, accessing from a lift, or am I primarily climbing technical routes for descents? I hope that with answers to those questions, the decision is relatively easy.

    If you’re thinking it is unreasonable to add all of these pieces to your outwear quiver, than here is my personal opinion on what is the best combo. The combination of the Reconnaissance pants and jacket with the Refugative jacket for added protection from wind and precipitation are what I would consider the ultimate outwear quiver. With that said, there are drawbacks – mainly the lack of a bib. My personal experience with the Kniferidge kit was that it was too narrow of a fit – mostly a style preference – otherwise that may be the choice with the Refugative.

    All of these items will be available for purchase at the end of September 2015.
    Feel free to comment below with any further questions.

    Now to leave you with a little more stoke to get out there. Thanks Beau Fredlund for grabbing a frame of enjoyment, because that’s ultimately what we are here for.

    Now to leave you with a little more stoke to get out there. Thanks Beau Fredlund for grabbing a frame of enjoyment, because that’s ultimately what we are here for.



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    Comments

    32 Responses to “New Patagonia Backcountry Touring Clothing Line”

    1. Jed March 13th, 2015 8:37 pm

      Arcteryx is also doing this business of hardshell zones/patches on softshell pants with the idea that it will be great for backcountry. I don’t get it, even on wet days the same old pair of plain softshell pants has kept me sufficiently warm and dry….

    2. Frame March 14th, 2015 3:09 am

      Jonathan, re the Reconnaissance pant – how far around to the back of the leg is the vent? Was thinking if it is right underneath the hamstring, could be a bit annoying if sitting on anything. Looks interesting.

    3. Coop March 14th, 2015 1:47 pm

      Frame,

      Good question. I had a similar thought, and yes they are directly on the hamstrings (think tailpipe). They are not noticeable when sitting. However the downside would be they are easy to forget to zip back up when you want them.

    4. Frame March 14th, 2015 2:03 pm

      That’s clear clear, thanks Coop. Whilst I do know where hamstrings are, tailpipe works better for my mind…

    5. Chris Cawley March 14th, 2015 7:55 pm

      So its all too hot for ski touring still?

    6. Coop March 14th, 2015 8:37 pm

      Chris,
      I found the Reconnaissance jacket/pant to be the only combo that is not too hot for touring.

    7. Andy M. March 15th, 2015 5:09 pm

      Does the Snowdrifter pack have shoulder straps you can run a hydration hose in? I’m in the market for a 30L pack to use on resort days or super safe, light & fast tours. I always use hydration bladders because I don’t have problems with them freezing as long as they’re inside the shoulder strap, so consider that a must-have feature. So otherwise well reviewed packs like the Arc Quintic are out for me.

    8. Trent March 15th, 2015 5:38 pm

      “Jacket and pants have good waterproofness – obviously only a limited testament to that so far.”
      Even with the modifier, this sounds suspicious. If there was no precip on the trip, how did you gauge the waterproofing? Thanks. Good to hear the advance scoop. Also, glad to hear about the packs,

    9. Lou Dawson 2 March 15th, 2015 5:42 pm

      Trent, good point, but really all it takes is sitting there sipping, and rubbing some snow on your thighs. Or even snowboarding a bit and getting some over wash! I agree, it’s not the shower test. Though I’d trust Patagucci to make the clothing function to the waterproof level of the chosen fabric. Lou

    10. Trent March 16th, 2015 3:23 pm

      Lou, I paid for Yvon’s summer house with all of their clothing I’ve purchased. It’s routinely solid, but I’ve had mixed results with their waterproofing. In the last few years, I’ve come to prefer their H2No to their GoreTex. I’ve taken their non-GoreTex to India (monsoon and elephant rains) without a leak; and had their GoreTex rain jacket (the $269 MSRP one) leak first week with no abrasion. I’m over GoreTex, but am happy to hear others stand up for it.
      And I defer to your experience, but I think the test is either in the shower (not for soft shell) or in the field. How does the jacket perform over 2 hours in the cold rain and snow on the uphill? That can’t be replicated unless the tester really concentrates on the shoulders and elbow crooks.

      Coop, any way to post weights? Thanks to you and Lou! Looking forward to the fall.

    11. Ryan March 16th, 2015 7:16 pm

      This Patagonia gear is glorious except their commitment to vanity sizing. It actually has the opposite affect on me, making me feel unmanly! A 155 pound 5’10” guy shouldn’t be cramming into a small because medium is too big.

    12. Coop March 16th, 2015 7:18 pm

      Here is the weight for the Reconnaissance kit: In size med, the jacket is 20.20oz, the pant is 17.50oz

      Kniferidge is:
      M’s Jkt (size M) – 19.2 oz
      M’s KR Pant (size M) – 19.0 oz

      Refugative jacket is: 15oz

    13. Coop March 16th, 2015 8:42 pm

      Trent,

      The Reconnaissance outerwear uses h2no, so you will be excited about that. Quality stuff in my opinion.

      Ryan,
      I am a similar size and the only discrepancy on size is in this Pow Slayer kit and I am hardly “cramming” into a small. It fits quite well. That may also be a personal preference, I am not into a baggy fit.

    14. Trent March 17th, 2015 1:29 pm

      Coop, thanks for the response. The weights in the jackets seem heavy compared to the M10. Just curious about their sizing of the packs. Going against inudstry norms of 25, 35 and 45(ish) made sense because that’s what they feel is the right size for real short, short and longer tours? Or do they expect on removal of the lid? Weights for those would be appreciated too if convenient. Their alpinist packs are very light, but not ideal for skiing.
      Thank you.

    15. Coop March 17th, 2015 3:28 pm

      Trent,

      Pack weights are as follows

      20L: 33.6 oz

      30L: 39 oz

      40L: 64 oz

      These were for all of our S/M size packs.

      Like I said I have only used the 40L and it is a great ski pack, recommended.

    16. al March 24th, 2015 5:49 pm

      all of that seems great for a resort but i will continue to ski tour in a full patagonia kit from their climbing department and i assume any serious uphill skier will aswell

    17. Ryan M March 25th, 2015 5:56 am

      The Kniferidge seems similar in construction to the Northwall series I use on ultra cold days. The Polartec Power Shield Pro is the ticket for mobility, water resistance/proof and definitely wind proof. The R2 is warm but wicks. Unlike the Kniferidge, the Northwall is cut really trim – more for alpinism than skiing, which is about perfect for the BC touring crowd. I’ll be very interested to see how this new BC touring series plays out for Patagonia….

    18. Sean May 27th, 2015 11:05 pm

      Hello. Great preview. How do these models compare to the current winter pant line: the Simul Alpine pants and the Dual Point Alpine pants?

    19. Andy M. July 1st, 2015 9:59 am

      Well, I got a marketing email from Patagonia this morning advertising their new fall line, including the new touring stuff. I checked out the packs, as I’m in the market for a 30L non-airbag pack.

      I’m disappointed to see that they miss a few (IMO) critical features, namely hip belt pockets and hydration bladder compatibility (with insulated shoulder strap). They are nice and light, but the above features are really nice for keeping moving.

    20. Lou Dawson 2 July 1st, 2015 10:42 am

      Have to say I love hip belt pockets. What’s weird to me is that after several thousand years of rucksack making, companies can’t come up with a clean way to have optional accessory pouches and attachments. Velcro helps, but it’s not the answer. When they do try, it usually ends up being a system that allows the pouches to shake and sag down instead of being held tight against the pack as a stitched on pocket does. Lou

    21. Trent July 1st, 2015 5:11 pm

      Also a bit of a bummer that the packs are so snowboard tilted. Those buckles don’t do us much good. Wonder how the weights stack up against Dynafit. Similar listed weights with a +5 L ad/dis-advantage to the Cho Oyu.

    22. Jason July 6th, 2015 11:04 am

      Trent, you seem to be a very demanding consumer. It isn’t really a fair comparison between the weights of any of these jackets and the M10. I have an M10 (my second one now after shredding the first) and it really is a minimalist jacket in both weight and features. I actually preferred the older M10 since it had pockets that would fit gloves or skins. The new one only has a napoleon pocket.
      The criticism of the packs based on the horizontal straps for snowboard carry is a bit harsh too. Patagonia could do two different packs for skiing and snowboarding but the rando ski pack market is already a crowded place. I think they are shooting more for the recreational touring market that seems to be exploding right now (at least in my home range it seems that way). If you don’t like the straps cut them off.
      My previous pack was bought based on weight and simplicity and my latest pack was bought with a desire for more comfort and a few more features. Both have their place but I haven’t used my Cilo pack since my Mammut showed up. Be careful just chasing weight.

    23. Shane July 6th, 2015 12:29 pm

      “The criticism of the packs based on the horizontal straps for snowboard carry is a bit harsh too”.

      I’ll say.

      As a long time splitboarder, I can’t count how many otherwise great packs I’ve had to pass by because of no good way to carry a snowboard. Things are better now but about 15 years ago packs from “real” snowboard companies were good at carrying boards up the bootpack to your favorite kicker but really lacked for true backcountry travel. On the other hand you had ski packs that would work great until it was time to strap a board on your back to boot up a steep couloir.

      It’s funny what a difference two straps can make.

    24. Trent July 6th, 2015 6:22 pm

      Jason, thanks for the response.

      What’s the benefit of skiing with the skins in your jacket? I keep hearing that as a “must” so I tried that and it felt bulky; I’d rather have the weight/mass in pack. Maybe for racing? The napoleon pocket is a benefit to me. Has the M10 held up in rain?

      Why would I pay for something only to cut it off? In general—betraying my anti-mod bias—I’d prefer not to take a pair of razor-sharp scissors to the surface of the pack.

      Which Mammut are you using?

      Shane, thanks for your comment. Are you suggesting that the two straps have an application for skis?

      Fyi, I own a lot of Patagonia gear. Wearing it as I type. Just not impressed with their packs. Yet. Important to note/admit that I don’t own the pack, nor have I held it.

      Also, is there a way to carry an axe?

    25. Lou Dawson 2 July 7th, 2015 6:58 am

      Trent, it depends on the climate and condition of the skin. For example, if the air temp is super cold and the skin got some moisture on the glue, a sheen of ice will form on the glue and prevent adhesion. Storing the skins inside jacket can be a solution. Also, for super fast transitions when you don’t feel like even taking your pack off, nor skis, it’s nice to have a place for skins.

      The nice thing about dump pockets is without zippers and made from light fabric or mesh, they add very little weight. They can also be easily removed.

      We love them, used to spend a lot of time getting them installed in various jackets.

      They’re nearly indispensable for snow camping in cold temps, when you’re working around camp.

      But they do need to be big or they’re useless. Helps to have a slightly elasticized opening on them, but not too much of that. They’re supposed to be easy to get stuff in and out of.

      Lou

    26. Trent July 7th, 2015 8:18 am

      Thanks, Lou. Good reminder about the mesh not adding much weight (although it would presumably add a bit of bulk?)

      I guess I have an understandable bias towards my normal routes. Skin halfway, boot the second half, ski to car. It certainly makes sense to stow next to the body for multiple laps or speedy getaways.

    27. Lou Dawson 2 July 7th, 2015 8:50 am

      Only thing about mesh is it tends to catch on things. Perhaps a thin lightweight nylon is better for the drop-in pockets. Difference in weight might be nil, really. The mesh does look lighter in the mountain shop (grin). When we were having our custom pockets sewn in we used a heavy duty mosquito netting that was slightly stretchy. Worked well. The pockets do need to breath if you’re carrying things like wet gloves or skins. Lou

    28. Jason July 7th, 2015 12:11 pm

      Hey Trent,
      Lou already hit my preference for having pockets large enough for skins. It’s not that I’ll descend with them in the pockets because I don’t like the bulk (being a splitboarder the skins are never small) but it’s nice for the occasional emergency warm up to get the glue back in shape.
      It’s also nice to have a spot to stick big mitts if I need to pull them off briefly. The old design combined the pockets with large vents too. I run hot sometimes and it would help to dump the heat.
      It’s funny how our go-to routes dictate our gear needs. A lot of mine are also all up then all down but as I explore longer routes that climb/descend/climb again my needs have changed.

      The Mammut pack that I just got is the Trion Pro 50+7. I got it to replace a Cilo 45l Worksack that I’ve had for a while. The Trion Pro has all the requisites for a good ski pack: back panel entry + top entry, a brain that stays in place even when half loaded, side ski straps, ice tool holders, and an avy tool pocket. It even comes with a couple of straps that could be put on for a vertical snowboard carry or diagonal ski carry but my preference for the split is A-frame. Lately I’ve been using it as a climbing/crag bag and have been strapping the rope down across the top and then using the horizontal strap to keep the rope contained so it doesn’t hang up on branches while bushwacking.

    29. Jerem' August 24th, 2015 2:48 am

      Hello Lou,

      If I understood your feedback on this backcountry line… If I am a backcountry touring, accessing from a lift skier (from the dolomites), the reconnaissance is quite perfect.
      Do you think that combo jacket/pant performs well during a snow wet day or it requires an additional gore tex jacket ?
      Thanks and ciiiao !

    30. Silb October 21st, 2016 8:41 am

      Hey Coop,

      A little late to the party but enjoyed reading your write up. I am looking at either the Powslayer or the Refugitive shell for this season. I like the weight and fir of the Refugitive more, but am worried about how well it will hold up. Now that it’s been some time since your write up, can you shed any light on the durability factor?

      Thanks,

      E

    31. Trent October 21st, 2016 11:50 am

      Jerem’,

      I can’t speak for the jacket but the pants will be very good for the lift service of the Dolomites. They have more than enough weather protection for wet snow, especially since part of the time you’ll be in gondolas, trams and bubble lifts. I
      will be in Alta Badia in December if you want to see them in person. Staying in Corvara but skiing the Sella Ronda towns/couloirs.

    32. Topi October 26th, 2016 2:09 pm

      About M10 or similar. I’m on the market for minimal, yet most breathable “summiting” light weight shell for harsh winds and bad weather. Now I’m thinking of Patagonia M10 Jacket or super minimalistic M10 anorak for that purpose. Can you recommend M10 for ski touring? Thanks

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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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