The Sierra Mountains had an outstanding year for snow this past season and that made it the perfect setting to test out Patagonia’s snow gear for Fall 2017. We first checked out the Reno distribution and repair center then skied out a backcountry gate from Sugarbowl Ski Resort to our backcountry camp at Lost Trail Lodge, where Chef Tommy of EATS Cooking Company kept us fed for the adventure.
Unfortunately, we did not see any hostile weather to really put Patagonia’s new kit to the test. We had beautiful sunny spring conditions all three days we were out. The most we had to deal with were a few solid gusts of wind on the ridge, and, appropriately enough, deep powder.
PowSlayer Bibs and Jacket
This kit is designed to take on the worst possible weather on the mountain. The Gore-Tex Pro Shell is the company’s most water resistant and breathable technology to date, and for the first time ever Gore-Tex approved the use of a recycled nylon face fabric to be paired with the Pro Shell. Not only that, but the 2017 PowSlayer is lighter and more durable than the previous version. It’s also easier to repair thanks to fewer seams and a cleaner overall design, which may have been the result of some feedback from Patagonia’s repair center (see link to related story above).
On the mountain the bibs and jacket performed great keeping the cold wind from biting through. Despite being a little crinkly sounding when moving, the kit was easy to wear and move in while skinning up or skiing down. The noise is also expected to abate some as the garments are broken in over time.
The bibs have a regular fit and feature a medium rise pant style to provide plenty of overlap with the jacket. Other features include: removable suspenders, a two way zipper fly, ~20” side zippers dropseat configuration, large zippered pockets mid thigh on both legs, a small media pocket, ankle scuff pads with an elastic cinch cord, a built in gaiter with tie-down loops, and a Recco reflector.
The jacket is a regular fit cut and easily accommodated a few mid layers for the cool morning starts. It would even wrap over a fairly thick puffy in a pinch. Despite exploding with features it is incredibly lightweight at 1.2 pounds (545 grams) by my own scale and packs down to the size of a 1-liter bottle. Working from the top down, it comes with a helmet compatible hood with three cinch points and a medium sized brim, a Recco reflector, ~14” pit zips with dual zipper pulls, a 5” non-removable powder skirt, and cinch pulls at the hemline. The pockets are extensive with one on the left upper arm, two large Napoleon style chest pockets—the left one with internal access and a zippered divider, and two hip-level hand pockets. There’s also a right-hand internal stash pocket that I wish was a little bigger, but that would likely interfere with the pit zip. The wrist cuffs are Velcro adjusted and easily fit over or under gloves to preference.
Nano-Air Light Hybrid Jacket
Our mid-layer was very breathable with a lightweight waffle knit panel covering the entire back, torso, and arms. The thumb-loops provided a little extra protection for the hands while skinning on this trip, with added warmth to keep my fingers comfortable. This jacket was part of our Active Insulation hed-to-head test.
Taking cues from their popular Ascensionist Pack, Patagonia built this bag with backcountry access and safety in mind. The pack comes in one size – 40 Liters – but compresses down well with the built in straps. The outermost pocket is a simple avalanche safety gear pocket that’s wide enough for a shovel blade and just deep enough for a handle and probe. Instead of long fabric sleeves there are just two elastic cinch loops to keep the probe and shovel handle in place. There’s also room for a medium sized first aid kit and a headlamp, which are all things I’m not expecting to use but like having along just in case. I just wish that Patagonia had used high-contrast color cord for the zipper pull-tabs to make it easier to spot while high on adrenaline during an emergency situation. They’re easy to swap out though.
The hip belt has a small pocket on the right side big enough for a few snack bars. The lid flap has a 10”x10” zippered pocket that is offset from center as well. The main compartment is accessed by the flip top lid that seals up with a cinch cord, a webbing strap, and simple hook-in-eye style buckle. It also has a very useful side access vertical zipper. It can handle A-frame and diagonal style ski carry and comes with two extra straps for use with a snowboard or snowshoes.
The pack carried well, was easy to get in and out of on transitions and had plenty of room too. So much so, that like the Snowdrifter packs, Patagonia did not include an external helmet net, which is something I have come to appreciate on backcountry packs. My helmet, like others on the trip, fit just fine in the pack for the skintrack however.
All of this gear will be ready for the 2017 ski season. Look for it to arrive in stores later this year.