Patagonia Drifter Review

August 1, 2011
Patagonia Drifter

The Good

  • Comfortable with very good support
  • Good traction
  • Can replace traditional high-top hiking boots for many moderate trips.

The Bad

  • Not great on talus, off-trail sidehilling, or steep rock and Class 3+ scrambling.
  • Not particularly light, though lighter than most boots.

A very good mainstream hiking shoe that performed best on trails and moderate terrain under light to moderately heavy loads. It has limitations scrambling on talus and steeper terrain.


Patagonia’s Drifter is a classic mid-weight hiking shoe. The fit is comfortable and slightly wide in the forefoot. The toe box is very roomy and the tongue is nicely padded. The torsional and forward flex are both medium so don’t expect unlimited support in rocky or steep terrain, but on trails and moderate off-trail I found the flex was just right. The full grain leather upper, wide sole, and well-placed bumper material provided good protection against the usual trail rubble, though those features also boosted the weight a bit. I carried different sized loads for the test and the support was sufficient for a medium-heavy load.

Hiking on trails in the Drifter was a pleasure—I found them comfortable right out of the box. It held my foot well and flexed effectively. On long days my feet were happy about the roomy toe box and the strong heel cup kept me in the pocket. I was comfortable with a backpacking load up to 35-40 pounds, but bushwhacking with loads over 40 pounds on backcountry ski trips took the shoes out of their comfort zone when they weren’t stiff enough. The Vibram soles provided first-rate traction, even on firm snow. Waterproofness was adequate for my needs: I never treated the shoes and though they got wet slogging through spring snow they didn’t completely soak through. 

This shoe wasn’t designed for climbing. I ran into some issues on steep and rocky terrain in the Tetons and Sangre de Cristos. The medium flex let my foot roll too much for serious support from the sole edge, and the sole extends beyond the edge of the foot, which further impeded edging. This also was a bit of a problem when sidehilling in steep terrain, especially with some weight on my back. Since the lacing system doesn’t go very far toward the toe some people with low-volume feet might find it difficult to tighten the laces down enough to fully secure their foot.

In Spring 2010, Outside magazine gave the Drifter A/C the magazine’s coveted Gear of the Year award, in a very thorough and objective head-to-head test conducted by freelance writer Jason Stevenson.


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