After years of marketing jargon and hype, it seems that riders have become more cautious or dismissive when it comes to new “tech.” Especially when these new “tech” pieces demand a large chunk of your wallet. With this being our third review of touring outerwear this season, I can safely tell you to let your guard down. This trend is no gimmick, and it deserves the hype. While theres isn’t a perfect climate controlled piece for you, these pieces can definitely improve your experience.
Just before New Years, Patagonia shot over some of their latest wares from their Backcountry Touring collection. This specially focused collection contained some old favorites and some fresh new touring and alpine pieces. Being splitboarders, our focus was on the Reconnaissance jacket and pants which brought lightweight, breathable touring tech and the Rufugitive jacket and PowSlayer bibs with their lightweight and element resistant 3l Gore-Tex shells.
After receiving the outerwear, I found myself rocking the Dual Aspect Hoody, along with the Reconnaissance pants and jacket for the majority of my days this season (Check out Ian’s review on the Recon kit here.) This breathable lightweight kit excelled in the skin track under mild to lightly stormy conditions. Once the storms picked up, or when I ventured out into an unknown forecast, I had to reach for the Dual Aspect Hoody, PowSlayer bibs and Refugitive jacket. While this kit did have less breathability, it provided the ultimate in protection from the elements.
When it comes to sizing I tend to fall right at the border of size medium and size large. After having some restrictive mediums in the past, I tend to opt for the large and deal with any excess bulk rather than busting zippers when I’m hulking it out in the backcountry. For reference, I stand at 5’11, weigh 185 pounds, have a 33/34″ waist, and a 32″ inseam. With a 44” chest, I tend to run into mobility issues around the chest, arms and back with smaller sizes. I opted for Patagonia’s large outerwear and never experienced any mobility issues.
Dual Aspect Hoody
The Dual Aspect is a purpose built mid layer with DWR coated Shelled Polartec Power Shield on the front and rear torso as well as at the top of the shoulders and down the arms. Instead of building the entire piece with the same material, Patagonia utilized the stretchy and breathable Polartec Power Dry on the underside of the arms, sides of the torso, around the waist and on the hood. Due to it’s fitted cut, Ian up sized his to a large for greater comfort.
Fresh out of the bag, I was excited about it’s fit and style. It’s definitely a piece you can wear on or off the mountain. If you ask Ian about it, he’ll likely tell you about the winks and nods he’s received while sporting it around town. When it comes to hoods, I often avoid wearing them unless the wind and blowing snow force it on me. I typically find hoods to be restrictive and uncomfortable, but really loved the stretchy fitted Dual Aspect hood. The Power Shield portion of the hoody was originally a bit stiff. After wearing it to work, shuttling the kids around, spending time in the skin track and it’s first wash, the piece quickly softened up like a comfy hoody should. I found the Polartec Power Dry portions of the garment to breath really well and provide just enough protection to keep the nip out of the breeze. With one large phone sized zippered chest pocket and two zippered hand pockets, there was plenty of storage. The hand pockets unzipped from the top down allowing easy access while wearing a pack.
The Dual Aspect quickly became my go to piece here in the Sierra. I was able to comfortably wear it as an outer-layer in conditions from mild temps to strong breezes, and even light snowfall. Like any mid-layer, there comes a point where it either becomes too hot in mild conditions or not enough in cold or stormy conditions. The Shelled Power Shield and its DWR finish was capable of beading light precipitation and snowfall while you stalled to see if you would really have to throw on your shell on. The breathability of the sides allowed me to comfortably skin longer than other typical mid layers. I tend to run hot in the skin track, and often find myself stripping down to a T-shirt even if it means my skin becomes cold. By the time I was ready to shed the Dual Aspect, the temps outside seemed more comfortable while wearing my long or short sleeve base-layer. The Dual Aspect may not pack down to the size of your packable puffy, but due to the Power Dry material it packs down relatively small.
The PowSlayer Bib is one of Patagonia’s premiere pieces featuring 3L Gore-Tex Pro. Unlike the hybrid material found on the Reconnaissance pieces, Gore-Tex Pro features a Rip Stop construction to increase the garments durability. If you’ve never handled these bibs, or any of the pieces in the touring line, the weight (or lack there of) is simply incomprehensible (20.5 oz). After comparing them to a pair of name brand snowboard outerwear, a buddy said, “Wow! Maybe there is something to this Patagucci stuff.”
After the initial shock and awe of its feather like weight, your thoughts will likely question how well it could possibly keep the cold out and the warmth in. I found the PowSlayer bibs performed excellently in wind, sleet, and snow. I will say that if you plan on sitting in direct contact with snow for any length of time, you may want to add a layer between you and the snow. During an in bounds sleet storm, I experienced some wetting of the outer membrane. While the outer membrane appeared wet, I never found any moisture to pass through to the interior of the bibs. I couldn’t say the same for my gloves, which eventually soaked up the moisture like a sponge. Once out of the storm, I was impressed that the outer membrane was able to thoroughly dry before we had time to pick up some Bombers from the Tahoma Market.
This was the first pair of bibs I’ve worn while touring and I was interested to see if they would get in the way or create unneeded warmth while touring. I had expected to take advantage of the bibs ability to wear a belt and allow the upper bib portion to hang down. To date I have yet to do so. Without a belt, the bibs allowed air to pass up and down while touring instead of creating a hot spot around the top of my legs and waist. I hardly even noticed the bibs except for while thinking about me being the only one not ventilating their butt crack while touring. When the temps crept up, the side sips which run from the knee to waist quickly dumped excess body heat. The bibs also feature a drop seat feature where you can handle your business while keeping your shoulder straps and jacket on.
The PowSlayer is cut with Patagonia’s relaxed fit, which I found to be on the baggier side when compared to the Reconnaissance’s regular fit. I typically prefer loose fitting outerwear but wouldn’t mind seeing this piece slightly fitted up. The PowSlayer’s gaiters were much easier to get over your boots than the tighter fitting Reconnaissance gaiter. Although I didn’t experience any issues, I felt that the Recon gaiter offered more protection while booting. With two pockets at the front of the thighs, two small pockets at the top of the bib, and one rear wallet style pocket there was plenty of storage.
The Refugitive jacket is an ultra lightweight (15oz), super packable jacket, which features a hybrid Gore-Tex construction. The Gore-Tex is sandwiched between a soft outer layer and Gore-Tex C-Knit polyester backing. This garment has a softer feel and is much quieter while touring than the PowSlayer and it’s Gore-Tex Pro material. Like the PowSlayer, this piece also features a ripstop construction to increase it’s durability. It would be amazing to see the PowSlayer bib made from this quiet, and lightweight material. The Refugitive was my storm day savior as it fought off high winds, snow and sleet. When not saving me from the elements, its small footprint allowed it to disappear within my pack until I needed it. This jacket is small enough that I was almost able to fit it in a the thigh pocket of the PowSlayer bibs. While it is a bomber jacket for burly weather, it weight and packability allow it to perform elsewhere. The Refugitive became Ian’s favorite fly-fishing jacket and it’s a piece I plan on carrying on the John Muir Trail this summer.
The jacket’s minimalist design is all about function so you won’t find a powder skirt, mesh in the vents, or a key chain clip in your pocket. The hand pockets were elevated and pushed towards the hips for easy access while wearing a pack. The chest pocket offers amble room for your phone, a map, snacks or whatever else you choose to stuff in there. I found the media pocket located inside the jacket to be extremely small. I would like to see either a larger media pocket, or have it eliminated and allow a cord to be routed through to the exterior chest pocket for those who choose to use it. Inside the jacket there is a drop in style pouch with an elastic top for holding gloves or goggles. The large underarm pit zips allowed for ventilation and heat evacuation. Within the hand warmer pockets are the easy to use waist cinch draw cords, and the push button releases are located at the hem of the jacket. With the elastic button to pant feature at the rear of the jacket, the waist cinch, and the fact that I was wearing the PowSlayer bibs, I never took any cold shots down the pants while perfecting my POW rolls.
Without a doubt, these pieces command a strong retail price and having the funds to purchase one to two sets of Patagonia outerwear is not a reality for many of us. Luckily, some of the burn has been taken away with end of season markdowns. The Refugitive jacket has been marked down from $499 to $349, the Dual Aspect has been marked down from $249 to $179 and the Reconnaissance pieces have also been marked down to $279 and $244. Another option to score some deals would calling some of the Patagonia outlet locations.
While I wish it were possible to have the breathability of the Recon kit combined with the superior protection of the PowSlayer bib and Refugitive jacket, I understand it’s not possible at this time. With only a few minor changes recommended for these pieces you really can’t go wrong. If you’re looking for lightweight, breathable touring gear I would recommend taking the time fondle these Patagonia pieces. It’s an exciting time with all of the advances in outerwear tech, we can’t wait to see where things will go next!