As my previous pack continued to wear and fray itself away, I knew that it was only a matter of time before it would be laid to rest. Me being a creature of habit, I wasn’t overly thrilled about it. I took some time when I first set out to locate my packs replacement and knew that it would need to have a few specific features. The first necessary feature was a snow safety pocket which was isolated from the rest of the pack. I can’t have my snow tools soaking my layers and camera, and more importantly I want the snow tools pocket to be strictly business. My crew needs to be able to rely on me and being able to deploy my tools as quickly as possible is important. The second feature I needed was the ability to carry a splitboard in both “A Frame” mode and vertical carry. The third necessity was an additional access point into the pack. One of my early packs was a typical top loader and planning was a requirement when it came to packing this pack. Even with that perfect planning, sometimes you needed that extra layer at the bottom of your pack, or your pack somehow swallowed an item which forced you to strip more items from the pack then you had hoped. A pack with a second access point makes it easy to open the pack and access an item at the top or bottom of the pack.
When it came to pack size, I set out looking for a moderately sized pack in the 25-30l range. I have found that this size allows me the ability to cinch down the pack while taking minimal items on quick day tours, or the ability to take extra layers and a large camera without having to overly stuff the pack.
As I began scouring the internet and taking a closer look at what my buddies were using, I received several recommendations for Patagonia’s SnowDrifter pack and word of it’s reported “bomber construction.” I scoped out the packs features and saw that it had a snow tool specific pocket, a secondary access point, and has the ability to carry a board vertically, in the A Frame configuration, and diagonal carry. I decided to pull the trigger and picked up the two-tone blue SnowDrifter backpack in the 30l size.
After spending this last season touring, snowmobiling, and even having it tossed in and out of Heli baskets, I’ve become well acquainted with the pack and have high hopes for it’s durability. Overall, the packs big top handle, and zipper pulls worked great while gloved up, the pack was comfortable and balanced on the back and the Cordura fabric feels like it should withstand a beating.
The pack features zippered access at the top of the pack and a secondary access point at the packs back panel. Unless I was grabbing something I knew was at the top of the pack, or the weather was severe, I would typically access the pack through the back panel. The back panel allows for easy access and makes doing a gear check before leaving the house a split. Although the pack is a 30l, it feels like it could definitely be stuffed to 35l or more. The pack includes a sleeved pocket for your hydration bladder on the inside of the back panel and a slit to route your hose out of the pack.
Like most day packs the SnowDrifter comes equipped with a fleece lined goggle pouch located between the main compartment and the snow tools pocket. I found the pocket to be large enough for goggles, a couple extra lenses, and for easy to access snacks. I did notice that when the goggle pocket was fully loaded, it did hinder some access to the packs main compartment when accessed through the top zipper.
The snow tools pocket is organized with a dedicated sleeve for your shovel blade, sleeves for your shovel handle and probe, and plenty of room for your other small snow tools. Within the snow tools portion of the pack, there is a small zippered pocket which I used to store a few tools, some skin wax, a face buff, a headlamp and other miscellaneous items.
The vertical board carry and A frame carry systems are pretty standard in packs and these worked just as they should. If you do plan to run wide waisted boards like the Soulmotion Snowsurf Red Tail Hawk board pictured, the vertical board carry straps can easily be max out. To date, I have yet to use the packs diagonal carry, but can see it being beneficial when navigating overhead branches where your tips would get caught up in an A Frame configuration.
While the pack is not airbag compatible, it is also missing some things which are commonly found on other packs. The pack lacks a hip pouch so I was pushed to utilize my pants and jacket pockets for things which were needed while touring. Due to the pack not having the ability to route the hydration line inside the shoulder straps, the line can quickly become frozen if you don’t have an insulated sleeve for it. While the pack may not have every bell and whistle which is offered out there, the pack is utilitarian, burly, and has everything that’s really needed.
Don’t run off when you see Patagonia embroidered on the pack. While many will assume that it will carry an elevated price, at $169 I found the pack to be priced inline with other similar packs on the market. Be sure to do a little searching for a previous seasons color scheme because there are deals to be had. The two tone blue pack pictured above in a S/M size can be currently had for half off on Patagonia’s website here.
Don’t just put your head in the snow, check it out.