Expert Review: Patagonia Snowdrifter Ski Touring Backpack 20L

This review is my honest opinion of the backpack, which I purchased with my own money in January of 2020.

Two skiers walking up a hill.

All photos courtesy of Hunter R.

Published on

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the backpack, which I purchased with my own money in January of 2020.

My take

The Patagonia Snowdrifter 20L backpack is a minimalist backpack for ski touring without too many bells and whistles or a higher price tag. It is ideal for those doing shorter tours.

Two skiers walking up a trail.

About the gear

  • Model: Patagonia SnowDrifter Ski Touring Backpack 20L
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Size: S/M
  • Pack capacity: 20L

About me

  • Height: 5’3”
  • Weight: 115lbs
  • Experience: 25+ years of skiing

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: January 2020
  • Days Tested: 100+
  • What I carried:
    • Shovel: Black Diamond Evac 7 Shovel
    • Probe: Backcountry Access Stealth 270 Probe
    • Other: Extra layers, water, first aid kit, snacks
  • Total pack weight: 10lbs
  • Used for: Backcountry skiing
  • Where I’ve used it: Utah
  • Conditions I’ve used it in: Powder, snowy days and sunny, spring days

How it performs

Back Breathability
5/5
Comfort
4/5
Design
5/5
Durability
5/5
Versatility
4/5
Waterproofing
4/5
Weight
4/5

What I was looking for

As I was just getting into ski touring, I needed a pack that could fit all my avalanche safety gear. I didn’t need anything too fancy because I would only be doing short days. I also didn’t want to spend a ton of money because I had just purchased all my other backcountry ski gear. Ideally, I wanted something simple and reliable that could carry the necessities.

Why I chose this gear

I decided to buy the SnowDrifter because I had a few other durable backpacks from Patagonia that fit me well. I was also considering the more expensive Osprey Kresta 30L pack, but I ultimately decided it was a bit larger than I needed.

Inside of the SnowDrifter Backpack.

What I love about it

  • Durability: It still looks brand new after I have scraped it on a lot of trees, tossed it around quite a bit, and buried it a few times in the snow for avalanche beacon drill practice. No scrapes, rips, stains—and the zippers still work great.
  • Ease of use: It has one large compartment to carry my shovel and probe, and a small top pocket that's lined with fleece to hold my goggles. The zippers—which have large pulls—and the buckles on the hip and sternum are easy to use with a gloved hand.
  • Adjustability: The hip belt and the shoulder straps are both adjustable. Size S/M fits me well with a lot of room for adjustments.
  • Capacity: The 20L capacity is perfect for me; I don’t do many tours that last more than four hours, and I don’t do any overnight ski-hut trips. It fits all my safety gear, an extra layer, water, and snacks.
  • Weight: At 2lbs, this pack is average weight. The Osprey Kresta I was comparing it to at the time of purchase weighs 3lbs.
  • Features: I store my goggles in the front pocket on the outside of the pack because it is fleece-lined. There are also two buckles on each side of the pack that can carry skis in an A-frame position.
  • Organization and pockets: The main, internal compartment has one sleeve specifically designed to hold a probe and another to hold a shovel—making it easy to find my gear in case of an emergency. The only other pocket is the goggle pocket on the front of the pack.
  • Pack Access: The main compartment unzips across the entirety of the pack. This makes it easy to find things at the bottom without digging around. In an emergency avalanche situation, it would also make it much easier to get my rescue gear out quickly.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Suspension and comfort: While the pack is normally comfortable, when it has a lot of gear in it, it is not. Because the hip belt is not very padded, I end up carrying most of the load on my shoulders.
  • Weather Resistance: This pack has a water-repellent coating. But if it is heavily snowing or raining, I find that the pack will feel wet and heavy. I have never had my gear inside get soaked from rain or snow, but it does feel noticeably heavier.
  • Hip belt: The hip belt on this pack is not very burly and has no padding, so it doesn’t carry weight very well.
  • Versatility: Given that this is a ski-touring pack, it has a lot of specific features that make it great for this purpose but a bit inconvenient to use for anything else. The main compartment is designed for safety gear and would not be useful for organizing hiking gear.
  • Other: Many ski-touring packs have a fabric helmet carry on the outside of the pack. This pack does not have that. So if I want to carry my helmet, I need to attach it to the outside of the pack, where it will bounce around and likely get snow in it. My other options are to hike up with my helmet on—which gets too hot—or skip the helmet altogether. This feature is only available on the slightly larger SnowDrifter 30L pack.
A woman walking down a ski trail.

Favorite moment with this gear

This pack makes transitioning from walk to ski mode during touring so much easier. It feels like I am always the first person done because it’s easy for me to open my backpack up all the way, get my ski jacket out, put my ski skins in, and zip my pack back up. On cold days, it makes a huge difference being able to be quick. It's also been a blessing to me that I never have to remove my gloves to operate my backpack. My hands typically get so cold, but I have never needed to worry about that with this pack.

Value for the money vs. other options

There are a lot of pricier options out there such as the Osprey Kresta, but they are generally heavier, more geared towards full eight-plus-hour days on the mountain, and have a lot more room and features that I don’t really need. Ski touring is an expensive sport, so it was great to be able to save some money on getting a simple, durable pack like the SnowDrifter. At $159, this pack is a great bang for your buck.

Final verdict

The Patagonia SnowDrifter 20L Ski Touring Backpack is a great pack to accompany me into the backcountry for shorter tours. It has well-thought-out pockets, is easy to maneuver with gloves on, and shows no wear even after 100+ days of use. It is on the cheaper end for ski touring backpacks, but it’s a high-quality pack for a lower price tag.

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Written By
Hey there! My name is Hunter and I grew up in Ogden, Utah - one of the most underrated places for skiing IMO (but shh don't tell your friends). I considered leaving the state for college for all of five minutes until I realized the access to skiing, climbing, etc. in Utah is unparalleled. So I just...

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