Patagonia Descensionist Jacket and Pant – Backcountry Touring Covered
Patagonia Descensionist Jacket and Pant are made for the backcountry. Made of a quite, yet waterproof material that is perfect for touring in. Somehow, Patagonia made the Decensionist gear lightweight, stretchy, breathable and stylish. I have put the Descensionist jacket through a year-long testing process. The pants have been on a month of splitboarding tours. Read on for some DEEP insights into these backcountry worthy kit.
3-Layer Waterproof / Breathable Shell
Most higher end shells are going to be 3-layer in design. Think Gore-Tex Pro Shell and others in the same category. The thing is, most of those 3-layer shells are a hard shell. Meaning, they are completely waterproof, but they make a fair bit of noise. And feel “hard” to the touch. On the other side of the spectrum, we have soft shells. These are prized for their breathability and quietness. Often, the problem is that the soft shell will wet out or is thick and bulky. Patagonia found a way to create a hard shell that feels like a soft shell. I know, you have probably heard that before and are thinking “not this story again”. Well, here we go….
Soft Shell Feel
The Descensionist is soft to the touch. It is also quite and stretches a lot. The last two features are important to me as I want to be quiet and comfortable when touring. I really do not like to hear crinkly hard shell materials rubbing and crunching. The Descensionist kit is ninja quite, yet keeps the snow out. I used the Descensionist jacket for the majority of the last season and all of the current season of splitboarding. It stretches to allow great articulation when navigating backcountry terrain. I actually think it is better than a soft shell as it is much thinner and there is no fleece backer to get stuck on base layers.
Sizing is a Bit Off
90% of the time I wear XL in a top and large or XL in a bottom from Patagonia. I had to size down. Way down, to a medium for pants and large for the jacket. Even with the provided waist belt, I could not get the large pants to stay up. So they went back and I opted for the medium in pants. They seem to fit great. 33″ waist x 32″ inseam for reference. On top, I am 45″ chest and 6’1″ at 205lbs. If you are built like me, then the large will serve you well. Even with a midweight base layer (I have been using the Capeline Air and Merino Air as baselayers).
I picked up the Descensionist pants last season and sent them back after one day. I have never had to send back something from Patagonia from not liking it. Why did it go back you may ask? There was no gaiter! The moment I tried them on, I was confused why they did not have a gaiter to keep snow out. I thought to myself, “well, maybe Patagonia found a way to make functional ski pants that don’t need a gaiter”. I was wrong. LOL. The moment I stepped off the splitboard, snow came right into the pants. I packed them up and sent them back to Patagonia. They have an incredible return/happiness policy. I am not into returning gear, but sure am glad for the Ironclad Guarantee. This year, there is a fully functional gaiter that fits over ski and snowboard boots. It fit over my size 11.5 ThirtyTwo MTB splitboard boots.
Review of the Descensionist Jacket and Pant
As long as you get the sizing right, the Descensionist kit will prove to be a worthy backcountry ski and splitboarding kit. I love the way the materials feel and the lack of noise really makes me happy. The styling is great too. Somewhere between freeride and functional. The lack of pit zips surprised me, although the main pockets on the jacket are mesh backed and do a good job of dumping heat. The zippers are tiny and I kind of wish there were two zippers for each vent, so I can dial in where I want to dump heat from. These are small gripes compared to how awesome the jacket and pant function. They are comfortable enough to wear all day and all night. In fact, I have winter camped in them several times. The Descensionist kit (including backpack) is legit for us backcountry travelers.