Hands-on Gear Review

Patagonia KnifeRidge Jacket Review

Price:  $449 List
Pros:  Stretchy material, very weather resistant, excellent attention to detail, good hood and hem adjustments
Cons:  Very expensive, not super breathable
Bottom line:  This is the best wintertime softshell of the competition, providing the highest overall performance while also costing the most.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
Type:  Membrane lined
Weight (size medium):  19 oz (size small)
Material:  Polartec Power Shield Pro (5.6-oz, 90% polyester,10% spandex outer fabric)
Manufacturer:   Patagonia

Our Verdict

The KnifeRidge Was Discontinued in October 2017

Earning our Editors' Choice Award in 2017 is the Patagonia KnifeRidge. It outdid the competition by providing the best balance of wet and windy weather protection and breathability, high-quality construction, and a spot-on feature set. Ready for action all over the mountains and in all kinds of conditions, this model performs especially well in high winds. Leave your heavier hardshell behind in mild winter conditions when donning the KnifeRidge, which our testers decided was their favorite for technical alpine activities. Although it isn't 100% waterproof, it resists water absorption and wetting out better than any other model reviewed. For folks who like to have one jacket for a myriad of winter uses, the KnifeRidge is tough to beat and maintains an impressive capacity to take a beating while remaining breathable and mobile. The biggest downside to this piece is its high $450 price tag, considering that you can buy other top-scoring softshells for much cheaper. (If the KnifeRidge's price has you down, check out the $199 Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell, which won our Top Pick Award for Skiing and shares many technical attributes with the Patagonia model.)

While we loved the KnifeRidge overall, it isn't for everyone. For example, if you are in need of a softshell that breathes as fast as you do and while still providing some protection from wind and driving spindrift, consider the Best Buy winning Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody.


RELATED REVIEW: The 12 Best Softshell Jackets for Men

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Chris McNamara

Last Updated:
Tuesday
July 18, 2017

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The Patagonia KnifeRidge Jacket is an easy pick if you want something that'll keep the elements out, but will still breathe well enough to keep you from overheating. It is the best winter softshell we tested and is versatile to be at home in many mountainous pursuits. It was the top performer for wind and water resistance but fell just a bit behind in breathability.

Performance Comparison


This Editors' Choice winner breathes better than expected and is a champion against wind and water. This reviewer loved that the sleeves rolled up easily and stayed put.
This Editors' Choice winner breathes better than expected and is a champion against wind and water. This reviewer loved that the sleeves rolled up easily and stayed put.

Weather Protection


The Patagonia KnifeRidge Jacket blocks wind, rain, and snow like no other softshell in this review. The Polartec Power Shield Pro membrane does its job and keeps the vast majority of the elements out. During our waterfall test, our reviewer stayed warm and dry as the jacket repelled the frigid torrent with ease. The only other jacket to approach the water resistance of this piece was the Patagonia Adze Hoody that uses Polartec Windbloc. Unfortunately for Adze wearers, water began seeping through the seams long before it leaked through the fabric. But the KnifeRidge with its taped seams and water-resistant zippers didn't have this issue. Patagonia claims that the KnifeRidge is waterproof in "all but a downpour" and after our field tests, we agree.


Now let's talk about wind. Not only did this jacket protect us in wet conditions, but it also blocks wind with ease. In addition to real world field tests, we compared wind resistance of these jackets by sticking our arms out the window while driving 60 mph. You can't feel the chill of wind through this jacket.

Weather resistance and breathability maintain an inverse relationship. The KnifeRidge received a 9/10 in weather resistance and a 5/10 in breathability. If you seek a little more breathability and don't mind less weather resistance, the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol may be the jacket for you.

Our infamous waterfall test let this product show its true water resistant power. It's difficult to tell from the photo on the right  but our reviewer was quite dry even after sauntering through the deluge.
Our infamous waterfall test let this product show its true water resistant power. It's difficult to tell from the photo on the right, but our reviewer was quite dry even after sauntering through the deluge.

All of this combined, we give the KnifeRidge a 9/10 when it comes to weather resistance. Ice climbers and skiers will welcome the protection afforded by this piece. But with increased weather resistance comes a subsequent decrease in breathability. It's also worth noting that there is no insulation in this piece. The material itself is thin, so you'll want to wear it over other layers. We see this as a benefit, however, because it means that you can wear this jacket in a myriad of conditions rather than just a few.

When used for skiing  this product kept our tester toasty. He couldn't feel the wind at all through the wind resistant membrane.
When used for skiing, this product kept our tester toasty. He couldn't feel the wind at all through the wind resistant membrane.

Breathability


The breathability of the KnifeRidge is by no means excellent when you compare it with other jackets like the Black Diamond Alpine Start or Outdoor Research Ferrosi. If you're planning to hike or skin uphill or maintain an elevated heart rate during other aerobic activities, it is possible that you'll sweat enough to exceed the KnifeRidge's ability to evacuate moisture. If your adventures have you gasping for air as you race to beat your personal best, this jacket probably isn't what you're seeking.


That said, when you compare this jacket with hardshell jackets the breathability advantages are evident. Hardshell jackets rely on humidity gradients to transmit water vapor through a porous membrane. Most of the time, when you're working up a sweat, your moisture output typically exceeds the ability of the jacket to breathe. The membrane of the KnifeRidge differs from that used in hardshell jackets because it allows a tiny amount of air to pass through helping you dry out. The downside is that it also means that the jacket isn't totally waterproof. Expose it to driving rain for extended periods of time or agitate it with pressure (as with the shoulder straps on your backpack) and water will seep in.

Like most other jackets, if you start overheating, roll up your sleeves, unzip your main core vent (aka the center zip), and let the wind cool you down. It's worth noting that the sleeves on this jacket are comfortable to wear on your arms/elbows. When used for climbing, backcountry skiing, hiking, and other such activities in cold environments, our reviewers felt that the trade-off in breathability was worth the increase in water resistance.

We loved this product for backcountry skiing. It was not as breathable as other jackets  but when the sleeves are rolled up  and the center zip is open  it was quite comfortable even when hiking uphill on a sunny day in the snow.
We loved this product for backcountry skiing. It was not as breathable as other jackets, but when the sleeves are rolled up, and the center zip is open, it was quite comfortable even when hiking uphill on a sunny day in the snow.

Mobility & Fit


Reach, stretch, shred, pull, crank, and crush while you're wearing the KnifeRidge. Need to strain for that pick placement that's just out of reach? No problem! Starting a mountain-top yoga meet-up? Go for it! Just don't forget to throw those sweet shots on Instagram. Of any jacket we reviewed, this one feels the stretchiest. This is awesome and makes the jacket feel like a top shelf product. All too often, jackets that fortify us against weather feel clammy, crinkly, and stiff, but the KnifeRidge stretches and flows with you rather than against you. Though we loved the stretchy nature of this piece, it was surpassed in mobility by the Patagonia Adze Hybrid, which has a more generous arm gusset. When reaching up, the hem of the KnifeRidge slightly rises, and the wrist cuffs slightly fall. In actual use, this was never an issue as the stretchiness of the fabric accounted for the gap, but in contrast, the Adze never had this issue.


In the last two iterations of our softshell review, we bought everything in size medium. If you're considering buying the KnifeRidge, you need to be aware that it fits quite large compared with any other softshell we tested. In fact, this jacket was roughly a full size bigger than other softshell jackets we reviewed (even others also made by Patagonia!). The photo below shows the size medium we originally purchased before exchanging it for a size small for the duration of this review. The small size fits like a medium but is a little on the smaller side of the range.

Don't forget to invite this product to your next early morning stretch session!
Don't forget to invite this product to your next early morning stretch session!

This jacket runs large!! We recommend trying it on before buying or sizing down.

As with all the other contenders in this review  we ordered this model in size medium as seen here. You can see that it fits quite large  so we returned it for the small size for the duration of our review. Few of our medium sized testers ever realized they were given a size small jacket.
As with all the other contenders in this review, we ordered this model in size medium as seen here. You can see that it fits quite large, so we returned it for the small size for the duration of our review. Few of our medium sized testers ever realized they were given a size small jacket.

Weight & Packed Size


This jacket came it at 19 ounces for the size small. It is a tad lighter than the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol that weighs 20 ounces. Either of these jackets feels light enough and pack down small enough that throwing them in your pack isn't a huge sacrifice unless you are ultra weight-conscious. If you love trimming ounces and liters from your pack, look at the Black Diamond Alpine Start that weighs a scant 8 ounces. If you combined the Alpine Start with a super lightweight rain jacket like the Outdoor Research Helium II that weighs 6.5 ounces, you'd have a weatherproof, modular system that weighs just 14 ounces and costs less than the KnifeRidge alone. That said, as previously mentioned, the benefit of the KnifeRidge is that it can face a myriad of conditions without having to stop to add a layer.


Features

The Cohaesive adjustments shown here are super easy to use. Rather than having to pinch something  you can just press a quarter size button. This was still easy to do when wearing bulky  winter mittens.
The Cohaesive adjustments shown here are super easy to use. Rather than having to pinch something, you can just press a quarter size button. This was still easy to do when wearing bulky, winter mittens.
The features of the Patagonia KnifeRidge Jacket are those you'd expect from a piece that costs you nearly half a grand. Each cut of fabric joins the next with flat seams, giving the jacket a streamlined look. Before we jump into all the other features of this jacket, we've got to tell you about our favorite feature. This jacket has far and away the best cord lock adjustments of any softshell we've tested. The cord locks on other jackets are basic (they're just a cinch that you pinch to adjust and are seen on everything from sleeping bags, stuff sacks, to backpacks, and more). This jacket has "Cohaesive" cord locks that work a bit differently. Though they function the same as regular cord locks, their design equates to increased ease of use. Rather than looking like the cylindrical cord locks that we're accustomed to, Cohaesive cord locks look like two flat disks laid on top of each other. The difference this makes is striking. Rather than having to pinch the ends of a cylinder, you just need to press a big round button to adjust them! It works brilliantly and is easier to use when wearing gloves.


While on the topic of adjustments, the hood adjustment is the best of any jacket in this review. Other adjustable hoods have three cords you need to pull to fully cinch up the hood. Meanwhile, the KnifeRidge has just one cord that adjusts them. It's super fast and easy to use this hood with or without a helmet, and the adjustments feel automatic compared with other jackets. Additionally, the hem drawstring is accessed through the two hand warmer pockets but can also be adjusted via an external pull tab.

Unlike any other softshell we tested, this one has an embedded RECCO reflector to assist in-bounds rescue should you get caught in an avalanche at a ski resort.

We also liked that the wrist cuffs use a Velcro cinch that feels durable. The Velcro that Patagonia uses feels much more robust than that used by competitors, which leads us to believe that it is more durable in the long run. If you've ever worn through the velcro on a jacket's cuffs before, you know how big of a deal this can be.

Finally, two handwarmer pockets lined with a stretchy mesh material can be used as vents. They are located just high enough to keep them out of the way of most harnesses, but some reviewers wished they were a tad higher to not interfere with a hip belt. One external chest pocket finishes off our discussion of this jacket's excellent features.

The hood fits well over a helmet  and the zippers are accessible even when wearing a harness.
The hood fits well over a helmet, and the zippers are accessible even when wearing a harness.

Style


Designed with alpine uses in mind, this jacket fits the bill in terms of style. If you love looking sporty in the mountains, go with the blue color we tested. More discreet outdoor adventurers will opt for the Arbor Green or Forge Grey. This isn't a jacket we'd often wear around town as it isn't as cozy as those with fleece linings. It looks out of place in many work environments and appears more like a rain jacket than casual wear. Because it doesn't look that great around town but looks awesome on the mountain, we give it a 7/10 for style.


Best Applications


The Patagonia KnifeRidge Jacket excels of many mountain missions that require protection from the elements and some breathability. It is a stellar ice climbing jacket and works well for backcountry skiing and mountaineering. However, it is not suited to super high output activities like cross-country skiing or mountain running.
This product excelled as an all mountain jacket. This tester was comfortable on the approach and on the ski down.
This product excelled as an all mountain jacket. This tester was comfortable on the approach and on the ski down.

Value


This top shelf jacket carries a top shelf price tag of $450. Considering you could buy several other jackets for this price, it is a relatively poor value. If you don't already have a hardshell jacket or a rain jacket then we highly recommend that you buy one of those first before buying a softshell. Many of our reviewers also opt to buy an insulated jacket before purchasing a softshell.

Though it is expensive, the KnifeRidge is the best softshell jacket we tested. If you demand the highest performance from your gear, then this jacket is well worth your investment.

Conclusion


The Patagonia KnifeRidge Jacket is the best softshell that we tested especially if you value weather resistance slightly over breathability. It isn't great for running or cross-country skiing but excels for nearly every other use in the mountains. We love using it for ice climbing and skiing, and it breathes much better than we expected. If you're looking for a sweet softshell to use as a go-to piece for all your days in the mountains, this jacket is our top choice.
The Kniferidge worked great while chasing some early season turns.
The Kniferidge worked great while chasing some early season turns.
Chris McNamara

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Most recent review: July 18, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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5 star: 100%  (1)
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