Hands-on Gear Review

Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX Review

By: Brandon Lampley and Tommy Penick  ⋅  Oct 6, 2014
Price:  $165 List
Pros:  Comfortable with minimal break in, great foot support and all-around traction, secure lacing.
Cons:  A bit heavy.
Manufacturer:   Patagonia

Our Verdict

The Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX wins our Editors' Choice award for the best all-around hiking shoe. It became our everyday shoe during the test period. From its first hike out of the box, a traverse on Mt. Massive, to short morning hikes along the river trail, we found it comfortable and supportive. Our feet stayed dry in puddles and heavy dew, and the upper held its shape well and dried out relatively quickly after stream crossings. Additionally, its Vibram sole, which includes recycled rubber, provided excellent traction in all conditions. Our testers loved this shoe for any adventure, but many backpackers will want more foot support for carrying medium loads.

Hikers seeking a lighter, more affordable shoe should consider the Keen Targhee 2, our Best Buy award winner. The North Face Ultra 109 GTX, a shoe that bridges the hiking shoe and trail running shoe categories, is an excellent choice for folks that want a more streamlined, agile product for fast hiking and trail running.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX received high scores across our testing metrics. Its strongest attributes are incredible comfort and stick-to-anything traction, and it received the highest score, a 10, in both of these metrics. Our Editors' Choice winner kept us happy backpacking, climbing ridges on big mountains and dayhiking in the foothills. In short, even though it's on the heavy end of the models we tested, it's the best do-everything hiking shoe we tested.

Performance Comparison


Brandon Lampley  nears the summit of South Massive outside Leadville  CO  while testing the shoes for this review.
Brandon Lampley, nears the summit of South Massive outside Leadville, CO, while testing the shoes for this review.

Comfort


This is an incredibly comfortable yet firm shoe. First trip out of the box, the Drifter saw us through 10 miles of trail and scrambling in fine style. Even though the midsole is firm and supportive, this shoe doesn't really need breaking in. They only become MORE comfortable over a few weeks as the upper's ample cushioning molds to your foot's unique shape. Additionally, the supportive foot bed matched with a snug toe box hugs your foot throughout the day. We loved the snugness through the midfoot and into the toe box, matched up with a reasonably aggressive heel cup.

Its lacing system, one of our favorites, is comprised of four lower eyelets formed by webbing that extends down around the midfoot and over the uppers' mesh. This design allows flexibility and breathability in the upper and the ability to snug the foot down into the footbed. Two closely spaced, traditional upper eyelets make it easy to snug the laces and tie them at the desired tension and provide the option for experimenting with lace tension and collar fit.

Relaxing and taking in the view of Mt. Elbert from South Massive.
Relaxing and taking in the view of Mt. Elbert from South Massive.

We found this shoe's upper quite breathable with all the mesh panels. While it breathes well, the ample padding and relative bulk make it fairly warm. That's great for cool weather, but warm weather users will find the non-waterproof Drifter model without the Gore-tex liner more comfortable.

Weight


We are passionate about our adventures here at OutdoorGearLab. Like the rest of our test shoes, the Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX saw many days and miles on the trail before it hit our scale. When weigh-in day rolled around we were a bit surprised to see them come in as a heavy shoe in comparison to the rest of the category — it feels pretty light on the foot. Our test pair weighed in at 2.55 lbs; that's four ounces per shoe heavier than the lightest shoe, the Merrell Moab Ventilator at 2.11 lbs for the pair. But our Editors' Choice winner packs a ton of performance with that weight.

Support


Falling right in the middle of the shoes we tested, this model provides good support for the foot. Its forefoot is more flexible than all but the lightweight Marshall and Moab Ventilator, but its midfoot is relatively stiff. Meanwhile, its torsional stability, the ability to resist twisting, is middle of the road. The Drifter's support is largely a function of the thick sole and midsole, while the more supportive shoes like the Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo and Targhee 2 have substantial shanks, and are a better choice for carrying medium loads backpacking. We found the Patagonia model's combination of flexibility up front and stiffness in the midfoot a great combination.

Traction


The Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX won best-in-class for traction, with an aggressive sole sporting huge knobs of grip-tape-like traction through the bottom and wrapping around the sides. While these large lugs create a look that might keep you from wearing these to the office, they stick to the trail like Velcro. We were continually impressed at this shoe's ability to hold onto anything.
The Drifter's aggressive lugged sole provides great traction on all kinds of terrain. It just sticks!
The Drifter's aggressive lugged sole provides great traction on all kinds of terrain. It just sticks!

In addition to all the hiking, we evaluated all of the products in this review side-by-side four times. Our Editors' Choice winner was a top performer in all four tests: rock slabs, wet rock, gravel and mud. We wore these shoes on a long ridge traverse on Mt. Massive, and encountered all of these surface conditions. Overall it handled the varied terrain with ease. Even at the end of day when tiredness led to some sloppy footwork on the wide gravel strewn trail, our feet stuck fast.

Patagonia uses a Vibram sole on the Drifter that incorporates 30 percent recycled rubber. This relatively soft rubber combined with the aggressive lug pattern creates remarkable traction, but wears faster than others. For those prioritizing durability, the burly Lowa Renegade is highly rated for traction as well.

Versatility


On well-maintained trails and off-trail in rough terrain, we were pleased with this model. It provided enough support for our feet when moving over rocks and roots off trail. When making similar footfalls over and over on smooth trail surfaces, the footbed and midsole cushioning was top notch. Surprisingly, like The North Face Ultra 109 and Adidas Outdoor AX 2.0 GTX, the Patagonia Drifter was a great shoe to run a few miles in. Choosing one of the low-key color options will give you a comfy, waterproof shoe for casual and around town wear, but the big sole lugs stand out.

Water Resistance


This shoe was outstandingly water resistant with a great finish on the uppers, as well as a great membrane for long soaks. Even when just sticking the entire shoe in a creek for the heck of it, we were surprised our feet were still dry. The design in the tongue allows for extra water resistance pretty high up on the ankle without being bulky and adding to the tongue thickness. In addition to being water resistant, the shoe is also very warm, which may or may not fit your needs.

Drying out the Drifter after a waist-deep wade across a creek. We were impressed with how waterproof the shoe is  and how well it hiked after it was saturated.
Drying out the Drifter after a waist-deep wade across a creek. We were impressed with how waterproof the shoe is, and how well it hiked after it was saturated.

Durability


Despite the many component materials that form the upper of this shoe, with seams running all over the place, the Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX held up pretty well in our testing. Since Patagonia double stitched every single seam on the shoe, we feel like it will stick up to years of abuse, though the aggressive sole tends to wear down a little bit quicker as a trade-off for the uncanny traction. We recommend making the Drifter your dedicated hiking shoe, and saving the wear and tear on the sole from pavement and sidewalks around town.

Best Applications


The Patagonia Drifter A/C GORE-TEX is a great choice for day hiking and backpacking trips with light loads. We loved it for fast hiking adventures that took us on trail and off. We felt like the shoe was versatile enough to tackle most outdoor endeavors, and not particularly specialized in one direction. It's also comfortable to jog in for a bit when the feeling hits ya. It's a warm shoe, and if you're willing to forgo the Gore-Tex liner, the non-waterproof version is better for hot weather.

Taking in the view before heading down from Mt. Massive above Leadville  CO. A light pack and comfortable hiking shoes makes for fun exploring above treeline.
Taking in the view before heading down from Mt. Massive above Leadville, CO. A light pack and comfortable hiking shoes makes for fun exploring above treeline.

Value


At $165, this is one of the more expensive models we tested. It received our Editors' Choice award because it's the best do-everything shoe we tested, and mega comfy. Folks looking for a more affordable model with similar performance scores should start with the Keen Targhee 2, our Best Buy award winner.

Conclusion


The Patagonia Drifter is a great, well-rounded shoe, equally at home dayhiking, fast hiking, or backpacking with light loads. We loved the lack of break-in period, the awesome traction, and the great build quality. It you want a hiking shoe for all kinds of adventures, this is your best bet.

At home in all kinds or terrain  and comfortable for hours or days  our Editors' Choice winner is a perfect handle-anything hiking shoe.
At home in all kinds or terrain, and comfortable for hours or days, our Editors' Choice winner is a perfect handle-anything hiking shoe.

Brandon Lampley and Tommy Penick

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Most recent review: October 6, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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