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Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review

Don Wilson explores the new Patagonia Traverse Softshell clothing, with input from Ryan Jordan.


Overall Rating: Recommended

The Patagonia Traverse series is not pushing the lightweight limits, but the garments are lighter than most softshells and perform extremely well in their intended niche of high output mountain activity. The stretch fabric and slim fit keep the Traverse products tight against your torso or legs, but are still highly usable in technical moves while climbing. Quality construction and durable fabric add to the appeal. The Traverse pants could be improved as lightweight trekking clothing with a better pocket design and some lighter colors.

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by Don Wilson |

For winter 2009, Patagonia has released a new lineup of lightweight softshell clothing targeted at climbers and high-output mountain travelers (that's us, folks). The Traverse product line includes a jacket, a pullover, and pants. The jacket and pants are available in both men's and women's styles, while the pullover is only available in men's style. The specified weight of the men's jacket is 9.9 ounces (women's is 9.0 ounces), and its measured weight on our scales is 10.2 ounces. The pullover weighs in at the specified 9.2 ounces, and the pants come in at 8.8 ounces (both for size M). The women's pant is slightly lighter at 8.6 ounces.

Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review - 1
The author cooking a meal in his Patagonia Traverse jacket while exploring in Butterfly Canyon, Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona.

The fabric for all the Traverse series products is a 4.7-ounce-per-square-yard, 70 denier, 93% polyester, 7% spandex with four-way mechanical stretch and DWR finish. The jacket has a full zipper, two handwarmer pockets, and a bicep pocket. The pullover has a half zip and a single chest pocket with horizontal zipper. Both the pullover and jacket have elastic cuffs and a slight drop tail. The Pants feature an elastic and drawcord waistband, two zippered handwarmer pockets, gusseted crotch, and straight leg cut. All garments are cut with a slim fit.

We've had the jacket and pants over the past few months for an early look. My jacket has accompanied me on winter trail runs, many training hikes, and a few trips in my local mountains. The fabric is indeed quite stretchy, perfect for use on climbs and strenuous off-trail hikes. I had the jacket out in several nasty windstorms, and it seemed very wind resistant, but I would not say it is windproof (and it is not intended to be). During aerobic activity, it performed quite well as wind protection. Breathability in heavy aerobic use was very good - much better than a wind shell such as a Patagonia Houdini. This shell is perfect for cold weather training, or strenuous fall and winter hikes. I did find myself opening the zipper for extra ventilation on strenuous climbs with temperatures in the low 50s.

In minor rain, the DWR treatment did fine, but I wouldn't expect these garments to hold off rain for long periods of time. Build quality and workmanship is superb, with good stitching, high quality (but heavy) zippers, and nice touches such as a mesh-lined stand-up collar. Durability was good during my testing, but I did not take the jacket through any long, rocky climbs. I did have it on several bushwhacking sections that stressed the fabric, and it came through with no snags or pulls. I found the slim fit and stretch fabric to be functional for the intended use in high output activities. The handwarmer pockets in the jacket were cut too low for use with a hip belt, but were useful during cool rests. Note that the Pullover does not have handwarmer pockets - just a single chest pocket.

Ryan Jordan tested the Traverse pants over the spring and summer, and found them to be a comfortable, fast drying pant. At 8.8 ounces, they are lighter than most other comparable pants and the stretch fabric makes them very useful in technical hiking and climbing. Ryan found that the pocket design limited the usefulness of this garment as a trekking pant, as the two pockets are shallow and difficult to use for typical trekking storage (compass, small camera, etc). Ryan also found the black fabric on the pants to be limiting in warm or hot weather.

While not a product that would be targeted at an ultralight three-season kit, the Traverse garments are a good option for cold weather, or for summer alpine conditions. The pants are lighter than most other summer pant options. The jacket and pullover are better suited to cooler conditions. My jacket is my new favorite for winter training.

The Traverse Series will be available in January 2009.

Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review - 2
The stretch fabric of the Traverse series is comfortable and windproof. The handwarmer pockets are available only in the jacket. The pullover has just a single chest pocket.

Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review - 3
The bicep pocket in the jacket is useful for small items, but might not be effective in climbing conditions where your shoulder and upper arm are in heavy use or are pressed against rock slabs.

Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review - 4
The slim fit and long sleeves are well suited to high output aerobic activity. The short, stand-up collar provides a bit of extra protection in strong winds.

Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review - 5
There is a slight drop tail for a bit of extra coverage in the rear.



4.7-ounce-per-square-yard, 70 denier, 93% polyester, 7% spandex with four-way mechanical stretch and DWR finish


Jacket: two handwarmer pockets, vertical bicep pocket, full zipper, elastic cuffs, lined collar.
Pullover: half length front zip, horizontal chest pocket, elastic cuffs, lined collar.
Pants: two zippered pockets, gusseted crotch, straight leg.


Jacket 10.2 ounces (289 g) as measured. Pullover 9.2 ounces (260 g) as specified. Pants 8.8 ounces (249 g) as specified. All weights for men's M. Jacket and pants available in women's sizes.


Jacket $100, Pullover $75, Pants $75


"Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review," by Don Wilson. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2008-11-04 00:00:00-07.


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Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review on 11/04/2008 19:56:59 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review on 11/04/2008 20:18:37 MST Print View

Patagonia is a great company and has great product. Whats not to like. They may not be completly UL but thay make bombproof, weatherproof gear. They recycle and give back to the Earth. The Traverse looks like a great winter jacket and pants.

Edited by Creachen on 11/04/2008 20:19:14 MST.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review on 11/04/2008 21:17:05 MST Print View

So far I cannot recommend the Traverse pants. The face fabric is great but the seam style (serged it seems?) sucks. Mine are fraying up and down both sides and the crotch. Boooo. I'm going to take mine back to the store and see what they say.

Also the traverse pants are nice but not quite warm enough for winter above treeline. You'd need a pretty heavy base layer to make it work.

For running, fall scrambling, and hiking they're great, it's too bad about the seams :(

Chris Joseph
When do these go on sale? on 11/04/2008 22:29:42 MST Print View

I'm confused....the Patagonia website shows these garments are on sale now (as opposed to what this article says). Is Patagonia selling an older model now?

René Jeninga

Locale: Near the coast in the Netherlands
When do these go on sale? on 11/05/2008 01:12:05 MST Print View

They are on sale from september 2008!, that's when i bought my Traverese pants. So i don't think january 2009 is right???

Edited by renjen on 11/05/2008 01:13:25 MST.

joe newton

Locale: Bergen, Norway
Re: "Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review" on 11/05/2008 03:44:00 MST Print View

I've been using the Traverse pants for a little over a month now and they have become my first choice for nearly all my outdoor activities. I use them for running home from college, evening trail runs in the snow and ice and as all-day hiking pants in the mountains around Bergen (on colder days I layer with merino long underwear). They are extremely well made, unbelievably comfortable and light weight too. Ryan's comments on the dark colour and shallow pockets? Well in warm weather I always wear shorts (and would happily carry the Traverse pants as a long option on backpacking trips) and I never carry anything in my pockets when hiking or running. I simply couldn't be happier with them. The jacket is on my Christmas list!

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Re: When do these go on sale? on 11/05/2008 07:09:24 MST Print View

Yes, they are on sale now. Patagonia changed the sale date on these a couple of times, and at the time we wrote the article it was January. Clearly, they got them in stock sooner than they had planned based on our conversations with them at ORSM in August.

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Re: Re: Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review on 11/05/2008 07:10:43 MST Print View

Christopher -

Interesting. Is that fraying occurring on the upper, inner thigh? We haven't seen that happening.


Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Re: Re: Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review on 11/05/2008 09:02:44 MST Print View

It's happening all over, almost every place it's seamed. Outer lower legs on both sides are the worst but really it is all over. This is on the outside of the pants, where the seam might be exposed to abrasion but I've only had them out a handful of time (albeit solid outings of hiking, scrambling, climbing etc).


(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review on 11/05/2008 09:56:06 MST Print View

If the seems are surged it is possible that there was a problem with the center strand. We have seen this a few times through out the years when we make our winter gear. Though it seems strange that the operator wouldn't have caught it.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: RE: Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review on 11/05/2008 10:09:54 MST Print View

Well considering everyone else's good luck so far and my genuine happiness with most of my carefully chosen Patgucci gear, maybe it's a rare mfg defect?

I guess we'll see what Patagonia says. I really like the pants otherwise!

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
seams on 11/05/2008 18:45:23 MST Print View

Serging is indeed the correct term; it's the same multi-thread seam used on most capilene garmets for ages now.

Some pilling is normal on capilene-type fabrics. I presume the less squishy hard-shelled fabric puts the threads further out on the face and thus they abrade faster. My old French Roast pants have conventional French-type seams.

I have a guess that Chris has been putting more miles on his than anyone else. ;)

Edited by DaveC on 11/05/2008 18:46:26 MST.

Frank Perkins

Locale: North East
Re: Re: RE: Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review on 11/06/2008 12:32:33 MST Print View

I'm sure you can return it with no questions asked. I have returned several items without an issue. That's why you're paying $$$ for their products!

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Re: Re: RE: Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review on 11/06/2008 13:23:28 MST Print View

True, I'm not worried about that. Mostly I just like the pants and want to know if it's a design flaw or mine are just abnormal. Looking at DaveC's older Pati pants on our Yellowstone hike, the french seam appeared much less likely to have this issue.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
pullover update on 11/10/2008 20:42:23 MST Print View

I've had my Traverse out almost daily in the last week; runs and hikes in weather from 20-40 F, mountain biking in the same, and a backcountry ski trip up and down a 9000' peak on an overcast and windy day.

Worn with a light baselayer, it provides comfort for an impressive range of temps. The cut, arm gussets, and generous sleeve length keep things anchored at all times. Wind resistance is impressive for something so breathable. I envision it getting used a ton, and likely replacing my Dragonfly jacket most of the time.

I did remove the chest pocket, which took about 2 hours of work with the seam ripper. IMO the pockets construction was way too thick, the seams too overlapping and the use of iron-on stiffener on the pocket flap un-needed. Removal of the pocket makes the whole deal just disappear as a layer.

Highly recommended thus far.

Edited by DaveC on 11/15/2008 11:41:52 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
update on 12/30/2008 22:54:28 MST Print View

I've been wearing mine almost every day over the last two months. Unless the wind is really moving, the pullover is a kickass winter aerobic layer. I adjust my underlayers accordingly (a sleeveless baselayer skiing at around freezing, the same plus an R 1/2 hoodie around 0F), unzip on the way up the hill, zip up on the way down.

It's also quite tough. Survived plenty of faceplants into hidden brush in early season conditions.

Highly recommended.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: update on 03/31/2009 10:53:28 MDT Print View

My pants are still going strong despite the piling of the seams. I guess I like them too much to mess with taking them back if that says anything. I only put one small hole in the actual face fabric so far (lower leg) and tore a few stitches at the bottom of one leg on my bike one day.

I'd have to say they're pretty tough long term despite the initial seam issues. They sure do let you move really well, I'm finally a softshell pant convert. With a light long underwear under them they are surprisingly versatile in the cold although I now also have a pair of Alpine Guide pants too.

Now my only new complaint, will Pati make some pants NOT in black? I'm like the black knight when I go out some days...

Adrian B
(adrianb) - MLife

Locale: Auckland, New Zealand
Re: Patagonia Traverse Softshell Review on 04/19/2009 16:25:03 MDT Print View

Whats the water absorbency/drying time of the fabric like?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Very good on 04/20/2009 09:22:57 MDT Print View

The fabric is mechanical stretch, thus no lycra or spandex content. Mine's been quite damp on warm ski days, and as a layer under a drysuit for winter canyoneering. It absorbs little water, has Patagonia's bomber DWR, and dries pretty fast.

The black pullover without a chest pocket has really become one of my most favorite pieces of outdoor clothing ever. I've worn it on almost every day outside below 40F in the last six months. It really hits the sweetspot of being windproof enough for an outer layer, and breathable enough to function as a light mid layer.