The Patagonia Drifter A/C offers the sturdy sole of a boot with the low rise of a shoe. Testers can't say enough good things about its traction, but the Drifter A/C suffers from instability and has some durability issues, too.
Plenty of room on both ends. Although the Patagonia Drifter A/C weighs only 1 pound, 1 ounce per shoe for the men's version, reviewers say it feels heavier. In terms of fit, the wide toebox pleases most, but a number of owners find the heel too wide, making for a sloppy, heel-shifting fit. "Unfortunately, the heel is also very roomy, for me too roomy, and heel movement is not really a problem I've had before," writes one at REI.com.
Most agree that the Patagonia Drifter A/C runs true to size, taking all that space into account, and the roomy toebox comes in handy on descents. The general fit is comfortable. As one Backcountry.com user says, "My feet are so happy in these shoes...they feel like a glove for my foot with lots of cushion and arch support."
Reviewers add that the Drifter A/C is a bit warmer than expected, especially given the "A/C" in its name. Ecologically conscious hikers may be happy to hear that the shoe's sole contains a significant portion of recycled content.
Handles steep slopes. The Patagonia Drifter A/C draws high praise from both Backpacker Magazine and Outside. It beats out dozens of other pairs of hiking boots to receive Outside's 2010 Gear of the Year award, plus the accolades that the Vibram soles "stuck to everything from loose scree to slick rocks."
Backpacker Magazine likes the Drifter A/C's "bootlike support and protection with trail-runner shock absorption and weight," an assessment that most users echo. They say the A/C is a little stiffer than expected, although not uncomfortable, and the grip is great under almost any conditions. "Despite the awkward load and sketchy conditions, I felt sure-footed," says one tester who wore the Patagonia boot to carry someone 5,000 feet up a muddy Grand Canyon Trail in a rescue litter.
The only real criticism we found of this shoe's performance is a series of complaints from REI.com users that it's not very stable. They say it's too easy to roll an ankle.
Lug issues. For the most part, the Patagonia Drifter A/C receives good reviews for its durability. One REI.com poster is particularly happy, saying she went through just two pairs of Drifter A/Cs on a 2,650-mile through-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. That's more than 1,300 miles apiece, an impressive record for any hiking shoe.
The only consistent user complaint is that the lugs sometimes peel or fall off the Vibram sole. "After getting these soaking wet on a couple occasions...several portions of the nubs that are glued to the sole began to fall off," reports one hiker at Backcountry.com. Another says at REI.com, "after less than 25 days of hiking, pieces of the Vibram sole started falling off!"
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1. Backpacker Magazine
Review Credibility: Excellent The Patagonia Drifter A/C receives a Best All-Around ranking in this roundup of five light hikers tested in grueling conditions. Reviewers say these shoes combine the support of a boot with the shock absorption and low weight of a trail runner.
Review: Five All-Purpose Light Hikers, Annette McGivney, August 2011
Review Credibility: Excellent When Outside editors subject 70 pairs of shoes to five months of testing, the Patagonia Drifter A/C gets top ranking, with excellent scores for both support and comfort. A Gore-Tex version is also positively reviewed.
Review: Buyer's Guide, Summer 2010: Trail Shoes, Jason Stevenson, April 2010
Review Credibility: Good Together, the men's and women's versions of the Patagonia Drifter A/C collect about 30 user reviews. Owners say the shoes feel sturdy and have a bit of heft without being too heavy, but a few complain about fit problems, especially issues with a wide heel cup.
Review: Patagonia Footwear Drifter A/C Hiking Shoe - Men's, Contributors to Backcountry.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good The men's and women's versions of the Patagonia Drifter A/C get average ratings of 3.7 and 4.3 stars out of 5, respectively, after feedback from about two dozen owners. High points include comfortable fit, traction and decent durability; most of the complaints center around a sloppy heel fit and a tendency to roll from side to side.
Review: Patagonia Drifter A/C Hiking Shoes - Men's, Contributors to REI.com, As of March 2013
About half a dozen reviewers give the Patagonia Drifter A/C shoe an average rating of 4 stars. Although they like its comfortable fit and traction and say it wears reasonably well, they also voice complaints about a sloppy heel fit.
Review: Patagonia Drifter A/C Hiking Shoes - Men's, Contributors to REI.com