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Patagonia Drifter A/C

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Patagonia Drifter A/C trail shoe

Patagonia's Drifter AC is a tough, comfortable, and well-made shoe that required no break-in time. After 120 miles of backpacking, they have fully met my expectations, and I look forward to several hundred more miles in them.


  • Nice, stiff sole
  • Almost as comfortable as my Birkenstock sandals
  • Good grip


  • Insole lacks the arch support I need

The review by my friend Rodney Buck made me wary of buying these shoes, but they were already on my feet when I pulled up his Trailspace review in the store. They felt sooooooooo good on my feet, I just had to take a chance and wear them. I don't have the narrow feet Rodney mentions, and my hiking was not going to be in the same conditions as his.

Fit: Intentionally sizing the shoes a half-size larger gave me the room I needed, as feet flatten out over longer hikes. The heel cup held my foot in place, and my toes never banged in the toe box on descents.

Comfort: Right out of the box, these shoes felt great. That comfort only increased after I replaced the stock insole with higher arch support. As a side note, I find most folks are unaware that many shoe companies skip providing a quality insole, which I find frustrating:

"The stock insoles in performance boots and shoes are typically inexpensive fillers. Most footwear manufacturers fully expect you to get aftermarket insoles to better tailor the fit, support and comfort of their footwear to your feet."

The following video spans 7 months and 120 miles. It clearly shows my satisfaction with these shoes:

Support: For the moment I first put them on, I felt the support on these shoes was greater than the Merrell Moab I have been wearing for years. I don't wear an over-the-ankle boot, as I feel I gain more from a lighter shoe.

Water Resistance: I fall into the "no waterproofing" crowd. Gortex-type boots are great, until they're not. One hiking partner slipped in a stream, and she had wet feet the rest of the day. Another partner complained that the rain was staying out, but the sweat was staying in. My shoes would get wet and would dry out within a few hours of hiking.

Traction: In 120 miles of wear, I only slipped once on a wet, moss-covered rock. This was due more to my lack of paying attention, than to the shoes' failure to grip.

Summary: I have arthritis in both knees and these shoes, with the supplemented insoles, provided the support and stability I needed to hike mostly pain free the entire week. I have found these shoes to be exactly what I need. If they fell apart today, I would feel I got my money's worth. However, I see such little wear on them, I expect to easily double, triple, even quadruple the mileage I've put on them in the months ahead.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $130

I really wanted to like this shoe. It didn't fit well on my narrow feet, which caused a lot of lifting in the heel. This could be alleviated by cranking down on the laces, but wasn't ideal. I like these because the sole was stiff enough for backpacking and scrambling on rock which my trail runners just weren't stiff enough for. After my second backpacking trip pieces of the sole started tearing off, leaving a hole in one shoes and broken tread on the other.


  • Stiff soles
  • Good feel


  • Sole did not hold up to wear
  • Fit seemed loose for a narrow foot

I bought this at REI using my dividend and a 20% off coupon. I really wanted to love these shoes. This was my first time trying Patagonia, and while I had a couple of promlems with these shoes, overall I would try Patagonia again, but not this shoe, as it just never did fit my feet right.

Fit: Shoe had a good feel to it, but the heel was always a little sloppy causing heel lift. This could be controlled somewhat by cranking down on the laces, but I never could entirely get rid of the problem. I have friends who have not had any problems with the fit, so I think it is simply a problem for people with narrow feet like myself.

Comfort: A very comfortable shoe overall, except if the laces were not tied the shoes would not stay on at all.  If I tried to slip them on to step outside they would not stay on.  Would have loved for the heel to fit a bit snugger. As I mentioned, cranking on the laces helped with the heel lift, but them they were a bit too tight on the top.

Support: The stiff sole was exactly what I was looking for in a lightweight hiker that I could wear backpacking as well.

Temp Control: I tend to have really hot feet and these shoes seemed to breathe very well, though I am used to Gortex lined boots and shoes.

Traction: Soles had great traction on slickrock, as well as trails. 

Construction & Durability: My biggest complaint is that the lugs on the sole started to break off after my first backpacking trip. When they continued to break on my second trip leaving a hole in one shoe, I finally decided to retrn them.

I used them on two weeklong backpacking trips, (In the Utah canyonlands on trails and slickrock, and in Yellowstone NP on trails) as well as on a few dayhikes over a period of 4 months.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $100

The Drifter A/C by Patagonia is an excellent trail shoe. It was comfortable right out of the box and required no break-in whatsoever. I've have used them for over one year and am very impressed with how well they are built.


  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Required no break-in


  • Rather expensive

I bought the Drifter A/C after reading a review of them in Backpacker Magazine, who gave them a great review. I've now used them for over one year and have not been disappointed.

They were comfortable right away with no break-in needed. The tread is made by Vibram and grip all types of surfaces well and so far has been very durable. I have only used them for day hikes carrying photo packs of less than 20 lbs. so I can't say how they would work on a multi-day backpacking trips with a full pack.

Their only drawback for me was the $130 that I paid for them, but so far they have been worth the money.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $130

Rugged lightweight shoe with gripping sole.


  • Sole grips well
  • Rubber toe cover protects toes.
  • Breathable, dries quick
  • When water gets in, it drains right back out. No soggy sox.
  • Good support
  • Rugged and long lasting when used on rough trails
  • Lightweight


  • Not waterproof

Conditions: I have had this shoe for the past three years. I have hiked some rugged and muddy/wet parts of the Long Trail with 25-30 lbs on my back. This shoe is light but gives good support and is very comfortable for those of us with wider feet and narrow heels. I put the copper colored Superfeet footbed in mine and that has worked very well.

Features: What I like most is that when I have inadvertently or unavoidably stepped in water or mud, the socks do get wet, but these shoes drain the water out immediately so I am not left with squishingly wet socks. The breathable mesh airs out the socks over the rest of the day. The shoes dry out quickly in camp.

Comfort: I bought a second pair because they are so comfortable to wear around town.

Construction and Durability: These shoes are well made, no problems. I have been pleased with these little shoes holding up on some very rugged trails.

Temp Control: With wool socks, these shoes are warm for cool spring, fall hiking. With a lighter sock, they are cool for summer hiking.

Support: I was wondering how it would be to go from an Asolo 535 ankle high boots  to these light shoes, but I found that my ankles strengthened and the Drifters have been fine. I have found that the Drifters offer adequate foot support when used with Superfeet insoles.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $65 on sale

Supportive low hikers with excellent ventilation.


  • Good sole stiffness
  • Comfortable footbed

Comfortable footbed with just the right amount of stiffness in the Vibram sole. I have a moderate arch and fits really well.

Took these up Pestiewa Peak in Phoenix on a 97 degree day. That trail is full of uneven foot placements and the sole stiffness was appreciated. Also ventilated very well, and feet were comfortable.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $65

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Price MSRP: $120.00
Historic Range: $64.00-$185.00
Reviewers Paid: $65.00-$130.00
Weight 1 lb 1 oz / 482 g
Width Medium
Toe Box Full
Arch / Instep Medium
Price MSRP: $120.00
Historic Range: $31.83-$185.00
Weight 14 oz / 397 g
Width Medium
Toe Box Full
Arch / Instep Medium
Product Details from Patagonia »

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