Dakine Shifter Pants
Size Tested: Medium
- 3L SHELL
- Shell: 3L Toray Micro-Oxford
- Face: DWR finish
- Backing: 20K / 20K Laminate Entrant Dermizax EV
Days Tested: 10
Reviewer Info: 5’10”, 185 lbs.
Test Locations: Club Fields of Canterbury, New Zealand; Treble Cone, NZ.
Dakine’s ski bags, gloves, and backpacks are well known among skiers and snowboarders. And recently, Dakine decided to enter the ski outerwear market with a technical line of clothes.
I wore the new Dakine Shifter pants during our review trip to New Zealand, where I encountered a variety of conditions ranging from rain and sleet, to driving wind and snow, to warm, humid, sunny days.
I normally wear a 34”x32” in jeans or casual pants. The medium Shifter I wore fit my waist, but just barely—the adjustable waist belt was maxed out. So while this technically supports Dakine’s claim that the size medium will accommodate a 32-34” waist, I’d definitely recommend sizing up if your waist measures more than 33″ around. That said, the waist band did seem to stretch out a bit over time.
However, in addition to the snug waist, the hip and crotch areas were uncomfortably tight at times, especially when I was sitting on a chair lift. Curiously, although the upper legs were tight, the lower legs were pretty baggy. I think if I’d purchased the large Shifter, the waist / crotch / thigh fit would have been spot on, but the I’m curious as to whether or not the lower legs would have been even baggier.
My biggest complaint is that there’s no four-way stretch to the fabric. Skiing is an active sport, so in order to ensure that the slimmer-fitting waist doesn’t restrict movement, I think the pants should be made from a stretchy fabric.
Wind Resistance and Waterproofing
The Shifter has a three layer construction with a Toray Micro-Oxford shell, and the Toray Entrant Dermizax EV nonporous PU laminate as the WP/B layer. If you want to know exactly what this means and how the technology works, check out Sam Shaheen’s excellent breakdown of fabrics in Blister’s Outerwear 101.
I found these pants to be incredibly wind resistant and waterproof. During a ridge hike to the top of the Sphinx at Mt. Olympus, we experienced stiff winds almost strong enough to push us over. And the Shifter blocked it all. The pants kept me just as warm as my Flylow Chemical pants, which are made from a very heavy, thick fabric.
Though we only experienced intermittent rain and sleet, the pants beaded water well. While I can’t speak to the durability of the DWR since I’ve only worn these pants for ten days, I haven’t noticed any waterproofing issues so far.
While the Shifter is quite waterproof, it isn’t very breathable. I did a lot of bootpacking in these pants in a wide variety of conditions—rain/sleet mix; windy and cold; warm and sunny; cold and sunny. The Shifter worked well, but I tend to run hot and I found that I needed to open the Shifter’s matching inner thigh vents every time I used the pants, regardless of the conditions. (Temperatures ranged from above freezing with rain down to about 10 degree Fahrenheit.)
While I never experienced any significant moisture build-up on the inside of the pants, the interior of the pants did get very humid if I left the vents closed. I experienced this same problem with the Flylow Chemical pants, which also aren’t very breathable. I haven’t ever had this issue with any product made from Polartech NeoShell fabric (e.g. the Westcomb Apoc).
The matching 13” inner thigh vents provide good ventilation, but I found that the outer 10″ thigh vents aren’t nearly as functional. I think they’re too small and located too high to effectively cool you off.
The Shifter pants have a nice small cargo pocket on the lower right thigh that provides enough space for a few items without unnecessarily loading you down. There are also two thigh pockets that open just below the belt-line. Unfortunately, these pockets are placed so high that access into them is difficult since my jacket usually covers them. These pockets are also pretty small. You can fit small items like chapstick or change in them, but that’s about it. And when I bend over, anything in the pocket (like my 77mm diameter lens cap), digs into my skin.
The fabric of these pants has held up well after 10 days of hard use. Skiing the club fields of New Zealand means nutcrackers and rope tows, and more than once when I grabbed the tow rope, it ran across the hip of the pant. I was initially worried that I was going to wear a hole through that section, but the pants still don’t show any signs of wear. That’s impressive.
But I do have to mention that on the sixth day of skiing, the seam where the thigh pocket zipper joins the pants separated on the right side, and there are signs that the same thing will happen on the left.
The Shifter is very wind resistant and waterproof, and it comes with some nice features (inner thigh vents, cargo pocket). But the fabric Dakine used isn’t the most breathable out there, and I think the outer thigh vents and the pockets could use some refining.