Field Tested: Patagonia Knifeblade Jacket (& Pullover)

I discovered Patagonia’s Knifeblade soft shell in typical fashion: I saw one for sale online for a great price, and immediately snapped it up. It has since become my favourite jacket for everything from fall trail runs and cool-weather rock climbing to summer alpine and mid-winter ice. For Fall 2013, Patagonia morphed the Knifeblade Pullover into the Knifeblade Jacket. Same material, easier to put on. The pocket configuration also changed slightly, going from two chest pockets to a single (smaller) chest pocket and two hand pockets, positioned high and out of the way of a harness. The jacket received a slightly trimmer cut in the process.

Knifeblade_006Patagonia’s Knifeblade jacket in use mixed cragging. Since getting the Knifeblade(s), I haven’t used any other softshells!

Unchanged is the fantastic sleeve length and long, butt-covering hem: the Knifeblade Jacket and Pullover are two of only four jackets I have ever used that don’t pull out from under my harness (the other two are Arcteryx’s Gamma MX Hoody and Gamma SL Hybrid Hoody). The hood is big and protective, easily going over any helmet I own and providing good visibility and movement. With the collar fully zipped up while the hood is down, the hood also sits nicely against the back of my head, providing some additional wind and weather protection.

Knifeblade_005Even during full-extension, the Knifeblade stays put under a harness, and the sleeves don’t slide down (up?) the arm. Fit and cut are absolutely spot-on (for me, anyway!).

The other awesome thing about the Knifeblades is the fabric. Polartec Power Shield Pro offers 10,000mm of water resistance, blocks 99% of the wind, is stretchy, abrasion resistant and relatively light. I’ve used mine on dripping-wet ice-climbs and remained dry, have been in gale-force winds and stayed warm, and have yet to put a single hole or even a minuscule rip into the fabric — whatever the official stats may be, all I know is that it works. Due to the lack of fleece lining, this soft shell is also incredibly breathable. I’ve used mine, over just a T-shirt, on approaches into the mid-teens (Celsius) and have remained comfortable – though I did have to unzip and open up the pockets (which have a light, air-permeable mesh lining) for additional venting. My size-small Pullover weighs in at 496 grams, while the medium-sized Jacket weighs 509 grams. Very respectable weights for soft shells that offer this much weather resistance and durability! This is one of the very few pieces that I actually cannot find much fault with. The Pullover is a bit annoying to put on, but I prefer its pocket configuration. The Jacket is quick on-off, but the pockets aren’t as useful as the Pullovers’. Both designs have exceptionally long sleeves, deep hemlines and generously-sized hoods. And, of course, both feature that phenomenal Power Shield Pro. The Pullover can currently be found on sale for around $200 while the Jacket retails for $380. A note on sizing: due to the sleeve length and long hem, I can wear either a small or medium in the Knifeblade, it just so happens I could get a small Pullover and a medium Jacket. Pros: exceptional fabric, breathable yet very weather-resistant, very long sleeves & hem, good hood, pocket configuration (pullover) Cons: pocket configuration (jacket), bit of a hassle for on/off (pullover) Overall: The best soft shell I have found. My favourite climbing jacket. Note: Because a few people who have seen me out and about have asked, the jacket colour I have, and is shown in the photos above, is due out for Spring ’14 and is called Folios Green (even though to me it looks more yellow than green).

10 thoughts on “Field Tested: Patagonia Knifeblade Jacket (& Pullover)

  1. Chris says:

    Hi Raf!

    I purchased the Knifeblade Pants for this years ice season and was highly disappointed. I was seriously thinking about the Knifeblade Jacket, but my experience with Patagonia’s sizing hasn’t been pretty.

    The cut on the pants are horrible, to say the least. In the men’s medium, they were way too baggy with a 32″ inseam and the leg opening can swallow a cannon ball.

    I’m not sure what Patagonia had in mind when they constructed those pants. Why is it now a days manufacturers are only producing pants with one or limited inseam sizes? I’m not a weird size; I’m 5’10” and a 165 pounds.

    I immediately sent the Knifeblade Pants back and purchased the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol soft shell pants. I’ve been very happy with them to date 🙂

    Thanks for the spectacular reviews and images. I appreciate all the hard work!

    • Raf says:

      Thanks for checking out the site, and your feedback on the pants, Chris. I hadn’t tried them so cannot comment. (But don’t get me started on sizing consistency!)

      My favourite softshell pant is Arcteryx’s Gamma AR. Great fit and nice taper on the calf and lower leg to minimize crampon snags.

  2. ED says:

    Do you think the Knifeblade would work well for summer alpine mountaineering? Is it breathable enough for summer use?

    • Raf says:

      I think a lot will depend on what elevation you do your summer mountaineering at… In the Rockies I’ve used mine on several glacier trips as well as more rock-oriented alpine days, and found it to be adequately breathable, though I also have friends who only use theirs in winter.

  3. Brandon says:

    Hey Raf,

    What’s your height/build? I found the SM pullover fits perfect (I’m 5,6″ 150lbs – muscular build) and just got the Sm jacket in the mail today and man it’s cut is smaller! Is the MD jacket monstrous compared to the small pullover or pretty similar?

    • Raf says:

      I am around 5’11” and 160lbs, so more of an athletic build.

      The SM pullover is quite trim on me, while the MD jacket is a bit looser through the torso. I think for your build, the MD jacket will be a better fit – one of the changes Patagonia made to the jacket is to trim it through the torso a bit. Hope this helps!

  4. Des says:

    Hi Raf,

    I just got a new Knifeblade jacket from an online shop at around £100 cheaper than it retails. I noticed the tag inside says “Polartec Power Shield”, rather than “Polartec Power Shield PRO”. Because of the huge discount, I want to make sure what I have is legit. Is the tag in yours the same?

    Thanks!

    • Raf says:

      Good question!

      I checked mine and unfortunately have no helpful information: my jacket just says ‘Polartec’ but keep in mind that it is a sales sample (so not final production details, etc.). My Pullover has Polartec labels on it at all.

      I have a few friends who have production Knifeblade Jackets, I’ll ask and get back to you!

    • Rosalind says:

      For what it’s worth, I have a Knifeblade Pullover that I bought at a sample sale from a Patagonia rep. The Polartec tag on the inside only says “Polartec Power Shield”, as with your jacket.

      In comparison, I also have a Northwall jacket that came from my local Patagonia store, While the interior tag does say “Polartec Power Shield Pro”, as far as I can tell the material on my Knifeblade is exactly the same.

      A further data point is I have a Marmot Gore-Tex shell, also from a sample sale, that does not have an interior Gore-Tex tag but has performed very, very well over several years of use.

      So I would say it’s likely that the £100 discount you found was made possible by the seller having obtained up a manufacturer’s sample somehow.

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