'Think of Salomon's hybrid Drifter Air as a sort of 'fleece plus' for moving fast in cold, dry conditions and you won't go far wrong'
Outdoors Magic: Great breathability, neat fit, added protection for shoulders and chest, close-fitting under-helmet hood, thumb-loops.
Outdoors Tragic: No hem adjustability, limited warmth and wind protection, cuffs don't roll up.
Outdoors Grabbit? Yes if what you're after is a fleece on steroids... the Drifter Air is most fleece, but with lightly insulated and wind-resistant shoulders that give extra warmth and abrasion resistance too. We found it worked well with a light windproof shell - strip down for the climbs, layer up when things get flatter and cooler if the wind gets up. It's at its best in cold, dry, still conditions, but the high fleece content means it works just fine as a mid-layer too if it gets wet or windy. Features are mostly good, but we'd have preferred and adjustable hem for better sealing and stretchier cuffs to allow forearm venting.
Salomon Drifter Air Mid Hoodie Ratings
Outright Warmth [rating score="2"]
Packability [rating score="2"]
Damp-proofing [rating score="3"]
Overall: [rating score="3.5"]
Fleece-based insulation layer with added synthetic areas / Pertex® Quantum fabric on shoulders and chest / lightweight zoned PrimaLoft insulation / Polyester fleece body / twin zipped chest pockets / elasticated hem and cuffs / non-adjustable stretch hood / reflective trim on upper sleeves / thumb-loops incorporated in cuffs
Full Review Below
Salomon Drifter Air Mid Hoodie - The Fill
Mostly the Drifter Air is fleece - the orange parts in the main pic - but the front of the chest and shoulder areas are made from blue Pertex Quantum fabric, with a light layer of PrimaLoft synthetic fill to add some strategy warmth.
The hood area is mostly fleece too, but with two wind-resistant, insulated side-panels again for some added protection. PrimaLoft's big plus is that it continues to work reasonably well, even if it gets damp.
Salomon Drifter Air Mid Hoodie - Performance
If you think of the Drifter Air as a sort of mutant fleece on steroids, you won't go far wrong. Effectively it's an all-day, cold conditions, mid-layer jacket that you can use either as an outer layer, when it suits or layered under a shell when things get gnarlier.
We found it worked best in cold, dry, relatively still conditions or, if it was windy, when working hard. The windproof, insulated sections add a little additional protection compared to a similar hard face fleece without them, but most of the jacket is a lot less wind resistant, so you're always balancing your heat output against the conditions.
We found it was often a good outer layer for ascents in cold conditions, but on flat and downhill, more exposed terrain, we sometimes had to add a wind shell or waterproof to stay comfortable.
The fit's neat and athletic, good for layering, but we'd have preferred an adjustable hem cord for better fit down below. We'd also have liked the cuffs to be a little more elastic so we could have rolled the sleeves up when trying to vent.
One plus on that front is that the jacket has a press-stud around chest level which holds it together even when the zip's undone for venting reasons. An additional one further down would have been nice too.
Why choose this over a straight fleece or soft shell jacket? Well, the added insulated sections up the warmth slightly and add a little wind resistance, they also cope better with pack straps than standard fleece shoulders. And compared to most soft shells, it's warmer and works better as a fleece-type, insulating mid-layer jacket.
What it isn't, in our experience, is an alternative to a conventional down or down-type synthetic jacket. It's simply not warm enough and doesn't have sufficient wind resistance.
Salomon Drifter Air Mid Hoodie - Verdict
Salomon's fleece and insulated hybrid jacket isn't really an alternative to a conventional down or down-like synthetic jacket, instead it's more of a cold conditions, 'wear all day' variant on a fleece or a soft shell.
As an outer layer it works great in cold, dry, mostly still conditions and in scenarios where you're building up a head of steam where it's breathable and fast drying. The insulated sections also cope with light rain and snow and dry fast afterwards.
That said, the fleece areas have relatively low wind resistance, so when things get windier, you may have to resort to a more protective outer shell. The good news in these circumstances, is that the Drifter Air works really well as a mid-layer, pretty much like a mid-weight fleece and certainly better than a conventional PrimaLoft jacket would.
It's not a jacket that'll suit everyone, but if you run hot and want something with a little more protection than a fleece, but that'll still work underneath other layers, it's a good call.