If a hard shell and a soft shell got married and had a baby, their love child would be the Descensionist, which is made with a new three-layer fabric engineered by Patagonia to hit the sweetspot between breathability and waterproofing.
The Descensionist jacket is lightweight, soft, quiet, and flexible. It's not as waterproof as the Gore-Tex PowSlayer, and it's not as breathable as a soft shell or midlayer, but it's just right if you want both. Its features are the minimum essentials--two thigh pockets big enough for a beacon, a pocket for your keys, vents in each leg. Like the jacket, Patagonia left out a few unnecessary things. There is no gaiter in the cuff of the pant, which gave some Powder POSSE members pause.
"Maybe snow will get in your boot on the deepest, powdery of days if you are flailing in the snow--in which case a little bit of snow in your boots will be the least of your problems," said Julie Brown. "But when I took them into the backcountry, the pants stayed put all day, even on a steep bootpack, and I appreciated that I didn't have to mess with a gaiter to adjust my boot buckles."
When it came to fit, the women on the Powder POSSE loved the Descensionist pants and their stretchy flexibility. "Amazing fit, articulated to allow for movement and still drapes in an appealing/attractive way," said Crystal Sagan. "I could live in these in the backcountry. Super comfortable, light, and straight forward." One qualm raised to the POSSE's attention was the pants' belt. It had a tendency to get pulled too deep into the belt-holder, forcing the wearer to fish it out.