Spring may be just around the corner, but now is the time to keep your eyes peeled for end-of-season deals so that you can be all set even before the next ski season begins. You’re only as good as what you’re wearing, and that applies even more when you’re on the mountain. When battling the elements of Mother Nature, apparel is the most powerful weapon in your gear arsenal. Warmth, dryness, and breathability are three key factors in achieving all-day comfort. While choosing the correct product is essential, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Different types of jackets are applicable to different activities, temperatures, and weather conditions. Oh, and how they are layered is also a major consideration!
Whether resort skiing, snowboarding, or heading out into the backcountry, there are some products that simply stand a step above the rest. Selecting the appropriate winter shell, insulated shell, or puffy coat can be an expedition-altering decision, and we’ve picked out the best choices from each category. It’s up to you to determine whether you are seeking the warmest, driest, lightest, or most breathable product — but we can get you started in the right direction.
The best hard shell jackets
For equal breathability and waterproof protection, the Trew men’s Cosmic and women’s Stella shell ranks as one of the most technical shells products on the market. The jacket’s 80D 3L Dermizax NX has a 40K breathability rating, putting it at the top of its class. YKK Aquaguard zippers ensure that no water gets in — even during the heaviest rainfalls and snowstorms. Its minimalist design has just enough of what you need without being impractical. For a three layer fabric it weighs a moderately heavy 26.4 oz but boasts excellent compressibility. Although Gore-Tex lovers might fear leaving their comfort zone, but rest assured that this jacket gives up absolutely nothing against the better-known brands. A product hailing from a company in the northwest is undoubtedly insured against high moisture and stormy conditions; with a $380 price tag, this jacket is definitely worth a try.
FuseForm Brigandine 3L Jacket
Embracing the North Face’s innovative FuseForm technology, the Brigandine (womens) brings you top-of-the-line protection from the elements with nearly complete elimination of seams and utilization of their own DryVent 3-layer waterproof breathable membrane, making for increased suppleness and mobility. At 24.5 oz, it is lighter than many other shells on the market and priced at a competitive $300. A member of the “Steep Series” product line, the Brigandine offers a comprehensive set of extra features including internal pockets, a media port, forearm pockets and hand warmer pockets, designed much more for resort skiing rather than backcountry expeditions.
If you want an adaptable, guaranteed to please, durable outer shell and you have the money to spend, then consider the Arc’teryx Rush (women can consider the Shashka), which the North Vancouver company has designed for a balance of comfort, breathability, and waterproofing. 80D nylon plain weave is incorporated into the shoulders, elbows, and hood, while 40D nylon ripstop protects the torso and the sleeves — this makes for excellent durability. A helmet-compatible hood and plentiful venting outlets make it equally applicable for resort skiing and the backcountry. Oh, and did we mention it only weighs 19.6 oz? It lists for $700, but you’ll find it cheaper if you look for sales.
Lesser known but no less technical is the Lhotse jacket (Manaslu for women), which doesn’t skimp on the Gore-Tex with three-layer 40D and 80D reinforcements in the wearing areas. Waterproofing is a clear priority in its design with YKK waterproof zippers that feature a unique gutter system to channel water away from the pockets. Even more, the hem and sleeve cuffs are laminated to prevent moisture seepage. The slanted front zipper isn’t just visually interesting; it overlaps with the hand warmer pockets for more storage. At $600, you’re paying a lot, but you’re also getting a lot.