Gear Guy

The Vertical Jacket     Photo: courtesy, Marmot

Q:

What’s the best multi-purpose shell for guys on the short side?

I'm looking for a lightly-insulated jacket to ski in and use for general winter wear. I would love something that is waterproof, stretchy, layerable, and versatile. The big thing is, I need it to FIT. I'm a short guy (5'6") with an athletic build. Seems like whenever I try on jackets at a retailer, the sleeve cuffs are dragging on the floor. Any advice for us shorties who are in search of the magic shell?
Jon
Cleveland, OH

A:Well, the problem is the bell curve. Gear makers design stuff that hews to the middle of the curve, and outliers like you get the shaft. Same for people who write to me looking for size 14EEE mountaineering boots. So what I'll do is suggest some jackets, then a fix to the problem that you will not be able to escape through careful shopping.

One very interesting choice would be Marmot's Vertical Jacekt ($260). It's a soft shell, meaning it stretches, offers light insulation, has a high degree of breathability, and is water-resistant but not waterproof, which actually is okay for most activities. Especially skiing—if it's cold then snow will tend to fall of the jacket rather than soak in. And it would be useful around town as well.

A more traditional ski jacket is Patagonia's Snowshot ($249), a waterproof hard shell designed for skiing. It uses Patagonia's proprietary H2NO laminate, which I have found to be really good stuff. It has a powder skirt, lots of pockets, other ski-friendly features. Not a lot of stretch.

I also like Cloudveil's RPK Jacket ($400). It's a ski-specific piece made with Gore-Tex Soft Shell fabric, which is Gore-Tex with a synthetic flannel backing for a bit of warmth. It has pit zips, a snow skirt, and a full hood for those really nasty days.

Now, as I noted, any of these pieces will likely not fit to your satisfaction. So you're simply going to have to do what you do when you buy suits at Nordstrom: Have it altered. Send it to Rainy Pass Repair . Actually, give them a call first and they will advise you on how to “mark” the sleeves for best results. So do that, send it to them, and they'll shorten the sleeves and return it to you with a fix so clean you'll think it had been done at the factory. Seriously, they do nice work. I take all my repair issues to them.

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