Superior protection for all kinds of conditions.
Patagonia Stretch Nano Storm
Gear of the Year
In 2014, Patagonia sparked an arms race with the Nano-Air puffy, a versatile insulator that won our Gear of the Year award. The following winter, just about every outdoor brand had a version. Now Patagonia does it again with the Stretch Nano Storm. Think of it as a Nano-Air on steroids: a proprietary stretchy, waterproof-breathable fabric wraps the synthetic fill, while the interior is made from the same plush liner as the original. Add pit zips and you have a bombproof jacket that wears and breathes like a sweatshirt. It’s light enough (1.2 pounds) for the backcountry, warm enough for ice climbing, and weatherproof enough for storm days. Of course, some will still prefer to pair a midlayer with a hard shell (see Backcountry, below) when heading out of bounds. Others might opt to go super-warm (Puffies, below). Then there are the Cadillacs of the category (read on), with all the bells and whistles. Pick the one that best fits your pursuits, then zip up and get out.
Mountain Hardwear Exposure
Best For: Saving for a season pass.
The Test: Here’s proof that you can score a solid ski jacket for less than $300. The Exposure features a two-layer waterproof-breathable fabric protected by a hung liner. That makes it a bit bulkier and less durable than a high-end three-layer shell like the Eider or a strictly backcountry option. But it’s still plenty capable of keeping you snug and dry on the wettest days—for roughly half the price. Mountain Hardwear didn’t skimp on the details, either. The generous hood, fleece-lined collar, adjustable powder skirt, and pit zips complete the checklist for a great day bombing powder.
The Verdict: “It’s a complete ski shell, but less expensive,” said one tester. 2.1 lbs
Best For: Storm days.
The Test: The Shaper takes its name from a brand-new zipper that fixes an age-old problem: face chafe. Eider teamed up with YKK to reinvent the mousetrap, tooling the closure to bow away from the face, thus reducing whisker pull and creating a looser fit. The company got the rest right, too: testers from stout to skinny raved about the cut, which is athletic without being Euro tight. With the full battery of resort features (a zip-off powder skirt, six pockets, mitten-compatible cuffs, and stretchy, remarkably durable fabric), this is the gold standard for the day-in, day-out shell.
The Verdict: A classy, high-performance thoroughbred with seriously cool tech. 1.5 lbs
Best For: Playing through to the club.
The Test: Maybe it was the sharp colors or the easy drape, but testers reached for the Albert more than any other jacket in the test—both on the slopes and in the streets. Moderately insulated with synthetic PrimaLoft Eco and endowed with a roomy freeride cut, the Albert wears well over just a base layer on warm days, but we also had ample room to layer for the subzero conditions we endured over New Year’s at Jackson Hole. Zip off the powder skirt and it’s also plenty light enough for marching around the backcountry.
The Verdict: Equal to the task at hand, be it making first chair or stumbling home after last call. 2 lbs