These days, there are lots of very good $500 technical waterproof-breathable shells. In fact, they’re all so good it can be hard to find one that truly stands out. That’s not the case, however, with the new $500 Picture Organic Iceland Proknit Jacket that I’ve been testing for the past couple weeks.
First, as we mentioned back when we awarded the Iceland one of our SIA Gear of Show awards, the shell’s fabric is knit just like Nike’s Flyknit shoes. This means the material is stretchy—up to 1.5 times stretchier than traditionally woven face fabrics. That gives the Iceland an incredible range of motion, which I tested by skinning, skiing, and aprés’ing. I could feel the jacket give around my shoulders and torso when I reached down to buckle my boots. Thanks to that extra stretch, plus a smart freeride fit, there was literally nothing to hold me back.
The knit construction also helps with breathability. Unlike other brands that sew more air-permeable fabric into high-heat areas like the underarms or back (creating seams that can split and leak), Picture simply loosened the knit in these areas, creating small holes so the waterproof membrane vents. The Iceland dumped heat and sweat just as well, if not better, than all the other $500 competitors I’ve worn. I was happy to wear it instead of a midlayer while skinning up the ski area and on the lift during a warmer day.
But what really sold me on the jacket is its smaller-than-normal environmental footprint. Thanks to the knitting process, the jacket is constructed from just a couple large pieces of fabric, with very few material scraps left behind. Every thread in the jacket is made from polyester recycled from old plastic containers. Plenty of other high-end shells are partially made from recycled materials—the Patagonia PowSlayer, for example—but kudos to Picture for going all in. Lastly, the water-resistant coating on the outside of the shell, which makes water bead up and roll off, is 100-percent PFC free.
That’s not to say I don’t have concerns. First, the jacket is available only in men's sizing. Second: I’m curious to see how the knit face fabric holds up over a year, or five, of hard use. It feels much softer to the touch than a woven face fabric, and I wonder if it will put up with tree branches and icefalls down backcountry chutes. There’s also the steep price. I support anyone who refuses to pay $500 for a shell. But then again, you’re not just buying a great jacket. You’re buying into an environmental commitment, which may be enough to convince plenty of buyers that the Iceland is worth it.