Here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Outside’s offices are headquartered, the leaves have fallen, but the snow hasn’t—and we’re anxiously awaiting. Summer is behind us, and we’re ready to throw on our ski bibs and hit the slopes. Naturally, our ears perked when we heard about Backcountry’s Gore-Tex winter gear collection, which launched this fall. Backcountry’s in-house apparel and gear impressed us this summer (we reviewed its climbing line, as well as some pieces in its travel and bike collections.) Although we haven’t had a chance to get waist deep in powder this season, we decided to take a peek at Backcountry’s new collection.
Backcountry Women's Cottonwoods Gore-Tex Bib Pant ($350)
The first thing you'll notice about this bib is that it's convertible: a zipper around the waist converts it into a pair of pants, and back again. If you’re on the fence between the two options, that versatility is a plus. Three-layer Gore, taped zippers, and heavier-weight fabric have me hopeful that it can stand up against Pacific Northwest wetness and Montana cold. We haven’t put it through the wringer, but burly reinforced cuffs and a 100 percent nylon face nod towards durability.
The cut feels reminiscent of workwear—it’s flattering but practical, with ample room for strong thighs and articulated knees for movement. Vents on the inner thighs are a smart feature that would come in handy during high-output days, but I wouldn’t take this bib out for a long tour—there are a lot of details that add weight, warmth, and chafe potential. Overall, this is a solid, good-looking in-bounds bib. - A.B.
Backcountry Men's Cottonwoods Gore-Tex Jacket ($400)
My one gripe with ski and snowboard shells is that too often their constructions feel boxy and stiff, like super rigid rain shells. I understand why: truly waterproof material often has a burly, heavy build. Those jackets feel more like a tarp than a piece made to move with you in the snow. I can't say the same about the men's Cottonwoods jacket—it was flexible and felt "broken in" out of the box. Although it was designed to be paired with multiple layers, it was comfortable to throw on top of just a single long sleeve layer on first wear. That's partially due to the interior: it's soft and silky to the touch, and it has a forgiving cut around the sleeves and shoulders which doesn't feel constrictive. Like the other pieces in the collection, this jacket is fully-seamed and built with Gore-Tex for waterproofing.
Similar to Abigail's takeaways from the women's bib, I most likely wouldn't use this on the early mornings I'm huffing it up the ski hill for a quick skin. The thick membrane would be a bit too heavy for those sessions, but I can see this as a solid jacket for the resort. The thumbhole cuffs, deep pockets at the chest, near the waist, and on the arm make it a feature-rich package that's ready for downhill adventures. -J.R.