The Best Winter Jackets of 2020
Turns out performance and eco-friendliness can play nice together
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Picture Harvest ($430)
Wearing an earth-conscious jacket can be like driving a Prius: choosing a more sustainable option feels good, but you give up a few things along the way. That changes with the Harvest. It combines 58 percent recycled fabric with a sustainable DWR treatment and a water-proof-breathable membrane made from castor-seed oil. Just as important, that membrane performs every bit as capably as a petroleum-based one.
Fit and features are just what you’d expect in a serious ski shell. The long hem and zip-off powder skirt shield against wind and snow, and the three-layer fabric stretches to permit a wide range of motion. Hybrid construction places a durable 75-denier weave at the shoulders and hips, and an airier knit fabric in sweat- and heat-prone areas like under the arms and along the upper back. On brisk ascents near Jackson Hole, the Harvest proved every bit as breathable as shells of similar weight. Our solitary gripe is the lack of an interior drop pocket. But the Harvest elicited no complaints when it came to durability and water repellency—so it’s not just sustainable gear, it’s great gear. 1.7 lbs
Maloja Andria ($249)
Best Aerobic Jacket
Training jackets often look as intense as the workouts they’re built for. But Maloja’s women’s Andria (and men’s Beppin, $259) goes for a more whimsical style while remaining serious about moisture management and technical capability. Exceptionally stretchy Gore-Tex Infinium makes for a warm, aerodynamic piece that wicked sweat as fast as we could produce it (thanks in part to a mesh panel down the back), allowing us to avoid the uncomfortable chill-down that often comes after vigorous winter running and up-tempo cross-country skiing. The generous hood offered warmth and protection from biting cold, while the inset collar sealed in heat when the wind kicked up. 14 oz (men’s) / 12 oz (women’s, pictured)
Amundsen Peak Anorak ($499)
Best Women’s Shell
Controversial opinion: anoraks are great. No, they don’t fully unzip, but the big central pocket sits conveniently above a pack’s hip-belt and lets you get at skins, snacks, and other essentials without exposing your chest to stabbing winds. But the real genius of Amundsen’s three-layer version is the Schoeller C_change membrane: its pores open for extra ventilation when you heat up and constrict to preserve warmth in cold conditions. We never registered any clamminess—even on sustained boot-packs. In fact, this versatile jacket kept testers comfortable through minus-10-degree chillers and 40-degree spring tours alike, yet the stretchy face fabric is thick and durable enough for daily use and abuse. 1.4 lbs
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Black Diamond BoundaryLine Mapped ($399)
Best Insulated Resort Shell
Take the comfort of broken-in denim to the ski hill and you have the BoundaryLine Mapped. Its stretch-twill face fabric feels soft, never stiff—even in subzero temperatures that turn other jackets into brittle husks. The proprietary BD.dry membrane and eco-friendly DWR coating stood strong through nuking snow in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon. We particularly like the strategically placed insulation. Quilted wool in cold spots adapts to a range of temperatures: not oppressive on 30-degree spring afternoons, yet plenty warm at five below in line for the gondola. Footlong pit zips dump heat, and interior pockets secure skins during sidecountry missions. 2.2 lbs (men’s) / 1.8 lbs (women’s, pictured)
Mountain Hardwear Super/DS Climb ($300)
We all love the warmth and loft of down jackets, but they can feel a little restrictive—and fragile. Mountain Hardwear solves that problem with its Stretchdown technology, encasing 700-fill feathers in a pliant, durable shell of blended nylon and elastane, and replacing the stitching with offset woven baffles that allow plenty of freedom to move. Mixed with panels of synthetic insulation at the hips and hood and under the arms for moisture management, the Super/DS Climb is a burly, essential expedition piece. One tester dragged himself up a sharp Idaho basalt off-width in the jacket and declared it “good to go.” We also loved the recessed cuffs and tall collar. 1 lb (men’s, pictured) / 14 oz (women’s)
Outdoor Research Refuge Air ($229)
Best Uphill Layer
Replacing the soft shell in our wardrobe, this water-resistant midlayer is one of the best we’ve tested, thanks to DWR-treated Pertex Quantum Air shell fabric and OR’s proprietary lofty (but remarkably breathable) VerticalX Air synthetic insulation. It’s as comfy as a cotton sweatshirt and treated with an interesting heat-regulating technology called ActiveTemp, made from a non-Newtonian polymer that becomes a liquid when cold, helping to block transmission of warm vapor. The Refuge Air was just the thing to ease a vicious, blustery slog up Jackson’s Mount Glory Peak. Extra credit for the pair of interior mesh drop pockets to quickly stash a hat, gloves, or a gaiter when the going gets steamy. 17 oz (men’s, pictured) / 15 oz (women’s)
The North Face Summit L5 LT ($450)
Best Superlight Shell
The alpinist’s dream shell—breathable enough to wear all the way up and down the mountain—is the North Face’s Summit L5 LT. Cut from the company’s new proprietary, über-breathable Futurelight membrane, the layer is as light and supple as your favorite button-down shirt, and it’s waterproof. The North Face is so confident in the Summit L5 LT’s air permeability that it designed the jacket without pit zips (minimizing bulk and weight) and spent those savings on Velcro-tabbed cuffs that fit over winter mitts, plus a pair of interior pockets large enough to stash a junk drawer’s worth of essentials. On a dozen rigorous winter ascents, we never once missed the extra venting. 1.4 lbs (men’s pictured)