Gear Review: Technical Jackets
(Photograph by Shana Novak)

Ignore the Forecast

Whether you're looking for an all-conditions ski shell or an insulated winter coat, we've got you covered

Gear Review: Technical Jackets


1. Puff Daddy
Ice fishing in Michigan? Doing anything in Montana? No problem. The North Face’s aptly named Polar jacket is a welcome bunker when the mercury bottoms out. Unlike most puffy jackets, the Polar’s waterproof-breathable liner prevents its 700-fill goose down from turning to mush when cold snow meets warm fabric. Keep your gloves on: External Velcro-closure pockets and chest-level hood-adjustment pulls allow you to access gear quickly and adjust fit when frostnip is a real concern. $400;

2. Do-It-All Down
Don’t let the low price fool you; Eddie Bauer’s EB800 Ultra-Light Down is no bargain-bin coat. This easily packable, 800-fill jacket proved ideal for chilly fall campouts in Colorado’s Indian Peaks, and it has a low-key style that’s equally at home in the coffee shop and at the trailhead. After weeks of wear-testing, we still can’t figure out how Eddie Bauer managed to build so much warmth into a scant 16 ounces and keep the bonuses, like the cozy microfleece collar and music pocket. $150;

3. Warmer than It Looks
Far toastier than its athletic cut suggests, 66° North’s Vatnajokull is slim enough to be worn as a superpowered midlayer yet warm enough to wear alone on moderately cold days. The water-resistant coating and exceptionally warm-for-its-weight synthetic PrimaLoft insulation were all we needed during snowy lift rides in the Rockies. The well-designed hood is easy to adjust and thin enough to wear underneath a helmet, and the extra-long chin guard with a no-chafe, asymmetrical zipper extends almost to your nose. $400;


4. Hard Charger
Just because Spyder’s Venom Outturn is more stylish than a mountaineering shell doesn’t mean it can’t perform like one. No blizzard could penetrate the Outturn’s Gore-Tex liner, sealed seams, and waterproof zippers, and the heavy-duty nylon shell gives you extra armor for punching through tight tree runs. The thicker fabric means athletic skiers won’t miss the heavy insulation on most days at the resort, while pit zips and gusseted wrist cuffs regulate heat for aggressive riding. $450;

5. Fully Loaded
Tthered coin pocket. Goggle wipe. Yes, even a lip-balm leash. Rossignol’s waterproof Chrono GTX is festooned with every resort-friendly feature you ever wished your jacket had and probably some you’ve never thought of. More important, this synthetically insulated jacket is warm enough for full-winter conditions in Vermont or British Columbia. For gadget lovers, there’s the optional sleeve-mounted Pure Mountain Station computer ($100), with barometer, digital compass, and vertical counter. Over the top? Yes, but that’s the point. $700;

6. Killer Value
Technically, Columbia’s Wildcard II is a soft shell. But at Washington’s Alpental ski area, this highly water-resistant shell proved it could repel a wet dump as well as any hard shell (though it’s not the right pick if slush turns to rain). The fabric has enough stretch to feel athletic, and the thin layer of house-brand synthetic insulation was all we needed on frigid Colorado lift rides. With smart details like a zip-away powder skirt, iPod pocket, and removable hood, the Wildcard gives you everything you want at nearly half the cost of fancier ski jackets. $210;

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: Photograph by Shana Novak