(Inga Hendrickson)
2021 Winter Buyer’s Guide

The Best Jackets of 2021

Coats for every adventure, from sunny singletrack to frigid summits


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Mountain Equipment Kryos ($575)

(Courtesy Mountain Equipment)

Every year there’s one jacket that just feels better than the others. When that jacket also boasts impressive design and tech, it’s an easy pick for our top honors. This season we found our holy grail in the über-toasty Kryos summit parka, which is insulated with 234 grams of lofty, responsibly sourced 800-fill down. It gains a surprising amount of additional warmth from a ­dual-layer system: traditional down baffles hide under an external shell fabric, which reduces the heat loss that often happens through the stitching holes of typical down coats. The external ten-denier layer is super light yet provides impressive wind and water resistance. The cuffs, hem, and hood are lined with the same fabric, helping retain insulating loft in those moisture-prone zones. Large hand, chest, and interior drop pockets for stashing tools, snacks, and gloves keep essentials easily accessible. Our favorite detail? The plump sleeping-bag-style draft tubes behind the zipper and around the face that seal in critical heat and help make the Kryos, in the words of one tester, “the comfiest coat I’ve ever worn.” We became convinced of its superiority on a below-zero day on Jackson Hole’s Mount Glory. Instead of hunkering down behind a stand of trees on the summit to escape the biting wind, we cinched the hood and admired the view. 1.3 lbs (men’s) / 1.2 lbs (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

Flylow Baxter ($325)

(Courtesy Flylow)

Best Street/Slope Crossover Puffy

Equal parts stylish, cozy, and technical, this versatile down coat came along for a two-week ski trip to France. Stuffed with 800-fill responsible down, the Baxter (and the women’s Kenzie) was warm enough to throw on over a T-shirt for a chilly predawn croissant run. After, the powder skirt, helmet-­compatible hood, and pit zips performed beautifully for a day of groomer skiing. The shoulder patches, made of ­75-denier poly-nylon, aren’t there just for western style; they’re waterproof, too, adding protection against drizzle, shouldered skis, or spilled beer. The rest of the coat features a 50-denier shell fabric that’s light enough to preserve a top-notch warmth-to-weight ratio. 1.3 lbs (men’s)/1.5 lbs (women’s) 

Men’s Women’s

Rab Khroma Kinetic ($350)

(Courtesy Rab)

Best Shell on a Budget

With impressively stretchy fabric and design features tailored to alpine endeavors, the Kinetic is built for an athletic approach to the mountains. A two-way front zipper allows easy access to your harness and belay device, while the long hem and tall collar offer protection from blowing snow, windy ski runs, and cold chairlift rides. When temperatures rise or you start to work up a sweat, zippered openings on the chest and biceps create a cross-ventilation system, channeling cool air through the jacket, across your torso to dump heat. Best of all, the brand’s in-house ­waterproof-breathable fabric performed just as well as ones used in jackets that cost twice as much. 1.2 lbs (men’s) / 1.0 lbs (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

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Black Diamond Recon Stretch Ski Shell ($399)

Uncompromising skiers need a stretchy shell for the skintrack and a burly shell for the resort, right? Not anymore. In the Recon Stretch, BD has created a Have Your Cake And Eat It Too kind of outer layer: four-way stretch fabric is mated to a waterproof-breathable membrane, balancing comfort and protection, while generous pit zips and a removable powder skirt adapt to the terrain and weather.

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Houdini Lana ($700)

(Courtesy Houdini)

Best Street/Slope Crossover Shell

Apparel designers have used wool to make stylish urban winter coats for centuries. Here at last is one that’s light and packable enough for the mountains. The 100 percent merino Lana is stretchy, breathable, and densely woven for natural water repellency without chemical coatings. It’s also biodegradable (the brand estimates this takes one year after disposal, as long as zippers and toggles are removed) and supple, a plus for those who avoid crinkly shells. A long drop tail makes it water-resistant enough for all-day storm skiing. And with its simple ­three-pocket design (one on each side, one on the chest), it remains practical yet still sharp enough to turn heads at the bar. 1.5 lbs (men’s) / 1.5 lbs (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

Spyder Sanction GTX ($750)

(Courtesy Spyder)

Best Ski Shell

Spend this much on a ski jacket and you expect to be dazzled. The Sanction (and women’s Solitaire) delivers, starting with a new highly breathable version of Gore-Tex’s waterproof Pro fabric, the most durable in the textilemaker’s line. The shoulders and upper back feature a version of Pro that’s tuned for enhanced stretch. Burly elastic keeps the removable powder skirt in place better than most, and wide interior pockets accommodate the big skins most powder hounds carry. On the collar of the Solitaire, a perforated eight-inch gusset unzips to let breath escape even when you’re fully bundled. And the jacket’s weight is minimal for its class, so it excels in-bounds and out. 1.5 lbs (men’s) / 1.6 lbs (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

Ortovox Piz Boè ($270)

(Courtesy Ortovox)

Best Active Insulation

When you’re exercising hard in freezing conditions, this lightly insulated jacket negotiates a happy truce between hot and cold. The primary peacekeeper is wool, which maintains a steady microclimate across a broad temperature range. Under the arms, this comes in the form of stretch-woven merino that stayed stink-free through an entire season. Everywhere else, a thin layer of wool fill provides just-right warmth for activities like skate skiing and fat biking. Unzipping the nylon-lined chest pockets funnels in cool air when you need it. An ultralight recycled-­polyester shell and scuba-style hood fend off icy gusts, and the PFC-free DWR handled brief sessions of light drizzle. 11.7 oz (men’s) / 10.4 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

Arc’teryx Trino SL Anorak ($225)

(Courtesy Arc’teryx)

Best Soft Shell

When even the most minimal insulation feels too stifling, we reach for Arc’teryx’s new soft shell pullover. (The men’s version is a full zip.) The thin ­polyester-lined nylon blend is ideal for running and nordic skiing, and packs down enough to stash in a fanny pack when the mercury rises. Across the chest and arms, windproof Infinium—Gore-Tex’s non-­waterproof fabric—repels chilling gales. Gauzy stretch panels under the arms and across the back dump heat. A drawcord keeps the rollaway hood in place, and the cuffs extend over the backs of the hands for extra weatherproofing. This is no rain jacket, but it kept testers dry through nuking snowstorms. 12 oz (men’s) / 10.2 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

From Winter 2021 Buyer’s Guide Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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