Winter Shell Jacket and Bibs
The North Face Ceptor Jacket
$430, 1 lb. 9 oz. (men’s medium)
The North Face Ceptor Bib
$410, 1 lb. 12 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes for both: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XXL
When you love skiing, you commit yourself to enduring almost any weather conditions for your sport—and that requires a shell jacket and pants that really protect you from the elements. Through numerous full days of skiing at Oregon’s Mount Bachelor and the full range of Cascades weather—dumping snow, cold temps and wind, occasional sunshine and, yes, even winter rain—TNF’s Ceptor Jacket and Bib kept my college-age daughter, a former ski instructor, smiling and ripping all day.
Designed for resort and occasional backcountry skiing, the jacket and bibs are both made with TNF’s proprietary, three-layer DryVent waterproof-breathable membrane, which blocks wind effectively and has kept my daughter dry through long days of skiing in all the varieties of precipitation that winter in the Cascades delivers.
The Ceptor Jacket and Bib excel more for resort skiing, where wind penetrating a shell is a greater concern than sweat escaping it. Still, the DryVent membrane moved moisture from inside to outside well enough to gradually dry my daughter’s base layers when warm sunshine and hard skiing had her sweating through them. However, its breathability doesn’t compare with the best winter touring jackets.
The jacket boasts a full suite of ski shell features, including a snow skirt with gripper elastic, hook-and-loop cuffs, and pit zips that extend from mid-bicep to a couple inches below the armpit, although they’re not as deep as found on some backcountry shells. The spacious, adjustable hood easily fits over a ski helmet—it even accommodates a puffy jacket hood over the helmet and under the Ceptor’s hood. The jacket’s comfortable, standard fit allows room for warm base and insulation layers underneath.
It has four large, zippered pockets, two on the chest and two lower/hand pockets; internal mesh drop-in pockets handy for goggles and items you may want to dry out or warm up, like gloves; and a zippered sleeve pocket, ideal for an RFID ski pass, which features a soft, goggle wipe cloth attached to a lanyard.
At just over 1.5 pounds, this jacket tilts more toward resort use than the backcountry, where most users would want a lighter, less bulky shell. Still, that’s not so heavy that it disqualifies the Ceptor Jacket for the backcountry; and the few ounces by which it outweighs leading winter backcountry shells is mostly explained by the longer, below-the-butt cut and the snow skirt—reasonable tradeoffs for a few ounces if you want a shell jacket that crosses over between riding lifts and earning your turns.
The Ceptor Bib has a comfortable, roomy yet low-bulk fit aided by adjustable suspenders and an integrated belt, enabling a full range of motion whether skinning uphill in the backcountry or skiing downhill. You can wear warm base layers underneath, augmenting the wind and weather protection a bib inherently provides by rising over the chest and above the waist in back.
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The side zips open from the hips to the upper thighs for good venting when skinning uphill in the backcountry. Their one-way zippers open from the top—held in place by a snap at the top—which makes more sense than opening from the bottom, where snow can more easily enter (flying off poles when skinning uphill). Nonetheless, those should be two-way zips.
Four zippered pockets, including two useful chest pockets and one on each thigh. The internal snow gaiter at the leg cuffs stretches over ski boot tops to seal out snow and the insides of the leg bottoms have reinforced kick patches.
Plus, at under two pounds, the Ceptor Bib’s weight comes within a few ounces of many backcountry bibs of comparable quality.
The jacket and bib are not insulated, which means you can adjust insulation layers as needed for varying temps, conditions, and activity levels when skiing at resorts or in the backcountry.
The durable, 75×160-denier, polyester shell fabric will hold up to hard use better than many lighter shell jackets and pants.
Although there are lighter options for backcountry skiing, The North Face Ceptor Jacket and Bib deliver solid protection in all winter weather for resort skiing while sporting the features, durability, and reasonable weight that allow them to crossover to backcountry ski touring.
See all of my reviews of outdoor apparel that I like at The Big Outside, including “The 10 Best Down Jackets,” “The Best Gloves for Winter,” “The Best Mittens for Winter,” “The Best Clothing Layers for Winter in the Backcountry,” plus “12 Pro Tips for Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter” and “How to Dress in Layers for Winter in the Backcountry.”
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See The Big Outside’s Gear Reviews page for categorized menus of gear reviews and expert buying tips.