winter shell jacket reviews

Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket.

Review: Outdoor Research Skyward II Jacket and Pants

Winter Shell Jacket
Outdoor Research Skyward II Jacket
$350, 1 lb. 7 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

Winter Shell Pants
Outdoor Research Skyward II Pants
$299, 1 lb. 5.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

OR’s Skyward II Jacket and Skyward II Pants have demonstrated unique versatility as winter shells over numerous days of backcountry skiing in a full range of conditions. I’ve skinned uphill and skied downhill through hours of dumping snow in temperatures in the teens and 20s Fahrenheit without ever taking the jacket off (and obviously not removing the pants) and remained comfortable skiing in single-digit temps (with an insulation layer under the jacket) and weather shifting from falling snow to sunshine.

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Review: Black Diamond Helio Active Shell

All-Season Shell JacketBlack Diamond Helio Active Shell$399, 12 oz. (men’s medium)Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XLbackcountry.com The rain began before we hit the trail on the second morning of a five-day June trek in northern Spain’s Picos de Europa Mountains; by late morning, we reached the snow line, and the light rain turned to wet snow, accumulating several inches on the …

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Review: Montane Ajax Jacket

Montane Ajax Jacket
Montane Ajax Jacket

All-Season Shell Jacket
Montane Ajax Jacket
$380, 16 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: US men’s S-XXL, women’s 6-14
campsaver.com

As the wind-driven snow came down heavily while a partner and I backcountry skied in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, I cinched the hood of my Montane Ajax Jacket closely over my head, looked around, and thought: “beautiful day.” We were skiing untracked, light powder, and despite wind chills around zero Fahrenheit or below hammering us for hours, I felt dry, warm, and almost completely sealed off from the inclement conditions in this all-season shell. If your usual mountain playgrounds often turn meteorologically unfriendly, the Ajax’s performance and price warrant a close look. Here’s why.

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Review: Marmot Zion Jacket

Marmot Zion Jacket
Marmot Zion Jacket

Winter Shell
Marmot Zion Jacket
$400, 1 lb. 4 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

Backcountry skiing at around 9,000 feet around Galena Summit, which separates Idaho’s Smoky Mountains and Boulder Mountains (with views north to the better-known Sawtooths and White Cloud Mountains), on a day with lightly falling snow, wind on exposed ridgelines, and temperatures in the 20s Fahrenheit, I needed a shell jacket that could keep me comfortable and dry as my body cycled frequently between overheating and feeling chilled. The Zion Jacket did just that. Waterproof-breathable like a hard shell, it looks, feels, and behaves in some ways more like a soft shell—and offers more seasonal range and weather versatility.

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Gear Review: Patagonia Knifeblade Jacket and Pants

Patagonia Knifeblade Jacket
Patagonia Knifeblade Jacket

Winter Jacket and Pants
Patagonia Knifeblade Jacket
$379, 1 lb. 2 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XL, women’s XS-L

moosejaw.com

Patagonia Knifeblade Pants
$299, 1 lb. 1 oz. (men’s small)
Sizes: men’s XS-XL, women’s XS-L
moosejaw.com

Skiing up Pilot Peak in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, on a day of clouds, light snow and wind, and temperatures just below freezing, I kept my jacket on—something I almost never do when skiing uphill (unless it’s much colder), because I invariably work up a good sweat. And I did it repeatedly, because of the breathability of my Knifeblade Jacket, which moves moisture so efficiently that it never got more than slightly damp inside. I’m updating this review because the Knifeblade once again impressed me so much on that recent day of backcountry skiing.

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