Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $380
Pros: Close fitting. Lightly insulated. Long hem and sleeves. Excellent hood. Proven fabric.
Cons: Fragile DWR. Strange cuffs. Bold styling.
Best Uses: East Coast and Pacific Northwest riding, as part of a “quiver” of jackets.
The Burton AK Stagger jacket is a technical, lightly insulated ski and snowboard jacket. The fabric and design combine to make it the one of the most weather resistant in our test. The thin insulation makes it perfect for those that run hot or spend a great deal of time in wet and warm climates. The DWR used to shed the first few drops of a storm on the Stagger jacket is one of it’s achilles. Our testing revealed the durability of the water repellent coating to be on par with the otherwise even poorer performing Spyder Titan and Spyder Sentinel. Stylistically, the Stagger jacket is not for everyone, particularly in the tested color scheme. Other color combinations, and Burton provides many, may work for more people. In short, the Burton AK Stagger is a purpose-built, specialized piece of technical equipment. If the style and insulation work for you, you won’t find a more unique piece in our test.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Burton AK Stagger is not a highly insulated jacket. However, it is not designed to be highly insulating. This is a technical shell designed to optimize weather protection and range of motion. The carefully arranged fleece and synthetic fill insulation is placed to augment under layers or provide protection in relatively warm conditions. In our testing, only the shell layers of the 3-in-1 style The North Face Headwall Triclimate and Columbia Whirlibird Interchange 3-in-1 compare to the Burton in terms of insulation value.
We found the Stagger jacket to be well-vented. In addition to the front, main zipper, long, two-way pit zips are your best bet for cooling off excess steam. The AK Stagger shares top billing here with the Patagonia Primo Down and the Flylow BA Puffy.
The tried and true GoreT-ex fabric of the AK Stagger augments a long cut and excellent hood construction. Waterproof zippers cover the many pockets. Burton’s warm-weather storm-shell offering here brings mountaineering jacket performance to the gravity-powered market.The DWR coating that Burton uses, however, was shown to perform near the bottom of our list of tested jackets. In rub-testing under our sprinklers, the coating allowed the outermost fabric to wet through faster than six of the better beading jackets. As always, it is important to put this performance metric in context. As noted in our Buying Advice article all jackets will lose performance in their DWR with time and heavy use. This coating can be refreshed, and simply serves to keep the outer fabric dry. The laminate inside the outermost fabric will keep outside moisture out, even if the DWR has entirely stopped working.
Integrated straps to connect the jacket to specific pants and Burton’s unique integrated neck gaiter provide novel distinction for the Stagger jacket. However, we found that these features, in actual use, prove fiddly and limited in utility.
As noted in the weather resistance category, the AK Stagger jacket is cut long in the sleeves and hem. This ample cut, combined with a close-fitting torso, provided our testers with a very comfortable package. However, strange two-part cuff construction compromises overall comfort. The outer cuff is of traditional gusseted velcro construction. However, Burton has added a stretchy, neoprene-and-velcro cuff inside. The neoprene fabric feels nice against the skin, but the velcro flap is bulky and uncomfortable underneath a glove or mitt. Working both inner and outer cuff over our gloves was difficult and unnecessarily complicated. If Burton is going to go to the trouble of engineering and sewing in an inner cuff, we would prefer if it were a simple and low-profile stretchy thumb-loop cuff like on the Helly Hansen Enigma or Spyder Titan.
In our tested color scheme (“Acid Colorblock”) the AK Stagger earned poor style marks. If one is hoping to appear as though he is bibbed up for a run in the Freeride World Tour, this color may serve his purposes. Anyone else should look elsewhere. Thankfully Burton offers the Stagger in many other less dramatic color schemes. The understated skier should check out any of the solid colors, while someone looking for more “steeze” will be stoked to find this technical piece in plaid and camouflage offerings.
Burton’s AK Stagger is a specialized piece of technical equipment. As such, only the most committed of users, riding and skiing a ton in relatively warm and wet climates, will justify the expense associated with purchasing into a niche market.
Burton does not make a comparable women’s jacket.
— Jediah Porter
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Most recent review: April 2, 2013
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