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Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Review

This breathable hardshell jacket is great for backcountry skiing or for users who want a good hardshell at a low price
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Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Review
Credit: Outdoor Research
Price:  $399 List
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Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 6, 2022
68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 18
  • Warmth - 20% 3.0
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7.0
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8.0
  • Ventilation - 20% 10.0
  • Style - 10% 5.0
  • Features - 10% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Jacket is a three-layer hardshell ski jacket that uses a proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane to provide weather resistance nearly on par with much more expensive jackets. The result is the most breathable water-resistant hardshell we have ever tested, though it lacks the level of weather resistance that Gore-Tex jackets provide. It's comfortable to wear and stretchy, but the cut is a bit generic. It has plenty of features to boot, making it a great choice for backcountry skiers who regularly tour uphill in their hardshells or those looking for an affordable performance hardshell. Check out how the Skytour fared next to the competition in our best ski jacket review.
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable
Breathable
Relatively inexpensive
REASONS TO AVOID
Not warm
Style could be better
Editor's Note: We updated this review for the Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Jacket on March 6, 2022, with an unbiased take on value versus performance and a direct comparison with other jacket options.

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Star Rating
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Bottom Line This affordable hardshell is breathable and relatively weatherproof, and very comfortableWe can't picture a better all-around jacket for skiingThis shell nearly matches the performance of much more expensive productsThis jacket doesn't excel in any attribute, but it doesn't fall short eitherThis inexpensive and warm jacket ticks all the boxes for a solid ski jacket
Rating Categories Outdoor Research Sk... Helly Hansen Alpha... REI Co-op First Cha... REI Co-op Powderbou... GEMYSE Men's Mounta...
Warmth (20%)
3.0
8.0
4.0
6.0
7.0
Weather Resistance (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort and Fit (20%)
8.0
10.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Ventilation (20%)
10.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
3.0
Style (10%)
5.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
4.0
Features (10%)
7.0
10.0
5.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Outdoor Research Sk... Helly Hansen Alpha... REI Co-op First Cha... REI Co-op Powderbou... GEMYSE Men's Mounta...
Main Fabric 93% nylon, 7% spandex 2-layer stretch polyester Recycled polyester Nylon Unknown
Insulation None LifaLoft synthetic None 60g polyester sleeves, 80g polyester body Synthetic and faux-fleece
Pockets 2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest, 1 sleeve, 1 internal zippered chest, 1 internal mesh 2 handwarmer, 2 chest, 1 internal chest, 1 internal mesh, 1 sleeve 2 handwarmer, 2 chest flap, 2 chest zipper, 1 internal zipper, 1 intenal mesh, 1 sleeve 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 sleeve, 1 internal zippered chest, 1 internal mesh 2 handwarmer, 1 chest, 1 internal zip, 1 internal stash
Weight (size large) 1.5 lbs 2.56 lbs 1.73 lbs 1.81 lbs 3.63 lbs
Water Resistance AscentShell Helly Tech Professional Gore-Tex 2-layer waterproof breathable laminate Unknown
Hood Adjustable Adjustable and removable Adjustable Adjustable Removable
Pit-Zips Yes Mesh-backed Yes Yes No
Cuff construction Velcro Interior stretchy wrist gaiters and external velcro cuffs Velcro Interior wide hook-and-loop adjustments and external velcro Stretchy wrist gaiters and external velcro
Powder skirt No Yes Yes Yes No
RECCO No Yes No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

Using a proprietary membrane instead of Gore-Tex, the Skytour AscentShell Jacket trades some weather resistance for increased breathability. Our testers the protection of a completely waterproof hardshell, but it's hard to ignore the superior breathability here.

Performance Comparison


outdoor research skytour ascentshell - the skytour ascentshell in action on the slopes during testing.
The Skytour AscentShell in action on the slopes during testing.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Warmth


The Skytour AscentShell is a very breathable hardshell, meaning it provides very little warmth to the user. The thin shell allows air to move through the fabric, which means that warm air can escape very easily. This jacket needs to be paired with insulating mid-layers (like a top-rated insulated jacket) if any warmth is expected. The warmth of this jacket is comparable to that of a heavy rain jacket. This lack of warmth is a desirable trait for those who ski hard and raise their heart rate.

outdoor research skytour ascentshell - the skytour has no insulation and provides almost no warmth.
The Skytour has no insulation and provides almost no warmth.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Weather Resistance


A proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane called “AscentShell” is built into this three-layer hardshell, and in our experience, this material is almost as waterproof as Gore-Tex. This jacket is fully seam-sealed, and the main front zipper and hand pocket zippers are waterproof. The chest pocket and armpit zippers aren't waterproof, but they feature storm flaps, which helps. The hood offers decent coverage, but it doesn't fully wrap around the helmet, and it's hard to get a tight seal around the face and chin.

outdoor research skytour ascentshell - the skytour's hood doesn't provide complete coverage of the helmet...
The Skytour's hood doesn't provide complete coverage of the helmet or face, and a tight seal is hard to achieve.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Comfort and Fit


Most hardshell jackets are crinkly and stiff, but the Skytour AscentShell does not have this problem. The shell material is soft and slightly stretchy, and the brushed interior fabric lining is gentle on the skin. There is a fleece-lined chin guard, but it's not big enough to provide comfort. The fit is generally straight-cut and could be better tailored to the body's contours. But overall, the fit is comfortable and ergonomic.

outdoor research skytour ascentshell - the skytour's fit is pretty good, but it lacks some refinement...
The Skytour's fit is pretty good, but it lacks some refinement around the torso.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Ventilation


The Skytour AscentShell uses the most breathable membrane we've ever tested in a waterproof jacket. Somehow, this hardshell allows plenty of air movement through the fabric without letting water in. It is as breathable as many softshell jackets that we've tested. The armpit vents are long and easy to manipulate with gloved hands. This jacket is a good choice for skiers who spend a lot of time hiking to find fresh powder or skiing bumps. We also like it for backcountry skiing in good weather. Still, in general, we don't find ourselves touring while wearing our hardshell jacket unless it is dumping out, in which case we prefer a Gore-Tex shell.

outdoor research skytour ascentshell - long pit vents with easy-to-grasp zippers add to the skytour's...
Long pit vents with easy-to-grasp zippers add to the Skytour's already excellent breathability.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Style


The Skytour AscentShell has an understated and generic style and has nothing to write home about. The cut is a little boxy in the torso, allowing plenty of movement, but it isn't great for looks. We prefer a more tapered and slim look. We also don't love the two-toned color panels or the color options, which seem too “primary” compared to the earthy tones of other jackets on the market. But style is subjective, so you be the judge.

outdoor research skytour ascentshell - the skytour looks decent on the slopes and in the backcountry, but...
The Skytour looks decent on the slopes and in the backcountry, but it isn't as elegant as other (more expensive) options.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Features


The Skytour AscentShell comes with plenty of pockets for ease of use on the ski hill. Two hand pockets and two external chest pockets provide storage galore. A left sleeve pass pocket is useful for getting through RFID turnstiles without stalling. One mesh stash pocket and one zippered chest pocket get the job done on the inside. We like this jacket's allowance of versatile features while also keeping the bulk and weight down.

The interior of the Skytour features one mesh stash pocket and one...
The interior of the Skytour features one mesh stash pocket and one zippered chest pocket.
A left sleeve pass pocket is a great addition for resort riding.
A left sleeve pass pocket is a great addition for resort riding.
The Skytour's external chest and hand pockets are symmetrical on...
The Skytour's external chest and hand pockets are symmetrical on either side of the body.

Should You Buy the Skytour AscentShell?


The Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Jacket is a waterproof and highly breathable hardshell packed with features and comfort, all for an attractive price. While not cheap, it is much more affordable than most Gore-Tex shell options and all other three-layer shell jackets. It isn't as protective as the more expensive options, but it is much more breathable, making it a great choice for users in dryer climates who know how to layer underneath and do not want an insulated jacket.

What Other Ski Jackets Should You Consider?


No one buying a hardshell jacket should expect standalone warmth. If you are looking for a single-layer jacket, without all of the fuss of figuring out a layering system, the award-winning Helly Hansen Alpha LifaLoft is perfect for most skiers, and the Arc'teryx Macai is best for those getting out in the coldest climates. For skiers battling the worst and wettest weather, the Arc'teryx Sabre AR Jacket or Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell offer superior protection.

outdoor research skytour ascentshell - the skytour is great for aerobic bump skiing.
The Skytour is great for aerobic bump skiing.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Jeff Dobronyi