This beautifully crafted insulated ski jacket is as dialed as it gets with an excellent design, incredible attention to detail, and the craftsmanship that we've come to expect from Arc'teryx. All that comes at a premium, however, and this jacket is also the most expensive in the test. Is it worth the asking price? We think so but read on to find out for yourself.
Making some early season low-angle powder turns in the Macai on a cold day.
The Macai is one of the warmest jackets in this test. It features a unique insulation design with down insulation that is complemented with strategically placed synthetic insulation in key areas. This insulation mapping puts the synthetic panels are in areas where moisture is more likely to build up and the down in areas where more warmth is the priority. Combine this with Arc'teryx's sleek contoured fit, plus the 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro hardshell, and it's no wonder it's as warm as it is. The Patagonia Primo Down jacket is the most similar model to the Macai in this test and scores evenly for its impressive warmth. Comparatively, the Primo Down has a boxier and draftier fit than the Macai which can make it feel a little less warm as a result. Only the Best Buy Columbia Whirlibird III bests these two jackets in warmth, with a 3-in-1 design and Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining.
Clearly, the Macai is a warm jacket, and it is best for people who live and ski in especially cold environments like the northeast, the northern Rockies, or interior BC. Those who live in warmer climates, like the Sierra or the Pacific Northwest, may only find this type of warmth necessary on stormy days or especially frigid storm cycles. While testing in the Lake Tahoe area, for example, we found ourselves wearing just a t-shirt or lightweight long sleeve thermal underneath.
The bulk of the insulation in the Arc Teryx Macai is down. These fluff filled tubes provide a great deal of warmth.
Arc'teryx's roots are in Canada and specifically the Coast Range. In that stormy and often wet environment, the effective resistance of the elements is an absolutely essential part of your outerwear. This is reflected in the weather resistance of the Macai which we found to be among the very best in the test. The outer hard shell is constructed of the finest 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro shell which is completely waterproof and showed no signs of wet-out during our testing, even while standing in the shower. They use "Water Tight" zippers on the front zip and all the pockets, and none of them showed any signs of leaking in the field or while being doused in our shower test. Add to that the powder skirt, adjustable wrist cuffs, helmet compatible hood, and perfectly sized collar and you can almost completely seal yourself off from the elements. The Macai would be our top choice for the nastiest of storm days, wherever you ski.
Again, the Patagonia Primo Down, the other most similar jacket in this test, wards off the elements just as well as the Macai and this is thanks to its use of a Gore-Tex hard shell with a quality DWR. The Macai also has a similar level of weather resistance to shell-only models in this test like the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell and our other Editor's Choice Award winner the Arc'teryx Sabre. The 3-in-1 Patagonia Snowshot and the Flylow Gear Lab Coat scored just slightly lower, yet still offer impressive levels of protection from the elements.
Arc'teryx has their waterproof fabrics and DWR dialed. After several minutes of dousing in the shower, the water still beads off the Macai like water off a duck's back.
Arc'teryx has also incorporated additional protection into the Macai in the form of their body-mapped insulation. The majority of the insulation is down, but they have placed synthetic Coreloft insulation in strategic areas like the hem, hood, and underarms. Synthetic insulation tends to retain its insulating properties when wet, giving these wetness-prone areas some extra protection.
The weather sealing of the Macai, including zippers, cuffs, and powder skirt, is nothing flashy, but is very well executed.
Fit and Comfort
Arc'teryx is known for making sleek looking garments that fit well, and the Macai is no exception. It has a more tailored fit than most of its boxier fitting competition, so it isn't nearly as loose or baggy fitting. The cut is spot on, with good length in both the arms and torso, with a little added length in the drop tail. The arms and shoulders are well designed with good articulation and no restriction to range of motion. In our most recent test we had a size large which fit our 6' tall 175 lb. tester perfectly. It is available in whole sizes S-XXL.
The impeccable fit of the Macai is directly related to its top of the line comfort. Add to that the soft insulated lining and it kind of feels like you're cozying up in a sleeping bag when you put this jacket on. The neck opening is a perfect size and the collar is just the right height. They've also incorporated nice details like a softer material around the inside of the collar and zipper protection for the chin. Seemingly no detail has been overlooked.
The excellent contoured fit is one the many reasons this jacket is so comfortable.
The Macai's most similar competitor, the Patagonia Primo Down is also very comfortable but misses the mark slightly when it comes to fit. The tailoring and more refined fit of the Macai easily win that competition. The Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 achieves a comparable level of fit and comfort thanks to their similarly contoured tailoring, stretch materials, and softer shell fabric. The Alpha can't compare to the Macai from a protection standpoint, but it is close in regard to its comfort.
Ventilation is one area where the Macai lost a little ground to the competition. In a jacket that is as warm and weather resistant as this, it stands to reason that at some point you'll probably need to cool things off a little bit. Arc'teryx has integrated nice long pit-zip vents into the underarms of the jacket, but they are mesh-lined which has a way of inhibiting airflow as compared to completely open vents. It is a tradeoff, however, as these mesh-backed vents help keep fresh snow from billowing into your jacket. During testing we found ourselves unzipping the main zipper of the jacket to open things up and really cool off. Considering the otherwise impeccable design of this jacket we wish it were a little easier to ventilate.
We found the Patagonia Primo Down to provide better ventilation, as well as shell-only competition like the Flylow Lab Coat. The Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 vents similarly to the Macai, while the 3-in-1 styles like the Patagonia Snowshot and the North Face Thermoball Triclimate Snow have similar ventilation plus the added benefit of climate control by varying the jacket's configuration.
The vents are long with double zippers and a mesh lining. The mesh helps keep snow out but does inhibit airflow compared to vents with no lining.
As a rule, style is very subjective in nature. That said, we feel that Arc'teryx does a fine job at making very classic and timeless looking outerwear that will look as good this season as it will five years from now. This is especially important with a high quality and very expensive jacket like this that you can probably use for the better part of the next decade. This holds true for the Macai, with a solid colorway, clean lines, and its more tailored fit. The smooth taped seams, waterproof zippers, and subtle embroidered logos help to give it a high-end look yet it never really screams "I'm really expensive" unless you know what you're looking at. While it is obviously a very high-performance jacket, it also looks casual enough to wear in virtually any situation where the goal is staying warm and dry.
The style of the Macai is similar aesthetically to what Patagonia has designed with the Primo Down; simple, understated, and clean. This style is something that most of our testers and the people we ask randomly at the ski area tend to like the most. It is dramatically different from a jacket like the Spyder Leader which is brighter and much louder. It is notable that on a previous version of the Macai that we tested, we experienced some staining of the outer shell from everyday use. That was a bright orange color, and the grey (neptune) test jackets that we've had since haven't shown stains quite as dramatically.
Streamlined, svelte, call it what you will, but we like the look of the Macai.
The Macai is well appointed, but Arc'teryx didn't go overboard with the ski features in its design. The features this jacket does have are all very well integrated into the design and are generally quite utilitarian. It has a removable powder skirt, helmet compatible and removable hood, RECCO reflector, pass pocket on the sleeve, a large drop pocket inside, and an attached and removable goggle wipe. These are all nice, and useful, touches that enhance this jacket's weather protection and functionality as a ski resort jacket. We also can't forget things like watertight zippers that enhance this jacket's clean look and help protect the contents of your pockets or the pit-zips for ventilation.
Both the Helly Hansen Alpha and Spyder Leader offer the same ski specific features as the Macai and take it a little further. Other shell-only models like the Lofoten and Lab Coat have fewer features than the Macai, yet still function quite well regardless.
The goggle wipe is attached on a strap long enough to reach from the hand pocket to your head.
This jacket is made specifically for the die-hard resort skier that skis in a relatively cold environment and in any conditions no matter how stormy. If you seek the pinnacle of warmth, weather protection, and quality, and you can afford it, then this is the finest jacket out there. If you live in a warmer winter climate we feel you may be better of looking elsewhere due to this jacket's impressive warmth.
When a jacket costs as much as the Macai you can either justify the expense or you can't. We'll leave that decision up to you, but if you can afford this incredible insulated ski jacket you will not be disappointed. Arc'teryx uses top of the line fabrics and insulation, plus they have excellent craftsmanship and a good warranty. It is also important to consider that a jacket of this quality will probably stand the test of time and give you several years of use if cared for properly.
Assuming it's cold where you ski, we don't think there's a better-insulated ski jacket than the Macai.
The Macai is our Editor's Choice Award-winning insulated ski jacket. The combination of impressive warmth, best-in-test weather protection, impeccable fit and comfort, and useful features make this our tester's favorite, hands down. The price of this jacket will definitely be a deterrent for most would-be buyers, and rightly so, but if money is no object then we think you can do no better than the Macai. If you want a similar level of warmth and weather protection with a less refined fit, then the Patagonia Primo Down is an excellent alternative that costs over $200 less at retail.